NGOs and the future: taking stock, shaping debates, changing practice

In this overview essay, the co-editors examine the new challenges and opportunities facing development NGOs in relation to their relevance, their mission, relations between Northern and Southern NGOs and with other agents of power, including business, and their effectiveness. There is a balance to be drawn between keeping up with emerging issues and agendas, and retaining the values that underpin their integrity and unique nature. NGOs saw phenomenal growth in the neo-liberal policy environment that flourished in the late twentieth century, but this very prominence means that more questions are being asked about their accountability, and about their mandates. Will the twenty-first century see NGOs still living complacently in the past, or will they genuinely rise to the challenges ahead? This editorial overview is freely available as the opening chapter in Debating Development: NGOs and the Future.