Another invasion: lessons from the international support to East Timorese NGOs

This article seeks to contribute to the debate on collaboration between national and international NGOs. It argues that it is vital for the development of stable, independent, and viable civil societies that the international NGOs promote a bottom-up approach in their support to and collaboration with local NGOs, especially among those emerging from situations of conflict or other profound social disruptions. From a study carried out in East Timor, the authors conclude that there is a noticeable discrepancy between rhetoric and practice with regard to such support. The multiple challenges to the international NGO community and persist although many years of development work have offered abundant learning opportunities. The authors argue that such challenges are less a question of standards and rules than of basic approach, attitudes, and power relations. They maintain that if international NGOs and the wider international community do not alter their approach, they will suffocate rather than foster the development of a viable and autonomous civil society in the countries in which they operate.