Capacity building: who builds whose capacity?

This article focuses on the role that development NGOs play in capacity building, arguing that many conventional NGO practices are ultimately about retaining power, rather than empowering their partners. This leads to tunnel vision and to upward rather than downward or horizontal accountability, based on the assumption that the transfer of resources is a one-way process. At worst, this undermines rather than strengthens the capacities of the organisations that NGOs are attempting to assist. Sharing responsibilities and risks, mutual accountability, and committing to the long term rather than to short-term projects are more likely to create partnerships that can withstand vicissitudes and contribute to lasting change.