Indigenous NGOs and refugee assistance: some lessons from Malawi and Zimbabwe

Although well placed to render assistance to refugees, indigenous NGOs usually play only a marginal role, compared with the Northern NGOs which dominate most humanitarian aid programmes. The unbalanced power relations between Northern agencies and donors and Southern NGOs in the delivery of refugee assistance are reviewed. Using data from the assistance programmes for Mozambican refugees in Malawi and Zimbabwe, the strategies and conditions by which some indigenous NGOs successfully challenged this prevailing situation are examined. Factors considered to be significant are institution building; diversifying the donor base; project design and development; and the skills and expertise of field directors. The broader applicability of these experiences is considered.