Supporting Self-Help Efforts: CanDo, a Japanese NGO in Kenya
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Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are now key players in international development, but their activities have also been facing a large volume of criticism since around the turn of the century. The role of Northern NGOs in development assistance has been of particular concern due to a range of aspects of their work. Critical in the debates about NGOs are issues of legitimacy and of imposing outsiders’ views and priorities on their host communities through their development assistance. In such scepticism about Northern NGOs, there has been a shift to the current focus of large scale international NGOs’ activities which is now more on advocacy and emergency relief activities; more development assistance has been handed directly to local grassroots organisations or to partner organisations of international NGOs. The small scale Northern NGOs, which comprise the majority, have been in danger in the international arena. Since the 1990s, Japan has also witnessed the surge of NGOs working in international cooperation. The new type of NGOs, whose activities are inspired not by anti-government movements but by international development, grew rapidly with increased governmental assistance. These Japanese NGOs are, however, often small scale and mostly engaged in development assistance, unlike their counterparts in Western countries. The purpose of this study is to explore the activities, lifestyle, and development thinking of a single Japanese NGO in order to deepen our understanding of Japan’s international cooperation conducted by citizens from a wide range of aspects and to verify whether and how the Japanese philosophy of self-help efforts is put into practice in Kenya. Chapter 2 presents the methodology which is employed in the study. Chapter 3 looks at the origin and international trends of NGOs working in development through the relevant literature. The main focus is not put on an examination of NGOs’ national roles, rather it is placed on the transition of their role and relationship with states in general development issues. Chapter 4 examines community participation in development in the local Kenyan context. The chapter provides insights into the role of self-help and the way local self-help efforts have been directed by the national and local politics for development in Kenya. Chapter 5 looks at Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) in order to explore the conceptual and historical context of Japan’s international cooperation, as this has a considerable influence over Japanese NGOs. The chapter provides insights into the philosophy of self-help efforts in Japan’s ODA as well as on the influence of Japanese policy over the activities of Japanese NGOs. Chapter 6 investigates the systems and mechanisms of NGOs in Japan, including the origin and history of Japanese NGOs, the scale and scope of their activities, their funding system, and their relationships with their donors and amongst themselves, in addition to the interaction between the government and Japanese NGOs. Chapters 7 and 8 are the main body of this study and provide in-depth research on a Japanese NGO in Kenya: Community Action Development Organisation (CanDo). Although it is small when compared with International NGOs, CanDo has been drawing substantial attention in the Japanese international development community in these five years. The main purpose of these chapters is not to evaluate whether the activities of CanDo are effective or not, but rather to explore its philosophy of facilitating local self-help efforts and how the philosophy is put into practice in its activities in poor communities in Mwingi District, Kenya. Its philosophy is analysed through describing in detail its organisational characteristics, development thinking, and its relationships with the local authority and local community. The final chapter explores the implications of CanDo’s philosophy and practice in understanding Japanese international cooperation in Africa as well as the role of small international NGOs working on development activities with local communities.