A common value-loaded language (buzzwords) in the development aid paradigm is critized for creating a gap between rhetoric and reality. Partnership is one of these concepts used by donors, from multilateral organisations like the United Nations, to bilateral cooperation between states and as focused on in this thesis, in relations between North and South Non Governmental Organizations. The debates and discussions regarding the development aid strategies change with time, as shown in the short outline of the history of development aid (chapter one). Development aid can be crucial for some recipient countries, as in this case study from Mali in French speaking West Africa (chapter three).
There is a need and a requirement in the partnership discourse to work together with local partners. But the label partnership is often used for various types of cooperation. The degree of independence, either economically or in the political decisions for the South partner, can be high or low depending on their institutional strength when meeting a donor, the North partner. In the concept of partnership, according to the definition and the rhetoric, equality is highlighted. The challenge is then for the North partner to be able to let the South partner be in the driving seat, but at the same time stick to the conditionalites that they may have when engaging in partnerships.
The object of this master thesis, written in French, is to study the concept of partnership as a guiding line in the development aid. The thesis is exploring the theory behind the rhetoric of the concept partnership by trying to illuminate the discourse in the academic world and other case studies on development aid cooperation (chapter two). The theory is then compared to an empirical study of a project funded by CARE Norway in the framework of a partnership strategy elaborated by CARE international in Mali. In this case the international NGO, CARE, is working together with three local Malian partner NGOs. The case study is based on two months in Mali and the data is mainly collected from interviews with representatives working for three partner organisations selected by CARE international in Mali and from observation of workshops between other NGOs, members of the local government and the local communities (chapter five). I argue that the language and the concepts used in the development aid strategies are important for the practice and that if there is not a common understanding between North and South partners then the gap between rhetoric and reality may damage the sustainability. I also touch upon the fact that the partnership discourse is often in French or English in the documents, while the beneficiaries for the most part are illiterate and speak Malian languages.
However, the empirical study showed that there is a relative common understanding of the concept of partnership in Mali, but the ambitions of achieving equality and participation at every stage of a partnership is not as explicit in practice as in the documents and the definitions of the concept. Nor is the critique against this concept as a paternalistic approach as pertinent in Mali as the critique outlined in the theory. It is more seen as a way of working towards more participation and independent Malian NGOs in the future, but today there are several ways of combining the partnership concept with certain conditional ties, capacity building, one-way funding and making the beneficiaries more responsible.
The consequences of North organisations looking for local organisations for partnering may be creating local NGOs since there is a demand for partners. The challenge seems to be how to accomplish a North South partnership cooperation without loosing organizational integrity, without undermining the State s authority and to make sure that the beneficiaries are also playing a role in this institutionalization The donors utilising the partnership concept also need to take into account that beneficiaries more often than not illiterate and do not necessarily follow the international development aid logic if this discourse is predominantly in French or in English. My conclusion in this thesis is that the development aid rhetoric has gone from working for the beneficiary to working together with the beneficiary , even though partnership in practice is not as clearly defined as in the development rhetoric. The continuously changing concepts and labelling in the development aid strategies are thus making way for less paternalistic approaches.