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IGO mission explained

Our mission statement:

(a) We support concrete initiatives of Southern partners that mitigate the causes of injustice and improve the mechanisms of development cooperation.

(b) We strive to influence Polish (and European) development cooperation to make it truly based on Southern priorities.

(c) We raise awareness among Polish society about responsibilities and interdependencies, in spirit of equality and participation.

All activities of IGO are based on this mission statement and our approach to specific issues is aligned to it as well.

How we understand this mission

our mission statementThe first part of the mission statement concerns our work in filed in the global South:

(a) We support concrete initiatives of Southern partners that mitigate the causes of injustice and improve the mechanisms of development cooperation.

We understand our role always to be supporters and not the leading force - in any development project. This is why we wrote that we support concrete initiatives of Southern partners.

In practice, as a rule, we do not undertake a role of coordinating organisation on the soil of the Southern country. In partnerships with Southern NGOs we always have a role that ensures our accountability to Southern partners. We can bring resources to the project, we can advise (if it is pro-actively requested), we can be a part of exchange of knowledge and experiences, as equal partners. There is a variety of roles that we can play without actively overtaking a coordinating role. This should always remain with Southern partners, who have relevant expertise and capacity.

We do not criticise other European NGOs which have different attitudes to partnership. We believe that there may be and there are truly genuine partnerships where a European NGO undertakes a role of a leading force in a Southern country. However, we choose the approach that ensures that the genuine and equal partnership actually happen.

This also means that we carefully choose our partners in the South. In practice, we approach civil society organisations that have their capacity to undertake a leading role and share similar values.

Such approach is not an easy one. It requires from us a significant effort and resources to establish a good common understanding with Southern partners. But it has also advantages: we avoid a common problem faced by many European NGOs "how to transfer the ownership to the target group at the end of the problem". With our approach, such problem does not exist - the ownership of development project is at the side of Southern partners right from the start.

We support initiatives that mitigate the causes of injustice and improve the mechanisms. This means that there are only a small fraction of possible actions that we deliberately choose to focus on. Namely, we decide to engage only in actions that can potentially bring a sustainable change to the mechanisms of development. We state explicitly, that we do not undertake activities that deal only with consequences of flawed development mechanisms. Instead, we explore causes of injustice and take strategic actions to eliminate them, thus ensuring the sustainable change that will last long after our work was ended.

IGO developed its own methodology in assessing what can be the best role for a European NGO to engage in solving development challenges. The tool we developed and use enables us to choose a strategic approach, even to relatively simple problems. Both, academic knowledge and experience from the field in the South, tell us that this approach is necessary to eventually achieve our overall objective: just and sustainable North-South relations. Be it on local community, national or global level.


The second part of our mission regards our research and advocacy work:

(b) We strive to influence Polish (and European) development cooperation to make it truly based on Southern priorities.

We understand that it is our obligation to engage in democratic dialogue with Polish and European authorities that shape development policy. As tax payers, as citizens, and as an NGO which benefits the funds that are qualified as Official Development Assistance, we have a shared responsibility to search for best concepts and practical policy solutions to make development cooperation really work.

Our main focus is in Polish development cooperation, since here we have a greatest responsibilities. We conduct research and advocacy vis-a-vis Polish actors, in first place in regard to development assistance (Polish Aid), where we have expertise and practical knowledge. However,development cooperation is far more than aid only, and therefore we deal with issues of Policy Coherence for Development and broadly to many aspects that influence North-South relations. This is why we engaged in promoting Southern perspective in Polish debates on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

We also understand, according to our mission, that we need to engage also at the European level, where many crucial decisions are made. Therefore we have a lot to do jointly with other like-minded European NGOs.

The main principle in our advocacy is the need for development cooperation to be truly based on Southern priorities. This is a major challenge since it is the common knowledge that development policies often serve dominantly the interests of donor country (its economy, political status etc.) and not the ultimate goal: development in the South, thus just and sustainable North-South relations. As many Southern critiques of aid point out, it is a structure of aid system that fuels aid dependency and increases economic gap between North and South.

It wouldn't be even necessary to include the principles of ownership and alignment into development effectiveness agenda if development policies of European countries would be based on Southern priorities. Since, they are at the table, it would be unjustifiable for us to not to promote them.

Although putting Southern priorities first is a well known mantra for many years, in fact would deeply redesign development cooperation on all levels and in all aspects. Changes should be made in projects, programmes but also in national aid architectures and world's aid architecture and global governance. We made it one of key concepts in our mission statement. And we are dedicated to this cause in our daily work.


The third part of our mission is about domestic education and awareness raising:

(c) We raise awareness among Polish society about responsibilities and interdependencies, in spirit of equality and participation.

This part is pretty self-explanatory for everyone interested in development issue. More awareness in Europe is needed for development cooperation to be on track to bring development.

We underlined that there is a certain responsibility of Polish people. But it is not responsibility for the South. We believe, that only South can take responsibility for itself. Polish responsibility is for our own actions vis-a-vis people in the South. These actions are not only aid (effective, empowering, genuine) but for all aspects of North-South relations.

Such responsibility comes from the awareness of interdependencies in contemporary world. Poland can no longer make excuses that it never had colonies and is therefore allegedly not obliged to engage in development cooperation. The mutual dependencies are in many ways an integral part of our history and - even more - of our current situation. Especially now, when Poland is a member of the European Union, it should bravely take its share of responsibility for global justice and sustainable development.

The spirit of equality is a basic assumption and requirement for our vision of development cooperation to become reality. The paternalistic approach effectively rules out every long lasting solutions for global injustice. Therefore, a fist step for Poles to be effective in cooperation with the South is to acknowledge the realities and the wealth of potential that exist in the South.

This consideration led us to be engaged in the promotion and implementation of Concord's Code of Conduct on Images and Messages about the South. When employees and volunteers of NGOs, teachers, journalists and decision makers in Poland will follow the eight principles set in the Code our country will be a driving force for improvements in international development agenda.

Last but not least, the spirit of participation is a condition to make development cooperation truly democratic. It is not only right decisions by decision makers that we advocate for. We understand that the accountability is possible only if a meaningful parts of society not only understand the decisions coming from the top but is able to participate in debates on North-South relations. History of aid has proven many times that right decisions are very rare if they are not rooted in society.

Development cooperation is just another term for securing fairness, sustainability and welfare for our common future. And by "us" we mean both people in Poland and people in the South.