An area of opportunity for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to examine best practices is in mitigating dependent situations that result from aid. When I first arrived in Sri Lanka a year after the 2004 tsunami, I began to hear many stories of community dependency situations that arose as a result of aid.

A series of interviews, questionnaires, community visits, and meeting observations over a three-month period in Hambantota District provided data on the relationship between dependency and aid. A picture formed of communities that began to see aid as free, ongoing, and an entitlement. Aid was primarily administered by NGOs, which resulted in creating an economy and civil structure with NGOs playing a very central role.

I adapted a framework to the Sri Lankan context for looking at communities and determining levels of dependency that came from a paper written by Paul Harvey and Jeremy Lind. I then used this adapted framework to analyze my data. The data show that people did not return to pre-tsunami forms of employment but instead continued to work for NGO-sponsored projects. My data also show that people became used to free aid and associated NGOs with free goods. Participation in their own redevelopment dropped as they saw NGOs required less participation. Coordination between NGOs was also sorely lacking in many instances. Based on this research, the following ways are suggested the best methods for avoiding aid dependency in Hambantota District:

Increased coordination between NGOs and between NGOs and the government;

Increased and consistent participation by community members in projects;

Clear timelines and exit strategies;

Clear phasing of projects and programs;

Clear purpose, roles, and programs for NGOs.


Public Administration | Social Welfare