The sunset clause – myth or reality?

One of the golden rules of the NGO world is focused on developing an intervention which addresses the clearly identified problem and capacity builds ‘local’ communities to such an extent that they are then able to ‘cope’ for themselves (ie address the problem ‘sustainably’). While seductive as an exercise in logic, reality is often very far from the mark. Modern NGOs are more often than not driven in their programming by the possibility of donor funding and this, in itself (as well as a deep desire to be seen as a sectoral ‘expert’) often leads to an inability to identify a ‘sunset clause’ through which the NGO will ‘leave’ a local community. More often than not, additional donor funds are sourced, sometimes for new of associated ‘problems’ identified within the same local communities. This is also a reason why so many communities suffer from an almost excess of NGO work – look at any low or middle income country and then see where the NGOs are concentrated. The results are often deeply revealing and often reflect an inability of NGOs to re cognise when their work is ‘done’, or faces so many obstacles that it will never be done (often for extremely understandable reasons). Put another way – the real growth in NGO numbers has been experienced in the period from about 1960 – but when did you last hear of an NGO (voluntarily) implementing a sunset clause in their work?