Conflict, Peacebuilding and NGO Legitimacy: National NGOs in Sri Lanka

Thursday 21 December 2023

Walton, Oliver. Conflict, Security & Development 8, no. 1 (1 April 2008): 133–67.

In this article, Walton uses three case studies of national NGOs in Sri Lanka to investigate how and why NGOs face crises of legitimacy, or failures to establish relationships with key stakeholders, when working in areas shortly after a conflict has occurred. This paper demonstrates the complexity of the relationships that NGOs maintain with donors as well as political stakeholders. Walton argues that both donors and political stakeholders exert influence on NGOs, which can have negative consequences for their legitimacy and thus their peacebuilding efforts. Walton views legitimacy for NGOs, national NGOs in particular, as the recognition and acceptance of the organisation’s work and presence by the government and the local population. This legitimacy is is very flexible and can increase or decrease among different stakeholders in a certain organisation at any time. To be able to carry out peacebuilding operations, NGOs must carefully balance all these interests and protect their legitimacy among their different stakeholders. Interestingly, this article uses the terminology of ‘peacebuilding,’ recognising the role that NGOs play in developing peace in the world today.

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