On the importance of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
International Rescue Committee president and CEO David Miliband discusses why non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the IRC have a unique role to play in addressing some our biggest global challenges. (September 2013)
One of the attractions for me about moving into the NGO sector is that it really can be at the cutting edge of innovation because however much decent societies need good government and a dynamic private sector, it's often in the NGO sector that you find the most dynamism, the most innovation. And when you're talking about the sort of intractable problems the IRC is trying to confront, it sometimes takes an NGO to find different ways of doing things. So, for me, the move out of politics is a move to make a difference. I think I can make more difference in this role. But it's also about finding ways to push the boundaries of what is possible, and I think it's in organizations like the IRC that we have the best chance to do it.
I know and I've seen how much difference aid has made over the last 15 years. Some of the advances in health and education have been extraordinary and no one would have believed they've been achieved by the combination of public, private, and NGO sectors. But equally we know, there are big new challenges to make sure that every penny, every cent of aid is well spent, and that's something where we've got to make sure we understand that, for example, for refugees, most refugees are not in refugee camps; they're in urban areas. That calls for a different model of aid.
We now know much more about how women and girls are at the forefront of abuse when in conflict situations. So, we've got to make sure that our aid is really tuned and suited to the needs of those women and girls. We know that aid works much better, whether it's humanitarian aid or long term development aid, if it's delivered in partnership with local people and local institutions, we've got to make sure we're part of that, too. So, although, we've learned a lot in the IRC's history about how to do aid right; although, we've made huge strides in the last decade or two about how to break the back of some of the biggest problems, we also know that we can't afford to rest on our laurels. We've got to make sure that we're using money, public money that comes from governments, but also money from private donors to absolutely best effect. And that's something that IRC's commitment to real serious evaluation, research, learning from our work make sure happens.