By Jarle Simensen
Against the background of recent literature and debate about the role of religious NGOs in international aid the article presents a historical survey of the Norwegian experience in the field, from early missionary history to the link-up with the Norwegian Agency for International Development after 1960 and the emergence of independent local churches as partners. The tension between devotion to evangelism and concern for practical work is evident throughout the story. On the basis of case studies from Madagascar, Nepal and Tanzania the conclusion is drawn that the missions and the local churches, with their strategy of small steps, limited capital, a long-term view and an emphasis on moral improvement, represent an interesting alternative to the prevalent state aid strategy. The question is raised as to whether political correctness and what Gunnar Myrdal called ‘diplomatic considerations’ in development research have prevented a full analysis of the cultural factor.
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