Cross cutting evaluation of Norwegian People’s Aid’s work within the area of «Organizing for the defence and control of natural resources

About the publication

  • Published: June 2018
  • Series: --
  • Type: NGO reviews
  • Carried out by: Svein Erik Stave, Fafo
  • Commissioned by: --
  • Country: Colombia, Myanmar, Palestine, South Sudan, Zimbabwe
  • Theme: Natural resources (including oil)
  • Pages: 35
  • Serial number: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
  • Organization: Norsk Folkehjelp/Norwegian People’s Aid
  • Local partner: Strategic partners from five case study countries.
NB! The publication is ONLY available online and can not be ordered on paper.


The quest for control over natural recourses has resulted in pressure on farmland and increase in extractive activities affecting among others small farmers and indigenous peoples. There has been increasing conflict over natural resources in programme countries and many of NPAs partner organisations are actively mobilising for democratic control over natural resources, the right to free prior and informed consent and access to or compensation for land. Partner organisations have different strategies according to the context, from resistance and protest to negotiations and (national and international) advocacy, among others. NPAs advocacy in Norway is based on and communicated with the partner agendas.


The main purpose of the evaluation is to provide an (A) overview of NPAs support to partners who organise to gain access and control over natural resources and (B) to assess the quality of the support provided. The study should provide an overview and assessment of the different forms in which this work is implemented, and of how NPA and partners interpret their engagement.


The evaluation is based on a case study approach to be able to follow the practical outcomes of the organization’s strategic visions and approaches at partner level in different contexts. A case study approach allows in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life settings.

Key findings

NPA has a very well thought through overarching “theory of change” for its international development work, and which stands out from the mainstream development organizations’ approaches to development. NPA’s clear principle of supporting internal forces on basis of their own priorities and strategies, and not directing priorities or approaches from the outside, most probably provides power to actors who without NPA’s type of support might have had few opportunities to carry out their work.

The type of mobilization mechanisms and membership arrangements varies among the different partners and contexts evaluated. In some countries mobilization is geared towards direct protesting and action, e.g. in Colombia, while in other countries approaches towards mobilization is more passive. In some cases mobilization is primarily promoted through informal networks for exchange of information, while in other cases mobilization is promoted through raising communities’ awareness of rights related to land and resources, e.g. as in South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

It seems like partner networks consisting of different types of partners that complement each other leads to more robust powers towards lasting change, and may provide space for the different types of partners to do what they do best.

The principles for partner support seem very well understood by the local NPA staff in the case countries. There also seems to be great compliance between the added value that NPA strives to provide to partners and the added value that the partners mentioned when they were asked about this. NPA was acknowledged for being a good dialogue partner, providing the partners with access to national and international networks according to their needs, as well as being flexible in finding ways to meeting overall objectives and with respect to contextual realities.

The adaptability of partner organizations to changing contexts seems to be good. On the other hand, NPA’s overall approach to people´s mobilization (see paragraph 2.1.2) seems less adapted to different country contexts. The overall approach seems to work best in contexts where NPA comes in to support already existing movements in countries where there is a culture for people´s mobilization and movements, and where struggles for structural political change has been going on for a long time, e.g. as in Colombia. The approach seems to fit less with countries with weak culture for grassroots movements, and particularly in countries that are re-built after some sort of collapse, e.g. post conflict countries, and where international development aid actors are the most active.

Some organizations interviewed felt that they were involved in too many thematic areas. Representatives from NPA’s local offices also confirmed these statements. A possible explanation might be that many partner organizations have other donors in addition to NPA which have stricter thematic directions for their funding, but it may also reflect that balancing donor priorities and requirements with the partners´ own priorities is becoming more challenging. In the interviews, partners did refer to this as a general problem stemming from their interaction with all donors and partners, and not something that was particularly attributed to their partnership with NPA. However, as this situation will most likely also influence the partners’ ability to work with NPA, steps should be taken to map out the problem, and to discuss ways of mitigating it together with the partners.

The dynamic nature of NPA´s approach and funding, does not easily comply with mechanistic programme management. The distribution of funds among a large number of partners and subpartners in large networks makes it challenging to control activities and results in detail. It also makes it challenging to ensure that all sub-partners fulfil all of NPA´s partnerships criteria. NPA’s criteria for partnerships and active involvement in the networks is a fundamental requirement for handling this challenge.

NPA’s approach to international development, including in the area of “organizing for the defence and control of natural resources”, is somewhat different from the mainstream development aid NGO. The organization’s core principles are to nourish existing forces for sustainable change within the contexts where NPA works; commitment to support the priorities of its partners within these contexts; and providing a high degree of flexibility to the partners in their work towards reaching the overarching objectives of change. These principles are also seen as valuable among many development aid donors.

However, more and more of the available funding is being confined to donor priorities and universal thematic areas (particularly related to the SDGs in the time ahead), and these priorities do not always match contextual realities and partners’ priorities. In this situation, NPA should prioritize to be upfront in conceptualizing the links between the organization’s core principles and present and future donor priorities. Development and formalization of a so-called Theory of Change (ToC)6 is a very useful tool in such a process, also with a potential of acting as a conversion tool between partners’ and donors’ priorities and NPA’s overarching approach to sustainable change)).

Main Recommendations

  1. Refine and formalize further the organization’s existing strategic approach and core principles towards organizing for the defence and control of natural resources.
  2. Establish a simple set of strategic global indicators to measure and expose progress towards the overarching goals related to the partner organizations’ work within the area of organizing for the defence and control of natural resources.
  3. Prioritize, and develop further, NPA’s role as a facilitator and coordinator within partnerships, including facilitating support and access to networks, coordination of cooperation between national and international partners, and providing political dialogue and training.
  4. Consider to expand national partnership networks by including institutions that can build thematic and advocacy capacity of partner organizations, as well as develop their organizational management skills and systems.
  5. Consider the capacity and the effectiveness of partner organizations being involved in many different thematic areas. This issue should be explicitly discussed with the partners in order to map out and to solve the challenge.

Comments from the organisation

The review provides a useful overview of partners’ methods and approaches to the organizing of the defence of natural resources in different contexts. We consider that there is good potential for more learning between the different work contexts, both within NPA and between partners.

Recommendation 3 is in line with NPAs efforts in partnership work, with the exception that we in most contexts would not see NPA as the coordinator of processes, but yes, as a facilitator of access to networks and training.

Recommendation 4: Yes, where the context allows for it we will include institutions that can build thematic and advocacy capacity of partner organizations.

Recommendation 6: We acknowledge this to be a serious challenge for many organisations and we do discuss it with partners. NPA will consider how we can assist partners in this.

Recommendations 1, 2 and 5 we will take further into the strategy processes (see full report).

Published 06.06.2019
Last updated 07.06.2019