• NGOs;
  • service delivery;
  • democratisation;
  • decentralisation;
  • accountablity;
  • gender

Abstract — This article looks at the role of NGOs in social service delivery in Latin America and questions some of the assumptions which are often made about their abilities. Following the implementation of the neo-liberal model, increased conditionality has been placed on economic assistance. This has created a new role for NGOs, whereby they are harnessed by states in order to secure effective implementation of reform packages. In the process many NGOs and their own agendas become distorted. The paper discusses the political implications of this new role for NGOs and goes on to conclude that, given the nature of the democratisation process in Latin America, and the accompanying economic model, expectations regarding NGO potential for grassroots empowerment have been over-optimistic.