Can NGOs Build States and Citizenship through Service Delivery? Evidence from HIV/AIDS Programmes in Rural Uganda

  • Badru Bukenya

Student thesis: Phd


Service delivery NGOs (SD-NGOs) have long been criticised for promoting 'technocratic' and 'depoliticised' forms of development. However, some commentators have begun to argue that such agencies, and even their 'technocratic' interventions, can have positive impacts on political forms and processes. This study investigates these two opposing perspectives through the lens of state building and citizenship formation in the global South. Primary research into the activities of a prominent SD-NGO in Uganda called The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), through its "mini-TASO Project" (MTP), finds that the project delivered important citizenship gains for People with HIV/AIDS (PWAs). This was visible in four main areas, namely, enhanced ability of PWAs to exercise voice, increased associationalism among previously unorganised and marginalised PWAs, increased voluntarism and more participation of PWAs in political contests. Yet, the project's state-capacity building effects were more uneven. On the one hand, the programme played an important role in strengthening the bureaucratic ability of targeted hospitals to deliver HIV/AIDS services, enhanced PWAs' legibility to the state as well as increased state's embeddedness in society. On the other hand, however, it was less successful in expanding the infrastructural reach of the state in rural Uganda. The overall conclusion is that while SD-NGOs emerge as more political actors than critics claim, their potentially progressive effects are contingent on and remain limited by intervention and contextual factors. While intervention factors encompass issues such as the expertise of SD-NGOs, programme design and funding, the contextual ones include the pre-existing state-society relations, operating environment for civil society, influence of donors, and the character of both formal and informal political institutions, among others.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSamuel Hickey (Supervisor) & Admos Chimhowu (Supervisor)


  • Citizenship formation
  • Service delivery
  • Non Government Organisations (NGOs)
  • Uganda
  • State building

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