The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is unique among international human rights instruments for including a “civil society mandate”. Within the convention, disabled persons organizations (DPOs) are identified as having the responsibility to “be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process” of the CRPD. In response to this mandate, international funders, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and networks committed to the CPRD have begun to implement capacity-building programs that target grassroots DPOs with the goal of ensuring they become advocates and monitors of the CRPD. While the goals of these capacity-building programs are admirable, they must be critically assessed. The NGO-ization theory within development studies offers a framework for analyzing the potential unintended consequences of donors providing new funding, NGOs providing training, and global networks integrating local partners. NGO-ization studies have identified how grassroots associations are co-opted by outside actors through formalization and professionalization processes that significantly alter local groups and alienate members, thus making those associations less representative and less responsive to local needs and interests. Human rights scholars and international organizations focused on the CRPD should incorporate an NGO-ization perspective into their research and project-implementation to ensure that grassroots voices are heard and local needs addressed.
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