Tackling urban poverty is a complex and time-consuming task. Overstretched municipal bureaucracies, confused allocations of responsibilities between local authorities, para-statals and line ministries, combined with a lack of institutional learning have blocked concerted attempts at poverty alleviation. The nature of the urban environment has itself created difficulties. in addition to the rapid growth of impoverished settlements, the complexity of urban economies and a crowded institutional environment have rendered unilateral and governmental approaches ineffective. In Ethiopia these problems have been compounded by the recent implementation of a structural adjustment programme, which adversely affected the urban poor disproportionately.
This paper examines the institutional relationships of the NGO sector in Addis Ababa. The key factors determining the performance of urban NGOs in a transitional democracy are then highlighted. The authors hope that this will go some way towards informing the strategic policy decisions of similar organisations and those institutions that they are attempting to work within the urban environment.