Throughout the developing world, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are involved in various aspects of an increasing number of policy interventions. The donor community has lent considerable support to this strategy. One of the key assumptions behind the strategy is that the greater involvement of NGOs in policy processes will result in more resources being distributed to the poor, and will also facilitate the establishment of a policy process which is more inclusive and egalitarian. Here the involvement of NGOs in an important land redistribution policy initiative is used to examine both these assumptions. While there is strong evidence that more land was redistributed to the poor as a result of NGO involvement, the actual mechanism or process for deciding the distribution of land was not found to be all inclusive or completely egalitarian. This ambivalence serves as a timely critique to the naive optimism and simplified assumptions underpinning development thinking and practice. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.