Mrs. Liliane Ploumen, Minister of Aid and Trade in the Netherlands, has issued her new policy framework for working with CSO's entitled "Dialogue and Dissent". Unlike the previous time the framework is simultaneously made available in English. This points to an important shift in funding strategy. So what are the differences with the current co-financing framework?
An important departure from the Koenders era is that international organisations with their headquarters in Western societies are excluded from support. This will exclude agencies like like Oxfam and Save the Children with their headquarters in the UK and US.
Instead local NGOs that have grown and expanded operations to at least two other countries in the region are included. Minister Ploumen found ways to encourage cross-border operations while prioritising local actors' operations. An interesting move that should be read against the backdrop of regional integration issues serving also EPA arrangements that Europe is trying to pursue and regional agenda setting.
Typically cross-border operations involve international NGOs, often populating the policy fora in developing countries exerting their influence and trying to claim a role for themselves. In recent years national governing bodies have become more self-confident and are fomulating legislation that limits foreign influence.
In Ethiopia for instance, local NGOs can only receive external funding for service delivery and lobby and advocacy should be domestically financed. This itself will bring a challenge to the intentions of Mrs. Ploumens new policy framework, at least concerning Ethiopia. Also Uganda has become more confident in stating its own priorities, not always to the satisfaction of their international partners. The state is still very much sovereign, and implementation of ratified international human rights treaties is often not prioritised. Will Ploumen be able to turn the tide somehow when the traditional countervailing power role is no longer accepted from international NGOs?
Locally rooted CSOs
The Minister's attempt to provide access to Dutch co-financing to locally rooted civil society organisations should be appreciated. However, in Ethiopia for instance it may still be considered foreign influence. At the same time you wonder how many potential candidates fit into this category and will navigate the Dutch co-financing system for support. A system that has already suffered substantial reduction of funds, leaving the Dutch to fail on their 0,7% commitment if you take out all budget dilution items like export subsidies or trade related transfers. Are Dutch NGOs willing to encourage their regional partners to share the cake and take the lead in the application processes or not? We will probably know in September.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
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Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.