|The Courier N° 152 - July - August 1995 - Dossier: NGO's - Country Reports: Belize, Malawi (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)|
AFRICA-CARIBBEAN-PACIFIC - EUROPEAN UNION
Meeting point Michael Aaronson
Michael Aaronson 'caught the bug for working in Africa' in Nigeria where he was employed, after leaving university by the large UK-based NGO, 'Save the Children'. He went on to spend 16 years in the British Foreign Service, before returning to the nongovernmental sector to take up a senior position with his old employers. Earlier this year, he was appointed Director-General of 'Save the Children'. In conjunction with our Dossier on NGOs, we asked Mr Aaronson for his views about the work of development NGOs, the challenges they face in an unstable and changing world, and the important, but not always comfortable relationship that they have with their public sector partners.
Belize is a Central American country that throws up a succession of surprises. Mother nature is responsible for some of these, including the second largest coral reef in the world, delightful offshore islands, a diverse and fascinating wildlife, and a tropical forest, four fifths of which has been spared the ravages of humankind. Another surprise is the beauty of its towns (notably Belize City which is a 'tropical Venice'). Then there is the country's deep-rooted democracy and its unconventional history. It was independent at a time of colonialism and then a colony until the early 1980s. Finally, this nation of 200 000 souls enjoys relative economic prosperity as well as racial harmony despite the recent arrival of more than 60 000 refugees. For all that, Belize in not paradise. It has its problems- some recent ethnic tensions, economic difficulties linked to global recession and the pernicious growth of the chug trade.
In May 1994 Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, one of the most brutal dictators Africa has seen this century was defeated in a presidential election in Malawi. He had ruled the country for 30 years. The Courier visited Malawi in May, one year after the historic change. We found a much happier nation, where multi-patty democracy is taking root, and where the government is grappling, in a remarkable manner, with the serious economic legacies of Dr Banda's regime.
The future shape of the EU
The 'great debate' has resumed. Readers will recall the tortuous passage of the Maastricht Treaty which we covered extensively in previous issues. This was followed by a relative lull in the discussion about 'deepening' the Union as attention turned to the somewhat simpler task of enlargement. But 1996-the date set for the next Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)-is fast approaching. The focus will be on improving the way the EU's system works, rather than on substantive competences, but it will be no mere technical exercise. Already, there are signs of a struggle developing between competing, and largely incompatible visions of what the Union should be. We report on the European Commission's initial contribution to the debate and analyse some of the key issues.
Recognised as vital actors in the development process, many NGOs today are undergoing something of an 'identity crisis'. Key issues of current concern include a fear of losing their independence, the need to redefine the partnership between civil society in the North and in the South, doubts over their respective roles, competition for funds, problems in coordinating their work, and the continuing tension between 'development' and 'emergency' activity. In the Dossier we examine how NGOs are tackling these questionss as the 21st century approaches.
'Our independence is very important to us'
There are many 'actors' engaged in the process of Third World development including governments, multilateral institutions, bilateral agencies, private enterprises and of course, 'non-governmental organisations' (NGOs). The term 'NGO' covers a range of different bodies and their activities are many and varied. In the Dossier, we examine some of these activities and discuss the wider role of NGOs working in developing countries.
To start the ball rolling, we spoke to Michael Aaronson, the Director General of 'The Save the Children Fund' which is a large British-based NGO. Mr Aaronson is an Oxford graduate who began his career with a two-year spell in Nigeria as a relief worker for Save the Children. It was there, he says, that he 'caught the bug for working in Africa. 'He then served as a British diplomat for 16 years before resuming to Save the Children seven years ago to run the overseas operations of the Fund. On 1 May, he became Director-General We began by asking him about the role of Save the Children specifically, and northern NGOs more generally.
-There are a number of roles. I think that the primary justification for being involved in somebody else's country, as an outsider, is the belief that one has some substantive contribution to make, providing added value by supplementing local skills, capacities and resources. In other words, bringing or doing something that cannot be acquired or done locally. Linked to that increasingly is our role in our own countries of the North, and particularly in the European Union, as an advocate for the South. We are advocates for the development process and particularly for human development, which is really the ultimate goal. By drawing on our own experience of trying to undertake development in the South, we aim to speak with authority and to have some influence on the policies of the major institutions in the North. Obviously, for us, this means the British Government and the European Commission in particular. Our independence is also very important to us. We are not, in any way, agents of anybody else's policy, other than where there is a mutual coincidence of interest. In short, our mission requires us to be there, first and foremost, to respond to need, but we also see it as part of our responsibility to use the experience that that gives us to try and have some influence on the policy process.
· Do you see any difficulty in carrying out that tvvo-pronged role-providing development assistance but also lobbying ?
-No, I don't think that there is any clash of interests. Lobbying is not a word like particularly-I prefer to talk about using our experience-but in any case, I don't see it as a separate activity. Provided it is based on our own experience of trying to make things happen on the ground then I don't think there is any contradiction. After all, if the European Commission, for example, funds an NGO like Save the Children to do a development programme somewhere in Africa, then clearly it wants it to be as effective as possible. If our experience tells us that the conditions the donor is imposing on us make it more difficult to do our job properly, then I would have thought it was as much in the interests of the donor to be told that as it is in our interests to try to have the conditions eased.
We have been actively engaged with the Commission, alongside other European NGOs, discussing the general conditions of cofinancing. As you know, there has been a review process, which I have to say has been going on far too long. On the humanitarian side, Save the Children has also been very active through our liaison office in Brussels. We were one of the first agencies to sign a framework partnership agreement with ECHO (The European Community Humanitarian Office). We have been involved in the current efforts to review the framework agreement where again we feel that a number of the stipulations actually make it much more difficult for us to do our job effectively and deliver for the Commission what it wants. So we are, if you like, lobbying with others to get those conditions changed.
· One can understand why public bodies like the Commission or national agencies ask NGOs to do certain things because NGOs are often capable of 'reaching the parts that others cannot reach' But isn't there a danger that you might be drawn into the system ? You presumably have an interest in maintaining your operations and keeping your staff employed. If that means more co-financing, with taxpayers' money becoming a major source of income, are you not concerned that your independence might be compromised ?
-I think there is that danger and it is very important for NGOs to be aware of it and not let it happen. It is, of course, perfectly legitimate for a public authority which is charged with implementing a particular policy, to look to others such as NGOs to help it achieve it's goals. We have to be realistic about that, and understand where the public authorities are coming from. But equally, I think we look to them to have a sophisticated understanding of our role. We have sometimes felt, particularly in recent times, that some authorities view NGOs rather simplistically as little more than contractors. There seems to be a trend in this direction in some parts of the Commission. There is a failure to understand that we are independent organisations with our own mission and mandate, our own constituency and our own accountabilities-both to the people we work with in the developing world and to those who support our activity at home. So it is perfectly all right for the KU, let us say, to want us to help it achieve its goals but they need to understand where we are coming from. It is very important for us not to have our efforts distorted because we fail to stand up for ourselves. I don't think that it need be adversarial. I think it is just about the different parties having a better understanding of each other.
Save the Children gets substantial funding from government and EU sources. Our turnover is about £100m (ECU 120m) year and about half of that comes from grants from statutory bodies. But the important point is that the other half comes from voluntary public subscriptions. So even though we are heavily engaged in grant-funded activity, we have also got a very solid voluntary fund-raising base. Indeed, it is because we have that base that we are able to take money from institutional donors. We are not in the position of having to take the money because without it we couldn't do the work. We have a very clear view of what we want to do. If people are happy to fund us to do that work, that's great-they're happy and we're happy. In other words, the key to it is having a strong independent funding base of your own.
· How happy are you about the relationship with the EU and about the operation of the NGO Liaison Committee ?
-I have only been on the Liaison Committee for a year but from my experience as the British representative, I think that in some parts of the Commission -those that are used to working with NGOs-there is a desire to improve the nature of the partnership. In other parts, where working with NGOs is a more recent experience, I think they have got quite a lot to learn about us. Obviously the people in the NGO unit in DG VIII (The Development Directorate Genera/) are very experienced and well aware of the role of NGOs. But elsewhere in the Commission there is definitely a need for a greater understanding of what we are and what our role can be.
'The image of the Third World is becoming less and leess positive
· In the foyer of your building there is a display which includes a quotation by Sir Philip Gibbs speaking just after the end of the First World War: He said: 'Beneath all the hard crust of materialism and cynicism which have Europe in their grip at the moment, there has been a welling up of generous ardent idealism, which very soon will break through the crust and prevail.' 75 years on there still seems to be rather a lot of materialism and cynicism around and arguably it is on the increase. Given that you have a large base of individual subscribers, are you concerned about the possible effects of 'aid fatigue'?
-I think it is a worrying trend. It is undoubtedly fuelled by a variety of factors: certainly the international recession and the fact that things have become a lot harder all round. It is also fuelled, I think, by political changes following the end of the Cold War. These have unleashed all sorts of rather depressing and destabilising events. By and large, the image of the Third World is becoming less and less positive. I think another factor has been the unrealistic expectations of recent times that have so quickly been dashed. Nobody talks about the new world order any more but it is quite staggering how, relatively recently, everybody was talking about it. That's what led the Americans into their disastrous intervention in Somalia. Its the sort of idealism that was to be found in Boutros Ghali's 'Agenda for Peace' which he has now more or less formally acknowledged is unrealistic. It was this feeling which led the UN Security Council into some pretty foolhardy involvements in Africa, and the negative feedback from all that is very dispiriting.
The kind of things that we have seen in Somalia and elsewhere certainly make life more difficult for organisations like ourselves. They must also cause problems for the EU as a donor as it seeks to justify its actions to it own constituency. But I don't know that I would necessarily call it 'aid fatigue'. I don't think the individual member of the public is any less moved or that there is any less compassion around. What there is, at the moment, is a lot of bewilderment as to what the appropriate solutions are. People thought things would be a lot easier because that is what they were told, and it's not turning out to be so easy after all.
· As regards so-called 'aid fatigue' among officials donors, there have been reports that the US Congress is trying to slash an already modest aid budget At the same time we have a problem in the EU over the funding for the second half of LomV. Are you concerned about these trends ?
-Yes. We are all watching what is happening on Capitol Hill with considerable alarm. We are also concerned about developments in the EU over the second half of LomV and in particular, I have to say, about the minimalist stance adopted by the British government. They seem to want to blame Europe for reductions in its own bilateral programmes and to set up some sort of rivalry between the two.
· The UK government says that it wants to expand its bilateral programmes. Do you think that is likely to happen ?
-I think frankly that it is a red herring. The real issue at stake here is political priorities for Europe. It appears that more priority is being attached to relations with the East and the Mediterranean countries and that that can only be pursued at the expense of relations with the South. By all means assist the process of transition in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This is very important. We should also be helping to address the problems of the Mediterranean countries. But surely not at the expense of the developing world. In absolute terms, levels of poverty and suffering there are still on a completely different scale to anything we see closer to home. That there is a squeeze on aid to Africa seems therefore to be a direct consequence of the fact that there is no additional funding being made available. That's the real issue. All this stuff about whether a bilateral programme is any better than a European one is just a smokescreen. Obviously, it appeals to nationalistic sentiment in a country like Britain where knocking anything European is fashionable. I think it is utterly depressing how, in British politics, there is so little serious consideration of the potential benefits to this country of working with our European partners to try to achieve more together than we can achieve separately. The debate is never on those terms. It is always conducted in purely negative terms of what are we going to 'give up' and I find that hugely depressing.
Interestingly, in the NGO sector, the British have a much better reputation in Europe. Representing British NGOs, I find that our work is highly appreciated and welcomed by our European colleagues. This is because we are in an area where we are all conditioned to think in terms of 'how can we achieve more by working together?' It is part of the culture and ethos of NGOs, and I think that stands out in strong contrast to the negative, inward-looking, narrow-minded and depressing attitude of politicians in this country: politicians of all parties, I have to say. We have a bit of a 'little England' problem here, I am afraid.
· There is a proliferation of organisations of varying types under the broad 'NGO' heading. And whenever there is a crisis, in somewhere like Rwanda for example, they all descend on the place, presenting problems of coordination. What is your view of this phenomenon ?
-The longer-established, and what I would regard as more professional NGOs (I hope we can count ourselves as one of these), have been very alarmed at this relatively recent phenomenon of mushrooming NGOs. Rwanda was an appalling example. There were something like 130 organisations working in the refugee camps in Zaire and another 100 trying to set up shop inside Rwanda. And frankly, many of them were thoroughly ill-equipped. They had very little real contribution to make and seemed to be there solely to raise their own profile and attract funding. They certainly showed no desire to take part in any coordinated plan of action. So those of us representing the UK platform on the EC NGO Liaison Committee would put our cards firmly on the table on this issue. We need, as an NGO community, to begin trying to impose some standards of our own, for example, by developing codes of conduct. The good name of NGOs is at stake and I think that we have to do something about it.
We have to be careful not to impose our own models of civil society on the South'
· What about Southern NGOs. Do you see their emergence as an aspect of the development process ?
-It is a very important aspect of our work, although I have to say that in recent years, I think it has become a bit of a fad. There are also very real dangers attached to it in that we have to be very careful not to impose our own external models of civil society on the countries of the South. For Save the Children, for example, to go around setting up little local branches in Africa would seem to me to be completely inappropriate. The question of what sorts of NGOs emerge as part of the civil society in developing countries is a matter for the people of those countries. It is not for us to force the pace or impose our own models. I think we also shouldn't forget that NGOs form only a limited part of the whole spectrum of civil society. People talk about NGOs in a very undiscerning way, failing to distinguish between local NGOs and community-based organisations. The latter may truly represent particular communities in a way that local NGOs do not. Local NGOs may represent elites, philanthropists or whatever. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course-its how Save the Children came into being-but obviously, the development of civil society is very important. Local NGOs undoubtedly have a role to play in that but we, as outsiders, need to be sensitive to the local context and not allow ourselves to be seduced by the latest fashions.
· The balance appears to be tipping away from traditional development assistance towards humanitarian activities. Is that something which you have seen within your organisation ?
-It is certainly a phenomenon that we are concerned about. This refers back to one of your earlier questions. What seems to be at stake at the moment is the extent of the North's commitment to longterm development in the South. There seems to be some sort of disillusionment with it. We see a much tougher attitude on conditionality together with a feeling that we will get involved where we have to, because the scale of suffering is so great, and it is being shown on our television screens. If we don't react, we will look bad with our own constituency. In practice, that means a lot of funding that might otherwise have been available for development work is now being channelled into humanitarian activity. In fact, it is not even 'humanitarian', strictly speaking. It is really emergency relief with a strong political flavour to it.
· Isn't there some merit in this approach given that after 30 years of attempted development assistance, the number of success stories doesn't appear to be very great
-Well my response would be 'whose fault is that ?' Are we really justified in penalising Africans. Maybe we should look more at our own practices and ask ourselves if we have been doing it the right way. Obviously, there are faults on both sides. Africa has done itself no good at all by failures of governance, corruption, civil war and so on, but I think for us to sit here and pass judgment from on high, ignoring the historical and contemporary context of Africa, is a bit rich. It is very easy to use that as an excuse. Let me give you what I think is a good recent example. After the Kibeho massacre in Rwanda, the Commission announced that it was suspending all aid through the Kigali government. I actually think that said more about feelings of inadequacy in Europe than about anything that is happening in Rwanda. I believe that it was a reflection of European guilt at its failure to engage in Rwanda in anything more than a superficial way. There has really been only a very half-hearted involvement in the process of reconciliation, the justice process, and in rehabilitation and reconstruction. Instead, we have seen huge sums being poured into unsustainable refugee camps along the border.
You also asked whether that has been a problem in Save the Children. One of our corporate goals is that we will continue to provide emergency relief- but in the context of long-term development. In other words, we not interested in becoming a sort of flying squad for humanitarian assistance. We are committed to long-term development. Obviously, we also try to provide relief where children's lives or well-being are under threat but we will always keep our eye on the longer term perspective and won't allow ourselves be diverted from that.
· Broadening the discussion a little, can I ask about your views on structural adjustment There are those who regard it es the great hope-or even the panacea-for genuine and sustainable development Do you agree with that analysis or do you think that it is ill-founded ?
-I think there are no panaceas in development; certainly no economic panaceas. I believe that the whole approach to structural adjustment reflects a misplaced obsession with economic models and a view that development is about economics when it is actually about people. Economic growth is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Properly applied, it is a way of achieving greater wealth and, more crucially, greater well-being for a greater number of people. At the macro-economic level there may be perfectly sound arguments for structural adjustment - although they have been disputed-but there is no doubt that at the level of the ordinary people, particularly in Africa, adjustment policies have led to greater suffering and hardship. Nor is there any guarantee that any economic gains resulting from adjustment will be applied to the benefit of the population at large. There are some very well documented cases. What has happened to the health service in Zimbabwe under structural adjustment is just one example. I think that development is too important to be left to economists.
· Another big change which, on the face of it, ought to be very encouraging, is the democratisation process in Africa. Working in an NGO, has that change made it any easier for you in your dealings with local administrations ?
-There are many encouraging things happening in Africa but I think that the perspective of an organisation like Save the Children is always going to be a bit different in this area. Even in countries which suffered most under non-democratic regimes, it has always been possible for us to find people to work with: people who are committed to improving the lives of children. One thinks, for example, of Ethiopia under Mengistu. We worked there quite happily for many years and made absolutely no compromises to the authorities. Whatever else their faults, they were intelligent enough to know that they needed us to be there and, therefore, they were prepared to allow us to carry on working according to our own lights. Now, obviously, we have a very good, close and ultimately more productive relationship with the new Ethiopian regime because, if you have a democratic system, there are all sorts of possibilities that weren't there before. I suppose what I am really saying, without wishing to sound arrogant about it, is that organisations like Save the Children are able to reach the parts that others can't as you yourself said. That makes a difference as to how we view the countries in which we are working.
Children are important social actors in their own right'
· What about the proposition that there can't be development without democracy ? There are those who argue the opposite-that if you try to set up a democratic system, it is more difficult to get the economy sorted out because of all the competing interests.
-Well there can't be development without human rights. I would certainly agree with that. But I think that is a slightly different proposition. The trouble is that when we talk about democracy, we are really talking about our own particular models. I don't think the case is proven that the Westminster form of governance, for instance, is necessarily the most appropriate to the needs of Africa. I think that remains an open question.. We would regard it as a bit insolent if Africans told us how we should run our democracy here. They have every right to feel somewhat insulted if we judge them only by their failure to operate our system. I think we should be a bit more open-minded about that.
· Finally, with specific reference to Save the Children, where do you see your organisation going as we approach the next millennium.
- What we want to do is promote the role of children in development. One of the reasons for this is to do with human rights. Our Charter is that of the rights of the child, which are now reflected in a UN Convention. This sets out the values that underpin all our work. For us, there is therefore an obligation to try to address the needs of children as part of securing their rights. But we think there are also quite substantial practical arguments for doing that. Children are important social actors in their own right. In many countries, they make up more than half the population. They also, in many cases, contribute quite significantly to household economies. But their position is usually defined only in relation to adults so that one never really has any insight into their situation or role in the development process. We think that it is very important to try to redress that. There is a parallel here with the debate about the role of women. The role of children in the thinking of policy-makers today can be compared to that of women 20-25 years ago. It is now a commonplace that women are crucial to the development process and that policies and programmes should pay particular attention to their situation. What we are saying is that there is a comparable case to be made with regard to children. So one of the key things we want to do is to promote the children's agenda in development, as a genuine means of promoting more effective development programmes.
Institutional cooperation in development
by J.M. Perille and J.M. Trutat
The complexity end sensitivity of development aid is wed known-in particular in less-favoured areas, where nature's balance is fragile and many constraints are in operation. Many theories about aid have been elaborated together with numerous strategies, but so far the anticipated effects have not materialised. Hence the questioning and debate. At a time when bilateral and multilateral aid bodies are reviewing their approach and involvement, we asked the Head of the European Commission Delegation in Mauritania to give us his analysis of the Community's approach-one which he has been seeking to implement 'in the field' In particular, we sought his views on institutional development aid-an area where the European Union has only recently become involved. Here. the authors pose a fundamental question-just how effective is aid ?-drawing on experience of a project carried out in the Mauritanian Planning Ministry.
Several decades of development aid, delivered in widely varying forms, have demonstrated the limits of our hopes and ambitions. Founding principles, innovative concepts, and human and financial resources have all been applied to the problem but the results have been disappointing. True, there have been some successes, but only time will tell whether they will prove to be lasting. However, despite its weaknesses, foreign aid clearly does make some contribution to development in the countries at which it is targeted. What is being called into question is not its usefulness but its effectiveness. For this reason, it is now time to get to grips with the realities and work to achieve the achievable. We need to dispense with magic 'formulae', sweeping condemnations and received wisdom. What we need instead is a brand new approach-a radical rethink as to how we can tackle the situation.
Critics fail to recognise realities
Initially, traditional 'institutional' aid was given a rough ride by many in the development field. There was criticism of the size and complexity of macroeconomic intervention by major development institutions in their capacity as bilateral sponsors. The approach, moreover, seemed to conflict with the microeconomic view of development favoured, in particular, by the NGOs.
Benefiting from more media coverage, with a commensurate increase in their political 'clout', these organisations find themselves beset by difficulties related to their very raison d'e. Their objectives entail operating flexibly and close to the ground, and hence within narrower confines. Lacking an overview, or an integrated approach, they find themselves acting disparately and inconsistently. Moreover, their distance from decision-making centres makes it difficult to evaluate their actions, whilst the absence of any system of reference considerably restricts the extent to which they can become involved.
They also have a tendency to deviate from their initial vocation to become 'macro-organisations' subject to the same constraints as the so-called institutional sponsors. They do not, however, have the resources, know-how or historical 'memory' that can only be accumulated by decades of actual presence in the field.
A second point is that national financial authorities have been the subject of justified but sterile criticism. As long as there is a lack of will within government to determine and enforce national policy, the authorities will be prone to apathy. Low salaries for civil servants mean low motivation and recent attempts at profesionalism remain limited. In defence of national administrations, it may be added that outside involvement tends to lead to substitution rather than complementarity. Declarations of intent are all very well, but they seldom hold their own against an objective interpretation of day-to-day realities.
Structural adjustment, which has oft been decried, at least has in its favour the fact that it has brought about a return to the basic premise that development is only possible if the interested parties are involved in decision-making and in the organisation of their own evolution. Those receiving development aid, too long deprived of power, are now resuming a central role in the decision-making and operational process through the concept of 'internalisation'. This is an essential notion which tends to promote responsibility and national action as opposed to fixed ideas imported from outside.
We therefore need to compare shortcomings on the part of the authorities and to assist them, through positive actions, in regaining their position at the heart of those processes which condition development, be they interventionist or liberal in character. Without this readaptation, too many fundamental decisions will still be based on external analyses, too many decisive actions will be based on outside intervention, and too many strategic interactions will be stillborn, with the 'centre' cut off from its 'periphery'.
With these premises in mind, it is clear that a vital aspect of the development process must be the institutional factor, the key element of which is, and will continue to be, the authorities.
Through observing the difficulties experienced by central financing authorities in defining and implementing development strategies and; policies a number of donors have been seeking appropriate ways of lending support to them. This assistance is directed in a variety of ways and comes in various forms:
-expert outside help in analysing situations and proposing
structural reorganisation or functional improvements;
-external training to increase professionalism and technical expertise;
-financing of material requirements and/ or the support of operational costs;
-creation of back-up, coordinating, programming or monitoring bodies; and, (perhaps above all),
-technical assistance to facilitate implementation.
It would be exaggerating to suggest that such assistance has had no beneficial impact, but it would also be unrealistic to say that it has had any significant impact on the process of 'internalisation'. Results have fallen well short of expectations. Moreover, in a time of increased scarcity of resources, where national authorities have to put the aid they receive to best use, it is far from clear that this is the best way to obtain the desired results. Such support is, too often, offered in haste, the aim being, above all, to remedy human and material shortfalls. Virtually all of it has ended up as assistance involving substitution or compensation. Additionally, when the decision has been made to boost structural support, the result has been an increase in independent bodies operating on the fringe of or outwith national structures, so as to be less rigid or to escape dysfunction. Rarely coordinated or monitored, this support has made scant contribution to solving basic problems. Indeed, it has generated new problems through the lack of involvement which generally results from such attempts to paper over the cracks in the system.
The principal difficulties, that everyone can see, are that administrative structures lack the capacity to think and act, owing to shortcomings in standards, technical knowledge, methods, organisation and experience on the part of their staff. The institutional support mobilised to remedy the situation has self-evidently not had the desired result: it has not prompted 'readaptation' on the part of those for whom it was intended.
Finding solutions by observing what is actually happening
This brief overview leads us to propose other solutions more likely to have the desired effect but which are, first and foremost, more 'internalised'. Although one might have doubts, given the accumulation of problems, about the feasibility of 'changing course' and genuinely embarking on a new direction, recent, yet different, approaches suggest that it is feasible. The proviso is that the received wisdom needs to be radically rethought and an innovative strategy proposed in the sphere of institutional development aid. It must be based on a methodology of structured support so as to enable the final recipients of aid to adapt their procedures. The success of a new approach depends largely on the responses to three basic questions: what should be done, why should it be done, and how should it be done ?
As regards what should be done, the issue is one of identification. In many cases, owing to a lack of time, the actual problem is not even mentioned. In fact, state structures, which depend on both internal and external policy (the donors' own aims), are unable to meet the challenge. The diagnosis must therefore be in terms of remedying shortcomings in know-how and ability in the principal areas under consideration: design/formulation, organisation/management, support/ maintenance, monitoring/ assessment, etc.
The question 'why should it be done' relates to the aim and will obviously involve justification. All those involved must clearly understand that they must move away from dependency towards taking a leading role. Priority must go to promoting independent ability for reflection and negotiation, towards achieving quality in terms of both productivity and time management, and to consolidating skills, initiative and a sense of responsibility on the part of those representing the 'state' in the widest sense.
As to how should it be done, this will involve giving support in real terms. It must be based on the essential idea of 'getting things done' using a functional 'planning department' strategy which precludes any notions of substitution or compensation. This entails focusing support on the outcome or final 'product' rather than on purchases and consumables regarded as necessary to obtain the product. It must be geared to making existing structures work: improvement and consolidation rather than radical and wholesale change.
The concept is designed to replace the approach of traditional technical assistance which concentrates on substitution. The aim of the support will be to guide processes of internalisation and readaptation by applying a kind of 'apprenticeship' strategy to the methods and techniques of the recipients. The key element is to invest in the people one has by appointing them, in the first instance, to the positions they are able to occupy. The next stage is to put the people one needs into the positions that need to be filled. This can only happen through rational and dynamic management of human resources, and it will take a considerable amount of time to implement.
To summarise, the intention is to demonstrate that the renewal of the 'institutional support' approach should fundamentally consist of intervention aimed at achieving tangible results, summed up in the phrase 'getting things done'. The goal is to make the operators internalise policy and adopt procedures within their own structures, basing their actions on transparency, exchanges of views and heightened awareness.
Support for self-development
The aim of this type of support is to enable a country's authorities to increase their own ability to determine and manage their evolution, until they have the financial means to take over their responsibilities and have been able to carry out the often essential task of reorganising the public service. Concrete support can, therefore, only be in the form of specific and short-term external measures. In order to be consistent and effective, it goes without saying that such a policy requires not only the establishment of reference guidelines but also the definition of an action programme specifying content, deadlines, monitoring measures and means of finance.
In principle, greater consideration must be given to the authorities' ability to absorb the new development/ coordination burden resulting from the evolution of their tasks. The additional costs generated by the improvements which are being sought must also figure in the equation. As far as guidance is concerned, in order to consolidate the impact and forestall possible dysfunction, the support must be provided within a coordinated framework, with the recipient country taking the initiative and its partners participating only in follow-up schemes and evaluation. In terms of support, preference should go to aspects which favour the development of national 'know-how' and 'capability'. Initial intervention should involve the powerful financial authorities with a view to guaranteeing improved regulation of the economy, a more consistent focus on development and better control of projects.
Support for self-enhancement
In operational terms, the use of a functional 'planning department' strategy (i.e. achieving the goal, whether it is delivery of a service or acquisition of a product), will result in the recipient assuming responsibility for both quality and output at the production level. The recipient would have the incentive of having to meet his commitments so as to continue receiving institutional aid. In the back of the mind, there would be the prospect of an interruption to the flow of operating capital should there be a drop in production, since the resources would be payable in stages as the plan evolves. Unlike the current situation, the organisation would be free, once its costs had been covered, to allocate resources as it saw fit. Other than maintaining the obligation to submit regular accounts, donor control would be removed. Moreover, on the basis of the multiannual plan set up, the organisation would, in agreement with its sleeping partner (the donor), make provision for the production of an annual work programme. This would identify needs, allow for account to be taken of new developments and permit any reorientation that might be necessary. Finally, an independent external assessment should be carried out half way through the programme in order to redefine targets for the allocation of resources or make corrective adjustments in deployment. This would be designed to tackle any drift away from the original goal or indeed a complete breakdown in operations. At the end of the project, there would be a review from which it should be possible to assess whether or not it is worthwhile continuing.
This would take place through technical assistance in the field for the redefined tasks and would include an obligation to achieve a result. Within this context, the assistance would have to contribute:
-to improving the donor/authority interface in terms of
information and advice;
-to the internalisation of procedures by the recipient institutions, the latter being enabled to take on these responsibilities thanks to study and development projects using a combined organisational and procedural approach;
-to the enhancement of human resources in terms of both competence and responsibility, through individual and collective 'training/action';
The innovative 'training/action' approach involves two elements: training officials in the 'know-how' and 'capabilities' required by their positions within their organisation and practical advice, when they are actually performing their tasks. The latter would entail alternating individual and collective 'apprenticeship' actions designed to achieve progressive development and would be agreed with the head of the organisation in question on the basis of specific cases.
'Training/action' aims to develop both 'vocational know-how' (formulation and identification, follow-up and assessment techniques, input and processing methods) and 'behavioural competence' in terms of communication, encouragement and negotiation.
The principle underlying this approach should favour a particular type of technical assistance, with a trainer (just like one for a sports team) acting both as individual coach and team leader, who is capable of making officials more professional and responsible. Implicit from the outset in such an approach is a commitment to achieving the recipients' objectives.
It would appear that this involves a need for reorienting technical assistance profiles. Such assistance should henceforth be:
-oriented, above all, towards strategic considerations,
procedural and structural organisation and practical advice;
-more diversified in terms of horizontal skills in order to cover a more diverse range of activity (through active project studies and development which can be usefully applied to the organisations);
-more geared towards effective transfer of 'know-how' and 'capabilities' based on apprenticeships in the various positions and services;
-better directed in terms of its public profile, maturity and adaptability, in order to establish its credibility.
Finally, the management of this 'new' form of technical assistance requires: -more selective recruitment and closer supervision of results obtained;
-improved initial definition of the relationship with the
beneficiary authorities and donor representatives in situ (such as the EC
-a genuine policy to establish, assess and redirect the approach;
-more flexible and far-sighted management.
By way of conclusion, the central idea in this innovative approach is to help countries help themselves. To achieve this, it is not enough to renew the framework or to redistribute roles: the rules and the approach must also be modified.
The organisational effect will be all the greater if thought precedes action, ifaims take reality into account, if objectives take constraints into consideration, ifoperators are motivated and if decision-makers assume their responsibilities.
The analysis and proposals set forth here are the result of an experiment currently being carried out at the Mauritanian Planning Ministry. Although not definitive, initial mid-term results are sufficiently conclusive to offer the conceptual bases underlying the approach which have guided implementation of the steps we propose to examine in greater depth within the context of wider and more generalised 'institution building'.
by Aida Opuku-Mensah Brako
'While the First World races into the information age on the information superhighways,' says a recent report for the United Nations, 'nearly four billion of the world's five billion people still lack the most basic access to simple telecommunications.' Gemini News Service reports on African attempts to catch up.
Sub-Saharan Africa has about the same number of phones as Tokyo and is in danger of being left even further behind as the industrialised world cruises into the information superhighway. Even though the role of telecommunications has often been left out of the development debate, stud)" by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Bank show a direct link between telecommunications and economic growth.
Leonard Subulwa, Zambia's Minister for the Western Province, points out that to communicate with officials in his constituency, 'I have to drive 250 kiLomes because the country's telecommunications network do" not serve this district.'
A World Bank study in Uganda in 1983 showed that 2000 local government officials made 40 000 trips a year to handle administrative matters that could have been dealt with by mail or telephone if these services had been available. The study estimated that about 250 person years of government time were wasted every year, at a cost of some $600 000. 12 years later, the situation is no better. Inadequate telecommunications services in Uganda still translate into high costs in time and transport.
Lack of coherent strategy
Africa's telecommunications institutions have failed to develop coherent strategies. This is partly because PANAFTEL, the continental body created by the ITU, has been headquartered in Zaire -a country that has been in virtual anarchy for years. Furthermore, decades of under-investment have caused the deterioration of existing systems, which, in any case, are hardly available outside towns.
Most national telecom organisations are running at a loss. Employees sometimes ask for bribes to connect lines rather than instituting a proper billing system. The Swedish Embassy in Lusaka recently received an itemised bill totalling 17 million kwacha, including a four-hour-call to London on an unconnected line!
Almost all equipment is imported and technical assistance is uncoordinated. The effect, says Zambian telecoms engineer Edwin Hanamwinga, is networks with a mish-mash of incompatible equipment. He continues: 'Our international network is made up of Swedish and Japanese systems whilst our transit centres have French and Japanese. Our rural areas have Norwegian crossbar systems. However, you cannot interface either the international or transit systems with the rural ones. The equipment is not complementary.'
The failure of telecommunications monopolies to meet even basic needs has resulted in a huge unmet demand for telephones. Lusaka resident, Irene Phiri, has a child with cerebral palsy and an invalid mother, both of whom occasionally need emergency medical treatment. Yet she has been unable to get a phone and so has to make frequent trips home during office hours. 'I've applied for a telephone since 1991, 'she says. 'Whenever I chase up my application I'm told: 'Well madam, there are people living in your area who have been waiting for a phone since 1977. So why are you so impatient ?"
The situation is repeated elsewhere in Africa. Ghanaian businessman Kwabena Akunnor says his business associates have no phones, so he is forced to drive round to their offices in Accra on the off-chance that they will be there.
To the World Bank, the root of the problem is clear: state monopoly. And its answer is equally clear: privatisation. Already, the supply of handsets by private companies has been introduced in many countries on the continent. The Bank is the largest multilateral financier of telecommunications projects in Africa, and has made reforms and restructuring of the sector a condition for lending. 'Telecommunications is increasingly seen as a vital component of the structural adjustment process,' says the Bank. 'Efficient information flows are essential to the success of efforts to liberalise and consequently to expand.'
Restructuring includes separation of the postal and telecommunications services and their conversion into independent business entities. For instance, Ghana's former Posts and Telecommunications Corporation is now two organisations, Ghana Posts and Ghana Telecoms.
But though restructuring is geared towards enhancing competition, efficiency and attracting foreign investment, it is proving a turbulent process. For a start, there is no guarantee that foreign investment will increase because Africans are competing with Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The continent's debt burden discourages capital flow, and in any case, most African states have weak, or non-existent, capital markets. In addition, restructuring needs to be supervised by an independent body capable of developing effective regulatory mechanisms. Many countries are still grappling to establish such a regulatory framework, which requires a delicate balance of technical, economic and legal factors. But multidisciplinary expertise is exactly what Africa lacks.
by Nancy McGuire
The sandy beaches of the Eastern Caribbean have always been regarded as a free and limitless resource. Not any more. Governments, reports Gemini News Service, are realising that sand-mining is a major cause of erosion.
Caribbean beaches still deliver the sun and sea promised in the tourist brochures, but they can no longer always boast of endless sand. Beaches are being eroded by natural processes and human activities. The phenomenon has been ignored by governments-falsely confident of a resource that would never run out - but now severe damage has occurred, politically unpopular decisions are required and huge costs look likely.
A decade ago, Telescope Point on Grenada's east coast was a beautiful beach. It has been virtually destroyed. Heavy sand mining, indiscriminate removal of mangroves, strong north-east trade winds and a jetty expansion which damaged the reef have done the job. What remains is uprooted coconut trees, mud and a narrow strip of sand. Monitoring shows that the beach is eroding by between three and four metres a year.
Destruction of the beach has disrupted the habitat of snails. crabs and other creatures, and scientists warn that this will have a long-term effect on the marine food chain. Telescope was once a nesting ground for leatherback turtles. The largest of the turtle family and now an endangered species, leatherbacks used to return to the place of their birth to nest in the sand. They no longer do so.
About 85% of sand for use in Grenada's construction industry is taken from the island's beaches. There is no monitoring, and regulations controlling which beaches are open for mining are often ignored by residents and the authorities.
Concrete is preferred to wood all over the region because of its resistance to weather and termites. Traditionally, private citizens have regarded beach sand as freely available for house construction, but in terms of quantity, governments have often been the biggest culprits in removing sand for public works projects and filtration systems.
Counter-measures are not always appropriate. Valerie Isaac of the natural resources management unit of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) recalls a workshop in St Vincent at which the government's director of planning indicated that all beaches would be closed to sand mining. The result, she says, 'was a rush on the beaches-people were stockpiling like crazy.'
Tackling the problem
St Vincent has now constructed facilities to handle imported sand from Guyana, Dominica and other places. Local sand is taken from a river and also made from pumice, a light volcanic rock. Such attempts to tackle the problem are part of a response to recommendations by COSALC (Coast and Beach Stability in the Lesser Antilles) working with the OECS. COSALC was founded by UNESCO in 1985 after erosion in the Eastern Caribbean had become visibly more serious. It has drawn up recommendations for coastal zone regulations, which several countries have found helpful. The British Virgin Islands used the regulations to introduce mangrove management, as the extensive mangrove root systems play an important part in marine life and in the sustainability of beaches and rivers.
Most sand in the British Virgins is obtained from offshore dredging. Some countries have been slower in finding alternatives. The OECS estimates that regionally, 16% of sand consumed is imported, and 20% is taken from local beaches. Restricting removal of beach sand is unpopular because alternatives such as crushed stone from quarries cost money. But in 1992, Montserrat introduced stringent regulations, closing all beaches to sand mining.
Beaches are continually monitored, and barriers control vehicle access. Construction with quarry sand required remedial work on some new buildings but the government has kept all but one beach closed to sand mining, and gives training on efficient ways of using quarry sand and avoiding siltation.
In St Lucia, sand for government projects is imported from Trinidad and even from Canada. Sand dredged from offshore is also used, and river mouths are open at certain times of year to local villagers. Pumice is extracted from private mines and crushed.
Beach mining is not the only culprit. Other human causes of erosion include construction of port facilities that interfere with the movement of water, and pollution. Tropical storms and the endless pounding waves have brought about significant long-term changes to the coastlines of the Lesser Antilles. Sea defences are expensive and can create new forms of erosion.
Eastern Caribbean governments are gradually realising that halting erosion and rebuilding beaches are complicated and costly challenges. Dr Gillian Cambers, COSALC's programme coordinator based at the University of Puerto Rico, who has studied beaches for several years, told participants at a recent workshop in Grenada that when sewage controls are inadequate, algae competes with coral reefs for light, and ultimately grow over the corals. 'If the reef is under stress from pollution such as excessive siltation,' she said, 'the complex reef ecosystem will be less healthy and produce less sand. In turn, the beach will suffer because the supply of sediment is reduced or cut off.' She stressed that many factors contribute to the disappearance of beaches in the Eastern Caribbean. 'It is not always just waves. It's not necessarily sand mining. It's not necessarily only sea-level rise. We also have to look at other factors such as pollution. It's like anything to do with the environment: there's no simple cause and effect. Its causes and effects', she emphasised.
The good thing about being as unknown as Belize is that this makes it very easy to keep a few surprises in reserve. Belize is certainly not stinting in its charms. To the traveller, this continental country feels like an island or an archipelago. Anyone preparing to land at Belize City Airport is first of all struck by the coral reef, which is the second largest in the world and which lines the entire coastline, forming a number of islands and myriad islets. He will have constantly before his eyes the spectacle of a country which always has associations of sand and coral lapped by water which is so clear that the shadows of aeroplane wings are seen on the seabed. Belize reveals itself in a succession of surprises.
Covering 22 000 square kiLomes, Belize is a small country but its population of 200000 gives it quite another dimension. It is easy to find on the map, just below the Yucatan Peninsula on the eastern coast of Central America. It is separated from Mexico in the North by the Rio Hondo, from which it got its earlier name of British Honduras. Guatemala is situated to the west and is separated by a straight line delineated by colonial surveyors. To the east, there is the Caribbean. Belize City is on the coast and legend has it that it is floating on the bottles of rum and logs of mahogany which are the reasons for its foundation. With 60 000 inhabitants, it is by far the largest built-up area in the country-essentially a very pretty small town with its feet in the water. It would not be going too far to call it a tropical Venice. And yet it is not the capital.
Tiny Belmopan has this privilege. It is certainly one of the smallest capitals in the world. Thirty-five years after its foundation, it still has fewer than 5000 inhabitants. Situated 80 kiLomes from Belize City in the foothills of the Mayas mountains, it is a garden city made up of official buildings. Those who work there, that is to say ministers and top civil servants, continue to live in Belize City or in some other colonial town such as the magnificent San Ignacio. Foreign diplomats have not chosen to settle in the small capital, apart from the British. The decision to move the capital was taken in the wake of Hurricane 'Jeannette' which ravaged Belize City and resulted in almost 300 deaths in 1955. The coastal town was held to be too vulnerable to tidal waves. In 1931, it suffered an even worse disaster in which 1000 people died.
Belize has a good road system. The network is composed of four main routes which take in all the important centres and construction of which is still supported by aid from the European Union. The question which quickly occurs to anyone who is starting to get to know this country is how can a territory, which is almost the same size as Belgium, be effectively occupied by just one sixtieth of the population of the latter. It is not an uncultivated country and the vast expanses of forest form a coherent geographical framework. The forest and Belize's wider environment, ranging from jaguars to rare ants, are a source of pride to the Belizeans. The appetite of the foreign companies engaged in exploiting the forests, especially from Malaysia, is, on the other hand, a source of concern for many of the inhabitants. Governments have long resisted encroachments of this kind but there are signs that things are changing. With its coral reef, Belize is also a renowned location for diving. Recent archaeological discoveries are increasingly turning it into one of the most important centres of Maya civilisation, if not the most important.
Other pleasant surprises offered by Belize are the well-established democratic system (elsewhere in the region, democracy is taking its first, halting steps), the relative economic prosperity, the good road infrastructure (relatively speaking) and the very good state of the telecommunications service, intensive use being made of portable telephones. Per capita income was $2000 in 1993, and the figure has remained stable in real terms in recent years. Economic growth has averaged 3% to 4% per annum over the past three years. In 1993, it was 3.8%, down from 5.3% in 1992, while inflation runs at about 1.5%- not a bad performance at a time of global recession. During the 1980s, growth rates in excess of 10% were recorded, with inflation averaging 2.5%. There are also other favourable indicators: an average life expectancy of 69.5 years, average school attendance of 4.6 years (1990 figure) and a 95% literacy rate. Belize comes 82nd (out of 173 countries) in the UNDP's Human Development Index.
A real country with real problems
The ongoing dispute with Guatemala, which one cannot avoid hearing about, soon shows the visitor, once he has finished marvelling at the splendours which first attract his attention, that Belize is a country like any other, with similar problems. This may perhaps come as the biggest surprise to those expecting a 'fairy-tale' country. At the moment, the main causes of concern stem from economic difficulties which lie at the root of the relatively high unemployment rate, especially in Belize City. The election of June 1993 saw the United Democratic Party (UDP) return to power, taking over the reins of government from the People's United Party (PUP). The incoming Prime Minister, Manuel Esquivel took the decision to support the Belize dollar, come what may. Having been aligned with the US dollar for some twenty years, the local currency is strong and is not subject to the kind of buffeting experienced by other Central and South American currencies. For ten years, the exchange rate has been maintained at B$2 = US$1 although there has been a depreciation of about 10% against the stronger European currencies which has caused some difficulties. Regarding the control of exchange rates, the arrangements that exist between Belize's Central Bank and the commercial banks are fairly representative of the pragmatic spirit which prevails. Officially, the Central Bank has authority in monetary affairs, but in actual practice it is the commercial banks which operate the policy, using the market as a reference point.
To take action against a high level of external and internal debt and a chronic balance of trade deficit, Prime Minister Esquivel decided to adopt a policy of restraint which provoked public discontent. The government ascribes responsibility for the economic problems to the over-optimistic forecasts of the previous administration which, it says, overestimated income and underestimated expenditure. The opposition, for its part, criticises 'ill-considered' promises made by the current team during the elections. This is a claim backed by a number of other commentators.
Stuart Khrone, a journalist and a director of Great Belize Productions, which runs a private television channel offering news and reports, is stinging in his criticism of the 'U-turns' of those in power.
An economy 'high' on oranges
The Prime Minister is keen on less government involvement in the economy, a policy first adopted by his predecessor who sold off the Banana Control Board and Belize Telecommunications Limited and partially privatised Belize Electricity Limited. The state currently controls only the major public authorities and employs 14.5% of the workforce.
Belize's economy is based essentially on fishing (mainly lobsters), and agricultural production, especially of citrus fruits, bananas and sugar. The decision to diversify agriculture in favour of citrus production was taken in the 1980s by the first Esquivel government. The central region of the country (Orange Walk), which was chosen for the experiment, is currently planted, as far as the eye can see, with citrus fruit trees of all kinds, but with orange trees predominating. Some people have expressed concern that this policy has increased Us influence. When the decision to focus on citrus products was made, Coca Cola purchased an option on 350 000 hectares, and the country benefited from an $80m investment by the company.
Citrus production gave a real fillip to the country's economy. At first, the sector was largely operated by small producers, but the latifundia are now becoming increasingly dominant. Belize exports most of its citrus fruit to the United States in the form of concentrates. America is a useful market, as these products enjoy the benefits of exemption from import duty under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) instituted several years ago by the Reagan administration.
Belize has approved a large number of investments in the agriculture sector over the past few years, especially in banana production. The country has made full use of the provisions of the Lomonvention allowing free access of many Belizean products to the European market, in addition to penetrating the American market in a number of areas. But there are constraints. Export markets for agricultural products are generally governed by quotas (this is the case for bananas, sugar, citrus fruits) and for practical reasons (the local market is too small) most of the output has to be exported.
The new arrangements governing banana imports into the EU have also hit the country hard. Paradoxically, much of the investment in this sector has been made with assistance either from the Union, through the EDF and the European Investment Bank, or from the UK. With a quota of 40 000 tonnes in the KU, a figure which is to be increased slightly, Belize is forced to limit its production, which currently amounts to 90 000t, although capacity is much higher than this. Clearly, the economy suffers from a problem of scale. Belize's small size and population compel it to concentrate on a small number of products, making it very vulnerable to external factors. Another example of the fragile nature of the position is provided by the export of fabrics to the USA. This market has collapsed as a result of competition from Asian products. This has led to renewed agricultural diversification in favour of fruits such as papaya, and rice.
Belize's economy has a number of 'virgin' areas which have not yet been brought on stream. Despite its outstanding beauty, the country sees few visitors other than diving enthusiasts, a few researchers who are interested in Mayan sites and an even smaller number of so-called ecotourists. Indeed, many Mayan sites are still completely unexplored. Those that have been opened up attract groups coming mainly from North America and Europe. However, politicians and cultural authorities are very cautious about the restoration of structures. They are inclined to favour limiting restoration to a few facades of monuments and a few sites, while public access will be strictly limited. In most cases, the absence of facilities and access routes is expected to deter tourists, allowing researchers to continue their work in peace.
To ecotourists, Belize can offer a vast expanse of virgin forest which is rich in species of rare trees and is intersected by slow-moving rivers broken up by waterfalls and inhabited by a very varied fauna. The Keys (islands) are just as suitable for lazing around as the Caribbean countries and you do not have to be a diver to appreciate the shallow emerald-green water lapping against the shelves formed by the coral reef. But the infrastructure does not yet match nature's splendours. Outside the larger Keys, where the infrastructure has been developing very rapidly, there is a shortage of hotel rooms and many of those that are available leave a lot be desired in comfort terms. This is clearly something that needs to be rectified. Most of the roads are in a good condition and internal air links are provided by small and apparently well-maintained private aircraft offering competitive prices. By contrast, international air links are infrequent and they often entail inconvenient detours and stopovers. Because of the coral reef, the sea is not deep, and this make it difficult to deal with large cargo vessels. This has a negative effect on trade (as well as tourism). For example, bananas have to be taken to deep-water ports in Honduras for transshipment-with all that this entails in terms of transport and storage costs.
Fishing is underexploited and is mainly concentrated within the passage bounded by the reef. Expensive equipment and well-trained workers would be needed to exploit the fishing resources beyond this limit. A number of joint-venture projects with foreign shipowners are currently being studied. As regards forestry resources, it is mainly primary products, such as boards, that are being produced. Production of semifinished products such as plywood or finished items such as furniture is very limited. On the energy side, hydroelectricity could be a significant power source and the government is facing strong criticism for having abandoned a project in this sector which had been set up by the previous administration. Oil prospecting has not yielded much, but in a country which is marked by the beauty and purity of its natural resources, it is difficult to say whether this is a good thing or not.
'Belize breeze': a lot less benign than it sounds
There is certainly no cause for rejoicing over the fact that there were 1500 drug-related crimes in 1994 alone, according to statistics released by the legal authorities. Even if most of these cases involved no bloodshed, the figure is worryingly high for a country of only 200 000 inhabitants. All the leading personalities whom the Courier interviewed saw drugs and the insecurity engendered by them as the curse of the country. Prees reports are revealing. Not a day passes without stories from the 'front' in this undeclared war between the forces of law and order and the traffickers. Conversations are peppered with names of gang leaders who claim to be untouchable. Belize may be small but the police raids described in the press sometimes sound like only slightly scaled-down versions of operations from Apocalypse Now. In January, a night-time air and sea operation was carried out jointly by the Crime Squad of the Belize Police, the Belize Defence Forces, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and British forces. Helicopters and boats all converged on an estate where no less than 650 kilogrammes of cocaine was discovered. The wholesale value of this huge haul was estimated at $40 million. Also seized were chemicals used to camouflage the smell of the drug, weapons and technical equipment. The owner of the estate had judiciously decided to leave Belize and a follow-up operation involving four countries was required. The announcement in the same article, of a seizure of 120 kilogrammes of cocaine, in the possession of Belizeans, sounds insignificant by comparison. Drug trafficking and production are increasing, as is consumption. The need to use so many resources to track down so few offenders reveals the scale of the challenge. For the traffickers, a state of lawlessness is desirable-for the authorities, it is very costly to prevent. In the areas close to the Mexican border, stories are told of executions having been ordered, with detailed corroboration. The high quality of the roads, in this region in particular, makes them suitable for the landing of small aircraft. Aware of this, the British forces placed stakes strategically along the roads prior to their departure. Removing them became a popular pastime of the 'small fry' in the drugs trade, and the stakes have all now disappeared.
In 1983, at the instigation the United States DEA, a massive programme was launched involving the destruction of marijuana plantations using herbicides (paraquat). Unfortunately such operations are not selective. Marijuana is seldom cultivated as a single crop and other products are destroyed at the same time. The result of the programme was that honest farmers also suffered losses although hundreds of traffickers were arrested. It was at about this time that Belize became Latin America's third largest producer of marijuana. The 'Belize breeze' label is said to be very much in demand among 'connoisseurs'.
Small and large-scale drug-related crime is on the increase and there are some unexpected alliances in this war between the State and the traffickers. One such example is the fact that one of the country's senior politicians also acts as lawyer to a number of major traffickers who currently are in prison. It should also be understood that marijuana cultivation is something of a smokescreen. The really big drug money comes from cocaine dealing, large quantities of which have been passed on from Belize to other countries over the last decade. Though the insecurity generated by drugs is regarded as a curse, many people accept that the circulation of large amounts of 'dirty' money helps the country's economy. This is thought to be the main reason for the prosperity of the area close to the Mexican border.
Ethnic diversity: advantages and disadvantages
Belize's multicultural society includes Creoles (people of black and white ancestry), Mayas, people of mixed Indian and white ancestry, Garifuna (black Indians) and Mennonites, who are of European origin and are members of a Christian sect living in a small community in the mountains. Chinese, Arabs and people of other nationalities should also be added to this fabric and the result is a wide variety of hues and textures. The last people to arrive, considerably upsetting the ethnic balance in the process, were the refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala. Several thousand Salvadoreans fled to Belize during the civil war in their country, while Guatemalans are still arriving, joining 60 000 of their compatriots (almost a third of the total population) already in the country. 60% of the population is Catholic and 30% adhere to one or other of the Protestant denominations. The remaining 10% include Bahai's, Muslims, Buddhists and others. It is a minor miracle, and another of Belize's surprises, that despite a certain degree of friction, which is inevitable, there is no implacable rivalry between the religious communities, and certainly no hatred. The reason for this is probably that the usual victims in such situations of racial mixing, that is to say the Amerindians and former slaves, became literate very early this century and have been able to acquire a certain social status.
The welcome extended to recent refugees can only be explained by reference to the hospitality and openness of spirit of this society, where people have few 'hangups'. Their contribution to the agricultural workforce, and especially to that part of it involved in growing citrus fruits, has proved very useful. On the other hand, these people are in a weak position. Wage reductions in the citrus fruit-and construction-sectors could prove to be a source of discord. The trade unions negotiate with employers on their behalf but take care not to highlight their position for fear of arousing hostility. Mainly based in the areas close to Guatemala and Mexico, the immigrants are becoming better integrated all the time. There are concerns about the number of immigrants involved in drug trafficking but here, too, there is no sign of the development of a xenophobia mania. Most Belizeans continue to believe that 'ethnic harmony' is not under threat. It is at a political level that problems may arise. Which side will the immigrants or Belizeans of Guatemalan origin take, if positions harden in the trial of diplomatic strength over the location of the frontier between the two countries ? The opening of a Guatemalan consulate close to the frontier, in the areas inhabited by a large number of citizens of that country, points to a desire to look after their interests. But many Belizeans say that they are not fooled by this apparent willingness to treat the matter on a diplomatic level.
Another good sign is the increasing degree of mixing among ethnic groups, both through marriage and in housing. A relatively short time ago, people originating from Mexico generally lived in the areas of Corozal and Orange Walk, Black and Mayan Indians occupied the South, while Creoles tended to be concentrated in Belize City. This division is still marked, but communication facilities and the melting pot created by state education have encouraged mixed marriages on the one hand and internal migration on the other.
The claims made by Guatemala have paradoxically created an opportunity for Belize, by encouraging integration. The aggression shown by Belize's western neighbour during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s seems to have led to greater national cohesion and even to a pride in being Belizean, helping to inculcate a desire for independence.
Although Belize's history is similar to that of several countries in Central America and the Caribbean, it is also full of the unexpected. The country gained its independence on 21 September 1981, remaining a member of the Commonwealth with the Queen as Head of State. It has a bicameral Parliament. The Senate's members are appointed by the government or co-opted by MPs with a guarantee that the opposition will be represented. The lower house is dominated by two parties which have traditionally alternated in power. This democratic interplay began well before independence. British forces remained in Belize until September last year, when the last units finally left the country. This withdrawal was accompanied by a promise that forces would be redeployed in the event of a threat to the sovereignty of Belize. Their presence had constituted a guarantee in this troubled area, particularly vis -is Guatemala which has always held that it had been deprived of territory in order to create the state of Belize. The British presence was also a source of income estimated at approximately 4% of GDP.
Independent in a colonial world
Let us go back in time. Between 2000 and 1000 BC, two million Mayas lived in Yucatan. At the beginning of the first millennium, the population of what now constitutes Belize was 750 000. Wheat plantations stretched as far as the eye could see. Extended towns and enormous religious centres appeared throughout the empire.
A thousand years ago, the Maya world collapsed. The arrival of the Spanish was followed by the disappearance of virtually all the indigenous population which fell victim to massacres and disease from outside. The survivors were concentrated in Guatemala. Campeachy wood (logwood) and mahogany invaded the land and took firm root in the vaults of ceremonial sites. For various reasons, the Spanish lost interest in Belize and the territory was abandoned. The English arrived at the end of the seventeenth century to exploit the Campeachy wood and, somewhat later, in the eighteenth century, the mahogany which had become an important commodity in Europe. This reawakened Spanish interest-the old reflex of the toy abandoned by the capricious child. They made five attempts to dislodge their adversaries, but all were unsuccessful. A treaty was signed, giving the British permission to exploit the forests, with the exceptions of commercial agricultural production and military construction in an area between the Hondo River (the Belize/Mexico border) and the Belize River which flows through Belize City. The British loggers became known as the 'Baymen, and they appear in an engraving which forms part of the Belize coat of arms. Shortly before the agreement was signed, the Baymen called upon the British government to come to their aid in the face of a Spanish threat but peace was restored shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, a British admiral sent to Belize overstepped the limits imposed in the agreement and, in 1765, promulgated an embryo constitution for the territory which had been allocated to the Baymen. This pseudo-independence lasted until 1862 when the population voted to become a colony. This period saw several reversals of fortune for the British. There was the loss of the American colonies in which Spain and France supported the American revolutionaries, while Spain went on to dismantle a number of British settlements, sending most of their occupants to Mexico or Cuba.
The 1847 Mexican revolution, begun by the Maya population, saw the first great flood of Mayan refugees arrive in Belize, alongside mestizo and even some Spanish refugees. The Belizean population doubled in a short space of time. This was also the period when sugar cane was introduced. Backed by popular demand, Belize approached London to ask for the status of a colony, and the request was duly granted in 1862. The colony was given the name British Honduras.
It was only after the Second World War that a big change in attitudes occurred. Many Belizeans had been recruited into the Allied armies and they resumed to the country with new ideas. The UK Government's unwise decision to devalue the Belize dollar in 1949 set the powder keg alight and the word 'independence' began to be heard.
An incongruous colony
From 1961 onwards, the British authorities acknowledged that the count down to the colony's independence had begun. Administrative autonomy was granted in 1964 although the tide of decolonisation taking place at that time did not reach this corner of the Caribbean. Belize had to wait until 1981 for full independence. The main reason for this was the fact that the British had no intention of handing the territory to Guatemala, which was threatening to invade.
In 1823, the United Provinces of Central America proclaimed their independence. Fifteen years later, the federation broke up into five states. One of these was Guatemala, which took the view that Belize ought to be returned to it since it had been recognised by the Spanish administration as forming part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. Many historians believe, however, that under Spain, Belize had been linked to Yucatan. In any case, the Spanish were not in Belize before the independence of the Central American countries and had never occupied the territory. In 1860, influenced by the United States, a treaty between Britain and Guatemala was signed, recognising the current frontiers between the two territories. By way of compensation to Guatemala, a road and/or river route,
linking the Guatemalan capital to the Atlantic near Belize, was to be built by the two parties. Because this route was never constructed, Guatemala repudiated the treaty in 1940, 80 years after it was signed. According to their interpretation, the Treaty had not been a ratification of frontiers but an exchange or contract which had not been fulfilled. Thereafter, Guatemala regularly threatened its neighbour although, over time, its territorial claims became more modest. Ultimately, their demands came to be restricted to just a quarter of the territory but the dispute left Belize isolated for many years. The advent of civilian government in Guatemala did not solve the problem but at least it opened the way for progress. Jorge Serrano, Guatemala's second civilian President, recognised Belize in 1991 and established diplomatic relations. Only then was it possible for Belize to become a full member of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The country was now out of quarantine. Despite this, Guatemalan diplomats still occasionally demand the expulsion of Belize's delegates at international meetings. Guatemala has opened an embassy in Belize and there is a consulate in the zone where new Guatemalan immigrants live, but Belize's diplomatic mission in Tegucigalpa had to wait three years before it could open its doors. In 1993, the threat of a military takeover in Guatemala, just as the British were announcing the forthcoming departure of their troops, rekindled old fears. Fortunately, the new Guatemalan president, Ramiro de Leon Carpio, is a staunch defender of human rights. His government continues to demand land concessions, but the risk of an invasion has greatly diminished and, although the Belizeans still purport to be fearful of conquest by their neighbour, this is probably a continuing historical reflex rather than something founded on any realistic threat.
Central America has once again found the road to peace and attempts to play on national sentiment to conceal domestic difficulties are less likely nowadays. In any case, it is difficult to see how a country such as Belize, where American interests are so extensive, could fall victim to a show of force in the current climate. Moves are under way to find a diplomatic solution. Belize's long isolation made its participation in the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) very important even though, in economic terms, such membership has not always been to its advantage. It had, for example, to lower import duties to come into line with its partners, without the advantage of increased exports. Such was the price of diplomatic status.
At every international meeting on the defence of indigenous peoples, there are always some journalists who are surprised by the presence of black Amerindians. They have obviously never had the opportunity to meet Felicia Nunez. Although they might not recall everything they were told about the origins and history of this group, after one hour in her company, they would certainly have heard a great deal about it. What they would remember, without doubt, would be the warmth, passion, commitment and fighting spirit of this woman. They would learn that there are a considerable number of publications in Garifuna, including the Bible, books of poems, collections of songs and dictionaries, full of soldiers and folk heroes. This literature, crucially, forms the basis of the aspirations of a small population which has overcome fate despite the many attacks made on it.
Felicia Nunez is an employee of the Social Development Department. In her work, she helps underprivileged families cope with their day-to-day existence and enables them to meet their responsibilities. She deals particularly with women who have been left as head of the family and who are out of work, of which there are many in Dangriga and throughout the rest of the country. She acts as vocational adviser, teaching sewing to some and the rudiments of administrative organisation to others, and she also has a role as social assistant. She is a strong feminist and devotes her time fully to this, her professional work coinciding with the task she has set herself of improving the conditions of deprived women. When she is not with one of these women, she works in her small wooden colonial house, which is still sound despite the ravages of the humid climate. She is wholehearted in commitment to all of her activities but what really inspires her is speaking about the Garifuna people, recounting their history, defending their pride and speaking fighting words when she recalls their long suffering.
The Garifuna people, (the black Amerindians in Belize), are also to be found in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, as well as in their original land, the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. However, it is in Belize that their future is to be found. This is because they are relatively numerous there, numbering about fifteen thousand. They also represent a sizeable proportion of the country's population and have been relatively successful within the society and in organising themselves. Right or wrong, the Garifuna suspect the current government of being unsympathetic to their cause, seeing evidence of this in the fact that the monument to their people, erected under a previous government, together with the neighbouring land, (in principle an integral part of the monument), were the subject of a government real-estate operation in favour of the Creole population. They have condemned acts of vandalism against the monument and have sharp words about the apparent laxity in dealing with the perpetrators. They imply that enquiries made were not followed up.
Theodore Aranda, one of the main leaders of the Garifuna cause, and one of its most dynamic representatives at international meetings, was an influential minister in the previous government. In considering the merits of some of their complaints, one must, of course, take care to remain objective.
Gender in speech
It is not entirely correct even to speak of a 'Garifuna people'. The word 'Garifuna' refers only to the language, the inhabitants being Garinagu, a word derived from a Caribbean expression meaning 'manioc eater'. However, we will take the liberty of using the word 'Garifuna' since this is what appears in the press even in Belize. Language is currently the battle horse of those who defend the people's cause. The Garifuna Language Workshop has set itself the target, firstly, of reestablishing Garifuna as the mother tongue in the six Garifuna communities in Belize. At present, only one of these communities really speaks the language on a daily basis, although language-linked culture is still alive and well in the others. Secondly, the Workshop aims to promote it in other Garifuna communities abroad. 1995 is an important year for them, being the bicentenary of what they refer to as the assassination of the Chief of Chiefs, Joseph Chatoyer, founder of the first Caribbean republic on the island of Yuremein (the old name for Saint Vincent).
The earliest traces of the two Amerindian peoples who were to populate the Caribbean, the Arawaks and Caribs, date from the pre-Christian era. They first settled in the north of South America, along the Orinoco and Magdalena rivers. During the second century AD, the Arawaks migrated towards the Caribbean islands and principally towards the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico). In the 13th century, the Caribs used to invade islands in the south of the Archipelago, wiping out the male Arawaks and taking the women captive. The unions formed as a result of these abductions gave rise to the 'Caribbean/ Arawak' language, but, above all, to the bizarre phenomenon of the genderisation of the language. With the possible exception of Japanese, where male-female speech differentiation essentially is found in the accent, this is a unique phenomenon. Men and women speaking Garifuna are mutually intelligible but use different words and turns of phrase to denote the same meanings. Thus, for example, depending on whether the speaker is male or female, the word 'woman' is either 'wuri' or 'hiyaru', while the subject pronoun 'we' will be either 'amuru' or 'buguya'.
The arrival of Christopher Columbus put an end to the Carib raids to capture Arawak women, the people having, then, to concentrate their energy against the new enemy. As pacifists, the Arawaks and their descendants, the Tainos, were to disappear entirely. The much more bellicose Caribs survived, although in limited numbers. Having attacked the Caribs several times, up to the beginning of the 1 6th century, the Spanish subsequently left them in peace. The French also became discouraged and, in 1660, signed a treaty, acknowledged by the English, granting these indigenous populations perpetual sovereignty over the islands of Dominica and Saint Vincent. Shortly afterwards, the English reneged on the treaty and mercilessly hunted down the Caribs. This was to last for over a century, ending in the death of the Carib chief, Joseph Chatoyer. This episode sounded the death knell for the Carib presence in the islands which still bear their name.
'The last of the Mohicans'
A quarter of a century before the 1660 treaty, two Spanish vessels carrying slaves from Africa, principally from Nigeria, were shipwrecked on the shores of Yunumein (Saint Vincent). The prisoners who escaped were taken in by the Indians and ended up adopting their language and culture, retaining only a few religious practices and their music, together with the colour of their skin.
After the British victory in 1795, five thousand Caribs were deported to a small island off Honduras. Only two thousand survived the voyage to arrive at their destination. It is their descendants who are now to be found in Belize and the neighbouring countries, having moved to the mainland some years later. Today, there are probably about 300 000 of them worldwide. Their long suffering in recent years is marked, above all, by two huge massacres in Honduras, the more recent having occurred in 1937. It has principally been the benevolence of the Jesuits that has saved Garifuna culture. They were quick to begin teaching the new arrivals and, from the beginning of this century, they allowed members of the Indian community to instruct their own compatriots. It was one of these instructors who was to set up the first Caribbean cultural society in Central America, which began to crystallise Garifuna claims. In 1941, the 19th of November, which is the anniversary of the arrival of the Caribs in Belize, was made a Day of Celebration in the district of Stann Creek, where most of the people currently live. In 1977, the date was declared a national holiday. Currently, the Belize National Garifuna Council jealously monitors the community's interests. 'The last of the Mohicans' have survived.
'We need correct a situation that has gone terribly wrong. In the process, everybody will have to make sacrifices'
For the second time, Manuel Esquiver finds himself presiding over Belize's destiny following the victory of his UDP at the polls in July 1993. He first gained office in 1984 during the economic 'golden age' of this small Central American country. But things are different nowadays. Belize may still be in an enviable position relative to many of its neighbours in the region, if one considers the social indicators and the strength of its democratic system, but it has not been able to avoid the negative effects of the global economic crisis. This is not perhaps surprising given its dependence on its powerful neighbour, the USA, which was also recently battered by recession. Manuel Esquivel wants, at all costs, to maintain the value of the Belize dollar and has decided to 'roll back the frontiers of the state' This entails a dose of strong medicine which he must persuade his fellow citizens to swallow. Thus far, he has at least some results to show for his efforts in the form of a significant reduction in inflation.
Unfortunately, growing unemployment and the people's reduced purchasing power threaten to undermine what has been achieved. There is also the problem of public discontent prompted by the government's austerity policies, not to mention potentially destabilising disputes within the government itself. On top of all this, despite a general feeling of harmony among the different groups who make up Belize's population, discontent has emerged within the Garifuna (black Amerindian) community. Members of this ethnic group, who are well organised, are resolutely opposed to government policies which they regard as contrary to their interests. Another area of worry is the ongoing diplomatic dispute with Guatemala which concerns no less than the legitimacy of the Belize state itself.
Belize may not be the best known ACP country but this does not make it any the less interesting, as we discovered when we spoke to Prime Minister Esquivel. In a wide-ranging interview, we discussed the above mentioned problems as well as some of the notable achievements of this relative haven of prosperity in the region.
· What are currently the main concerns of Belize and what are your most important goals ?
-Our main concerns are within the government itself. We are very concerned about the size of the government deficit so we are putting a lot of energy into finding ways of reducing and indeed eliminating it by next year. In that connection, we have several difficulties. In particular, our debt servicing has ballooned. This problem began last year and debt servicing will continue to be very high for at least the next two years. This is due to the fact that in the early 1990s, Belize entered into a number of credit arrangements with commercial banks. These are now having to be repaid and, as a result, debt servicing now absorbs about 20% of our recurrent revenue.
· So you consider that these problems result from actions of the previous government ?
-As regards these commercial loans. We try to confine our commitments to official loans for obvious reasons, but there was a departure from this approach. The result is a new stock of commercial debt that has caused our debt servicing to increase by about 30%. That will remain the case for the next two or three years.
Some newspapers and people in the opposition argue that the economic situation was good when you took over but now the economy is in decline. What is your answer to that accusation ?
-I would say that the situation appeared to be good at the time because there was a lot of government spending. But this was creating a deficit which was unsustainable. At the outset, that deficit was sustained by privatisation. Shares in the telephone and electricity companies were sold off. But obviously, that kind of financing cannot sustain a deficit in the longer term. It can only alleviate the problem from year to year. So the deficit has built up. There were also commitments made to the unions representing the teachers and the public service to increase salaries at a rate of 12.5 % per annum over a three-year period. This has meant that our wage bill now exceeds 50% of government revenue. When you put the wage bill and debt servicing together, you find that more than 70% of the state's income is being absorbed. This has created a tremendous problem with cash flow and with financing the deficit that has built up.
What we have done is severely to reduce government capital expenditure to try to restrain the growth of the deficit. Additionally, we are trying to find ways of restraining the growth in the wages bill. In practice, this means we are not able to meet all the heavy commitments entered into by the previous government. We provided half of those payments in 1994. The policy also involves proposing to the unions at this time that there should be a freeze on wages for the next two years.
The private sector is performing very well. Our exports are up. Because of various monetary measures, our imports have been reduced slightly, so we have reduced the trade deficit. But the government deficit remains the big headache. The government cannot function, cannot supply services, and cannot provide capital expenditure, so long as its domestic debt is the size it is. I am not talking here about foreign debt which has always been in deficit. I am talking about domestic capital expenditure which, in the past was sustained by government's own revenues. In the last two years it has been sustained, as said, by a combination of asset sales and domestic borrowing. And this is a quite crippling situation.
'A commitment to the entire economy must take precedence'
· When you came to power, you promised lower taxes and held out the possibility of higher wages. Do you not find yourself in an awkward position with the electorate now that wages are frozen and taxes seem to be increasing ?
-We have, in fact, reduced income taxes for everyone and have eliminated them altogether for people who earn less than B$200 a week. So we have kept that promise. The essential point here, however, is that the public service is just one segment of the economy. We believe that a commitment to the entire economy must take precedence over any previous commitments to just one sector, particularly where the effect is that the rest of the economy is being hurt. High government wages, even in times of prosperity, are unsustainable. They eventually do damage to the wider economy. The government should not be the most expensive organisation in the country. lt has to be as efficient as possible and pay realistic wages. When the government increases wages by almost 40% in three years, that has repercussions for the rest of the economy. There are pressures for other employers to do the same and that causes inflation, creates difficulties for investment, dries up investment capital and generally sends everything into a tailspin.
· What about the impact of your policies on private business. They are paying an extra 1% in tax. The same is true for the professions-doctors, engineers and so on. They have to pay 2% more and they can't pass this on to the consumer. Is this not likely to hit them hard in a situation where competition is fierce ?
-Obviously. But the question is, are we going to undergo the pain now and solve the problem, or will we do nothing. If we choose the latter, many of them will eventually be bankrupted. There will be a devaluation with all the negative consequences that flow from that. The point is that we need to correct a situation that has gone terribly wrong. In the correcting process, everybody will have to make sacrifices. The choice is between making the sacrifice to achieve the results, and not making the sacrifice in which case, we can just watch the economy go down the drain.
· What measures does your government plan to take to encourage investment in the country ?
-The first thing is to make clear that one of our primary objectives is the stability of the currency. We think that an unstable currency creates an atmosphere that is least conducive to investment. Secondly, we have to make sure that capital is available for investment at reasonable cost. It cannot be made available so long as the government is the principal borrower in the economy. The state absorbs funds that are needed for investment and puts them into nonproductive activities. This effectively deprives investors of the capital they need. And we certainly want to encourage domestic investment in the economy. That is why, in the short term, we have to take measures to eliminate the government debt, freeing up the banking system so that it can begin to finance investment in the country. As far as foreign investment is concerned, we have had for a long time, a programme of development incentives which includes tax holidays and freedom from import duties for export businesses.
· It seems that the authorities have cancelled some of the commitments entered into by the previous government Two examples I have come across are the 'Hydro-electric project 'and the 'Milk plan'. Is there not a danger that this kind of action might affect the credibility of the country, and prove offputting to foreign business people who might be considering investing here ?
-Let me explain what we have done. The arrangements that the previous government made in respect of the two projects you mention were, in fact, quite disgraceful. In the case of the hydro project, we have managed to rewrite the terms more-although not completely- to our satisfaction. As a result, we estimate that over the life of the project, which is 40 years, the country will save about $100 million overall. We think it was worth the fight to get that changed. As regards the milk project, the arrangement was essentially that the government should pay for it. The government was to reduce excise duties on beer by 50% to allow a company to produce milk. We certainly do not see any reason why the government should be paying for the project. I should say we have done nothing to stop it. They have a development concession which includes tax breaks and exemptions from import duties. But at the end of the day, it is a private business and it is for them to make the investment, not the government.
· There are apparently some disagreements within the government: reports of a dispute between Hubert Elrington and the Deputy Prime Minister Dean Barrow. Are you worried that this lack of unity might be damaging to the administration ?
-I don't know that it is necessarily a bad thing. In all political parties and all governments, people have differing opinions. If everyone had the same view, we would stagnate. So I think in fact it illustrates the openness and democracy that exists within the government. People are able to express their ideas freely and to put their points of view forward. I don't see that as a bad thing at all.
· Turning to foreign policy, what is the current status of the dispute with Guatemala. Is it now over ?
- No, because while Guatemala has accepted our independence, they still do not recognise our borders. Until they are prepared to do that, we will have a problem. The situation at the moment is calm and there are friendly relations between us. In fact, the current government in Guatemala is something of a 'lame duck' for two reasons. It was not elected and, in any case, its term of office expires towards the end of this year. Because of this, we do not foresee anything significant happening towards solving the problem, at least in the short term.
· But don't you have the support of virtually all the countries in the region who accept the position of Belize ?
-No they don't
· Are you saying that some have supported Guatemala ?
-No, but they have no view on the border issue. None of them has come forward, including the United States, to say that they accept the territorial boundaries of Belize. Yes, they support our independence. That is very clear. So does Guatemala. But when it come to 'what is Belize', there is no agreement. And I am not sure that we can count on support from anyone on this issue, in the way that we could for our independence. I don't think anybody will get involved in the question of what is Belize's territorial boundary.
· So how do you think the master can be resolved ?
-From our point of view, the territorial boundaries of Belize are not a matter for discussion, so I don't know how it will be resolved. I think it can only be concluded by a change of attitude in Guatemala City. Having accepted our independence, it should follow that they accept the boundaries as set out in our independence constitution.
· And do you think the fact that the British forces have left will make it more difficult for you ?
-I think at the moment that everything is on a diplomatic rather than a military level. So I don't see that the departure of the British is going to have that effect. The effect it does have, however, is to encourage adventurism on the border because people may feel we are unable to react. We expect there will incursions of civilians from time to time, and that this will be supported by political elements within Guatemala. There was a case in point last year. We were engaged for the greater part of six months in getting Guatemala to assist in removing a hundred Guatemalan families from our territory. But I think we have demonstrated that we will be very firm where that is concerned.
· In similar situations, a solution has been found through the United Nations or the International Court of Justice. Do you not think you could use this possibility to reach a solution more quickly - pushing Guatemala to accept your boundaries.
- Firstly, I don't think Guatemala sees that as an option. They consider it a constitutional matter on their side and therefore would not subject themselves to that. Secondly, I don't think anybody really cares about this kind of border issue. They care about independence, but as to where a country begins and ends on a map is not of much concern to anyone.
· For Belize whet are the most important areas of foreign policy-your relations with the United States, Central America, Caricom, Europe or what ?
-Obviously, relations with the USA will always be of great importance to us and everyone else in this hemisphere. Events like the Summit of the Americas are a clear indication of this. Our primary and long-standing relationship is with the English-speaking Caribbean and we are continuing to foster that through our membership of Caricom. Our relationships with Mexico have always been excellent and we will certainly try to do everything we can to maintain that. As for our links with Central America, these have improved considerably over the last year, now that the Central Americans have accepted the idea of Belize's independence. As you rightly say, they have not supported Guatemala in any suggestion of excluding Belize from the Central American arena. In fact, our inclusion has been consolidated day by day, with no objections from Guatemala.
As for Europe, as you know, we have some difficulties, particularly with regard to the banana regime. Europe itself is divided on this issue. Our relationship with the EU is, by and large, one with the United Kingdom. As regards the other EU countries, there are some with whom we have hardly any relations - not in a negative sense-but just as a matter of fact. There are others with whom we have some exchanges-a little bit of trading and perhaps technical assistance, and we hope to keep building these links.
Belize appears largely to have achieved a sense of unity but there seems to be some problem with the Garifuna people. Is this significant ?
-I don't believe so. Any minority group will always feel that more should be done, and perhaps justly so. But you will also get elements within any group that will attribute failings or problems to the fact of their ethnicity rather than to other factors. I think the Garifuna people have, in fact, come an extremely long way in terms of their image and acceptance among the rest of the community. The Garifuna people are to be seen in all walks of life whether in the private sector or the government. Anybody who sees the difficulties as something which stem from attachment to a particular ethnic grouping is, I think, probably not looking at the whole picture.
· What about the specific issue of the monument to the Garifuna people and the surrounding land ? With only 200 000 people in Belize there is a lot of empty land that could be used.
-Well there are several factors here. That land was acquired by displacing Garifuna people. It was taken away from people who traditionally farmed in that area and we feel that that was an injustice. But there are, within the Garifuna community, just as many people who are convinced that if it is a competition between people's access to land and homes, and a monument, they would rather choose the former. As for the point that there is a lot of land available elsewhere, that fails to recognise the fact that one has to have access to utilities such as water and electricity. It is not logical just to say that there is plenty of land available. That is not a sufficient base on which to build a community.
'We need to be prepared for the era of trade liberalisation'
· Finally, can you recapitulate your key objectives for Belize ?
-As I said, we need first to straighten out the government's financial position. Government must extract itself from the private economy. We must get out of the way of the private sector by eliminating our domestic debt. In addition, we obviously need to be prepared for the era of trade liberalisation. This has the potential for great benefits but also for a great deal of damage to our economy. We are, therefore, seeking alliances-with our traditional partners such as Caricom and with non-traditional partners such as the Central American countries - to better prepare ourselves to deal with the challenge. It is particularly important in the field of agriculture. A totally free market could easily disrupt our domestic agricultural activity, perhaps beyond repair. So we aim to ensure that we develop the markets that must be developed in the region, to give our farmers more export outlets. Once foreign agricultural products are freely able to invade the domestic market, the only solution is for us to penetrate external ones. We have very little time, but through these alliances mentioned, we have a lot of skill available to us in the region to help us accomplish this objective.
The overall message must be that the government has a very serious situation to correct. To do that, it has to take measures which will be painful. But the bottom line is that if you take the measures and suffer the pain now, you can solve the problem. If you carry on as if there is no problem, then you finally end up in a much worse situation. Fundamental common sense dictates that we must act immediately, even if there is a cost attached, so that we can move forward in the shortest possible time.
Architect of Belize's independence
Since Belize's first election under universal suffrage in 1954, George Price, the current leader of the opposition, has spent more years than anyone else at the helm of his country. He was e/so one of the key players, and some would say the main architect, of its independence. A founding member of the PUP, he rose quickly to assume the leadership. In 1958, he was prosecuted by the British authorities for sedition -and his popularity with the voters soared. He went on to win five successive elections and to leave his imprint firmb on the nation. When he opted for a new seat of government in the interior, the pretext was a cyclone which had threatened the coastal capital. The real reason was George Price's desire to bring government closer to the people, removing it from the dosed world of Belize City. It was also Price who led the first post-independence government He went out on a limb in 1983 when he refused to sanction the invasion of Grenada by American forces and despite US pressure, he kept a number of ministers in his government who were regarded by Washington as 'socialists' Having lost to the UDP in the 1984 election, the PUP regained power in 1989 and George Price again became Prime Minister.
The regular swing of the pendulum between two political parties with few ideological differences, and the fact that George Price himself has long experience of office, have moulded him into a moderate but by no means complacent opposition leader. He has recently stepped up his criticisms of the rigorous policies of the current government - policies which appear to have hit the UDP's popular standing. But having held the reins of power for so long himself, he cannot dissociate himself entirely from the problems which Belize now faces, particularly when government ministers seldom miss an opportunity to attribute most of the blame to him.
· Mr Price, you have recently increased your attacks on the policies of the govern
- Our criticism is that the economy of Belize is in trouble and, for the most part, the trouble has been caused by the government. When they came to power in July 1993 they did certain things that adversely affected the economy. In particular, they cancelled or suspended contracts that were ongoing. This led to a loss of confidence among the business and financial community. If the government can go back on contracts, what else might it do in the future. It also created unemployment and the result was less tax revenue going into the state coffers. They incurred additional expenditure by employing their political officers and discharging a number top civil servants. That represents a double expenditure. Money has to be found to pay the salaries of the new people and to compensate those whose service has been ended. They have spent a lot of money on new vehicles and also on travelling. In a poor country like Belize, official travel should be controlled and, where it is necessary to attend conferences, we should try to keep the size of delegations to the minimum. Perhaps just two or three people, or sometimes even just one, instead of six. We see ministers taking unnecessary trips too many places. As a result of all this, The economy is in trouble.
The first thing they did when they gained power was to present a deficit budget. It was the first time in our political history that this had happened. In 1993, the deficit was something like $20 million and in the following year, they presented another budget containing a deficit of $40 million. So they have had to find ways of collecting more money. They have done this by imposing a tax known as the 'gross proceeds tax'. When the importer brings in goods and sells them to the wholesaler, the wholesaler has to pay 1% tax. And when the wholesaler sells the goods to the retailer, the retailer in turn has to pay 1%. When the product finally reaches the consumer, he has to pay anywhere from 3% to 5% of the value of the goods. The effect of all this is to increase the cost of living. And one of the results is that there are fewer jobs available and more unemployment. In addition, there are virtually no significant projects in the pipeline. The only projects that are ongoing are those that our government set up. For example, there was the Rehabilitation Programme of Belize which was designed to improve the canals, and roads like the Southern Highway.
· Members of the present government would argue that if there are problems now, it is because your administration spent too much and took on to many expensive commitments.
-Let me address that point. We did not leave the state bankrupt. At the time there was the change of government, the central bank had $89 million in foreign reserves. There was another $40 million deposited in the commercial banks. So there was money there. We also left a midyear budget which would have been balanced had they chosen to work with it.
The income that was projected from customs duties was all collected. There has been a lot of talk about the five buildings that were constructed by an Italian company when we were in power. It has been suggested that the government could have built them for less but I think this is misleading. When the Ministry of Works puts up a building, they don't include a number of charges in the calculation: for example, the architectural plans or the cost of supervision, because these are done by the Ministry of Works and absorbed in their budget. And the new buildings are serving a very useful purpose. There is the market itself, of course. The police needed more room and now there is a new police station. We had to have a customs building for the new seaport and now we have got it. There is also a fire station, which was clearly needed, and a library for the students. They may have appeared to cost more than the usual buildings but they clearly have a value.
· Can I ask you about the milk project that your government started. The Prime Minister says that it would have cost the government money and that was why they had to cancel some of their commitments.
-Yes. There was a plan in place when we left office whereby an investor would build a factory to process milk. And that would have saved the foreign exchange that pays for the import of milk. We thought the project was feasible but, for some reason, the government cancelled it.
· You say, regarding investment in the country, that the government lacks credibility. Isn't it the case that a lot of countries are finding it difficult to attract foreign investors Wouldn't you face the same problem if you were in power ?
-I should say that the problem is self-induced. The government brought about the loss of credibility through the actions they undertook when they gained power. They have caused it and they now have to solve the problem. Meanwhile, the people suffer. The cost of living has gone up.
· Looking beyond the economic issues, what are your other major concerns ?
- We are worried about an imbalance of power within the government. There was a recent change in cabinet portfolios and we now have one that encompasses the security forces, the police, the attorney-general and the courts. We think there is too much concentration of power within a single ministry and that that imbalance could lead to trouble in the future.
· What kind of trouble.
-The same kind of thing that happened in Haiti. You shouldn't allow one person to control the army and the forces of law and order. The power has to be distributed. Before, the police came under one ministry, while defence was the responsibility of another.
· Why do you think Mr Barrow has received all these different responsibilities.
-I am not entirely sure. There is an impression that the Prime Minister is not strong enough in Cabinet to do what he thinks should be done.
· What about the disagreement between the two Ministers-Hubert Elrington and Dean Barrow. The Prime Minister argues that this is evidence of freedom inside the government and of a healthy democracy.
-He may think that but I think it reveals the weakness of the Cabinet. A Cabinet should be strong and united behind a government's policy. Democracy has certain rules. When a minister doesn't agree with a policy, that minister should resign.
· Belize appears to enjoy a reasonable sense of national unity but a problem seems to have arisen involving the Garifuna community and the fate of the Garifuna monument Do you see this as a significant problem.
-That could be a problem. They were going to build a park and a monument and the government changed that by taking a part away for housing. I think they made a mistake. They should have allowed it to go ahead. A lot of money was invested in the monument and the park. It is really a case of undoing what we set out to achieve in preparing for independence.
Our party, the PUP, had to bring the six districts of the country together. At one time we were separated. Everything was in Belize City and the outer districts were isolated. We got them united under a name-Belize-the old name of the settlement in the Bay of Honduras which is derived from the Maya expression for 'road to the sea'. We also gave the country a flag and an anthem. That brought the people together as a nation: a small one admittedly but, nevertheless there is a feeling of nationhood. And we have been very careful to maintain this sense of unity. Now there is a danger that the cancellation of the monument could introduce divisions. We are a country of various races and our challenge is to keep everybody together-different origins but one nationality. I think that is one of the big attractions that we have for tourists. Admittedly, we have seen an increase in crime, and a drug problem which is hard to avoid, but in relative terms, the country enjoys good security, certainly in comparison to other countries. And as a tourist base we can offer big attractions: the barrier reef, the extensive ruins of the Maya civilisations, beautiful scenery and very diverse wildlife.
· Finally, can you sum up the difference between your party and the UDP.
-Belize is a democracy and we see it as our duty to do everything possible to develop the whole country. We don't think the government should be used as an instrument of a single political party, discriminating against people or practising victimisation. And that is what is happening at the moment. We feel that members of our party are being penalised. I think that is a big difference. We would be a compassionate government-one that feels responsible for the whole country. Another big difference, I think, is that we are better administrators, as was shown in the last government. We do not promise more than we can fulfil. You need to show responsibility in working out a programme of government. We are also more concerned about the 'little' man. We are there to improve his life condition. The weaker you are the more you should benefit from the protection of the government.
The Queen's representative in Belize is Sir Colville Young, a poet, musician and intellectual who pot litely greets the visitor with a permanent and completely natural smile. He is the Governor-General, representing the Crown in Belize. He is so affable that you continually have to remind yourself of the position this man holds. He, in the meantime, does his utmost to make you forget it.
His humility matches Belmopan, the modest capital, and his language harmonises with these calm surroundings. Sir Colville appears to be at ease in his comfortable, but not excessively luxurious, official residence, although he would appear just as comfortable, one imagines, in an even more modest setting.
A half-hour session is frustrating when you do not want to conduct an interview but rather to allow your interlocutor free rein. It is all the more frustrating when you rapidly discover that what he has to say is really worth listening to. And all the while, he makes it clear that he is quite prepared to listen to you.
Given his reputation as a connoisseur of his country's culture, the simplest thing was to ask him what constituted culture in Belize-a nation of 200 000 inhabitants divided into innumerable groups originating from all quarters. His calm replies are punctuated with the modest 'l believe ...', an expression characteristic of those who, in fact, know.
Each group still speaks its own language; the Chinese speak Chinese, the Mayas speak Mayan, the Garifuna speak Garifuna and so on. The lingua franca, however, is Creole, the tongue which emerged from the interbreeding of Europeans and Africans. It has become the common language of communication- an example of something originating in one group which has been accepted by everyone. There is also a degree of commonality in eating habits: the typically Creole dish, 'rice and beans' is eaten everywhere. So too is goat meat, which was originally 'Spanish' (brought by the mestizos). The empanada, a maize flour patty, is also widely consumed. As Colville Young puts it, 'there is thus an intermixing of our cultures'.
Unfortunately, this intermixing does not extend to matters of religion. There are a number of indigenous rituals, for example, when the Garifuna celebrate their settling in Belize, but generally there is little 'native' input, and European religions predominate. 'I think that is a great pity' says the Governor General. He continues, 'although the Bible's message has remained the same, the way in which the message is passed on, and the medium, could have been adapted throughout the world. For example, here, there could have been a Belizean approach, after the fashion of certain countries where music and local rhythm also play a part.'
The predominant religion is Catholicism, which may seem surprising for a former British colony. When the English first arrived, the religion was obviously Anglican, with a little Methodism thrown in. The trend towards Catholicism was natural, however, given the large numbers of immigrants who arrived subsequently from Mexico and other neighbouring countries and who all helped to forge the nation. The newcomers often came to escape political systems against which they had revolted or revolutions which had got out of hand. And as Mr Young observed, 'despite the fact that we were living under a colonial system, which was intrinsically bad, they appreciated the stability and peace of this small country.'
Immigrants do not pose problems of integration for the simple reason that they resemble and speak like a sizeable part of the population which is of the same stock. The people living in the North and West of the country were also originally from Mexico and Central America. In addition, those who arrive want to become Belizean. 'I am pleased about that,' says the Governor-General.
'They are loyal to Belize'. Immigrants tend to have little schooling and they accept very low wages. With unemployment rife, this causes friction, but there is not the same type of tension as in France, for example, between the local population and Algerians or other foreigners. But, as our interviewee wryly observed, 'when our people go to the United States, they face problems of prejudice, and this opens their eyes'.
Admittedly, Belize is not very well known abroad. The Governor-General agrees that it does little to advertise itself, but then, the country does not have sufficient infrastructure to receive large numbers of tourists He thinks it could be a mistake for Belize to sell itself too well- people would want to come and there would be nowhere to accommodate them. Also, too many tourists might destroy the simple way of life while, in environmental terms, species such as alligators and some birds might not be able to withstand too great an intrusion onto their territory.
By contrast, bringing tourists into closer contact with the people and through them, with the country, in a regulated way, could perhaps be promoted. This would provide some income for individual citizens instead of all the profits going to big companies.
All the contributions made by different groups have been melded together to forge a culture. It may appear to be threatened by Americanisation through the medium of television, amongst other things, but Colville Young 'believes that' the local culture is strong enough to resist, although he admits he does not know for how long or at what level. American culture, he observes, has made inroads everywhere, even in Russia where hamburgers are now commonplace. One of the reasons why American culture is infiltrating more and more into Belize, apart from the fact that approximately 60 TV channels are received there, is that tens of thousands of Belizeans live in the United States, where they have gone in search of better opportunities. When they return to Belize, these people import a lifestyle which seduces those who remained: these expatriates have an air of success about them and the USA thus acquires the image of being a paradise.
However, in country areas, tales and myths are still very much alive and these have not been diluted by American influences. 'We have to make a major effort to keep our myths, proverbs, traditional healing methods, dances, arts and artisans alive and well', says Colville Young. But who is to do this ? Sometimes, people think that it should be the government, but is it a good idea for it to interfere too much in cultural matters? On the other hand, if everyone wants someone else to deal with the problem, nothing will ever be done.
Approximately ten years ago, Colville Young wrote a stage play based on a Belizean story. In a sense, it was more like a short opera, including music that he composed himself. He sees this as his own modest contribution to this work of regrouping local culture which has to consist of using the country's legends in all areas of life. Even television could be used to this end.
The Queen's man in Belize has not only made this contribution to the defence of national culture: he has also written, published and recorded stories, a collection of proverbs, songs, traditional music and books of poems. The most recent was published in 1993 and was entitled 'From one Caribbean Corner'. It begins with a delightful composition in memory of Bob Marley in which he addresses the dead star thus:
'(...Beat for 1)
Mixing ingredients of your protest
Like pepper-hot bitterly bubbling:
Of an evil Babylon burning
And haunted haunting melodies
Where shanty-town black children
Bite in emptiness
Of bloated bellies that wondering
If throat cut above
And, under it all
The driving pulse
(O. Beat man, reggae-man, beat for 1)'
In a spontaneous gesture, Sir Colville Young gave us his book of poems, dedicating it with the simple words 'From Colville'. He is certainly a man of rhythm and style.
There was no way, with an ordinary vehicle, that we were going to be able to drive back up that four kiLome long slope. Persistent rain had fumed it into a quagmire of fine, slippery mud. Yet our young driver only finally lost heart when the clutch gave out. For two hours, we had been moving forward in fits and starts in the vain hope that all our pushing, aided by the use of scores of branches under the wheels, would provide sufficient grip. The possibility of being towed out by a Canadian globe. trotter, complete with a fourwhee-drive, also came to naught. He had proudly announced to us that he had just crossed North America and was preparing to drive down to the south of the continent. Rut our hopes soon evaporated as he too found himself bogged down in the mud. In fact, he did manage to extricate himself an hour or so later having resumed to the bottom of the hill. There he managed to get up enough speed to tackle the slope. Unfortunately, our putative rescuer fumed out to be a 'hit and run' driver. In his attempt to beat the mud, he drove straight into our door and, perhaps fearing the consequences of the accident, had kept on going, disappearing into the darkness. In fact, the prospect of spending the night in the forest, and of having to walk several kiLomes the next day to seek help, made the collision seem a trivial matter. We pretended to sleep in the muggy heat of our vehicle which had become an oven, the windows wound up to protect us from mosquitoes, cunning snakes and, who knows, a crafty jaguar or two. Then there was a miracle. On their routine round, with a fully-equipped vehicle, the owners of the inn just inside the protected zone caught sight of the dim light from our headlamps. Covered in mud, we were taken back to civilisation and then, after hot tea beside the big open fire in the Hidden Valley Inn and a three hour taxi ride, we were back in our hotel in Belize City.
This was our only (slightly) adventurous episode-and an involuntary one at that-in a country which attracts true adventurers. These are the people one encounters at Eva's Restaurant in San Ignacio, a small town full of character at the foot of the great Mayas mountains. In Belize, they can throw themselves wholeheartedly into the pursuit of their passions, whether it be climbing, caving, rafting or walking. There are also those who specialise in diving into the 'Blue Holes'. One such is to be found off Belize City, on the coral reef. There, it is possible to dive down into the deep blue of a 1000-foot-diameter, 480-foot-deep shaft. Altematively, one can stop on the Hummingbird Highway, not far from Belmopan, in Blue Hole Park and take a phenomenal leap from the rocky promontory or the surrounding trees into a sapphire-blue shaft of sparkling, icy water about ten metres deep, set in the middle of a pool. You have to aim carefully though because it is very narrow. The abundant foliage which shades the pool and the shadow of the half-open grotto create a kind of religious serenity which envelops the visitor.
While descending the last slope leading to the waterfall (which few Belizeans have visited), we knew that what we were doing was unwise. There was a steady drizzle and the car was already sliding about. Yet even at the most awkward moment, we had no real regrets. Perhaps we should have insisted on taking the 4 x 4 we had used before. Perhaps we should have asked for the cellphone (wrongly seen as a new toy, purely for show). But the site of the Hidden Valley Falls, and the drive in silence down a one-thousand-foot-drop to the invisible bottom of the funnel-shaped mountain range, was an unforgettable experience. Down in the valley, we were flanked by the mountains, standing as if ready for some bizarre formation dance. The lights of our vehicle, diffuse in the yellowish, drizzly dusk, barely illuminated the scene. We could sense the site more than we could see it but, in our admiration, we became part of it.
The flight of the jabiru
With his dented straw hat, khaki T-shirt and fatigues, John Masson looked like a guerilla fighter, an experienced guide, an archaeologist in search of hidden treasure and a holiday-camp group leader all rolled into one. John, who is the Site Manager for Programme for Belize is, in fact, a bit of each of the last three. Above all he is a professional-a manager who knows the scientific subtleties or perhaps a researcher with management skills. No matter. To discover the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management area with him is a privilege. He tells you about the creation of the Programme for Belize, a private but non-profit-making company which has bought 230 000 acres (about 100 000 hectares) of tropical forest. He speaks knowledgably about research into biodiversity, the natural habitat and horticulture. And he waxes eloquent about the 60 or so Maya sites located on the land he is responsible for. One of these is La Milpa, one of the three most important sites in Belize, which has recently come to be regarded as the birthplace of the classical Maya period. The work of the archaeologists, he says, is geared to finding the answer to one single question: why did this civilisation collapse. You may find it difficult to remember all the details from this flow of erudite information, as you try to keep up with the names of the flowers and the birds (the yellow tones of the Ludwigia on the Chichibe hedges, the purple bells of the Morning Glory). Yet you cannot escape the feeling that here is someone who wants to share his encyclopedic knowledge. The facts may get jumbled but the essential remains: the sugary aroma of the coffee bush which grows in the shade of ancient trees; the mixture of smells of flowers and damp earth; the rare sight of the jabiru taking flight on its six-foot wings; giant mahogany trees and Maya structures standing side by side; roots embedded in the stone; sensations of freshness; the harsh contact of leaves and branches; the soft moisture of droplets of dew on your neck; and your own frisson of alarm on learning from your guide that the musky smell is that of a jaguar who wants to remain hidden. Then there are the sounds-the cries of animals -and the silences. Seeing a jabiru is a good omen.
The route to the park from Belize City is circuitous-up towards the border with Mexico, then west and back down in a south-westerly direction until you are almost level with your starting point. The sight, however, is well worth the detour.
'Made in nostalgia'
It is also worth staying in Belize City. This town's languid air and the affability of its people make one forget the advice to be cautious and the fears about lack of security. Criminality, although it probably exists, must lie below the surface. Belize City invites you to relax, with its colonial houses, tree-lined avenues, flowery squares, meanderings and, above all, the sound of water from the lagoons, Haulover Creek river which dawdles its way through the town, and the many canals. You are reminded of the charm of Venice as you watch the swing bridge in operation, or the balletic dance of the fishing boats with their sails, leaving at dawn and coming back at dusk, always surrounded by an unreal light. Friday is market day, but street vendors can be seen every day: players on a daily stage of colour and fantasy. You see a little girl in a colourful satin dress with lace and flounces. The label could be 'made in nostalgia'. She is probably a Mennonite, descended from 19th century European immigrants, who has come this very morning from the western mountains, accompanying her parents who sell wooden artifacts and thereby keep the old crafts alive. It is this feeling that time has stopped which is the magic of Belize City. It is a magic that has been spotted in Hollywood. Films crews are not uncommon and one might easily encounter stars like Harrison Ford in the foyer of the Fort Georges Radisson Hotel. It is a pity, though, that the films made here (Mosquito Coast, Dogs of War or Heart of Darkness) should have titles which give no hint of the town's true seductive nature.
Flying over the coral reef in a light aircraft at low altitude offers a different kind of thrill, but one which depends on the vagaries of the weather. Normally, the islands guarantee sun and relaxation but when we went to San Pedro, it had been raining. The potholed streets, which are covered in sand for the comfort of barefoot walkers, had become waterlogged. We found warmth again in the atmosphere of a family 'pension' called the 'Seychelles'. Its owner, Sandra Cooper, combines the friendliness and reserve characteristic of many Belizeans. She lived in the USA for some years, but decided a short time ago to settle in this small comer of her country, offering visitors something other than the artificial gaiety of the hotels; something of the real Belize. It is rare to find extensive beaches on the islands - you have to go to Placencia on the coast for these, but the striking views of the sea and the rocks will soon take your mind off them. There is always a quiet corner to be found, wherever you are in Belize. This is particularly the case at Caulker Keys, the wildest and least tourist-oriented of the islands which tends to be visited mostly by locals. If you want peace and quiet, though, perhaps you should avoid the cemetery on the beach. This unusual juxtaposition, not surprisingly, is a draw for visitors!
by Jose Morgado
Situated at the meeting point of the Caribbean and Central America, Belize is geographically part of the latter, but its culture and language place it in the former. Although it has been a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) since 1974 and of the Organisation of American States (OAS) since 1991, Belize has always been somewhat isolated from both regions and up, to now, it has not fully benefited from the many economic and cultural advantages which such partnerships can bring.
Its small size (22965 km²) and sparse population (9 inhabitants per km²) mean that its internal market is very small, and its per capita socio-economic infrastructural costs very high. This makes it vulnerable to outside forces and dependent on aid from the international community to enable it to cope with the rigours of development and economic growth.
Despite these constraints, it has managed to record some remarkable economic results. During the 1980s, Belize achieved a real GDP growth rate of 10% and kept inflation down to less than 2% on average. Between 1992 and 1994, a period of international economic crisis, a real growth rate of 4% in GDP was maintained with inflation at an average rate of less than 1.8%. This sustained economic growth was achieved thanks to a very tight macro-economic policy, favourable export prices for agricultural products and access to the preferential markets of the European Union and the USA. Privatisation of the banana and sugar industries and of the telecommunications company also contributed to these good economic results.
Keepers of the Maya mystery
As investigations into the causes of the disappearance of the Maya civilisation continue, Belize is coming to be seen as one of the most important centres of this highly developed and dynamic culture and is therefore arousing the interest of archaeologists and tourists alike. Belize also enjoys the benefits of a magnificent coral reef (the second largest in the world) along its coast, numerous keys (heavenly islands of sand and palm trees surrounded by the enchanting sea) and its tropical rain forest, 80% of which has been preserved and which offers flora and fauna the like of which are not seen anywhere else in the world. All these assets make Belize a tropical paradise, whose tourism potential has yet to be promoted and developed.
Like many of the EU's other ACP partners, Belize has to cope with the usual constraints faced by small developing countries. The small size of the internal market very much limits the possibilities for industry to stimulate production. Other problems include the aforementioned high infrastructure cost per inhabitant, dependence on the outside world, limited resources, a fragile environment, and vulnerability to natural disasters (especially tropical storms). Action taken to aid development of the most important sectors, such as agriculture, tourism and the private sector more generally, entails, amongst other things, developing the infrastructure to increase competitiveness. European assistance is geared towards achieving this aim.
The main projects implemented under Lom (1975-1980) involved the construction of three secondary schools and a veterinary laboratory equipped with modem equipment, and the expansion of the international airport. ECU 2 million was also provided towards the construction of the new Belize City Hospital.
The LomI national indicative programme (1981 to 1985) continued to provide assistance for the social infrastructure, and in particular the Belize City Hospital. The existing wood and concrete building, which was 100 years old, was the only large hospital in the country and it did not provide adequate levels of medical care.
Under LomII (1986 to 1990) and the first financial protocol of LomV (1991 to 1995), about 90% of NIP resources were devoted to social and economic infrastructure. The two main projects here are the upgrading of the Hummingbird Highway, the sole road link with the south of the country, which is crucial for the transport of produce such as bananas, citrus and rice, and the continuing work on the hospital. The latter does not just include design and construction, but also covers training of hospital staff, and technical assistance for the Health Ministry to advise on its preparations for the transfer to the new building and for the day-to-day management of the hospital. By the end of 1994,99% of total scheduled assistance (ECU 29 million) had been allocated, and 95% actually spent, the project being 98% complete.
Through the European Investment Bank, Belize has benefited from additional EU assistance in sectors which as a rule do not satisfy the assistance criteria of the European Development Fund. Under the four Lomonventions, the EIB has financed five loans to the Development Finance Cooperation for the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and a pilot gold mine project, and two loans to Belize's electricity company. Total EIB assistance amounted to ECU 10.1 million in the period between 1983 and 1994.
Regional cooperation to improve integration
The various Lomaribbean regional programmes offer considerable scope for development but this is one area where Belize has perhaps not been able to maximise the potential of EU assistance. Notwithstanding this, under Lom and 11, the country did benefit from three financing operations amounting to ECU 2.1 million in total which focused on agricultural research projects.
The Belize Government is cooperating with the EU to implement a project intended to preserve and promote the most important Maya monuments in the country (Caracol, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, Nim Li Punit etc.). This project also includes the construction or improvement of access routes, and of small museums on archaeological sites, and the opening of centres offering tourist information services, accommodation and catering under one roof.
Out of the total of ECU 90 million allocated under LomV to the Caribbean Regional Integration Programme (via Cariforum), ECU 2.1 million has been provided for research and technical assistance projects in the fishing sector, management of which is carried out by Belize in its capacity as the regional authorising office.
The political stability of Belize in the violent central American region has attracted some 35 000 refugees and displaced persons from neighbouring countries. These people have been settled throughout Belize for a number of years now. Under LomII and IV, the EU financed four projects, at a cost of ECU 2.5 million, to help improve the living conditions of refugees and to assist them to integrate. There is also a project, costing ECU 0.5 million, which aims to explore ways of preserving the barrier reef and managing the coastline. This was approved in 1992. In December 1994, the EU approved a sum of ECU 1.5 million for a research programme into the conservation of the tropical rain forest. Finally, between 1990 and 1994, the EU financed projects managed by non-governmental organisations to the tune of ECU 1.3 million.
Future work will not just be limited to maintaining the current macroeconomic policy of the government, and establishing a coherent and well-maintained infrastructure. There will also be intensification and diversification of the agricultural sector (in response to food shortages), the promotion of tourism as an important source of income and the development of various aspects of the fishing sector covering such areas as research, training, production and promotion. Finally, there will be support for the private sector, with a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, reflecting the fact that this is a key area for future economic development and growth.
Total assistance to Belize, 1975 to 1994 (in ECU million)
As international was focused on South Africa in May last year for the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as State President, a drama of similar historic proportion was unfolding without fanfare in Malawi. Thirty years after imposing one of the most brutal autocratic rules Africa has seen this century, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was heavily defeated in a presidential election. The fear that gripped this nation for three decades, which had begun to lift a year earlier following the approval of multiparty democracy in a referendum, suddenly disappeared. Only then did the full extent of Dr Banda's legacy become apparent: 19 presidential palaces, an economy in shambles and a population living largely in appalling ignorance and poverty (income per capita is less than $200, one of the lowest in the world).
A year on, The Courier, which for more than fifteen years was effectively unable to cover Malawi, visited the country to see how the government of President Baklili Muluzi is dealing with the legacy. It found a much happier country and a functioning democracy making considerable efforts to overcome both the psychological effects and the economic consequences of Banda's misrule.
Although the political atmosphere has relaxed considerably and the media are becoming more and more vigorous in their pursuit of transparency and accountability, a residual fear among the population is discernible. The fall of Dr Banda and the full meaning of democracy have yet to sink in: people generally are still cautious about voicing criticism. Civil servants remain largely afraid of taking decisions, even at very low levels, for fear of retribution with the result that administrative processes are inordinately slow and considerable delays are caused to vital projects. Such is the seriousnesss of the situation that the donor community led by World Bank is supporting a programme designed to remove some of the bottlenecks. The government, meanwhile, plans a more profound reform of the service, and has in this regard set up a cabinet committee, chaired by Vice-President Justin Malewezi, who happened to have headed it for a period under Banda. The committee was due to produce a paper in June.
Mr Malewezi told The Courier that reforms would not be easy because they include changing the whole concept of the civil service in Malawi to make it neutral and capable of serving any government in power. To start with, there has to be a census to establish its exact size and then to institute new gradings and salary structures. There is an urgent need to improve the efficiency of the middle ranks which are, at the moment, very weak. People at different levels should be comfortable enough and courageous enough to take certain decisions which are appropriate at their level, said the Vice President.
With hindsight, the now widespread belief in Malawi that Dr Banda had a policy deliberately designed to keep his people ignorant, impoverished and subjugated can hardly be disputed (see the article Banda-the making of a despot). Yet it cannot be denied that he began in 1963, when he came into office as Prime Minister, on a very good note, keeping his pre-independence promises of more schools, roads, clinics and clean drinking-water to rural communities. He appeared then to be genuinely popular but as he set about consolidating his one-man rule, a couple of years later and began to see plotters in every corner, he hit upon an ingenious system of private enterprise which transformed Malawi literally into his private domain, a system in which he distributed patronage to a select few.
Battle against ignorance
Under that system, primary education became extremely expensive and a luxury, especially for the 90% of the population who lived in the rural areas and at subsistence levels. For over 25 years, a large number of children were denied any education. Of the approximately 70000 children who left primary school every year only a fraction found places in the 118 secondary schools in the country. The sole university-the University of Malawi- admitted no more than 800 students annually. The Kamuzu Academy, which Banda set up ostensibly to educate bright but disadvantaged children and claimed to finance himself, turned out to be of very limited use for the country. Specialising in the classics with exclusively expatriate tutors recruited from the UK, the Academy took children (most of them foreigners), from rich family backgrounds or with connections to the ruling Malawi Congress Party.
Suspicion of subversive activities in the academic community meant that students, lecturers and professors of the University of Malawi were constantly intimidated, harassed and often thrown into jail. Standards inevitably fell. The statistics speak for themselves: there are fewer than 200 doctors (the majority expatriates) and fewer than 100 lawyers in the whole country! The illiteracy rate is 61%, second in Africa only to Mozambique which, as is well known, was beset by civil war for over fifteen years.
The impact of this neglect of and indeed vandalism to the economy and society, as will be seen elsewhere in this report, has been devastating. This is generally recognised and there is a cross-party consensus in Parliament to make education the top priority. Indeed it is the only sector that has been spared in the overall financial squeeze the country has been enduring since the beginning of the year. It received the highest allocation under the last budget (23% of the total).
In March last year the Government introduced free primary education, abolished compulsory school uniforms and undertook to provide textbooks and exercise books free of charge. The response was overwhelming. Over 3.2 million children enrolled. 'It was totally unexpected but we are delighted', says the Minister of Education, Sam Mpasu. 'We suspected all along that costs were deterring many parents from sending their children to school. We knew that costs involving textbooks, exercise books and uniforms were very significant to a person who is on a subsistence level. We did not have to wait for researches and studies to establish that', he explained.
The Minister revealed that with that number of children, an additional 38 000 classrooms are needed. 'As I am speaking they are studying under trees, in mosques and churches and so on, and the pupil-teacher ratio is 60:1; not an ideal situation but acceptable under the circumstances.' Some 22 900 teachers have been recruited, 90% of whom are school leavers who require training. Mr Mpasu said that the annual requirement for exercise books is 18 million (6 million per term).
The World Bank is again intervening here, leading a group of donors willing to help out with the construction of classrooms and the training of teachers. USAID is putting up $25 million for a programme with a bias towards the education of girls-who were particularly disadvantaged under Banda's regime.
Aware of the bottlenecks the current situation could produce in the coming years, when these children will be seeking places in the secondary schools, Mr Mpasu says that plans have already been laid for the establishment of 250 day-secondary schools (about 10 additional secondary schools for each of the 25 districts, to ensure that one at least is within the walking distance for any student. 'We are moving away from our emphasis on boarding schools which are very expensive to nun.'
As to tertiary education, Malawi has stopped sending students abroad because of the shortage of foreign exchange. 'We are trying to establish another university, but in the meantime we are expanding the existing one to meet the demand which will increase shortly.'
Those who have missed out on secondary and tertiary education are not being forgotten either. A lot more effort will be put into vocational training and 'distance reaming', the latter calling for better use of the 40 000 distance reaming centres which already exist throughout the country. The Ministry of Education is working closely with the newly created Ministry of Women's and Children's affairs to upgrade and expand basic adult literacy programmes, especially in the rural areas.
These educational measures, as well as reforms in agriculture, on which 90% of Malawians depend, are part and parcel of the government's policy of poverty-alleviation. Inflation, meanwhile, which has shot up to 45% in recent months, is placing severe strains on living standards. The Government was obliged, despite financial difficulties, to increase civil service salaries by 25% across the board last April. But what is really contributing to the country's survival at the moment are the better than expected maize harvests this year. This is a direct result of the last year's timely intervention by international donors (including the European Union) to finance an input programme which enabled the Government to provide free fertilisers and seeds to over one million smallholders.
The task of improving the living standards of Malawians is a daunting one. However, there are three things going for country. The first is the people's understanding of the seriousness of the economic situation and their willingness to make sacrifices, the second is the country's significant untapped resources, and the third is the enormous amount of goodwill towards Malawi in the donor community which is reflected in its readiness to support the government's efforts.
The sight, in May, of a Member of Parliament on the government benches waving a fly-whisk at the opposition, in an obvious mockery of Dr Kamuzu Banda, and the general humour in which the whole episode was received, were poignant evidence to this observer of how firmly democracy was taking root in Malawi. It even lent credence to assertions that nowhere else in Africa is it functioning better than here. Two or three years ago, such an episode would have been unthinkable. The MP would have been arrested, tortured and probably killed. The current President, Bakili Muluzi, is constantly under attack for one reason or another and the press has never had it so good, enthusiastic in the pursuit of good governance, sometimes to the point of absurdity.
The Speaker of Parliament, R Munyenembe told The Courier that Malawi is passing through an interesting period after being subjected to one-party rule for 30 years. 'If the press can be left free,' he said, 'I'm sure the future for democracy in this country is bright, but if it muzzled, we will go back to the one-party system, and to one-sided stories. But as things stand, we are hearing balanced views on what is happening in this country.'
For a nation that has never had experience of real democracy, and has enjoyed freedom for just one year, this comes as a surprise. Even more surprising is the attitude of the political class, whether in government or opposition, to the experiences of the past three decades. Many of them spent years in prison, either for minor political offences or on trumpedup charges. Yet there is a total absence of bitterness, making the task of national reconciliation much easier, at least on the surface. Parliament has set up a National Compensation Tribunal to probe the injustices of the Banda regime and to compensate innocent victims. Indeed, a few have already been compensated. A new Constitution, in which human rights and press freedoms are enshrined, was passed by Parliament in May.
Increase in insecurity
Democratic freedom has brought with it a rise in crime and insecurity, and the reaction of some Malawians, in the absence of a trustworthy police force and an efficient judiciary, has been to take the law into their own hands. There have been lynchings, sometimes using the notorious 'necklacing' method first employed in South Africa. This type of mob justice is a source of serious concern for Minister of the Interior, Peter Fachi. Although the suggestion has been discounted by many, there are fears that remnants of the Malawi Young Pioneers, who sought refuge in Mozambique, may be linked to the crime wave and that, in the long run, they may constitute an even greater threat to democracy.
The police force is also considered a threat to democracy although it must be stressed that this view is held by only some ministers. Their suspicious handling of some recent murders, supposedly criminal but in reality political, have raised doubts as to their loyalty. The loyalty of certain elements in the Malawi Congress Party, who'it is believed, may not have fully come to terms with their loss of power, is also questioned.
On the side of democracy, however, is a well-disciplined army which steered clear of politics over the years, and to whom the nation should be grateful for bringing the MYP reign of terror to an end, thus facilitating Malawi's transition to democracy. Following the murder in April of the army commander, General Mamkin Chigawa, ostensibly by armed robbers near the border with Mozambique, a new commander has been appointed by President Muluzi. In recent months, the army has been conducting operations throughout the country to recover illegally held arms.
Reform of the judiciary
Reforms to the judiciary, designed to guarantee its independence and ensure equal and easy access of all to justice, have been greeted with considerable relief by the people of Malawi. The traditional courts have been stripped of most of their powers, being restricted to cases involving customary law, and they have also been brought under the jurisdiction of the High Court.
During the Banda regime, high court judges were chosen from the administration and were civil servants. Although the new government has made it possible for people from the private sector to enter the judiciary no one has taken up the offer: there is a paucity of qualified people in the Malawi legal profession and the low level of remuneration does not make the job particularly attractive. Vice- President Justin Malewezi says that there are proposals to separate the judiciary from the Civil Service and for judges to have a different scale of remuneration. 'When these reforms are in place,' he asserted, 'it will be easier for lawyers in the private sector to accept appointments to the bench.'
The Vice-President indicated that reforms will also be necessary in the police. Observers point out that the force behaved, under the previous regime, as if it were an arm of the ruling party. Like some MCP politicians, there are police officers who have difficulty coming to terms with the new political order. The prison service is also earmarked for transformation with the aim of making it less punitive and more focused on rehabilitation. This is seen by Mr Malewezi as a challenging but crucial aspect of the government's overall human rights approach. A whole programme of retraining and training will be necessary for both the police force and the prison services.
The Court system, meanwhile, faces a huge backlog of cases, some of which are murders dating as far back as 1990. This is causing considerable unease in the country, because, as Mr Malewezi observes, 'justice delayed is justice denied.' The problem is compounded by the fact that some districts have no magistrates' courts. In the opinion of High Court Judge, Anastasia Msosa, who is also Chairman of the Electoral Commission, an interim measure would be 'for us judges to tour the country on circuits to hear these cases and dispose of them.' But as some of them involve murder it will not be easy. Murder cases require to be heard by a jury and Malawi has almost lost the habit of jury trials. Judge Msosa, however, told The Courier that she had been one of a group of judges who had recently toured the United Kingdom to 'familiarise ourselves' with jury trials. 'In the UK,' she said, 'we saw how the system operates. There isn't much difference with what we were used to, but there was no harm in re-acquainting ourselves with the procedures to see where we can make changes.'
Transparency and accountability
Of great concern to the donor community in Malawi's young democracy are the issues of transparency and accountability. The experience of the previous regime, with its abuses of power and nepotism are still fresh in the memory. So too is their expropriation of public funds. The resources available to Malawi, which are needed for development, are meagre and the country cannot afford to have them salted away. Today, corruption in Malawi is thought to be on a relatively small scale, certainly in comparison to other African states, but there is a view that it needs to be 'nipped it in the bud' before it becomes more widespread. The focus, of course, is on the ministries, in particular the Ministry of Works where awards of contracts have always provided opportunities for bribery. The Government says it is dedicated to ensuring transparency and accountability. Indeed in his interview with The Courier, President Muluzi indicated that an Anti-Corruption Bureau was being set up to investigate all cases of corruption. Finance Minister, Aleke Banda, meanwhile, gave an assurance that anyone found to be defrauding the Government would immediately be prosecuted, as a deterrent to others. The Auditor-General's Office, he revealed, is being beefed up and henceforth its reports will be closely examined and acted upon, unlike previously when they were simply consigned to the archives. Any discrepancy or whiff of corruption will result in the Ministry concerned being scrutinised by a team consisting of representatives of the Ministries of Justice and Finance, and of the Police.
But these are currently just words and promises. They underline the need for a strong and independent press in a country where the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation still sees itself as the Government's mouthpiece. Independent newspapers, which have found their way on to the streets since the advent of multiparty democracy, have been engaged in recent months in a campaign against corruption on a scale never before seen in Malawi. Unfortunately, despite this vibrancy, there is a great danger that a good number of them will disappear in the not-too-distant future for the simple reason that advertising revenue, on which they depend, is not sufficient. Currently they depend on the few advertisements placed by parastatals which are still controlled by political appointees of the previous regime. Lately there have been signs of discrimination in the distribution of advertising. With politicians who own newspapers increasingly using them as political tools, and few prospects of an appreciable expansion in the private sector in the coming years, democracy continues to be under threat. That, at least, is the opinion of E. Chitsulo, editor of the Michiru Sun and President of the Malawi Journalists' Association.
Although licences for private radio broadcasting are being issued, no Malawian group has yet met the conditions. So far, only a foreign evangelical organisation has secured one and has gone on to set up a radio service. At the moment, Malawi has no television station but it is understood that Malayasias 'TV Three' is planning to set one up in the near future.
In addition to the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), two major political formations emerged during the transitional period. These were the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Bakili Muluzi and the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) led by Chakufwa Chihana. Although not really tribal in outlook as in most African countries, the support of all three parties is regionally based; the MCP in the centre, AFORD in the north and the UDF in the south. Since the May 1994 elections, there has been considerable manoeuvring for position in the new democratic Malawi.
Both AFORD and the UDF, it should be recalled, suffered considerable harassment immediately after the unbanning of political parties and before the referendum on multiparty democracy in June 1993. They had little access to the media, and their rallies were tightly controlled. UDF leader, Bakili Muluzi was even arrested shortly before the referendum and charged with misuse of public and party funds when he was MCP secretary-general 12 years earlier. Yet the opposition successfully campaigned for a 'yes' vote. But the months leading up to the presidential and parliamentary elections saw divisions within the opposition. Whereas the smaller parties-the UFDM and the Congress for the Second Republic -rallied around the UDF to ensure the defeat of the Malawi Congress Party, AFORD remained independent, accusing the UDF of being made up of former members of the MCP and torturers.
In the May elections, Bakili Muluzi of the UDF came first in the presidential race, ahead of Dr Banda, with Chakufwa Chihana of AFORD coming third. In the parliamentary poll, the UDF won 85 seats, the MCP 56 and AFORD 36. The UDF formed a minority government. Surprisingly, AFORD initially went into an opposition alliance with the MCP, although several of its members had defected to the UDF. The explanation ? There was a need to preserve the country from tribal divisions. By September, Mr Chihana had accepted President Muluzi's proposal to become second vice-president, a post not foreseen in the Constitution and which Parliament had to create. He was also made Minister of Water and Irrigation and his party, AFORD, was allocated three other ministerial posts. Together AFORD and the UDF have 121 seats in the 177 seatparliament. The President's explanation? There was a need to preserve the country from tribal division. Yet AFORD claims it retains the status of an opposition party.
Among the recommendations made by the Constitutional Conference set up by Parliament were the abolition of the post of second vice-president, a limitation of 24 on the number of ministers and the creation of a second chamber - the Senate. Parliament, which retained the right of veto, rejected the first and second proposals, stating that the President must be free to determine the size of his cabinet.
They accepted reluctantly, however, the proposal for a Senate - to be implemented in 1999.
Advocates of a second Chamber argued that it would provide women, who constitute 52% of the population but currently have only 6% of the seats in Parliament, with the opportunity of greater representation. But the debate in Parliament, which focused on the need for affirmative action for women who had suffered discrimination and oppression for years under Dr Banda, revealed considerable unease. It was argued the main beneficiaries would be a few educated urban women who have nothing in common with women in the rural areas. In any case, observers note, it is unlikely that the proposal will see the light of day. By 1999, a new unicameral Parliament will have been elected, and it is doubtful whether the mechanisms for the election of a second chamber will be in place.
'For the first time in 30 years, people can live as human beings'
In May 1994, Bakili Muluzi was elected President of Malawi. He defeated Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda who had ruled the country with an iron rod for 30 years. A Moslem from the South, in a predominantly Christian country, he served for a while as Secretary General of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) before falling out of favour with Dr Banda. He left politics and went into business. With the lifting of the ban on other parties in 1993, following a referendum, he founded the United Democratic Front (UDF) which went on to win the largest number of seats in the Parliamentary election. In this interview with President Mulizi, The Courier reviews the current political situation in the country.
· Mr President, it is now a year since multi-party democracy was ushered into Malawi and you came to office. How do you characterise your first year? What have been the main achievements ?
-It has been a very difficult year, particularly on the economic side although politically we have done very well. I think our achievement has been the fact that in Malawi, for the first time in 30 years, people can live as human beings. We have a democracy where people are now free to express themselves. This has been the main concern of all of us. What is left now is for us to consolidate these achievements.
· Remaining with the issue of democracy, you have had to create the post of second Vice-President and provide ministerial positions for AFORD. These moves have been approved by Parliament, and you have explained that they were aimed at promoting national unity. But the first generation of African politicians began this way-getting all the political parties into one fold-and within a short time, they established de facto or de jure one party states. What do you say to that ?
-Let me tell you that I am one of those who advocated and fought for a multi-party system of government. I don't believe in a one-party state. I want to see a strong opposition in this country, because it keeps the Government on its toes. Although AFORD is with us, it is just to make the government work. I certainly would not advocate that we go back to a one-party state: it is a bad system. AFORD has come in as our partner in government but they are not members of the UDF. They remain on their own as a political party, with their own views. They have their own policies just as the MCP has. We will make sure that the democratisation process continues and that Members of Parliament can express their views freely in the chamber.
· Parliament has just approved a new Constitution, having rejected some of the recommendations made by the Constitutional Conference. Given the country's experience over the last 30 years, would it not have been more appropriate for the Constitution to be the subject of a more extensive national debate and, possibly a referendum ?
-I should say that they were a great many consultations on the Constitution. When we started at the Conference Centre almost 18 months ago, people discussed the issues exhaustively and indicated what they wanted. Consultations also took place all over the country. Groups from the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution went to all districts, to listen to the people's views on all the issues. There was a week-long conference in Lilongwe. You may say a week is not enough, but the views of the Chiefs, religious leaders and political leaders were all well canvassed and it was a good conference. The Constitution contains all that it should contain. No Constitution is ever perfect. There always will be amendments needed here and there, but in the process, we certainly tried as much as possible to have widespread consultation.
· Women, who represent 52% of the population, suffered considerable injustice under the Banda regime. In view of this, would a policy of 'affirmative action' in their favour not be appropriate ?
-I think what we need to do is address the question of education for women. That's the most important thing. Girls in this country have been denied education at higher levels. Early marriages, and the system that we had under the one-party state, meant that parents could not afford to educate girls, or to let them continue with their education. I have, as a matter of policy, introduced free primary education. With the help of an American donor fund, this specifically encourages the promotion of girls' education. Once we have succeeded in improving their education, we think they will be able to participate very intelligently in national debate. It is important that women participate in our parliamentary life. They should be able to take part. That is why education, for the moment, is the most important thing.
Meanwhile, my government is trying everything possible to put women into responsible positions. I have appointed three as ambassadors. In the last 30 years, we have never had a female ambassador. I have appointed women to the chairs and boards of parastatals. So we have made a start and I am sure we will make progress. We think that in the next five to ten years, we can bring women up to participate fully in national political and economic life, reflecting their importance in the population.
· Why did you order the closure of two prisons ?
- For obvious reasons. They evoked bitter memories of years of torture by the previous government. They were a legacy of the past that had to be closed.
· What instruments have you put in place to ensure that human rights are respected ?
-One is the Constitution itself. We have ensured that fundamental human rights are within the Constitution, enshrined in a bill of rights. All the specific human rights aspects have been very well addressed within the Constitution. I think that is very important. It means, for example, that nobody, not even myself as President, can order the police to arrest anybody without cause. I have no powers to do that. The second important factor is that within the government, you have people like myself, who fought for human rights and democracy. We said we had had enough and rejected what had gone before. So the will is there to guarantee human rights for all.
· Were the UN Declaration and African Charter on Human Rights incorporated into the new Constitution.
-Yes. In fact they have always been there, clearly stated even in the old Constitution. But the previously government simply ignored them.
· Donors are taking a keen interest in what is happening in Malawi at the moment How committed are you to the principles of transparency and accountability in government, and also to the fight against corruption ?
-Very, very committed. I must tell you that I was one of the first to speak out against corruption and I am very much against it. We are now trying to establish an anti-corruption bureau which will be completely independent. When the bill to set this up was being drafted, there was a question as to whether it should be made responsible to me as the Head of State. I objected to this idea. I said I wanted the Bureau to be free to check even me. That shows my commitment.
I am determined to ensure that we have transparency, and that ministers, civil servants, customs officers, the police and so on, are properly accountable to the people of Malawi. Having said this, those who allege corruption need to come up with evidence that it exists. That is very important. It happened in Zambia where everybody was talking about corruption in government and President Chiluba ended up dismissing almost everybody. I am saying that if anyone can come forward and say to me 'your Minister A did this or that in a corrupt manner', and there is evidence to prove it, I can assure you that that minister will be dismissed immediately.
· You have spoken about the Bureau that is being set up. Will it investigate the past as well ?
- i don't know exactly how wide its terms of reference will be, but broadly speaking, we are talking about anything that is viewed as unacceptable conduct in government. If it happened a month ago or last year-in other words, within my mandate-we will definitely investigate it. We would also like to know what happened during the previous government if possible. We want to know about it if there is any evidence of corruption, particularly in connection with embezzlement of the people's money. The people have a right to be protected.
· The Opposition tells me you now have in your hands, the results of an enquiry into a corruption allegation. When will that report be made public ?
-Well a report was made and there was no evidence of corruption. What I saw in that report was that Malawi was being cheated by some unscrupulous business people who overcharged us for exercise books which are vitally needed in our schools. The Minister of Education went ahead and bought these without even checking the price. The matter has been investigated and we have found that there was no money involved in terms of somebody being bribed. There is no evidence of that nature in the report. What there is, is an indication that we were overcharged. I have said that we will not pay unless the company that supplied us can prove to us that it was a good price that they were offering. Two officials are currently in London now to negotiate with them and if they don't come up with a better, fairer price, we are not going to pay. They can take us to court if they want.
· For the sake of transparency would it not still have been better to have made the report public ?
-It will be made public. What we are waiting for, is the group that has gone to the United Kingdom to put the finishing touches to the investigation. Once that has happened, we will make it public.
· Are ministers required now to declare their assets ?
-Under the constitution, yes. i have done so and so have all but two of our ministers.
· There has been rising crime recently. What measures are you taking to tackle the problem ?
-The problem is not only in Malawi. I think the whole region is facing very serious difficulties in this regard. With all the wars on the continent - in Mozambique, Angola and the Horn of Africa-there are a lot of people moving here who have weapons. That has made it very difficult for us to cope with the situation, given our limited resources of manpower. The issue of security here, as in any country, is important because without it, many investors will be put off, and people become firghtened of moving around. So we are doing everything possible to address the security question.
We are going around all locations to identify those who have got weapons. K we find them, we confiscate them, unless the owner can prove that he has a licence. We have found quite a few this way- often coming from Mozambique.
· That leads me to my next question. How much of a threat to democracy are the remnants of the Young Pioneers who, I am told, are taking refuge in the neighobouring country?.
-Well, I wouldn't like to use the word 'threat' although I suppose anybody who has got a weapon is a threat in some sense. It is true that some of the former Young Pioneers have run away, fearing perhaps that the new government would arrest them. But we are saying to them that we will not do that: 'You are Malawians, come back because this is your country'. On the other hand, there are some who have bad intentions. They want to subvert the stability of the country. We hear that some of them may have fled to Mozambique but we have no proof of that. We are investigating the claims. But I don't think we are talking about a large number-just a handful of people.
· Dr Banda's tentacles reach very deep into the Malawian economy. How do you propose to deal with it ?
-You are talking about the Press Corporation ?
-What you say is true. We have an economy where a great deal is in the hands of just one person and that is very dangerous. Naturally my government will not allow that. We believe in a free market economy-not concentration. We do not feel it is proper that Banda should have personal control of almost 30% of GDP. We are vigorously examining the issue and discussing it with them. We are civilised people and we want to involve them in the discussions. So we are looking into that.
· Including the issue of ownership ?
-Yes, that is a key aspect.
· The European Union has been involved in development in Malawi for a number of years and has played a significant part during the transition period. How do you see this relationship developing in future ?
-Let me start by expressing my deepestt thanks to the European Union. They have been our partners for a long time. They have contributed greatly to recent developments in this country, for which we are most grateful. We want this partnership to continue. i have always said that poverty is a danger to democracy and if we don't get assistance, then our democracy is endangered. The expectations of the people are very high, and the poverty is very deep. So I hope to see continuing close cooperation between us and the KU.
· What kind of emphasis do you place on regional cooperation ?
-We think we have an important role to play in the region. I happen to be the current chairman of the COMESA- the Common Market for Southern Africa. I believe that in the region now, in order for economies to be improved, regional integration will be very important. We already belong to SADC and COMESA and we must work together for regional integration of both resources and development. The region has got all the resources necessary but they need to be tapped and to do that, you have to attract investors: businesspeople who will come in with their money. The market within the COMESA region is about 300 million people. The SADC countries have about 130 million. So we need to develop these wider markets. And in order to do that, there must be the full participation of all the member states in our regional bodies.
· In conclusion, is there any key area that you would like to highlight ?
-The most important point at the moment is that Malawi is trying to tighten its belt. Fiscal discipline is the only effective medicine for restoring the economy. It is an area where we in government are doing everything possible. Because of the very difficult economic situation we inherited from the previous regime, I am still asking the donor community to be sympathetic to Malawi's situation. It is not a normal one. We have had 30 years during which the economy has been progressively ruined. We are trying to build up a new system and that is bound to take time. In the meantime, we need a sympathetic ear and a helping hand from our partners. As for the Malawian people, we believe that they understand the challanges that we face and will give this government time to implement its programmes.
Gwanda Chakuamba was sentenced to 22 years in jail in 1980 for sedition. He had been a member of the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and, for a period in the 1970s, he was Minister for the Southern Region. He was released in July 1993 after serving 13 years of his sentence, following a vigorous campaign on his behalf by the opposition movement A few months later, he was appointed Secretary General of the MCF, a post that had been vacant for nearly ten years. More recently, he has become the party's Vice - President, deputising for the ailing Kamuzu Banda. The Courier spoke to him during its recent visit to Malawi.
· The Malawi Congress Party of which you are Vice-President, was in office for decades as the so/e political party in the country. Its record on human rights and economic management have been described as appalling. Does the MCP acknowledge these accusations ?
-It is true that the MCP was in power for more than three decades and during that period there were certain things that it did well and certain areas where it didn't perform well. Instead of emphasising those things that the MCP did not do well, however, I would rather talk about the future management of the country. But if our record of human rights did not meet international expectations, I think that should be accepted. I too suffered under MCP rule. I was sentenced to 23 years in prison of which I served more than 13 years. But that situation has been corrected by the recent elections. The MCP is a new party now. It is no longer being run by one person. It is recruiting new members and developing new policies in line with the new political environment.
· In a multi-party setting, don't you think it would be wise of the MCP at least to apologise openly to the Malawian people for what happened in the past ?
-When you say MCP I am not sure exactly what you mean. On the day that the Mwanza Report, published by the Commission of Inquiry, was presented to the President, I made a statement that it was not the MCP as such-as a party- that was guilty of sanctioning improper behaviour. It was individuals acting outside the framework of the party. The country should look at it from that point of view.
· As you said, you yourself were a victim of MCP rule. Why did you choose to rejoin the party that treated you in the way it did ?
-Many people ask me that question and I answer it in a very simple way. Before I went to prison, I was not a Christian. When in prison, I decided to look at various religions of the world. I read the Koran and the Holy Bible from beginning to end-many many times-and I came to the conclusion that I should become a Christian. I asked God to forgive me for all my sins. And the Bible says that you cannot ask for forgiveness if you do not forgive others. So, if I am to follow the Bible, the only thing that I can do is forgive and forget. Forgiving means coming together and working together.
· Dr Banda is still the Life President of the MCP. He is old, that and sick. Given his kind of leadership, which involves taking all decisions personally without delegating
-Under our new constitution, we have a national executive committee of 36 members. Dr Banda is number one, I am number two. I chair all the meetings and we make decisions collectively. It is not a single individual who takes the decisions.
· With your party's past record, how can you be an effective opposition in Parliament ?
- We are trying to be an effective opposition but, you know, even the ruling party is having to learn the process of democracy. So are we of course. We are not used to arguing for or against. Under a one-party system this didn't happen. So it is something that concerns both sides; government and opposition.
· The one-party system meant that it was difficult to distinguish between party property and state property. It all seemed to be interlinked. Now that you are in a multi-party democracy, how do you pro
-Ever since it was established, the MCP has been an independent entity. The Life President of the MCP also established businesses in his own right. People have tended to associate the two, seeing his business interests and, to be specific, the Press Corporation, as part of the MCP: alternatively, believing that the MCP is looked after financially by the Press Corporation. This has not been the case. Of course we get funding but it is not from business, it is from the Life President of the party. So there is a distinction between the two.
· So at the moment, the MCP is financed by Dr Banda
· What about the members of the party who are involved in the Press Trust ?
-That is Dr Banda's business. He owns, I think, 96.5% of the shares. As the owner of the company, he can choose anyone he likes to be a member of the board. But that has nothing to do with the MCP. For instance, in my case, I have just been recently appointed a board member of the Press Trust. But that is not the same as the Press Corporation and I have nothing to do with it.
· In the ideological sense, what does the MCP stand for?
-After a long period of one party rule, the MCP is now coming up with a programme to accommodate itself to the present economic and political set up. We want our members to understand what democracy is and that is our major hurdle. So our first step is a programme to make our own members understand that times have changed. They must adapt to a democratic society and they must accommodate other people's criticisms, viewing them not as enemies but as people contributing to the welfare of the country.
· There are rumours that the MCP still has contacts with a group of the Malawi Youth Pioneers operating in Mozambique. Is this true ?
-That is absolutely not true. Before I went to prison, I was actually the commander of the MYP and I know most of the people involved. After my release, I got involved in the disbandment of the military wing of the MYP. I obtained all the records-how many people were in the armed wing, what sort of firearms they had and so on-and I personally handed these over to the army and the police for their study. But they did not believe the figures. So we are not in contact with these people. Personally, I don't believe there are many of them in Mozambique.
· How do you see the future of Malawi, both politically and economically ?
-The future of Malawi depends upon us, government and opposition alike. We on the opposition side have a duty to make sure that things don't get out of hand. Things now are getting out of hand economically. The situation of the country is not as we would like to see it and we are pointing this out to the government. The government's response is that we are in a different society now, but we are saying that much more must be done for the people to be assured of a good future. You read in the paper about corruption, sugar being smuggled, and high-ranking figures being involved. They are allegations for which we do not have proof but they are frightening nonetheless. So the government must be made more democratic and transparent than it is today. The personal business that they are doing, should be left for other people to do and they should concentrate on the management of the country.
· You mention corruption which is very interesting. Would you be in favour of an inquiry being set up to investigate corruption in the past and for action to be taken in future against anyone found guilty of corruption ?
-Yes. You know there has been a rumour, which was published in the paper, about a Minister receiving 6 million kwacha. At the last budget meeting in Parliament, we proposed the setting up of a parliamentary committee to inquire into these and other allegations. But I was told that the British High Commissioner had already instituted a committee of inquiry (the newspaper that published the report was stopped from appearing). So I am in favour of that, and I also support legislation against corruption. We must take a dealings with it because it is very serious and that is what we will tell the government. Whoever goes down that road should be held accountable and the President should take appropriate action.
History will not judge Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda kindly but it certainly cannot accuse him of having been a hypocrite. Throughout his 30 years in office, his totally uninhibited utterances, as recorded, for example, in John Lwandas book 'Kamuzu Banda of Malawi-a study of promise, power and paralysis', revealed him as a manic dictator probably worse in callousness than Amin, Bokassa or Ngwuema. He made his intentions quite clear from the beginning. European-style democracy was not for Africa. He would brook no opposition and anyone who dared challenge his authority would be ruthlessly dealt with-thrown to the crocodiles or into jail to 'rot'. Kamuzu, he boasted, was law in Malawi. And he lived up to these threats.
That the West turned a blind eye to his regime during the Cold War was not only due to his profound dislike of communism and his close links with apartheid South Africa, despite condemnation from the rest of black Africa. He also espoused a brand of private enterprise which was sweet music to the West-and whose true nature did not become clear until recently. He ran Malawi as his own private domain and controlled businesses that account for nearly 35% of the country's GDP (see interview with President Muluzi). Those who knew Dr Banda, first as a medical student in Edinburgh (he used to describe himself as the 'black Scot' and was a prominent member of Church of Scotland) and then in the early 1950s, when he practised medicine in London, have spoken of their dismay and difficulty in reconciling his humanity then with his subsequent career as a brutal despot.
The early years
Although he lived almost 40 years abroad, Dr Banda kept in touch with developments back home. He first appeared on the political scene in the then Nyasaland in 1958 when he was invited to assume the leadership of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC). This was campaigning for independence and against the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which the British had created in 1953. The NAC needed someone of Banda's political stature, popularity and oratory. The choice was an effective one. Within a year of his return, the political temperature in the colony had risen so high that civil disorder broke out. A state of emergency was declared. Dr Banda was imprisoned and the NAC was banned. However, a new party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was formed a couple of months later with the jailed Banda as leader.
Britain, having accepted the inevitability of decolonisation in Africa, despite the opposition of white settlers, released Banda in 1960 to lead a delegation to London for a constitutional conference. The resulting elections in 1961 were won overwhelmingly by the MCP which had built up huge support in the rural areas. In 1963, the Federation was dissolved and Nyasaland achieved self-government with Dr Banda as Prime Minister. Independence (as Malawi) came in 1964 and two years later, the country became a republic and one-party state with Banda as President.
Even before independence, major policy differences in particular over the pace and manner in which the economy should be Africanised, had emerged between Banda and the young educated radicals who had been instrumental in his return home. These included Henry Chipembre, Kayama Chiume and Orton Chirwa. The dispute came to a head in 1965 when several ministers, led by Chipembre, revolted. Dr Banda's willingnesss to maintain the status quo ensured he had the support of expatriates. On the advice of the Governor - General, he sought and won a confidence vote in Parliament. This sealed the fate of the rebel's: they were either arrested or forced into hiding or exile. An attempted 'invasion' by some of them in 1967 failed, resulting in the death of the former Home Affairs Minister, Yatuta Chisiza.
Dr Banda's grip on power tightened in 1971 when he was voted President-for-Life. From then on, no opposition was tolerated, as he installed a system of intimidation and of political and economic subjugation through an emasculated MCP. A wing of the party, the Malawi Young Pioneers (a paramilitary organisation) was set up and within it, the Youth League (political intimidators and extortionists) literally went on the rampage. They forced Malawians to buy party membership cards, without which they had no access to such things as land, bank loans, government jobs and even public transport. There was also the Women's League, whose only purpose was to entertain Dr Banda wherever he went-a humiliation of which the women concerned were quite unaware until after the dictator's fall. Most had considered this thankless duty as an honour. They had to wear uniforms bearing the image of Dr Banda and their husbands often ran up big debts to purchase them from firms linked to the President.
With a loyal police force and a network of informers throughout the country, no one dared openly to express dissent. The nation lived in fear. Dr Banda took on the title of Ngwazi (conqueror) and insisted on being addressed by his full list of titles: His Excellency the Ngwazi, Life-President, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Malawians had other reasons to live in fear. The judiciary was reorganised to strengthen Dr Banda's authority following a few early court cases whose results displeased him. He was reported to have said at the time that his word was law in Malawi and no judge could acquit or show leniency to any of his political enemies. In 1964, for example, when Machipisa Munthali, the chairman of the Electoral Commission and the state marketing organisation ARDMAC, was sentenced to five years in jail for subversion, the government appealed and secured a term of 11 years. Munthali was not in fact released until 27 years later. Under Dr Banda, the jurisdiction of the traditional courts was extended to cover a wide range of issues, including criminal cases. Presided over by Chiefs who were loyal to the President, these courts were reserved for Malawians, while the High Courts and magistrate courts dealt with Asians and Europeans.
Initial economic success
Although the Cold War partially explained why, unlike Amin and Bokassa, Banda attracted little attention from the West on human rights issues, his initial success in improving Malawi's economy silenced most critics. He pursued the policy begun by the NAC of improving the lives of peasants, albeit with donor support providing rural areas with improved water supplies and sanitation, schools, health facilities and roads. He also ensured that farmers had access to subsidised inputs. His encouragement of private enterprise, with a range of inducements such as low-cost factory space, generous tax allowances, tariff protection and free repatriation of profits, together with his friendship with apartheid South Africa, produced the necessary foreign investments (particularly South African). Boosted further by increased flows of official assistance, the economy grew rapidly, averaging 8% per annum during the 1970s. Food production rose steadily to match the rate of population growth (a feat few African countries have achieved) and the commercial sector expanded as the production and export of the main cash crops-tobacco, tea and sugar-doubled. Manufacturing grew on average by 11%.
In the early 1980s Asians were banned from trading in the rural areas. Dr Banda believed this was a sector that should be reserved for Malawians. But observers also noted a political motive: the need to keep the rural areas, where he drew his main support, from being influenced by a group of people who were becoming wealthier and as a result were likely to become influential.
Between 1978 and 1981, the economy declined as rapidly as it had grown in the early 1970s. Growth dropped to 1.7% per annum (below the population growth rate), mainly as a result of severe drought and the growing conflict in Mozambique. Indeed these were to be the two major factors behind Malawi's economic misfortunes during the 1980s, when GDP growth seldom exceeded 2.5% per annum. Another significant element was the global recession, which was particularly strongly felt in South Africa. Although real growth improved to reach 3.6% in 1988 and 4% by 1991, as a result of IMF supported structural adjustment measures, the economy as a whole was characterised by reduced ODA, falls in investment, lower export receipts, depressed wages and widespread poverty. In 1989, the World Bank reported that Malawi's annual income per capita was only $160 and it was classified among the six poorest nations on earth. Whether Dr Banda was living in 'cloud-cuckoo-land' or deliberately chose to ignore the report is difficult to ascertain. To him, Malawi was making great economic strides and he, Kamuzu, had banished poverty.
After the initial spate of investment in education and health (mostly through donor assistance), these areas suffered neglect for over two decades with the result that Malawi not only has the highest illiteracy rate in Africa (Mozambique excepted) but also lacks skilled manpower. Low wages and a distorted system of private enterprise translated into a lack of savings and a failure to develop an indigenous entrepreneurial class. When Asians were banned from commercial activities in the rural areas, a vacuum was created which Malawians were not equipped to fill. 'They did not have the finance, did not know where to start and did not get government support', P. Kalilombe, Chairman of the Malawi Chamber of Commerce, told me Courier. The lack of job opportunities in the urban areas explains why Malawi is one of the least urbanised countries in Africa.
In maintaining the dual agricultural system inherited from the colonial era, in the name of private enterprise, Dr Banda ensured personal control and exploitation of the country's agricultural output. The estates which produced the main export crops of tobacco and tea occupied the most fertile lands. With the blessing of the 'Life President', members of the MCP had easy access to choice land which was often not put to good use. Peasant smallholders, by contrast, occupied marginal areas. Their main product was the staple food, maize, grown largely for subsistence, and there was also some tobacco growing under a quota system. The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) bought their produce at fixed prices.
Although parastatals were and still are involved in agriculture, manufacturing and mining, foreign investors usually went into joint-ventures with either the Malawi Development Corporation or the Press Corporation, 96% of which is owned by Dr Banda. The latter company dominates the modern sector with large tobacco, tea and sugar estates. It also has numerous other interests in transport, cattle ranching, property development, retail and wholesale activities (some of which were taken from Asians) and even civil engineering. There is a 'Press Trust', to which profits from the Corporation are paid, purportedly for the benefit of the Malawian people. Through the Press Corporation Dr Banda indirectly controlled the economy. In addition, he did as he pleased with the nation's finances.
With such huge resources at his disposal, a firm grip on the internal political situation and control of the security forces, Banda was able to reach his political opponents wherever they were. In 1979, Attati Mpakati, leader of the Socialist League of Malawi (SOLEMA), was injured in a letter bomb attack in Zambia. In 1983, he was murdered while on a visit to Zimbabwe. In the same year, the leader of the Malawi Freedom Movement (MAF REMO), Orton Chirwa, and his wife Vera, were abducted in Zambia and brought back to Malawi. Tried for plotting against the government they were sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment following appeals from several Heads of State. Like thousands of Malawians imprisoned for political reasons, the Chirwas were tortured. Orton died in prison in 1992 and his wife, who was not allowed to attend his funeral, was released in 1994. A journalist who was an opponent of the regime was killed along with his entire family in Zambia.
Perhaps Dr Banda thought he was immortal. No one was allowed to emerge as an obvious successor. Anyone who showed any sign of popularity was eliminated. In 1983, the Secretary-General of the MCP and minister without portfolio, Dick Matenje, was reputedly involved in a controversy over an eventual successor. He and three other prominent politicians were murdered, with their deaths attributed to a road accident. The post of MCP Secretary-General was left vacant for 10 years until 1993, when Gwanda Chakuamba was appointed.
In the late 1980s, the ageing Dr Banda began to show signs of senility and power began, for the first time, to slip from his hands. It was effectively exercised by his trusted lieutenant, John Tembo and his official companion of over 30 years, 'Mama' Cecilia Kadzamira '. The end of the Cold War, which saw the winds of democratic change blowing across Africa, the weakening of apartheid in South Africa and further economic difficulties at home, signalled the beginning of the end for the regime. Dr Panda initially resisted pressure for change, hoping he could weather the storm, but the die was cast. In 1989, when 10 people, including a senior MAFREMO official, were killed in a bomb attack in Zambia, a spate of reports on human rights violations in Malawi appeared.
Amnesty International issued a damning report on detention and torture of political dissidents. In 1990 another human rights organisation accused the Malawian security forces of having shot dead 20 anti-government protestors and, from then on, international donors began to demand democratic reforms. When two groups of human rights lawyers from Britain and America visited the country in 1993 and issued separate reports giving graphic details of murder, torture and the inhuman conditions in Malawian prisons, the regime finally realised it had an unwinnable battle on its hands.
Emboldened by developments, exiles in Tanzania met in 1991 and formed a new opposition movement, the Malawi Socialist Labour Party. Later that year other exiled groups-MAFREMO, SOLEMA and the Congress for the Second Republic formed the United Front for Multiparty Democracy (UFMD).
The latter was supposed to have been replaced by the Interim Committee for a Democratic Alliance, with Chakufwa Chihana as chairman, when all the exiled opponents met in Lusaka the following year. But Chihana's immediate return to Malawi changed that. He was arrested on arrival at the airport and while in prison, the internally constituted Alliance for Democracy came into being with him as leader.
In March 1992, Roman Catholic bishops made their unprecedented intervention with a pastoral letter criticising the lack of freedom and human rights abuses in the country. With pressure mounting, President Banda carried out his own 'democratic reforms', holding elections in June 1992 for an enlarged legislature with, some 675 MCP candidates taking part.
The electoral supervisor reported an 80% turnout and claimed that this was further proof 'that democratic elections as conducted in Malawi produce democratic results.' Donors, who had suspended development aid awaiting the implementation of reforms, were unconvinced.
The months that followed saw the failure of attempts by John Tembo to hijack the process of change (see the article: Malawi's transition to democracy). In 1992 he sought unsuccessfully to win over the army commander, Lt-Gen Melvin Khanga, in his struggle to succeed Banda.
When the commander refused, he was forcibly retired and replaced with General Isaac Yohane who would not budge either. The army (mainly the lower ranks) took on the Young Pioneers the following year, shortly after Dr Banda's return from a brain operation in South Africa. The MYP was disbanded at the insistence of the army which was bitter at having lost out to them in terms of both conditions of service and equipment over the years. The of the MYP was a devastating blow to John Tembo and the MCP, but the best thing that could have happened to Malawians in their fight for democracy. Overnight the instrument of intimidation had gone.
During Banda's absence in South Africa, a three-man presidential council had been set up, in accordance with the Constitution. It was headed by Tembo who seized the opportunity to make several appointments to strengthen his position. After the referendum of June 1993, which approved a return to multiparty democracy he, in anticipation of elections, made a number of cabinet changes, clearly designed to bolster the MCP in the North and South where he knew it had little support.
Gwanda Chakuamba, released from prison in 1994 after serving 13 years of a 22-year sentence for sedition, had joined the United Democratic Front which had fought for his release, but he was persuaded to rejoin the MCP as Secretary - General. He was expected to deliver the votes of the Southern Region. But in the May 1994 presidential poll, the Malawians, seizing the opportunity to break from the longest and the most brutal dictatorship Africa has seen this century, gave victory to the UDF, consigning Banda's regime in the process to the dustbin of history.
by Peter Beck Christiansen
Between 1992 and 1994, Malawian society underwent a complete 'end peaceful' change with the holding of multi-party elections. This took place against a backdrop of often violent transition in neighbouring Mozambique and South Africa.
The effects of more than 30 years of one-party, one-man, autocratic rule have been described elsewhere in this report. All services were geared towards the glorification of one person and the development of a whole class of sycophants perpetuated this. The consequences included nepotism and a divided society- a very rich and small upper class alongside a very big and poor underclass, with hardly any middle class or skilled labourers. There was also the siphoning of the economic surplus from the rural areas, both through the pricing systems and party taxes of various kinds. This went to the dominant congLomtes such as ADMARC, Press Trust and its offshoots, and into private property. The practical results were unparalleled poverty and a desperate health situation, even without the scourge of Aids. All this in a country which, unlike many others, had not suffered the miseries of armed conflict.
There was, furthermore, a complete disrespect of established international human rights and other general legal principles. The government/ruling party exercised absolute control over the population and their property. There was no separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, despite provision for this in the Constitution. Human rights violations were recorded throughout the 1970s and 1980s but they had little impact on the outside world. However, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and of communist regimes throughout eastern Europe finally led to a change in the attitudes of donor countries.
In the meantime, an opposition had emerged both within and outside Malawi. Those involved placed themselves at considerable personal risk, as witnessed by the bombing and arson murders of members of the opposition in Lusaka and Harare. Perhaps the most important factor, however, was that the people of Malawi had become tired of their continued subjugation and the lack of hope for a better future. The one party monolith, despite its all-pervasive surveillance network, completely underestimated this fact.
The decisive move which was to spark the changes was the publication, in March 1992, of a pastoral letter by the eight Catholic bishops in Malawi. This was read out in all the Catholic churches in the country. How the printing and distribution was able to take place without being discovered remains a mystery. Read today, the letter appears rather innocuous. It only lightly condemned the one-party government and its human rights violations. However, it represented the first open challenge to the government. Although the authorities did not openly respond, it emerged that the murder of all eight bishops was contemplated. A tape of the relevant discussions was leaked, and subsequently broadcast on South African radio.
In April 1992, trade union leader, Chakufwa Chihana returned from a visit to Zambia and was promptly arrested. During the 12 months which followed, his High Court trial attracted extensive local and international interest.
In May, the international donor community informed Malawi at a meeting in Paris that new commitments had been frozen pending required changes in the treatment of human rights in the country.
Despite this, on his return from Paris, the Minister of Finance told the press that the meeting had been excellent for Malawi!
In the same month, strikes broke out in Blantyre and more than 30 people were killed by government forcm. At the same time, the authorities undertook an intensive search for people with access to photocopiers and fax machines. The aim was to put a stop to the growing distribution of 'seditious literature'. Many hundreds were imprisoned and tortured.
In the second half of 1992, an umbrella organisation called the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) was formed. This brought together such bodies as the Law Society, the Chamber of Commerce and all the religious organisations, and its purpose was to act as a conduit for discussions with the government. The President responded by naming a Presidential Committee on Dialogue (PCD) for this purpose. He also announced a referendum to be held by the end of the year, under UN auspices. The UN's Electoral Assistance Office demurred, stating that it not would be technically possible in the time available. In addition to the need for proper voter registration, there would have to be civic education for the population, many of whom believed that 'Multipati' was an alternative party to the ruling Malawi Congress party (MCP).
The government finally backed down but then went on to provoke new controversy over the issue of voting procedures. They insisted that there should be separate ballot boxes for the 'yes' and 'no' votes in the referendum. The PAC, the donors and public opinion generally wanted a single ballot box so as to avoid any possibility of fraud. After another prolonged tug-of-war, with intervention by the International Commission of Jurists, the government again had to give way. In the meantime, the PAC had started a civic education campaign which was financed mainly by the EU budget line for democracy and human rights, while the UN had assembled a team of experts to advise on such matters as voter registration, campaigning and voting procedures.
In the run-up to the referendum on 14 June 1993, the government consistently misused its dominance of the media and most notably of the single radio channel. This gave extensive coverage to President Banda's campaign but studiously avoided mentioning the opposition except when quoting the President. The independent press, which had only emerged in 1992 in the face of opposition from the authorities (initial issues were banned), succeeded in getting a number of copies of its publications on to the streets. These sold like hot cakes and rapidly became collectors' items.
A vote for change
At the end of the day, the referendum was a well-organised affair. Of the 4.7 million registered voters, 3.2 million cast a ballot. In fact, the turnout was probably close to 90%, the discrepancy being caused by widespread double registration. It must be doubted whether everyone voting fully understood the issue at stake, but the outcome was nevertheless clear. 66% voted in favour of a multiparty system. In the Northern and Southern Regions, the figures were 88% and 85% respectively while in the government stronghold of the Central Region, the result was 47% in favour and 53% against. When the result was announced, crowds took to the streets in the major cities to celebrate and demand further changes. The following day, President Banda broadcast a remarkable speech in which he conceded defeat and called for a general election to take place within a year.
The new opposition wanted a government of national unity to oversee the country in the period leading up to the election. Following prolonged discussions, however, a transition mechanism was put in place instead. Seven parties had been registered, and in September 1993, the National Consultative Council (NCC) was established containing six representatives of each party. In the period up to the General Election on 17 May 1994, this non-elected grouping discussed all aspects of the transition including the setting up of an electoral commission and defining the rules for campaigning in the media. It also oversaw the drafting of the new Constitution. This was voted into being on the day before the election by the outgoing one-party Parliament-which abolished itself in the proces. The importance of the NCC cannot be overemphasised. It served as a forum for compromise but more importantly as the venue for the creation of democracy.
One major event of this period was the disarming of the Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP), a process which began on 3 December 1993. The NCC had discussed the need to undertake this task for several months but the MCP prevaricated with all the means at its disposal. The catalyst was the killing of two Malawi Army soldiers by MYP members in a bar brawl in the northern city of Mzuzu. The army, which had always regarded itself as being politically neutral, had seen resources, including weapons, increasingly being diverted to the MYP in recent years. A group of younger officers at the Lilongwe barracks led the seizure of the MYP headquarters. The building was sacked, along with several shops belonging to the Press Corporation, and in three days of violence, a total of 28 people were killed. During this period, the Government was not in evidence. Indeed, on 4 December, the radio broadcast a football match live from Blantyre pretending that there was peace in Malawi. In the following weeks, the army searched and destroyed all the MYP's military bases and confiscated its heavy weapons. The possibility of an army takeover could not be ruled out but, in the event, they withdrew to their barracks following the obligatory sacking of the three top generals.
During this period, following concerted pressure by the International Red Cross Federation and other donors, all political prisoners were freed. Several of those released from prison now serve in the government. One result of this gesture was the general resumption of development aid.
Funds go astray
With the one-party government's power thus reduced, it was possible for the election campaign to commence. This began with voter registration under the auspices of the international community. The government still held the financial levers, however, and during this period, a deficit of more than 500 million Kwacha (approximately ECU 80m at the time) was run up. No satisfactory explanation has yet been given as to what happened to these funds.
The campaign was more balanced than in the earlier referendum in both the written press and on the radio, but there were still accusations of electoral malpractice and intimidation levelled by international NGOs. It is doubtful if the elections could have been deemed free and fair if the outcome had not been a change of government.
In the event, the Presidential and Parliamentary elections followed the pattern established in the referendum. The UDF emerged as the biggest party with 45% of the votes (78% in the South). The former ruling party, the MCP, took 37% of the vote with its support heavily concentrated in the Central Region (65%). AFORD won an overwhelming victory in the North (85% of the poll) but only scored 17% of the national total. Bakili Muluzi of the UDF assumed the Presidency while his party formed a minority government.
The ageing President Banda again took to the airwaves to concede defeat, sounding a great deal more frail than a year earlier. His apparent invincibility had already been undermined the previous year when he had been flown to South Africa to undergo minor brain surgery - although strenuous efforts were made to keep this trip secret. His military arm, the MYP, had been shattered and his financial muscle proved inadequate to maintain him in power.
The change of government and political system took place without incident. After thirty years, the task of sorting out the economic mess, and tackling the all-pervasive poverty in the country, had begun. The move to a free, democratic system, with full respect for human rights, was necessary for this to happen but Malawians are well aware that this is just the first step. There is still a long way to go before the effects of 30 years of economic and psychological malpractice can be overcome. The people of the country can, however, be justifiably proud of having made the transition without any major bloodletting-and largely outside the international limelight.
'Cash budgeting.' These two words summed up Malawi's dire financial circumstances when The Courier visited the country in May. It is a system of allocating resources in accordance with available revenue. In practice this has meant priority ministries like Health and Education, which saw their share of the budget increase substantially in March, receiving 50% of their requirements and others getting only 30%.
Set against the background of the often inadequate and, in some instances, rapidly deteriorating social infrastructure, in health and education for example, these measures appear incredibly harsh. Education admittedly is getting a fair share, with donors showing considerable interest in providing assistance. But the health services are in a deplorable state. This at a time when Malawi is facing a serious Aids epidemic. A visit to the Zomba Hospital is a heart rending experience. The hospital lacks almost everything-personnel, equipment, maintenance and drugs-and patients, including children, sleep on the floor and outside under trees, in Southern Africa's wintry conditions. They wait for hours for treatment, and a lot of them are dying.
Yet the tough, no nonsense fiscal discipline, imposed by Finance Minister Aleke Banda, is sweet music to the International Monetary Fund and the donor community. It is designed to pull Malawi as quickly as possible out of the economic mess into which the Kamuzu Banda regime plunged it. A few indicators reveal the extent of the crisis: a budget deficit of nearly $57 million, an inflation rate of 34.7% and a declining per capita income.
Persistent droughts since the beginning of the 1980s and the world recession have both played a significant part in the reversal of the country's economic fortunes after the good growth of the 1960s and 1970s and the improved performance following the implementation of structural adjustment programmes. But the last months of the previous regime also saw reckless spending on an unprecedented scale. According to Finance Minister Banda, government borrowing rose from K637.8 million in 1993 to K1133.3 million in 1994. With the floating of the kwacha in early 1994, at a time of serious foreign exchange shortages (following the suspension of international assistance pending implementation of political reforms), the currency depreciated sharply. This fuelled inflation and GDP fell by almost 9%.
It was clear that drastic measures would have to be taken to avoid economic collapse. There could be no growth, no attraction of foreign investments and no chance of the government achieving its main objective of poverty-alleviation until the economic distortions were tackled. 'We have made it very clear from the beginning,' said Mr Banda, 'that as a Government, we are in a very difficult situation; that this country is poor, that things will get worse before they get better.. and that we have to make sacrifices.'
Transfer of departmental accounts
Cash limitations apart, there is a reaming process involved in the whole exercise, for ministers and civil servants alike. They have to learn the simple truth that Governments do run out of money, according to Reserve Bank Governor, Professor M. Chikaonda. Under the previous regime, extra-budgeting was an accepted practice and it worked perfectly for spending units which had their accounts at the Reserve Bank. According to Mr Chikaonda, ministries presented cheques at the commercial banks who had no way of checking the balances. In this manner they obtained overdrafts, created excess liquidity and increased government debt vis-a-vis the banks. Since April, all Government accounts have been moved from the Reserve Bank to the commercial sector to make it impossible for any department to obtain credit surreptitiously. With 'cash budgeting', each has to make savings in whatever area it deems necessary. Departments, of course, are not barred from borrowing. But those who wish to can only do so through the non-bank sectors and that 'is less serious in terms of the inflationary impact,' says the Reserve Bank Governor.
The impact of the austerity measures on the population has been less traumatic than expected. This is due to the fact the majority live on subsistence farming in the rural areas and are less dependent on consumer goods, but there is undeniable hardship, especially among wage-earners, who have seen inflation put a number of basic commodities out of their reach. The Government was forced to increase civil service salaries by 25% across the board in April.
Relief on the way
But there is relief on the way. According to Aleke Banda, these shortages of funds are unlikely to last for the whole year, because of the various tax measures he announced in the March budget. These, he hopes, will start yielding revenue by June. Indeed the Government is pinning its hopes for financial salvation, at least in the short to medium term, on improved efficiency in revenue collection. Studies have revealed that there are considerable slippages, particularly in the customs department, and if plugged, the result could be a substantial increase in income. For example, large amounts of goods are often declared to be in transit to neighbouring countries when, in reality, they are being dumped in Malawi because there are is no-one to supervise their onward movement. As well as ensuring that this is stopped, the Minister of Finance indicated that pre-shipment inspections are being reinforced and that measures are being taken 'to investigate people who want to defraud the Government.'
Doing these things, of course, requires building up more capacity by recruiting and training more police and customs officers and this entails more expenditure. The IMF and the British Government are understood to be providing assistance in this field. Mr Banda admits, however, that, 'no matter how much we raise from our own resources, we are still dependent on balance of payments support from our donors.' In May, Malawi's foreign reserves were down to only 0.7 months of import cover (1.9 months if all the foreign currency denominated accounts of the banking sector were included). The adjustment programme, which the Government has agreed with the IMF, requires the Central Bank to increase the figure to 1.9 months by the end of the year and Mr Chikaonda appears confident that this target will be met. The aim is also for the interest rate to be reduced from its current 34.7% to 20%. The Governor's optimism is partly based on the fact that the foreign exchange market has been liberalised and a programme of foreign exchange auctions has just been introduced which is designed specifically to build up reserves.
The liberalisation of currency exchanges, coupled with the government's directive to exporters to release 60% of their foreign exchange earnings into the market, as well as the law which prohibits banks from having no more than 20% of their capital base in foreign currency, have resulted in an abundance of foreign exchange. The impact, according to Mr Chikaonda, was seen recently both in the stabilisation of the kwacha's value and in the specific case of the Petroleum Control Commission which was able to raise $60m from the market in just one week, having previously had difficulty paying its foreign creditors.
With donors satisfied with the Government's fiscal measures, there is an enormous amount of goodwill towards Malawi. Indeed there are no shortages of offers for assistance, and these in almost every sector of the economy. Last year, the IMF provided a $22 million eight-month standby credit for the structural adjustment programme while the World Bank began a $40m programme designed both to assist the Government in its reforms of the various economic sectors and to import maize to overcome shortages. An input programme, financed by a group of donors led by the Bank, in which free fertilisers and seeds were distributed to the poor before this year's planting season, enabled the country to have better maize yields this year, despite erratic rainfall.
The reforms being carried out in agriculture should ensure better standards of living for peasants. Although Dr Banda's regime claimed to espouse the free market, agriculture, like very other sector of the economy, was, in reality controlled by the government, particularly in terms of pricing. The result was not only a subsistence existence for the vast majority of the people, but also a contraction of the economic base. 'The price regime was so static that it provided the smallholder with no opportunities to take advantage of emerging domestic as well as international markets', explained Agriculture Minister, Dr Mapopa Chipeta. So agriculture is being liberalised both at the production and marketing levels. Restrictions on the export of a number of commodities, except maize, have been removed so as to encourage farmers to diversify and expand the agricultural base. Farmers are being encouraged to move into other food crops such as sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes as well as into industrial products such as cotton, oilseed, soyabeans and sunflowers. But the emphasis goes even further, with encouragement for agroforestry and livestock development. In addition, Malawi still has available the fish resources of Lake Malawi not to mention the country's considerable tourist potential.
The Minister admits that the tobacco industry, which most farmers find more lucrative, is not yet fully liberalised. It is still governed to some extent by a quota system. Most of the country's tobacco crop is cultivated by estate farmers but smaliholders grow it in small quantities and in accordance with quota allocations. The explanation for this policy is that 'Malawi has to respond to certain market allocations at the international level.' The plan, however, is progressively to deregulate the sector allowing farmers themselves to organise production and marketing, in collaboration with the Tobacco Control Commission.
Aside from the policy aspects, agriculture in Malawi faces a number of practical constraints including a shortage of arable land, lack of access to inputs and credits, environmental degradation and the increasing frequency of drought. Smaliholding is declining in Malawi because of the rapid increase in the population. The average farm size has fallen from 1.6 hectares per family in 1969 to 1.1 ha in 1989 and this is projected to fall further, to 0.3ha by the year 2000. The result has been increased poverty. Yet there are the estates, employing a small number of people, that occupy the best arable land in the country and produce only a narrow range of export crops (tobacco, tea and sugar). One might have expected the government to have land reform at the top of its priority list. But as on all issues concerning private property and enterprise, it appears to be treading warily. Dr Chipeta spoke, instead, of the need for more efficient use of land to make it more productive. 'It is true,' he said, 'that a large number of our farmers are on marginal lands and are not able to produce food for themselves, let alone participate in domestic and international markets for industrial crops. But we feel that market forces must determine how best land should be utilised.'
The Minister also looks to the market as far as inputs are concerned. To him the government's role should be that of a facilitator, creating the environment for 'private entrepreneurs to participate in the provision of inputs to the agricultural sector.' At the same time, however, the government is taking an active interest in ensuring that smallholders have access to credit. Through the assistance of the donor community and the World Bank in particular, it has set up the Malawi Rural Finance Company to address smallholders' needs. This follows the failure of the extension unit in the Ministry of Agriculture to provide an effective service in this area.
Dr Chipeta said that over the next few years, the government would be adopting an environmental protection and management strategy for soil and water conservation. Malawi faces an immense problem of erosion and drought but it also has tremendous potential for irrigation. There are an estimated 400 000 hectares of land that could be irrigated and the future of agriculture will depend on progress in this area. The government will not be aiming for big projects, which require sizeable investments. Instead it intends to emphasise small and medum-scale irrigation. 'Our proposal is for farming communities to establish and manage these schemes themselves, with the Government providing extension cervices,' the Minister said. A number of pilot projects, supported by donors, are already up and running.
Dr Chipeta regretted the lack of encouragement to farmers to organise themselves in the past, as well as the inability to relate research to their needs. The government, he said, was taking measures to rectify these failings. Farmers' organisations are now being encouraged so that ideas on new techniques and technologies can be transmitted to them through these organisations.
Manufacturing and job creation
A successful broadening of the agricultural base should result in significant improvements to the living standards of Malawians. It should also encourage the growth of the manufacturing sector and the creation of jobs, although it has to be recognised that an inadequate raw material base is just one of several factors that has hamstrung industrial production over the years. Others include the smallness of the domestic market, the high cost of transport, a lack of investment capital and an insufficiently educated workforce leading to a lack of skilled manpower.
Overcoming these disadvantages will be a long and hard task. Indeed they already impinge negatively on the government's privatisation programme which is part and parcel of its poverty alleviation policy. The fact that Malawi had a political system for 30 years which did not promote the emergence of a middle class, and that widespread poverty translated into a lack of savings and capital formation, puts the authorities in a somewhat awkward situation today. Very few Malawians can afford to buy shares let alone enter joint ventures with foreign investors. But ways have to be found, according to Vice - President Justin Malewezi, who is in charge of the programme. He suggests, among other things, that Malawi may have to do what was done in Eastern Europe 'where they allocated shares to the masses.'
Another big challenge facing the government in this area is what to do with the Press Corporation, the congLomte which is owned by former President Hastings Banda, and which dominates the private sector. There is also the question of the Press Trust. 'This is an intricate area,' Mr Malewezi admits. 'It is not just Dr Banda's concern, but also that of the Malawi Congress Party, because all the trustees are members of the MCP. We would like to see the depoliticisation of the congLomte.' What is remarkable here is the concern in government circles for legality. Whereas, in most countries, the Press Corporation would be considered to be public property, that could be legally declared as such, ministers again approach the issue with caution. 'We have not abandoned the legal option as a last resort', the Vice-President told The Courier. 'But we feel an attempt should be made at negotiation. If that fails, we will then go through the legal procedure. Parliament can introduce an Act and take it over, but we fear that the message we will be sending to prospective investors and others who do business here may not be the right one.'
Whatever the difficulties Malawi faces at the moment, observers are united in predicting a better economic performance in the future, thanks to the liberating effects of the current political situation. As P. Kalilombe, who is Chairman of the Malawi Chamber of Commerce, told The Courier, 'the changes now taking place are more dramatic than people imagine. It is not just the movement from one party to multiparty democracy; it is a movement of attitudes as well. People are beginning to feel that the individual matters and that as an individual, one can contribute to the development of the country. Previously the attitude was that 'Kamuzu will do something for us'. We used merely to be passive but that has now changed.' At long last, Malawi is not only politically free, but economically free as well. In short, the process of development is only just starting after 30 years of independence.
Among the follies of President Kamuzu Banda's 30 years rule were a collection of 19 palaces which have become more of a burden than an asset for Malawi in terms of maintenance. Five have understandably been sold, but the one which presents the Government with its biggest dilemma is the palace in Lilongwe.
By far the largest, the most expensive and almost certainly the most luxurious presidential palace in Africa, it took 15 years to construct. The story reveals a striking parallel with that of Nicolae Ceausescu's palace in Bucharest. Dr Banda was said to have ordered the reconstruction of the staircase several times, and the final result was a series of ornate and individually-carved balustrades alternating from top to bottom. 'Mama' (as Banda's companion and official hostess was called) was also closely involved in the design, choice of decoration and furnishings-and what tastes she had ! The cost, calculated from vouchers found in the Ministry of Works, totalled $250 million, but it was almost certainly more than that.
Sitting on about 550 hectares of land, of which 200 are well-manicured gardens, it has the obligatory ministadium. This was reserved for Banda's famous Women's League who were dedicated to his entertainment in dance, songs and praise. The palace has five presidential suites complete with offices, appartments for first ladies with accompanying offices, innumerable rooms for entourages, banqueting halls, toilets and kitchens. Dr Banda's appartment and Mama's were decorated with incredible luxury and taste, each fitted at strategic points with communication panels to enable the President or his companion to summon anyone within the palace at the press of a button. There is an in-built theatre for live orchestral music. The Courier was given a one-hour guided tour of the building but nobody there could confirm with certainty how many rooms the palace actually has!
Beyond the garden area, appartments were built for staff who would have numbered up to 1000. Even today, the Government employs some 300 gardeners just to maintain the grounds and overall, the cost of the palace's maintenance is put at one million kwachas a month.
The dictator was only days away from moving in when he was defeated in the presidential election. His successor, President Bakili Muluzi has shunned the site preferring Sanjika in Blantyre instead. Except perhaps for the palace in Zomba which he appears willing to retain, all the others are up for sale-11 in all. Any offers ?
The Lilongwe palace, which has been used a couple of times by the new government to host conferences, is being treated differently. Despite the huge cost of maintenance, the current plan is to keep it, both as a monument to Banda's folly and as a national asset, nonetheless. It would not be right to sell it, officials told The Courier, given the money that was spent on construction and the amount of land that it occupies. The Government is currently examining various ways of making use of it to derive an income, if only to reduce the cost of maintenance.
Although the European Union's presence in Malawi is felt in almost every sector of the economy, one aspect of its activity that is not particularly well known is its crucial role in the settlement and repatriation of Mozambican refugees. The Courier visited the now empty Luwani refugee camp in Lisungwe (Mwanza district) and saw what must be a classic example of how relief can be linked successfully to development.
The story began in 1988, at the height of refugee influx, when all the camps in Southern Malawi were full to their maximum capacity and the UNHCR made an urgent appeal to the EU for assistance. A senior UNHCR programme officer told The Courier that the European Commission's prompt response to the request was both timely and exemplary. It enabled the UNHCR to start work immediately on the site which it had secured from the Malawian government in a forest reserve area. It had prepared plans for permanent structures - a school, a clinic, waterpoints and feeder roads. Most importantly, it included an environmental project involving tree planting by the refugees to counter the anticipated deforestation which they themselves were expected to cause.
The camp was built to accommodate between 80 000 and 100 000 people. In order to relieve pressure on the border areas, refugees from Nsanje and Mulanje were transported to the new site and by 1992, it had reached its maximum capacity. An open camp, refugees here constructed their own huts, came and went as they pleased, and lived in families as normally as possible. The camp's facilities also catered for the needs of the local people, particularly in the field of health services.
After the signing of the peace accord in Mozambique, there was a spontaneous departure of refugees who wanted to return home as well as an organised repatriation. By the end of last year, the camp that had once been a hive of activity, was empty and eerily quiet. To avoid an outbreak of disease in the area, the UNHCR again appealed to the EU to finance a clean-up campaign involving, in particular, the destruction of huts, the closing of latrines, and refuse clearance. Again, the Commission responded promptly.
In April this year, the UNHCR, which has all but wound up its activities in the country, handed over property and equipment worth some $36 million to the Malawi government. The inventory included vehicles, education and health facilities, waterpoints, warehouses, roads and rehabilitated forests in locations throughout Malawi. Included, of course, were the facilities of the Luwani camp- vehicles, a clinic, a school, 500 boreholes and more than 375 hectares of afforested land planted with local tree species.
The Courier visited the Luwani facilities to see what plans are being made to ensure that they are utilised effectively by the local population. Although the people living in the immediate vicinity number only 2300, the clinic, which is still functioning, now serves a population within a radius of 40 sq km-about 184 000 people. Even former refugees still come across the border to seek medical attention there. The clinic has a doctor, two nurses and a medical assistant. At the time of The Courier visit, a two-way radio communication system was being installed to link the hospital with other medical centres. It still needs equipment for a planned operating theatre. The aim is to avoid having to send patients to distant hospitals, as currently happens, for minor operations that could easily be dealt with locally. Luwani also needs one or two ambulances and a supply of essential drugs to make it properly operational.
As for the school buildings which are modem and furnished, the Government has yet to decide what level of education to provide there, given the country's pressing needs in both primary and secondary education.
The Union's assistance for refugees was not restricted to the Mwanza district. The Commission also funded the extension of the Ntcheu district hospital in Boma, providing a maternity wing, a paediatric ward, a store room and an extension to the mortuary. In Biriwiri, it built a health centre to meet the needs of the huge number of refugees in that area while in Dedza, it funded the construction of the Mulangeni maternity wing. All of these facilities, which are of a higher standard than those in many urban areas (such as Zomba) are now being used by Malawians as well as Mozambicans who travel over the border (as in the case of the Luwani camp). Ironically, the refugee crisis has resulted in an improvement in the quality of life of the local people. But this is no less than the Malawians deserve, for they were generous to those who came seeking shelter. The UNHCR and the European Commission also deserve praise for their foresight in ensuring that permanent rather than makeshift structures were built and that environmental destruction and degradation were limited.
by Jurgen Lovasz
Malawi has been associated with the European Community since the entry into force of the first Lomonvention in 1976. Until the beginning of the 1990s, the cooperation was of a financial and technical nature. Since then, the political dimension has become an important part of the relationship.
Community development assistance to Malawi under Lom-IV is principally given in the form of financial support and technical expertise funded from the EDF. Besides receiving grants under the four National Indicative Programmes (NlPs), Malawi is benefiting from support under the Structural Adjustment Facility, regional cooperation, emergency aid instruments and Stabex, together with risk capital and interest subsidies managed by the European Investment Bank. Activities financed in Malawi under the Community budget (i.e. outwith the Lomonvention) are, in particular, for cofinanced projects together with NGOs, food aid and, more recently, for the ongoing democratisation process.
The overall total assistance allocated to Malawi by the European Community amounted to about ECU 529 million (excluding regional and EC budgetary support) up to the end of 1994. In addition, 440 000 tonnes of food aid was provided to Malawians and refugees from Mozambique.
The provision of Community assistance to Malawi under the Lomonventions has always been linked to the development needs of the country. These needs have changed over the last 20 years and the programming has had to adapt accordingly.
From the time of independence until the end of the 1970s, Malawi experienced strong economic growth. GDP grew in real terms by an average of more than 6% and in per capita terms by 3% annually. This impressive performance was due to substantial increases in agricultural output thanks to the timely availability of inputs and credit, the expanded provision of extension services and increased research activity. The increased output not only provided an export base but also fuelled the expansion of secondary sectors such as manufacturing. Total productive activity also benefited from the balanced development of basic infrastructures, notably roads, railways and public utilities.
Community assistance under Lom (1975-80) supported this development with an emphasis on increasing agricultural production and the incomes of smallholders in the fields of tobacco and coffee. In the fisheries sector, development activities concentrated on boosting fish supplies to improve the nutritional status of the population, in particular in the Lakeshore are. From a total NIP of ECU 67.9m, 32% was devoted to agriculture and fisheries. A further 25% was allocated to the energy/industrial sector while 19% went for the development of road transport. Water/sanitation and education/ training received some 18%. The overall EC allocation of funds to Malawi under Lom amounted to ECU 74.3m (excluding regional and EC budgetary support).
The content of the LomI NIP (1980-85) was influenced by the deteriorating economic situation in the country after 1979. On the domestic front, Malawi suffered two years of drought in 1980 and 1981 while externally, there was a worsening in the terms of trade due to steep rises in imported fuel prices, capital imports and intermediate goods. There was also a decline in the export prices of tobacco, tea and sugar. The debt servicing problems of the country grew sharply as a result of increasing interest rates on the international money markets and higher transport costs for exports following the disruption of Malawi's traditional routes to the seaports. In the light of these constraints, the Community concentrated its development assistance on supporting food security and on expanding the national and regional road network. Thus, out of an NIP of ECU 80m, 39% was allocated to road transport and 32% to agriculture and fisheries. A further 11% was spent on social infrastructures and training programmes while 7% went to trade promotion and micro-projects. 6% was allocated to small enterprise development. The total LomI allocation to Malawi amounted to ECU 101.5m.
During the second half of the 1980s, Malawi experienced further external and internal shocks. The terms of trade continued to weaken, the rail lines to the ports of Mozambique were cut off completely and capital inflows fell leading to an accelerated loss of foreign reserves. The country also suffered two further droughts in 1986 and 1987. As a result, real GDP stagnated and inflationary pressures intensified. Having implemented a number of measures at the beginning of the 1980s, with the financial support of the IMF and the World Bank, aimed at restoring external and internal equilibrium, the country now issued a 'Statement of Development Policies 1987-1996' and formulated a comprehensive structural adjustment programme.
The LomII NIP took account of the balance of payments constraints and allocated ECU 12.5m to the Industrial and Trade Policy Adjustment Credit (ITPAC) developed with the help of the World Bank. It was becoming increasingly apparent that the food security of the majority of Malawians would depend on domestic agricultural development for the foreseeable future. Consequently, out of a total of ECU 114.5m in the NIP, 67% was allocated to agri-rural development. This involved an integrated socio-economic approach to the development of the rural areas of Malawi where 85% of the population lives.
This development programme also incorporated, for the first time, a 'child-spacing' programme. It was only in the second half of the 1990s that most ACP governments, including Malawi, accepted the need for measures to address the increasing socio-economic pressure caused by high population growth rates. Between 1964 and 1987, Malawi's population doubled. As a small country (94 200 km²) with one of the highest population densities in Africa (110 people per km²), Malawi was facing increasing pressure on its arable land. The average farm size of smallholders fell from 1.6 hectares in 1969 to 1.1 ha 20 years later. During this period the Community also continued to assist the development of the road infrastructure.
From 1986 onwards, the increasing conflict in Mozambique saw Malawi being confronted with a growing influx of refugees. In response, the EC provided ECU 16.8m for refugee relief programmes undertaken in the country by the UNHCR and various NGOs. The total support to Malawi under LomI amounted to ECU 167.7m.
As of 1988, Malawi's economy began to show signs of recovery. This was mainly due to the changed policy environment. Real GDP growth reached 7.8% in 1991 and the annual rate of inflation fell to 11.9%. The fiscal deficit (including grants) was also reduced to 1.8% of GDP by fiscal year 1991/1992 while the current account deficit amounted to 8.9% of GDP. How
ever, the basic development constraints remained. Accordingly, Malawi's NIP under the first financial protocol of LomV continued with the approach of concentrating on agri-rural development and road infrastructure. Of the ECU 121m available under the NIP, 65% and 25% were allocated to these sectors respectively. The remaining funds were earmarked for, among other things, balance of payments support.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Malawi has experienced fundamental political changes and yet more internal and external shocks. With changes in the world political situation, western industrialised countries began to make more political demands on governments and put pressure on those that violated fundamental human rights. Since the 1960s, Malawi had been governed by an authoritarian and highly centralised political system. The government exercised very tight political, economic and social controls on both organisations and individuals, intimidating the entire population in the process. This approach also often had the effect of paralysing decision-making within government. In May 1992, the international donor community, including the EC, decided to freeze non-humanitarian aid to Malawi until such time as the government introduced and practised basic human rights in accordance with recognised international standards. This policy, combined with internal pressures, induced Dr Banda, the former President, to hold a referendum which took place in June 1993. In the poll, the majority of Malawians opted to abandon the one-party state in favour of a multiparty democracy. The first multiparty elections were held in May 1994 and the opposition -which had previously been proscribed -assumed power.
Because of these developments, the EC made no decision on a new development programme until after the referendum when the international donor community decided to end the aid freeze. In the interim, donor countries nevertheless supported various activities linked with the democratisation process. Thus, the EC provided ECU 1.2m towards aspects of the organisation of the referendum. In addition, Malawi received massive assistance during this period to help counter the effects of the 1991-92 drought, which was particularly severe. The EC was one of the main donors in this effort contributing, up to the end of 1994, some ECU 15m under LomV for the relief activities of the UNHCR and NGOs.
The effects of the drought and the economic insecurity resulting from the political changes contributed to a serious worsening in the balance of payments situation after 1991. The absence of market-determined exchange rates and the prospect of devaluation also led to increased currency speculation. In February 1994, the government and the Reserve Bank finally decided to liberalise the exchange rate system. After the aid freeze was lifted, and in view of the severe balance of payments situation, the EC decided to provide balance of payments support to the tune of ECU 30.6m. It also continued with its work on a comprehensive support programme for the agriculture sector. Work on a road project in the south of the country, which had been frozen, was accelerated during 1994. The appraisal of a rural health and population programme is currently under way while the Community (now the European Union) is also providing support to a number of programmes designed to enhance the democratisation process in the country.
Two further developments have also had an impact on recent EU support. Since the middle of the 1980s, the AIDS problem has grown rapidly. In Malawi, the present HIV infection rate is estimated at about 30% of the urban population and 12% of those who live in rural areas. In response to this crisis, the EU has been implementing an information, education and communication project since the beginning of 1990. This is aimed at target groups such as bar girls and lorry drivers as well as at the general public.
The second development has been the environmental degradation of the country. This has resulted both from the increased population density and the additional strain caused by the large-scale influx of refugees. Within its agricultural and afforestation programmes, the EU aims to address the issues of sustainable food security and the need for tree planting.
A final comment relates to the EU's regional activities from which Malawi has benefited. Several road projects have been supported from regional funds because they have improved the regional network. This have been of particular importance for Malawi's access to the outside world. In the context of EU/SADC regional cooperation, Malawi is responsible for fisheries, forestry and wildlife and assistance is provided to the Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Control Programme and the College of Wildlife. Studies on regional wildlife and the Southern African Centre for Ivory Marketing have also been undertaken.
Finally, Malawi also plays an active role in the framework of the more recent Cross Border Initiative (CBI) which aims to facilitate intra-regional trade and investment. In December 1994, the government sent a letter to the Commission setting out CBI policy and specifying comprehensive reforms for implementing the objectives of the initiative. In response to this, the EU is providing additional balance of payments support to the tune of ECU 12m.
To summarise, EC-Malawi cooperation under the Lomonventions has been determined by the evolving requirements of the country. The EU is playing a leading role in the policy dialogue with the government and it provides a substantial proportion of total development assistance to the country (85% of whose development budget is currently financed by the donor community). But in spite of major international assistance for the development of Malawi, critical analysis reveals that the standard of living of the majority of the population has not improved over the last 30 years, and the social indicators are still among the worst in the world. As indicated above, both external and domestic constraints have hampered a more rapid development.
Without donor support, however, it can be assumed that the majority of the population would have been even worse off. Thus, there is no alternative to development aid, although the man-made constraints need to be addressed better. In other words, better coordination of development efforts is needed involving the social partners within Malawi and the international donor community.
Under the 'Poverty Alleviation Programme', the achievement of household and national food security is the main theme. This implies the development of natural resources, particularly in the agricultural sector, as well as consideration for the environmental impact of such efforts. Improving the health of the population, controlling population growth and providing better education and vocational training are further important components in the drive to achieve food security. Under the second phase of LomV, the EU will certainly be willing to consider supporting Malawi in addressing these and other development-related issues.
The new government must, however, also display a full commitment to these concerns and demonstrate that it is in a position to manage scarce financial resources in such a way as to achieve determined development objectives. In this context, the structural reforms that are needed in the public sector must be implemented in order to overcome the current severe fiscal deficit. Finally, it is hoped that the government will take the lead in prioritising development objectives, strategies and activities. Where required, external expertise may be provided, but the 'ownership' of the development process must rest with the people of Malawi and their representatives.
Initial thoughts of the Commission in the run-up to the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference
When Commission President Jacques Santer and his colleague Manuel Oreja addressed a packed press conference in Brussels on 10 May, it is likely that some of the journalists present had mixed emotions. Following a relative lull in the 'greet debase' over where the EU is heading, thoughts are now fuming to 1996 and the next intergovernmental Conference (IGC). The subject should provide rich pickings for the media as the various interested parties set up their stalls and strive to 'sell' their vision of the KU. Heated arguments are the bread and butter of journalism and there will be no shortage of these in the coming two years. At the same time, memories of Maastricht are still fresh. Seemingly interminable debates, which saw significant additions to the lexicon of EU jargon, presented the news gatherers with a formidable challenge- which they didn't always succeed in overcoming. The people of Europe could hardly be unaware that big issues affecting their future were being decided in the Dutch city. They were bombarded with reports about it for many months, three countries had full-scale referendum campaigns and others had lengthy Parliamentary debates which were exhaustively reported. But too often it seemed like the Tower of Babel. Politicians and pressure groups, 'sceptics' end 'federalists', constitutional experts and monetary specialists appeared in procession on the television screens to offer varying, and often contradictory interpretations of such things as 'subsidiarity' and 'federalism'. They spoke of the two new 'pillars', EMU, convergence targets, co decision and qualified majorities. And many Europeans 'switched off', either literally or metaphorically. Those who persevered and sought elucidation in the text of the Maastricht Treaty itself (helpfully supplied by the Commission) found no succour there. Without a copy of the pre-existing treaties for cross-reference, the text was almost impossible to understand.
It was this unhappy situation which saw the Maastricht Treaty teeter on the precipice before finally being pulled back on to firm ground. The Danes voted. No but accomodatingly decided to have a rerun of the poll. The French almost voted 'No' but as it fumed out, a miss was as good as a mile. The British Parliament came close to halting the whole process just as the finishing line seemed to be in sight.
For Jacques Santer, one of the key imperatives will be to avoid a similar situation developing in 1995-96. That was why he warned of the risk of alienating Europe's citizens when he spoke to reporters on 10 May. There was a need, he said, to involve them in the debate and to take measures to make the whole system more democratic and transparent. In fact, Mr Santer and Mr Oreja were ostensibly presenting a report on the functioning of the Maastricht Treaty. But while emphasising that the Commission had no proposals on the table at the moment, Mr Oreja acknowledged that, in highlighting the successes and shortcomings of the Treaty, they were clearly identifying areas that required action.
So what will the 1996 IGC be about ? According to the Commission President, it will not be about extending the substantive competences of the EU (whose components parts are the European Community and the two pillars of intergovernmental cooperating covering foreign and security policy, and justice and home affairs). In other words, it is not about what the Union does but about bow it does it.
There seems to be a general consensus that the EU's decision-making procedures have become too complex and unwieldy. The power of any country to block proposals in the Council of Ministers has already been reduced but the national veto remains in a number of areas and many see this as a threat to further progress in an enlarged Union of 15 members. With several Mediterranean and Eastern European countries knocking at the door, the EU is expected to grow further. Enlargement is one of the few ideas which seems to unite all the member states, but there are fears that unless the veto is curtailed, the result will be paralysis. The Commission did, however, stress that it did not envisage removal of the veto altogether-it should still be retained for 'constitutional' issues.
A further question relates to the system's democratic legitimacy. Those who argue that democracy has lost out in the EU's structure may have a point. Laws are proposed by an unelected Commission while national ministers, who are the 'legislators', do deals behind closed doors -although it should be recognised that the latter have a 'democratic' mandate (more or less) from their country's electorates. In fact, the powers of the European Parliament have increased significantly with successive treaty changes but it is still far from being the sovereign body in the system. Complexity is another problem that has resulted from the piecemeal granting of new powers to the Parliament.
As the Commission observes in the preamble to its report (reprinted below), the result is that there are now about 20 different procedures being used. The Commission would like to see this reduced to just three. In addition, the report talks of bringing national parliaments more fully into the process.
The Commission is also concerned about the way in which the two 'inter-governmental' pillars of the Union are operating-or, in many cases, failing to operate. Those who favoured closer integration at Maastricht were keen to see foreign policy/defence and justice/home affairs brought in to the system. Those who opposed moves towards a more 'federal' Europe were determined that this should not result in a loss of sovereignty. The result was a classic compromise. The Union would have responsibility for coordinating action in these areas but the 'supranational' Community would not- hence the two new pillars. The result, of course, is even more administrative complication and, as events have subsequently shown, the Union does not always act decisively or indeed speak with one voice.
Against an a la carte Europe
Finally, given the increasingly heterogeneous nature of the Union, the issue arises of how far one or a group of member states can choose to opt out of particular policy areas. For Jacques Santer, the idea of 'Union solidarity' is paramount and he therefore expressed opposition to permanent opt-outs. Recognising the political realities, however, he acknowledged that the system should be flexible enough to allow countries to move towards the Union's common goals at different speeds. Denmark and the UK already have opt-outs under the Maastricht Treaty but there is an understandable concern that too much fragmentation could put the whole edifice in danger.
In the coming months, the Commission's initial thoughts will be crystallised into more formal position papers and ultimately into a set of proposals which will be presented to the national governments. Although Jacques Santer, with his stress on 'no new competences', was keen to downplay the possibility of conflict between the key actors at the IGC, it is difficult to see how this can be avoided.
Measures to curtail national vetos, improve the democratic credentials of the Union (which must surely favour the Parliament) and strengthen the 'intergovernmental pillars', can hardly fail to alter the current institutional balance which heavily favours the Council of Ministers. For the Commission and, it would appear, the majority of member states, construction work on the EU should continue, even if the dreaded 'F' word (federal) is eschewed for diplomatic reasons. In some member states, the approach appears to be very different- the talk is of 'drawing a line in the sand' or perhaps even reverting to more inter-governmentalism with the 'repatriation' of certain common policies. Few of the leading actors are prepared to voice the opinion that these visions are directly in conflict with each other. At the moment, it is difficult to see how the conflict can be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. But then, the EU seems to have a knack of reconciling the irreconcilable.
We reprint here, the preamble of the Commission's report on the functioning of the Treaty on European Union which was published on May 10.
This report by the Commission is its response to the mandate of the Corfu European Council that the Community institutions review the operation of the Treaty on European Union. It is the first stage in a long and delicate process. It takes stock of the operation of an instrument that has been in force for only eighteen months. The fact that, in the run-up to the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, the institutions are each reviewing their collective modus operandi is a welcome step. Practical proposals on amendments to the Union Treaty will follow in due course.
The 1996 deadline was set in 1991. At that time the Union Treaty was a bold response to a novel situation. Objective analysis shows that it is better than its reputation would suggest. It has the merit of setting out a comprehensive approach to European integration, rather than a purely economic one. It has enhanced the European Parliament's powers, consolidated the Commission's legitimacy, launched Economic and Monetary Union, and generally reinforced the Union's capacities. It has mapped out the path to a stronger Union presence on the world political scene.
Acknowledging the Treaty's strengths, however, also allows us to identify its weak points and the shortcomings in its implementation. Through its critical analysis, the Commission will outline the path which it believes should be followed during the Intergovernmental Conference in terms of both form and content. Institutional questionss are obviously very important in a Community governed by the rule of law, but they should not blind us to the fundamental issues.
Two major challenges for Europe
The 1996 Intergovernmental Conference will be a key encounter for Europe and its future. The outcome will determine the shape of things European as the 21st century dawns. Two factors are especially decisive.
First, the Union's internal context has changed. The Maastricht Treaty ratification debate revealed that there was still a degree of scepticism about European integration. Europe is not easy for people to understand; many do not see what it is about. The same problem can also arise within an individual country, where the citizen may not always realise what policies are being followed in his or her name, or why. The distance between the citizen and the place where decisions are made, means that the problem is more acute in the Union, however.
So the first challenge is immediately obvious-to make Europe the business of every citizen. The emergence of open debate, covering all points of view on Europe, is in fact a happy opportunity: Europe is no longer deciding on its future behind closed doors.
The Commission does not regard the Union Treaty's objective of a Community closer to the citizen as merely an empty formula, but as a categorical imperative which guides its actions. The Commission will be listening to the views of ordinary men and women, and looking for common European ways of combatting unemployment, safeguarding the environment and promoting solidarity. Here, as elsewhere, the Commission will try to speak for the general interest.
The Commission is convinced that the solution to today's problems needs firm action at European level. None of our Member States can truly tackle the problems of unemployment and pollution on its own. Organised crime cannot be resisted by forces which are dispersed. Above all, there can be no effective foreign policy without the existence of joint action at the Union level. This does not mean that everything should be centralised. Subsidiarity means working out the right level for most effective action on whatever question is conceived. That level may be local, regional, national, European or, in some cases, even world-wide.
The context has altered not only within the Union. The international context has changed even more radically. The historic shock waves that began in 1989- on the Union's very doorstep-have not come to a halt. The changes following the fall of the Berlin Wall have borne fruit. The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe have made tremendous efforts, and they have confirmed their attachment to the values that are at the very basis of the Union. The Union, for its part, has committed itself to the integration of these countries.
Herein lies the second challenge. How are these countries to be welcomed into the Union without striking at the foundations of all that has been achieved in forty years of European integration? How, in other words, can we ensure that enlargement will not multiply our weaknesses but unite our forces ? How can we enhance our capacity to take decisions and act when our diversity becomes more pronounced ? Enlargement must represent a new arrangement worked out with our eyes open. We have to be aware of its implications for the institutions and policies of the Union. The Commission is convinced that there is an answer to these questions. There is no compelling reason why an endeavour based on a spirit of openness and solidarity should mean weakness and dilution: enlargement and deepening are perfectly compatible.
If these two challenges - making Europe the business of the citizen and making a success of future enlargement-are to be taken up, we must begin by reminding ourselves of the values and successes of European integration in the past.
The achievements of four decades of European integration
In the 1950s, as the principles which were to lead eventually to the signing of the Treaty of Rome were starting to take shape, the war was still in everyone's mind. The deep psychological scars which it left behind helped to create a consensus as to the basic objectives of European integration: the future would have to be different from the past. And the future has indeed turned out to be very different from the past. Europe has been at peace. Despite the tragedy of unemployment, and the social exclusion which is tearing at the fabric of our societies today, we must not forget that since the 1950s, Europe has been through a wholly unprecedented period of development.
In setting up a Community designed to last indefinitely, equipped with its own institutions, enjoying legal personality and internationally represented in its own name, the Member States have given their allegiance to an 'organisation of states' which is governed by legal provisions particular to the treaties under which it was set up, a fact which makes it fundamentally different from the organisations established by traditional international treaties. They have pooled their sovereign rights and created a new legal order, involving not just the Member States but also their citizens, in the specific fields concerned.
Thus there has sprung up a Community based on law. The states of which it is composed, whether big or small, enjoy equal rights and dignity. The Union which brings them together respects their different identities and cultures; but those differences do not stand in the way of their ability to take decisions and act. This is the fruit of an institutional system with many strengths. Thanks to the principle of subsidiarily, it strikes the proper balance between the Union, the Member States and the regions, it adds a new source of legitimacy common to the people of Europe and it guarantees the effective application of Community law under the review of the Court of Justice. Within this system the Commission plays an indispensable role, acting as the driving force through its right of initiative and its position as guardian of the Treaty. This right of initiative must be preserved intact, if the inevitable confusion and lack of overall direction which would result if there were multiple competing source of initiative, is to be avoided.
This Community is also a Community based on solidarity: solidarity between Member States, solidarity between regions, solidarity between different parts of society, and solidarity with future generations. The European model forges a fundamental link between the social dimension, human rights and civic rights.
This process of integration and the particular approach which it has followed have been keenly watched all over the world. Often, they have served as models for the regional groupings now coming into being in every corner of the globe. It can be said that Europe, the stage for the two greatest conflicts of the century, has-in creating the Community -invented a new form of government in the service of peace.
That is the Community's real achievement. Safeguarding it is vital for the states which form the European Union today and those which aspire to join it. But the progress we have seen since the 1950s has been made only by dint of constant effort; and the lesson of history is that it takes less effort to demolish than to construct and that no achievement is ever final. Merely pointing to past achievements, then, is not enough.
As always in the successive stages of building Europe, what will be needed is determination from the Member States and-more and more-determination on the part of Europe's citizens. They must make their voices heard in the ongoing task of European integration which concerns them so directly.
A twofold objective: democracy and effectiveness
As we look at the analysis in the Commission's report, two main elements emerge which will have to serve as guiding lines for the work of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference:
-the Union must act democratically, transparently and in a way
people can understand;
-the Union must act effectively, consistently and in solidarity. This is obvious when we are talking about its internal workings, but it must also be true in its external dealings, where it will have to bring a genuine, European identity to bear.
These, of course, were the objectives before the original drafters of the Treaty of Maastricht, but a look at the way the Treaty works in practice will show that a great deal remains to be done. The prospect of a Union expanded to include 20 Member States further underlines that necessity.
Democracy forms part of the very essence of the Union, while effectiveness is the precondition for its future. That is why those are the two criteria for assessing how the Treaty is working at the moment: and that assessment, in its turn, will produce the major guidelines the Commission will follow at the coming Intergovernmental Conference.
One of the Treaty's basic innovations in terms of democracy is the concept of European citizenship. The object of this is not to replace national citizenship, but to give Europe's citizens an added benefit and strengthen their sense of belonging to the Union. The Treaty makes citizenship an evolving concept, and the Commission recommends developing it to the full. Moreover, although the task of building Europe is centred on democracy and human rights, citizens of the Union have at this stage no fundamental text which they can invoke as a summary of their rights and duties. The Commission thinks this gap should be filled, more especially since such an instrument would constitute a powerful means of promoting equal opportunities and combating racism and xenophobia.
The Commission is delighted that the Union's democratic legitimacy has been strengthened. Making the Commission's appointment subject to Parliament's approval has been an important step in the right direction. The increase in Parliament's legislative powers is another welcome development.
But as decision-making has become more democratic, it has also become complex to an almost unacceptable degree. The 20 or so procedures in use at present should be reduced to three - the assent procedure, a simplified codecision procedure, and consultation. We must put an end to the inconsistencies and ambiguities which have so often sparked conflicts over procedural matters.
In addition to democratic control at the level of the Union, we need to find a way to involve national parliaments more directly and visibly in controlling and guiding the national choices that apply to the Union.
More generally, we need to dispel the obscurity which has descended on the Treaties as a result of successive additions being superimposed one on another. The time has come to simplify matters, drafting the whole text anew to make it more comprehensible. This need for transparency is both a practical and a political necessity.
In the same spirit of openness, the principle of subsidiarity, which took pride of place in the Union Treaty, has begun to change the attitudes of the institutions. Debate on the distribution of powers and the grounds for introducing each new proposal is becoming more regular. But we must go even further. All too often the concept of subsidiarity is put forward for specific or short-term ends as a way of diluting the Union. Yet subsidiarity can also be applied positively, to justify measures which are better taken collectively than in isolation. The full political significance of subsidiarity, as a commitment by the Member States and the institutions to find the best way of serving the citizens of the Union, needs to be underlined. The legitimacy of the institutions also needs to be strengthened. In this context, the Commission believes that Parliament should have the right to give its assent to any amendment to the Treaties.
Lastly, a particular effort should be focused on making our institutional machinery more effective. In the Commission's view, this means paying special attention to the common foreign and security policy and to justice and home affairs. Security at home and abroad are indeed legitimate priorities for every citizen.
The very fact that two different working methods - the Community approach and the intergovernmental approach-coexist in the same Treaty is a source of incoherence. Experience has confirmed the fears previously expressed on this subject. The single institutional framework which was supposed to ensure harmony between the various 'pillars' of the Treaty has not functioned satisfactorily. The proper lessons have to be drawn.
The experience of the common foreign and security policy has been disappointing so far, although we should be wary of making final judgments after only 18 months of its existence. However, the fact is that the possibilities have not been used to best effect, owing to the weaknesses of the Treaty as well as over-restrictive interpretation of its provisions. The Treaty sought to establish greater consistency between political and economic objectives of the Union, but this has not been fully achieved. Adjustments will have to be made so that overlap between different instruments does not lead to paralysis. The Union must develop a genuine common foreign policy commensurate with its economic influence and equipped with effective decision-making machinery; this cannot be achieved through systematic recourse to unanimity. The Treaty laid the foundation for such a policy, and the forthcoming conference should be used to erect an adequate framework for a genuine common security and defence policy, by building up the capabilities of the Western European Union and linking it to the existing common institutions.
Cooperation in justice and home affairs has been ineffectual, and not only because of the lack of coherence in the institutional framework. The instruments available are inappropriate, and the problem is compounded by the cumbersome decision-making process and a complete lack of openness. The Intergovernmental Conference will offer an opportunity to undertake a radical overhaul of these arrangements.
The reflections set out above show that the main issue during the conference will not be an increase in the Union's powers. The Treaty of Maastricht added a number of powers which make the Union a much more ambitious undertaking than it was in the past. One example is economic and monetary union. Here the path has been mapped out and there should be no renewed discussion on the provisions agreed. The recent turbulence on the currency markets merely serves to underline how vital this is.
The main focus will have to be on ways of improving decision-making mechanisms. The increase in the number of states and practical considerations ought naturally to lead to wider use of the majority rule. This will be even more necessary for future enlargements. However, it is absolutely vital that we preserve the nature of the Union as a true community of states and peoples where there is no inbuilt majority or minority.
Further enlargement will not only require the Union to strengthen its decision-making capacity, but will also force us to look more closely at the possibility of different speeds of integration. This concept already exists both in the context of economic and monetary union and in the system set up under the Schengen Agreement - although the latter regrettably still remains outside the Community framework. There is nothing unusual in allowing some Member States a longer period to adjust to certain policies. But it must, in the Commission's view, be done within a single institutional framework and must centre on a common objective. Those states must play their part by not blocking any of their partners who wish to move ahead more quickly.
Permanent exemptions such as that now applying to social policy, which in the last analysis have had the regrettable effect of excluding the Social Charter from the Treaty, create a problem, as they raise the prospect of an a /a carte Europe, to which the Commission is utterly opposed. Allowing each country the freedom to pick and choose the policies it takes part in would inevitably lead to a negation of Europe.
These, then, are the Commission's first thoughts on the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference. The Commission is proposing a Europe in which the different tiers of authority cooperate democratically and effectively to help solve the problems affecting ordinary Europeans. We want to see a strong and independent Europe, taking up its rightful place in the world. Strength requires internal cohesion. Europe must be much more than the sum of its parts. In the new international situation, Europe's role as a pole of stability is more important than ever. That is what is expected of us, but for the moment-as war continues to claim more victims on our continent-we are unable to provide it. Europe must speak with one voice, if major challenges are to be tackled effectively. We want to see a Europe whose people recognise themselves and each other, precisely because of their conviction that an active community with shared values is the key to a peaceful and prosperous future, and to a juster society for all. The Commission will make every effort to fulfil this ambition. It has set itself the task of demonstrating the importance and the potential of this goat for ordinary Europeans and ensuring that the Member States and the institutions are guided by a common interest. In doing so, it will be fulfilling its duty as 'guardian of the Treaty'.
by Frederick O. Marshth
The idea that 'trade is better than aid' in achieving long-term and sustainable development is widely accepted. One of the big disappointments of the past three decades has been the declining sham of world trade accounted for by developing countries outside Asia. Today, with liberal economics in the ascendant and trade barriers coming down, the issue is even more pressing. Many studies have been undertaken as to why so many developing countries have become marginalised in the global system of commerce, and what might be done to reverse this trend. Problems include identifying market opportunities (and the related issue of acquiring the necessary information! obtaining finance, acquiring entrepreneurial skills, having access to a skilled labour force and ensuring product quality. This article deals with the first of these-spotting export opportunities and finding out more about them. The focus is on the European market for pet accessories-just one example of a huge number of 'niche' markets in the developed world which developing country entrepreneurs might find worthy of investigation. And for those who think that the term 'niche market 'equals ' too small to be of interest' the author, who is a consultantin the field of pet products, provides some striking statistics. Pet products are surprisingly 'big' business' and the sector offers a range of business opportunities covering raw materials, semi-processed materials and finished products.
Not many people realise that 49% of the 132 million households in the EU (the figure prior to the latest enlargement) keep at least one pet. The pet population, excluding fish, totals 136m and includes 35m dogs, 35m cats and 45m cage birds. There are around 20m 'other small animals', a term which encompasses everything from guinea pigs and hamsters to spiders and exotic snakes. Lastly, there are ornamental fish which are kept in aquaria, bowls and garden ponds. These are to be found in at least 9.5 million European households and although it is difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate of the total number of fish kept as pets, the figure is thought to be around 141m.
The amount of money spent by European owners on their pets is well in excess of ECU 9 billion a year. Most of this goes towards food or health care products but 18% of the total (ECU 1.6bn) is spent on pet accessories. In real terms, this market is forecast to grow by more than 3% per year. This article will focus only on accessories for pets, since many of these can be and are sourced in developing countries.
One should be aware that the EU represents around one third of the total world market for pet products. The North American market is roughly the same size while the remaining third is accounted for by countries in the rest of the world, notably Australia, Japan, South America, South Africa, the Middle East and, increasingly, Russia and Eastern Europe.
The range of products defined as pet accessories is very wide-in excess of 5000 individual articles. Pet accessory manufacturers are, therefore, operating in a highly fragmented market and it is not surprising to find that there are many thousands of enterprises involved. The majority of these are quite small-often 'cottage industries'.
Dogs and cats
Collars available in a large range of materials, and in many colour combinations, fall under this heading. For dogs, there are also leads made of leather, chain, rope, nylon or a combination of these materials. Other canine products include car harnesses, muzzles, training equipment, 'chews' (made of knotted rope or buffalo hide) and scoops (for clearing up dog mess!), kennels and wicker baskets. There is even a 'fashion' market for dog coats. Many of these articles could be produced in ACP countries.
For cats, the largest single item is cat litter, around 1 million tonnes of which is sold in Europe every year. The raw materials are either minerals such as attapulgite, sepiolite, gypsum and bentonite or vegetable-based materials such as maize by-products or wood shavings. Other cat accessories include cat beds, litter trays and cat scratchers or scratching poles.
There are also more than one hundred different articles marketed under the heading of grooming accessories- brushes, combs, clippers, grooming tables etc. Again, many of these could offer production opportunities for ACP countries.
Birds and ornamental poultry
In addition to bird cages and aviaries, made from a variety of materials, and available in many different shapes and sizes, there are also fittings such as perches, swings and ladders, usually made of wood. Other accessories include toys, mirrors and feeding and drinking bowls. Further market opportunities exist in the field of accessories for racing doves and pigeons of which there are several million. Pigeon fanciers, who keep the birds for racing, view their activity as a sport and accordingly, these are not usually included under the heading of pets.
In environmentally-conscious Europe, there is considerable interest in wild birds and many people buy nesting boxes and feeding tables for their gardens. Most are made of wood but other materials, including coconut by-products are also used. Another popular accessory in this category is bird baths.
Other small animals and fish
Accessories for the former include cages and 'homes', exercise and play wheels, tunnels, drinking bottles for rodents and bedding material or litter. In the more specialised market for reptile accessories, terrariums and vivariums will usually contain sand and ground bark from particular trees as well as a range of other natural products used in crafted woodscapes and florascapes.
For fish, the market, other than tanks and bowls, ranges from very 'hightech' electrical equipment to basic materials such as gravel, sand, rock and tree roots. The latter are natural products which only require collecting, washing, sorting or grading. Aquarium gravel, for example, is available in many different colours, sizes and grades and the size of the European market for this product is somewhere in the region of 35 000 tonnes a year. Annual sales of marine salt for aquariums exceeds 1500t. A number of firms specialise in the production of crafted replicas of natural fossil. Aquarium plants are another specialised accessory. These are grown on farms in many countries. Singapore exports plants to the value of ECU 8.5 million each year. There is a related niche market for artificial aquarium plants while ornaments, including statuary for ponds (whether or not they contain fish), should not be overlooked.
Finally there are a number of accessories that are adaptable for different pets-toys, beds, feeding and drinking bowls and carriers made out of wicker, wood, metal and plastic.
Diverse product range
Manufacturers in ACP countries should be aware that the pet accessories market covers a diverse range of articles from simple raw materials such as rough rock for aquariums, through semi-processed articles to the finished product such as collars and leads. In short, there is a market for everything in this trade with market niches available in the low, medium and high price ranges.
In Europe, the distribution chain for pet accessories includes a specialist retail sector (pet shops, garden centres, seed merchants etc) as well as the general grocery sector whose outlets in some countries have a significant share of the accessory market. Specialist mail order businesses provide yet another distribution channel. One German firm, for example, publishes a 200 page mail order catalogue containing articles only for dogs. Almost every country has a pet trade press which published monthly magazines read by people working in the trade. In most countries, there is a national pet trade association which brings together manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Some of these also organise trade fairs. Trade fairs and exhibitions specialising in pet products including accessories are held in most European countries. The largest and most important of these is 'Interzoo' which is held biannually in Germany. Almost 600 firms from all over the world exhibit at this event, which attracts more than 18000 trade visitors.
Currently, most of the pet accessories from developing countries marketed in Europe come from Asia. This raises several questions.. Why only from this region? Is it because their producers and exporters are more innovative? After all, many of the raw materials are available in ACP countries. There are clearly manufacturing opportunities here for the ACPs -as long as exporters provide the right product in the right place, at the right time and at the right price. Could it be that nobody, as yet, has recognised the potential of the sector. Many ACPs have the requisite raw materials and labour force. If the necessary finance, management initiative and market information could be added to this, there is no reason why entrepreneurial firms in ACP countries should not succeed in carving out profitable niches in this growing market.
In Western countries, nongovernmental organisations, or NGOs, to use a more familiar term, have enjoyed considerable success over the last three decades, and it is now universally accepted that they have an effective role to play in the field of development cooperation. These omnipresent 'representatives of civil society' are engaged in a variety of activities to combat poverty including emergency aid, financing of development programmes, sending volunteers into the field, development education and lobbying. Given the breadth of their operations, NGOs have given a lot of thought as to what their role ought to be. It is a question that is also now being posed by their Southern counterparts who are becoming increasingly recognised.
By definition, NGOs cannot be discussed without referring to the other side of the coin, namely the state authorities. The distinction between the two seems to be becoming more and more blurred in certain areas. Could it be that the efficiency of many NGOs in responding to the genuine needs of people is proving to be a double-edged sword ? This is what a number of NGOs, fearful of losing their autonomy, seem to be telling themselves. The accusation is that governments and multilateral institutions are trespassing on NGO territory, seeing them as little more than inexpensive subcontractors-whose policies should be 'politically correct' in their terms. The 20-year long collaboration which has evolved between the European Union and NGOs, notably through the dialogue set up via the Liaison Committee, certainly cannot be described in this way. It is much more than a simple marriage of convenience. A further point is that Northern NGOs are no longer the sole beneficiaries of European financing in this area. The Union, nowadays, accords increasing importance to supporting NGOs in the South.
Financial resources are essential for the NGOs. They obviously
need substantial funds if they are to do their work properly, and the public
purse represents a major source of income-all the more so
in the current economic climate, where raising private funds is becoming increasingly difficult. Seduced by funding imperatives, some NGOs, have tended to favour marketing needs over ethics, a trend which is dangerous for the whole development cooperation sector, and also, unfortunately, for the efficiency of development actions. Some see this as a major fault of emergency aid. One cannot ignore the 'popularity' of emergency aid over development assistance, or the criticisms that have been levelled at the former. Do such criticisms stem from envy (because emergency programmes attract more attention and money) or is there a genuine incompatibility between the two ? A case can be made for the opposite argument, namely that emergency and development work are actually complementary, and that there is no need for friction between them.
These are some of the many questions facing the NGO community today which are discussed in this dossier.
by Bernard Ryelandt
The answer to this question can be given in just a few words: because development should not be solely the work of governments, North or the South. Governments need views and methods of development and cooperation which are different from their own. This need is felt all the more as evaluations of governments' own programmes have revealed a need for new and diversified approaches to be adopted. It has become increasingly clear that a technical approach to development, without sufficient participation by and mobilisation of the people concerned, frequently leads to limited and tenuous results and NGOs are both useful and effective in this respect.
We have witnessed, moreover, both within our own countries and in the developing states, a spontaneous mobilisation of the energies of individuals, groups and networks in favour of development. A Community with a human face which claims to be close to the initiatives of its citizens cannot disregard this, all the more so as the resources available to citizens are frequently limited in relation to the fields within which such initiatives operate.
As far as the European Community is concerned, cooperation with NGOs is not solely the task of the Commission officials whose job it is to administer cooperation policies and tools. The Council has also indicated an interest in them, most recently in its resolutions of 1991 and 1992. The European Parliament has shown a particular interest, voting in favour of a number of funding initiatives in this area. By its very nature, this institution is open and sensitive to trends in public opinion and it has supported NGOs from the early days. It is thanks to the combined efforts of the Parliament and the Commission that the first funds for the co-financing of NGOs were obtained and utilised in 1976. Let us consider this in greater detail.
All grassroots associations in the developing countries, and the NGOs which support them, are of fundamental importance. It is essentially their task to create genuinely participative development which is close to the people, close to what they perceive as their fundamental needs and in line with their ideas and methods. In the absence of this, the finest-sounding official programmes will not have the 'ballast' to remain afloat.
Another important advantage of grassroots associations and NGOs of both South and North is that they strive, in particular, to help those who are poor, marginalised and neglected-people who are often beyond the reach of national development policies and of international cooperation. This is not easy even for NGOs, but it can be said in their favour that many of them at least have tried.
The aim is not to set up a tension between NGOs and states, still less to deny that the latter play a key role, but rather to diversify efforts and approaches to development, in order to enable everyone to perform their role in societies with diverse structures. Much is being said about democracy at present, but we sometimes tend to forget that real and durable democracy within a political system is not possible without basic democratic structures and without recognition of the part which everyone has to play in socioeconomic development. Grassroots associations have a key task in this respect, and it is for NGOs to support them and for us, the public authorities, to support the NGOs to the extent they require.
The main thrust of action on the part of Northern NGOs and hence of official support for the latter must, therefore, aim, either directly or via development programmes, to provide institutional support to enable our Southern partners to act autonomously.
The official cooperation of the European Community needs to make room for European NGOs as they frequently have a better knowledge than public authorities of the situation in the field and of partners at grass-roots level. They also have original approaches to development. Admittedly, Northern NGOs often started out by doing the work themselves in the South. They still do this in many instances and often for good reason (for example where they are responding to a disaster, or where there is an absence of available local partners). Increasingly, however, their principal reason for being involved is to provide support for programmes and to supply institutional backing for their partners. A new type of partnership is evolving here-one in which it is no longer acceptable to be a 'silent partner'.
Adherence to such principles is now essential in most developing countries. Action by grassroots associations has increased greatly in these countries, even in Africa where the trend is much more recent.
Finally, those responsible for cooperation policies also need NGOs because of the part they play in the North. The mobilisation of people to promote development has already been mentioned, but there is more. A true cooperation policy helps to counter simplistic ideas, prejudices and political and economic interests. After all, the Southern beneficiaries of cooperation policies do not get to vote at the next election for the Northern politicians who would be willing to assist them. Such politicians therefore need a development lobby to counterbalance the lobbies defending other powerful interests.
The NGOs must also exert constant pressure on public opinion and governments for new, more balanced approaches to international relations to be adopted, with recognition of the basic interdependence of North and South. Finally they are called upon to express the views of the people and NGOs of the South in our societies.
A central area of cooperation between the Community and NGOs has, since 1976, been the co-financing of structural development activities, in other words, development projects in developing countries, and awareness-raising within Europe.
I would like to draw attention to one original feature of this area of cooperation. Although it is obviously intended to achieve the broad general objectives of European cooperation policy, which are also those of the NGOs, the latter are never treated simply as executive agencies, there to achieve the specific objectives of the public authorities. Funding is given to support initiatives taken by NGOs themselves, as the representatives of civil society. The focus is on identifying more specific objectives, through consultation between the NGOs and the Commission or the Parliament, leading to concerted action.
But the role of the NGOs has, at the instigation of both the public authorities and the NGOs themselves, extended to encompass all the cooperation policies of the Community. A well-known example is provided by emergency aid, an area where NGOs play an important part. There are many other examples: food aid, specific action in particular sectors or countries and action taken within official programmes.
A large number of administrative bodies are obviously involved and these sometimes lack awareness of the specific nature of NGOs and the need for them to maintain their autonomy. These bodies, including the Community institutions, naturally want to see NGOs provide assistance in the pursuit of specific objectives. And overall, there is a problem in obtaining a minimum degree of coherence between the actions of the various authorities involved in development. In the light of these factors, it is inevitable that problems and misunderstandings will arise - all the more so as a number of organisations which claim to be NGOs behave more like consultancy offices conducting research into the availability of contracts.
If we do not wish to kill the goose which lays the golden eggs and hope to retain the original approach of NGOs which is essentially the reason for the importance we attach to them, problems must be faced openly. We must learn to combine the objectives and methods of the NGOs and the public authorities, while respecting the part played by each and, as part of this, the autonomy of NGOs. This cannot be achieved without genuine consultation between the parties about both general policies and specific programmes.
This will undoubtedly be difficult, but it is by no means impossible, if the two sides adhere to an appropriate code of conduct. One important element is the rule that, except in areas or cases where a contrary course of action can be justified, the public funding should take the form of co-financing, with the NGOs' own contribution constituting evidence of the mobilisation of the particular group which it represents.
We come across them during fund-raising campaigns. We sometimes follow their activities on TV. Perhaps we read their literature. But what do we really know about 'non-governmental organisations'-a term which encompasses a great variety of groups and structures. Other than a few NGOs, whose work is so well known that it needs no further promotion, the answer to this question is probably 'very little', Many of them like to cultivate an air of mystery. But their role is not something that is cast in tablets of stone. Indeed, today, many are in the process of redefining their own identity.
Defining the expression 'nongovernmental organisation' is a risky exercise. It may include voluntary organisations, 'solidarity' agencies, international NGOs, so-called 'quasi-NGOs' and a variety of other arrangements. There is, in fact, no overall consensus as to what an NGO is. They are set up under national legislation and the legal conditions and procedures therefore vary from country to country. It is interesting to note, in this context, that the name NGO has recently been abandoned in France in favour of ASI (International Solidarity Association).
One can, of course, try to pinpoint certain common basic criteria. There is the idea that an NGO should be a private, non-profit-making body. One might mention the 'linking' of North and South as an essential feature, while recognising that NGOs are also interested in tackling poverty in their own countries. A key element may be the motivation of those involved-a desire to act as part of a society but without state control. This last 'criterion' conveniently ignores the fact that many NGO projects are direct offshoots of action taken by governments.
It is an interesting phenomenon that the general public has faith in NGOs and supports them, even if their compassion in the face of world poverty is only rarely aroused. By contrast, the attitude to governments is less indulgent-indeed, there is often harsh criticism of the actions of state institutions. This is the non-governmental/governmental dichotomy which is expressed in people's minds as a preference for efficiency over bureaucracy, altruism over self-interest, and concern for human welfare over entrenched political and economic interests. The media constantly reinforce the dichotomy. But in practice, NGOs cannot be neatly categorised like this. The one thing they are not, is a homogeneous whole. The key point about NGOs is their diversity, and it is from this diversity that they draw their strength.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, we have witnessed a veritable explosion of NGOs. According to the OECD, there were approximately 1600 in western countries in 1980, 2500 in 1990 and, today, we are well past the figure of 3000. There are naturally differences from country to country, particularly in terms of size. Oxfam UK, for example, which is a massive NGO, does not have an equivalent in any other European country. There are also big differences in numbers. France and Germany have a great many NGOs while other countries have fewer. In some countries, they have a long tradition of working in the field while in others, the sector has only emerged recently. The UK has some organisations that date back to the last century and most of the big ones came into being before the Second World War. In Spain, on the other hand, the first NGO was established only in 1942, with the real growth taking place during the 1980s. National traditions also reveal themselves if one looks at the origins of NGOs. In Catholic countries, 'cooperation' activity developed almost exclusively along religious lines. Elsewhere, the phenomenon was linked more to anti-establishment traditions. In Scandinavian countries, a further element was the voluntary spirit and a desire to build society based on consensus with the State. This corporatist approach is also found, to some extent, in the Netherlands.
Another distinction may be made between so-called denominational NGOs and so-called secular ones. The former, to varying degrees, are nun along religious lines, either deriving directly from one of the churches or having been closely linked to a religious denomination in the past. The relationship does not necessarily influence the NGO's actions although some make the delivery of a Christian missionary message part of their work. The phrase evangelical NGO is therefore in common use. Others, go even further, seeing the 'message' as the central purpose. This might be said of NGOs who work closely with organisations such as Opus Dei or some of those that have been established by smaller sects. As regards 'secular' NGOs, a key distinction is whether or not they belong to a wider structure or not Many emanate from structures such as trades unions, political parties, international organisations or other social organisations. Here too, the link may be more or less intimate and may be reflected in their actions. Many make no effort to conceal their origins (though some do, particularly if they were set up by organisations like the CIA!). Again, this relationship is often linked to national traditions; hence, for example, all German political parties have their accredited NGO.
Belonging to a structure may represent a source of additional finance for the NGO. This is the case particularly with many denominational NGOs, often working in networks, which benefit from a portion of the tax received by the Church to which they are affiliated. On the other hand, 'political' NGOs are sometimes forbidden to raise their own funds and depend totally on the government in Germany). This distribution of own resources/public funds varies widely according to the NGO's reputation and also varies from country to country. Dependence on public funds runs at somewhere between 15% and 20% in France and Germany. In the United Kingdom it is 40%. In the case of Italy, Sweden and Norway, it may be as high as 80%. It should be noted that Sweden and Norway do not offer tax allowances for private donations, which partly explains their low level.
By virtue of this financing, some NGOs (often those with very strong foundations) focus their efforts on a great variety of subjects, whilst others favour more specific actions. 'Specialised NGOs' are becoming increasingly numerous and, over the years, new areas of activity have supplemented traditional ones such as education, hunger and health. There is the environment, obviously, but also human rights, debt reduction or disarmament. Over the last 10 years or so, two major subjects have cropped up, namely youth and women. In these areas, NGOs have clearly played an important role in influencing official policy. Often, moreover, NGOs are quick to defend causes, taking up a dear and sometimes radical political position. Unfortunately, this is usually a reaction to official policies rather than a preventive measure. Their role is no longer restricted to setting up micro-projects as they did 30 years ago or to providing humanitarian aid as portrayed by the media, always eager to highlight catastrophes. Today, NGOs are increasingly seeking to influence international political and economic relationships.
From early missionaries to advocates of the Third World
Often, when NGOs are differentiated in terms of their role or their mission within the development sector, three distinct categories can be identified:
-emergency or humanitarian-aid NGOs;
-development NGOs, subdivided into financing NGOs (offering technical support or funds) and operational NGOs (working with local groups or sending out their own staff);
-development education NGOs (raising awareness in schools, running information and mobilisation campaigns, lobbying, etc.).
The distinction is not a clear-cut one, however. Although some NGOs are involved solely in one specific type of action, more and more of them are mixing their activities nowadays, above all, in respect of development and development education. In addition, the adoption of political stances is not something that has occurred overnight. There has been a great deal of serious debate about the work of NGOs. David Korten, who has studied the subject, has identified three 'generations' of approach to development in the work of NGOs.
The first contemporary NGOs came into being just after the First World War, often as direct offshoots of the Church. Initially, they concentrated their activities on responding to the needs of the victims of a war-torn Europe and only gradually did they turn their attention towards countries in the South. This humanitarian assistance did not remain the sole prerogative of missionaries and the churches for long, as groups of volunteers set up organisations in a non-denominational setting. The approach of the first 'generation' was simplistic. The basic message was; 'If these people are hungry, it is because they have no food. We will therefore give them food'. NGOs were thus responding to immediate and concrete need.
The second approach, which coincided with the wave of independence at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, was born of debate about the model which had hitherto predominated. The number of NGOs was increasing and their activities were diversifying. Henceforth, it was no longer simply a question of providing assistance in the face of the symptoms of poverty. The new objective was to enable the people affected to take on responsibility for themselves. NGOs focused their energies on developing the victims' ability to meet their needs through local actions. Schumacher's phrase, 'small is beautiful', gave rise to the development of health committees to implement preventive measures or introduce agricultural practices. Although, at the beginning of this second period, many NGOs were attempting to reproduce the western model, the desire to maintain the economic and political independence of local populations was rapidly to become more important, a desire for independence upheld by new emergent political concepts on the part of intellectuals in the South, such as liberation theologists.
Although the main models offered to the Third World spoke only in terms of delayed development and of macro-economic growth whose positive effects would influence the poor, a new ideological debate was taking place within the NGO community. The thesiss was that poverty is a result of the unfair distribution of wealth and resources, and of an unequal balance of power, both in national and international terms. This debate undoubtedly contributed to a growing recognition of the fundamental role of NGOs in the overall development process. In fact, NGOs whose main focus was support for local projects were soon to become aware of the limits of such an approach; limits based on political and economic interests. Since the beginning of the 1970s, and in the wake of leftist trends and the advent of the New World Economic Order, a third generation has appeared - that of sustainable development. The nature of poverty has become political. It is recognised that micro-projects seldom produce results except on a small scale, and corruption, embezzlement, exploitation and international relations founded solely on self-interest have the effect of sustaining local inertia. To reverse the trend, development programmes and projects must be accompanied by lobbying and development education. In parallel with this new role as Third World advocate, Northern NGOs have increasingly offered support to NGOs from the South, the latter being increasingly recognised as necessary partners in combating the causes of poverty.
A new debate
This evolution and the successes arising from it inevitably pose new challenges for NGOs. Hit by recession, and occasionally involved in ferocious financial competition, NGOs have had difficulty in refusing the public money sometimes offered them. This development serves to emphasise their ever closer relationship with state organisations. Although the attention of the state may seem beneficial, NGOs should not lose sight of their non-governmental identity, their independence and their specific character. Nor should they shirk their responsibility to their 'base' or to the people in the South whom they support. Many NGOs feel threatened by sponsors and governments who want to use them for their own ends and who therefore oblige them to comply with their standards and priorities. In this context, some authors speak of increased homogenisation of NGOs. Emergency aid, although a specific case, with its unprecedented involvement in conflicts, merely serves to confirm the trend.
Many governments have also begun to 'hunt' actively in areas that Northern NGOs regard as their own territory, seeking ways of dealing directly with Southern NGOs. Increased recognition of the latter poses a serious challenge to Northern NGOs, although few would dare to admit it. The famous NorthSouth NGO 'partnership' remains, in many cases, a dominator/dominated relationship, the former obviously being the one who has the money while the latter is the 'beneficiary', placed under supervision. To put an end to this paternalistic attitude, Northern NGOs need more than fine words. They have to work to establish a new and real partnership (this was one of the major topics of the conference which followed the NGO General Assembly in April). One requirement in this regard is clearly to support Southern colleagues- who seek money rather than 'meddling' in consolidating their capabilities.
Another serious aspect which NGOs need to reflect on and confront is the difficulties they have in working seriously together in the development sector. As Korten remarks, it appears easier, despite the frictions in the relationship, to collaborate with governments. The few identified instances of genuinely coordinated activity usually only involve NGOs with similar leanings. Yet common formulation of strategies in the medium and long term is crucial for better development.
There are other elements to be considered in the debate about NGOs. There is, for example, the move towards more professionalism which is clearly underway. Private fund-raising is also a subject which has engendered criticism. Although we cannot yet speak of a genuine identity crisis, the NGOs are unquestionably at a fuming point in their history. They must negotiate in the name of the civil society they claim to represent, if they are to maintain the reputation they have deservedly gained for themselves through past actions-as tried and tested, competent and efficient structures for combating poverty.
by Moussa Ba
At a time when a number of African stat" seem close to collapse, the need to strengthen NGOs takes on an even greater significance. But NGOs face numerous difficulties, in particular their dependence on external resources, limited skills and problems of adaptation.
To speak of NGOs necessarily involves discussing the 'phenomenon of association'. Many analysts, particularly in the West, see this as a contemporary state of affairs but those who know black Africa well, are aware that 'association' has always been an important element. In fact, the associative structure, which may be summed up as one where there is a solidarity, mutual cooperation and respect for hierarchies, has, in some rural areas, long been the basis of all social and economic relationships. There is no need here to look any further into this model, which is inherent to the African tradition. Nowadays, a consensus appears to have emerged when speaking about 'association' based on non-state structures, as devised by the West to facilitate North/ South contacts. The shaping of African associations in the form of NGOs has followed on from this. However, if one analyses the way African NGOs have come into existence, two distinct approaches can be identified. There are those that were established by Northern NGOs, which saw them as intermediaries, and those that were set up voluntarily, on local initiative, for a variety of reasons.
Most intermediary NGOs came into being between 1970 and 1985. In the wake of repeated droughts, problems had become so acute in Africa that the majority of western NGOs, principally suppliers of food, were obliged to take on the role, in the field, of food producers. They were involved on such a scale that many took on environmental restructuring work, either in association with recipient communities (village groups), or by requesting assistance from those with local influence in the form of technical support. In this latter case, restructuring sometimes led to the creation of an African branch of the NGO.
This movement to support the creation of local structures also coincided with the advent of participatory development projects which required the initiative to come from grass roots groups with a certain degree of organisational independence. Accordingly, for practical reasons relating to the volume of work, and financial ones (donor support was needed and they were attaching increasing importance to where the demand originated, in their financing decisions) NGOs from the North devised new approaches. Some set up brand new NGOs in the South, others distanced themselves from action in the field by encouraging local people to take over, creating autonomous structures, while others still monitored the evolution of 'new-loom' recipient organisations.
In the second case, NGOs made up of African volunteers generally include Africans in positions of authority who are either independent (because they do not belong to the political class) or 'from the Left' (because of their opposition to the policies and practices of those running the country). A number of the leading participants in local NGOs are otherwise unemployed. The people involved have various motives. It may be a sense of solidarity towards a rural world which is becoming increasingly poverty-stricken in the wake of repeated catastrophes such as droughts or locust plagues. It may be a reaction to the limitations of Westem NGOs, the more 'voluntary' of which are sometimes viewed as little more than 'enthusiasts' or perhaps even 'tourists'. Finally, the motive may be one of necessity,NGOs having become a source of genuine job-creation.
Owing to the legal void regarding NGOs in Africa, a group of friends (generally intellectuals living in the towns) are able to set themselves up as an NGO on the sole basis that they want to form one. Hence the proliferation of such bodies in Africa over the last 10 years. They include groups which profess to support development and service-type NGOs. The former are often unions or federations of grassroots bodies which are thus confused with their social base. The latter, on the other hand, specialising in training techniques, furnishing loans, literacy programmes, and so on, are more reminiscent of their Northern counterparts.
Scarcity of resources
African NGOs are sometimes guilty of amateurism. They often rely heavily on the voluntary spirit, using people with no professional qualifications, and it is rare for those in charge to have any technical training. When it was simply a case of carrying out charitable acts there were no particular problems with this. Goodwill coupled with a certain amount of organisational sense was sufficient. However, when one is talking about support in spheres such as agriculture, business or hydraulics, problems of efficiency do arise, problems which are made worse by an obstinate desire to work in isolation and without recourse to technical subcontracting (which, it must be admitted, requires financial resources that the NGOs do not have).
The old proverb 'Practice makes perfect' is a widely held belief in many NGOs, so it is not surprising that some observers describe the work they do as amateurish. Nevertheless, we can see a gradual change taking place. A number of African NGOs are seeking to improve their performance levels, either by recruiting qualified personnel, or by training their people in technical subjects. Unfortunately, there is a feeling that some Northern partners are not particularly enthusiastic about these new demands. The tendency is for these partners to give preference to management and monitoring tasks, to the detriment of efforts aimed at encouraging human resource development within African NGOs. Nowadays, while support for organisational and institutional aspects is generally acknowledged, the practice suggests that it is rarely an unbridled success. The priority is still to obtain a return from activities.
Financial resources are also scarce. African NGOs do not, unlike their Western counterparts, have members and sympathisers making regular contributions to the financing of their activities. Moreover, few of them develop an initiative to raise funds internally and it is unlikely that they would receive finance from their own government (even the limited encouragement granted in the past, such as exemption from taxes and import duties on equipment, is being called into question). The NGOs are therefore totally dependent on the finance they receive from their public or private partners in the West. This restricts both their development and the efficiency of the support they can give. On the planning side, they have no margin for manuvre, since funds are received on the basis of projects. The NGOs, therefore, have to get by on what they are offered. In blunt terms, there is no 'life' beyond the confines of the project. The projects generally relate to highly specific activities which have been evolved for target populations and the NGO will be reimbursed by the sponsor only for work carried out within the context of these activities. As for the other possible activities, the organisation has to come to terms with the fact that it has insufficient resources-a situation which encourages dishonest behaviour such as embezzlement, inaccurate activity reports and so on. Finally, their lack of resources leads to increased competition between NGOs, which does not facilitate exchanges of experience, means and tools, although such exchanges are indispensable. In this context, the few rare exchanges which do take place between NGOs are based on need and generally developed on the basis of a psychological affinity.
This dual poverty accentuates, furthermore, the two imperatives of a population's needs and a donor's priorities. In fact, both are changing: NGO work has progressed from emergency actions to development actions, implemented through micro-projects. These days, they include economic activities and there is a growing tendency to take account of the need for political affirmation and participation. African NGOs have great difficulty in keeping up with this evolution and many of them are out of step with the real needs of the populations they are supporting. Moreover, donor priorities are also changing. The humanitarian and geopolitical considerations which used to form the principal motivation are no longer the main priority. The emphasis is now on respect for human rights, the establishment of democracy or economic freedom. These new priorities have the appearance of requirements and, even when shared, create genuine problems for African NGOs who then appear to be 'left behind' in terms of donors' expectations.
NGOs and civic society
Nowadays, the proliferation of African NGOs offers both promise in terms of civil society but also cause for concern. Hope is drawn from the fact that the very existence of NGOs is evidence of a type of popular civil society. Indeed, it would appear that the many people's associations, their federations and the bodies which support them, aim to give some say to all the 'little people' who have hitherto been oppressed and manipulated by those in power. It also appears that these organisations, which are flourishing throughout Africa, are in the process of progressively assuming a negotiating role, becoming aware of their responsibilities and offering a certain resistance to power. In this context, African NGOs are, consciously or unconsciously, on the way to setting up an 'intermediate authority' something which has long been lacking between African states and their populations.
Yet there is also concern. The development of some NGOs without significant links with or contributions from the grass-roots, and whose main motivation is the satisfaction of their own material requirements, makes some observers fear the emergence of a parallel administration within the NGOs. It is also a recognised fact that NGOs are being set up without those in charge having the least idea of how such an organisation should operate and these are intervening sporadically, according to the financial opportunities offered to them. Given this proliferation of intermediate structures, which are accused of lining their own pockets, some NGOs (which generally identify with their social base) are calling for clarification.
It has also been noted that there are some NGOs which rely on 'ready-made' ideas, generally reflecting their sponsors' expectations. They offer little encouragement for the necessary maturing of the concepts that should underpin the work they do with the population at large. Moreover, most are barely competent to monitor properly the communities they support. Their results are often disparate and short-term, and it is rare for such NGOs to offer an 'after-aid' service.
Most African NGOs, often preoccupied with their portfolio of activities, are incapable of measuring or assessing the impact of their actions in order to capitalise on and develop changes which would facilitate genuine participation on the part of the people they support. In this context, they often demonstrate a fear of political action. In fact, rather than acting as the provider of emergency aid in crises provoked by state mismanagement, the NGOs would do better to devote themselves to actions with a more political bias. They must become less 'neutral' in their work. In particular, African NGOs should be aware of their role as a balancing power and of the political character of the support they offer. They must define appropriate strategies to favour the full participation of the people in their own development. However, in this respect, despite a wealth of experience acquired over the years, most African NGOs still lack a 'critical mass of analysts' to assist them in defining relevant methods and strategies in order better to perform their tasks of monitoring the grass roots populations they claim to represent.
Despite all the problems they encounter, African NGOs are today acknowledged as essential players in the socio-economic and political reconstruction currently going on in the continent As they develop, the concerns set out above will doubtless diminish. The hopes that are attached to them will not prove to be misplaced.
by Genevieve de Crombrugghe.
For several years, NGOs in the South have been able to benefit from wider support than the traditional formula of financing projects on an individual basis. Although this financing of institutional support offers a way to improve the collaborative relationship between the various parties involved, it is nevertheless still underutilised.
Northern NGOs involved in development in the South can be split into two major categories. Firstly there are the operational ones who, themselves, manage their actions in the field by engaging expatriate and local staff, often in collaboration with local private or public bodies. Secondly there are the financing NGOs who pay for the activities of local partner organisations. The role of these financing NGOs is to offer support to their partners in the South in a variety of fields, generally defined by mutual agreement between the two. A further role is to ensure regular monitoring -of the partner's operation, its methods of involvement and the results it achieves. Although financing NGOs were quite rare 20 years ago, there has been a considerable increase in their number in the intervening period.
The public co-financing systems of NGOs in the North were set up at a time when most NGOs took the form of organisations which were operational in the held. This situation has largely determined the context in which the co-financing rules have been established. The most widespread system is financing on the basis of individual projects. Here, the Northern NGO submits to its co-financer, one or more activities which will be conducted in the field. The projects must be described with precision and include a detailed budget. They are examined in depth by the co-financing authority and, if the assessment is positive, the financing undertaking generally covers a period of three to five years. Various external opinions are generally sought at this preliminary phase, which enhances the reliability of the opinion but gives rise, on occasion, to very long delays in decision-making. Since priority is given to these preliminary examinations, there often remains little time for the co-financing authority to monitor the projects throughout their implementation.
Although this system is relatively well adapted to the projects of operational NGOs who work in the field, it is less well-suited to the working requirements of the financing NGOs which support the activities of their partners in the South.
In the South, the term NGO is used for many different types of organisation. They may be small grassroots groups (of villagers, women, etc.) or federations of grassroots groups (local, regional or even national) which offer services to their members. Alternatively, they may be support organisations which offer technical and/or financial back-up for local initiatives. Some of these NGOs are inexperienced 'novices' while others have acquired know-how and obtained results in the field which are recognised locally and in NGO circles in the North.
Most Southern NGOs seek financing from more than one NGO in the North. firstly to augment their capacity for involvement and secondly in an attempt to guarantee a regular income by distributing the risks of delay, suspension or cancellation on the part of the Northern partner. It is obvious that the formula for financing on the basis of individual projects is ill-suited to Southern NGOs but, in fact, it gives rise to inconvenience for both parties.
The Southern NGO has to divide its general programme into a number of parts which are then submitted individually in the form of independent projects to different partners in the North. It must also prepare separate accounts for each of its Northern partners, to justify the amounts received. Put briefly, this does not stimulate healthy management or consistent and transparent accounting on the part of the organisation.
The Northern NGO is generally aware of the problems that financing on the basis of individual projects poses for its partner in the South, but it has to make such financing a condition for obtaining funds. There is then a tendency for its monitoring to be centred solely on the specific actions it finances rather than the overall operation of its partner.
The co-financing agency will rarely possess the information necessary to assess the quality of the working methods and field results of the Southern NGO and will have to take a decision based on very little data.
The most recent version of the General Co-financing Conditions for European NGOs, published by the EC Commission in 1988, included a new article which responds better to the requirements of the financing NGOs and their partners in the South. It refers to institutional support for organisations in the South and makes it possible to finance part of the general activity of Southern NGOs and to cover part of their operating expenses. The reports and accounts which must be submitted under the rules are documents covering the full range of the NGO's activities, something which it should, in any case, have prepared for its own management purposes.
The aim of the new article was to encourage European NGOs to support the development of organisations in the South by improving their ability to render services based on local development initiatives and by encouraging their efforts to achieve greater operational independence. To enable these aims to be achieved, the financing rules of the new system leave the organisation in the South a wide degree of initiative in its choice of actions and encourage it to manage its activities and finances properly by concentrating on overall management.
The motive behind the new article is a worthy one opening the door to an improvement in collaborative relationships between all those involved; the Southem NGO, the Northern one and the co-financing agency. A study on the way in which this new opportunity has been put to use was carried out in 1992-93. This reveals that some Southern NGOs have benefited considerably from the new financing system introduced to them by their Northern partners.
The study shows, however, that the facility is under-utilised by Northern NGOs. A number of reasons have been put forward: for example, the article was presented as experimental in nature and limited to a period of two years, with evaluations of contributions in kind, accepted for projects, not being admitted. A survey of some 20 European NGOs, conducted in the context of the study, indicated that some Northern NGOs were not aware of the new opportunity and had, therefore, been unable to inform their partners in the South about it.
The study also included a survey of NGOs in the South, some of whom had benefited from financing under the terms of the new article and others who had not. Overall, Southern NGOs that had obtained financing under the arrangement were extremely satisfied. The following are a few advantages of this financing system cited by them: it enables NGOs in the South to develop an integrated and non-sectoral approach to their actions; it enables financers to support this global approach; it enables the NGO to adapt to the requirements of the field within which it operates without being tied to a number of achievements it has to accomplish within the context of an allocated subsidy; and it helps to enable the NGO to consolidate its internal functioning.
Virtually all the Southern NGOs interviewed for the study who had not received this new type of financing were unaware that the opportunity existed. Such organisations were extremely interested in this innovation.
The role of financing NGOs from the North
Some Southern NGOs which are managed properly and are well developed, want to obtain direct access to public financing or co-financing authorities (without going through an NGO from the North). This direct access is currently possible in a limited number of cases, both within the EC Commission (for example within certain Asia/Latin America - budget lines) and within the Ministries of Cooperation in certain European countries (for example Switzerland). In reality, in order to bypass the NGO from the North in a financing relationship with a Southern NGO, the financing agency has to take on all the functions of the Northern NGO. This is possible when the agency deals with a very limited number of Southern NGOs, but it becomes more difficult to achieve when the number of partners is large.
It would be useful, here, to refer to the different roles of the financing NGO from the North:
-an identification role: the Northern NGO must know its Southern
counterpart well, and vice versa, before entering into a partnership. It must
assess the working methods, the system of management and the field results of
the Southern NGO to gain a good understanding of what type of support will be
useful. It must explain its own working methods, the types of technical and
management support it is able to offer, its financial resources and its access
to public funds.
-a support role: the Northern NGO must assess the development objectives of its partner in the South, determine-together with the latter-the areas where it needs reinforcing, and seek the most effective and least expensive ways of achieving this.
-a monitoring role: the Northern NGO is responsible for the proper use of the public and private funds allocated to its partner and, to do this, it has to organise a monitoring system that enables it to guarantee that the funds granted are used sensibly. In essence, this monitoring must cover the internal dynamics of the Southern NGO, its development strategies and the methods used for implementing them, and the quality and transparency of its management. This type of monitoring involves regular visits by agents from the Northern NGO to its Southern partner, regular exchanges of correspondence and a number of visits by the latter to the headquarters of the former.
-an information role: the Northern NGO has to utilise its direct access to actual conditions in the South in order to inform the public in countries in the North about the day-to-day living conditions of people in the South. This information must enable the Northern public to understand the relationship which exists between development in both North and South, and the importance of solidarity between them.
A number of Southern NGOs are highly appreciative of the services offered by NGOs from the North and are eager to maintain the link with this intermediary which knows them well, supports them and monitors them. Obviously, not all financing NGOs from the North offer the same quality of service. Southern NGOs seeking direct access to public financing agencies are perhaps those who are most dissatisfied with their partnership with NGOs from the North.
The NGDO-EU Liaison Committee is the preferred means of communication between the NGOs and the European Union. We interviewed its recently elected President, Agostinho Jardim Gonves. A chaplain and Portuguese journalist, Mr Gonves has had long experience the development cooperation sector. Having, in the past, been a representative of CCHD, chairman of the 'Latin American' group of the CISDE and also a National Director of the international press agency 'Inter-Press service 'in Portugal, he is now the founder and Director of OIKOS in his country. We asked him first about how he saw his new role as President of the Liaison Committee.
-I think that the role of President is essentially to give coherence to the various organisations making up the Committee while at the same time providing the Committee with the verve, impetus and dynamism which it needs, given that it is made up of people with very different experiences. Preference should not be given to any one type of experience. They must all be employed to engender the dynamism which is the Committee's aim. In the past, the Presidency has been held by people from the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and France. Now it has passed, for the first time, to someone from a southern European country, and to one of the more recent members of the KU. I am very much aware of my responsibility to conserve, coordinate and implement, but also of the fact that the culture to which I belong is a southern European one. I think that this meeting of different cultures and consultation between them should further enrich the work of European NGOs.
· The great strength of NGOs clearly lies in their richness of experience and diversity. Is it possible to maintain this diversity in a Liaison Committee that brings together more than 700 organisations ?
-The NGOs reflect a European reality. We are working for the European Union, but are concerned to ensure that we do not lose the richness which results from our diversity. This applies both to the construction of Europe and to the civil societies in which the NGOs are rooted, which give them their significance. The Liaison Committee does not intend to standardise the work of the NGOs. We offer a forum in which the various NGOs are able to share their history, experience and opinions. We work together, helping in the construction of Europe in the specific context of solidarity with developing countries through cooperation. The way of achieving this differs from one country to another and from one NGO to another. We have no desire to lose the richness that arises from the spontaneity of NGO work, nor do we want to create something which is too standardised and which will, therefore, impoverish their work.
· Is this diversity something that is reflected in the links which the Committee has with the European Union ?
-The Committee is a privileged partner in dialogue with the European institutions-and is accepted as such-as regards development cooperation policies. It signals the fact that the societies of the 15 EU countries still possess vitality. The NGOs of the North and South alike have full freedom to submit projects or programmes, or to determine acceptance or rejection criteria with the Commission, and the Liaison Committee is there to pass on their wishes and demands. The Committee is therefore the arena for debate over the scale of the contribution to be made by NGOs to the construction of a Europe which shows solidarity. All this is part of a continuous dialogue.
However, there is another problem at the level of the Liaison Committee which is knowing just what is represented by it. Does it simply represent the big NGOs; those that are sufficiently large to be able to tackle certain matters, to develop their lobbying activities or to have significant projects in developing countries ? Or is it also open to small NGOs and associations that want to develop their work in the field of solidarity ? For my part, I think that there is no clear answer. It is something that needs to be handled at an individual country level. After all, it is there that things are actually happening. I wouldn't say that there is a conflict over this issue, but there is a certain lack of alignment and an obvious difference in the power of the large and small NGOs.
One of the decisions of the last General Assembly was to reinforce the links between the Liaison Committee and national platforms. I think that up to now, despite all the efforts that have been made, it has not yet proved possible to establish a truly fruitful institutional relationship between the Committee and the national platforms. This is a claim made by the NGOs from various countries and also by Member States. The Liaison Committee has a duty to ensure that the activities of national platforms make a significant contribution to the dynamism of the EU-developing country relationship, and to include both large and small NGOs in this.
· NGOs actually have a duty to coordinate their activities. But doesn't the search for funds, and the resulting competition mean that this is riffle more than fine words ?
-Competition is more talked about than actually encountered. It is true that NGOs are trying to obtain considerable financial resources. This is especially the case for those working in the field who need capital to support their projects.
It is also true that in certain countries, they are working in the same locations and the same fields, dealing with the same social groups But when one talks about coordination among NGOs, one is mainly thinking about the complementarity which we need to have to make their activities even more effective. Let me explain what I mean. Some NGOs are expert in humanitarian assistance. Others have devoted themselves to development of the Third World using technology transfers, support for human resources and so on. There are still others which have substantial experience in the field of political lobbying. The fact that NGOs specialise does not mean that they should be compartmentalised-isolated one from another. Real life isn't like that. A country which has suffered the effects of a war needs emergency assistance and the NGOs which want to bring about development should not forget that. By the same token, those providing emergency assistance should not forget that this is essentially transitory and there has to be a follow up. So NGOs should not work in ignorance of what others are doing. They should seek, rather, to share their appeals, challenges, experience and even their funds and resources. What is currently happening in Rwanda and Angola, for example, is very unfortunate. It is inconceivable that NGOs will be able to continue working in their own individual spheres without reaching some sort of agreement on coordination, so as to make their work more effective.
· Looking at the NGO world more generally, a characteristic feature of the past few years has been the advent of and recognition given to Southern NGOs. This has inevitably led to a repositioning on the part of some Northern ones.
-I think that there is still a need to reflect on and deepen the existing links between the societies of North and South and between their respective NGOs. The fact that it has proved possible to deepen this link between peoples, states and intergovernmental organisations, within a framework of consultation and collaboration, is extremely promising. It means that nations are brought closer together. It is dynamic movements such as these which will bring people together in a spirit of solidarity to construct an international system which is just, and to achieve world peace.
Having said this, we cannot turn back the clock on certain things that have happened. The fact that a number of European bodies decided to begin forging direct links or direct cooperation with Southern NGOs in a rather overhasty manner will not prevent the Northern NGOs from continuing to strive to deepen cooperation between NGOs. It will, of course, be very difficult if there is no proper preparation or commitment to permanent evaluation. The overall aim is to continue consultation and I can say with regard to decentralised cooperation, for example- an area in where Southern NGOs are increasingly involved that everything is conducted in a very good spirit of cooperation between the Liaison Committee and the EC. Here we are kept up to date with what is going on. We are involved in discussions and we participate. I may add that we are moving forward together with the Commission in the field of research and the new relationships developing in this area. However, we do think that such cooperation must be undertaken with a certain degree of caution if it is to be truly effective.
· You say you wish to continue to work in partnership with Southern NGOs, but when your predecessor, Guido Dumon, was appointed by the General Assembly, he expressed the opinion that this partnership had failed.
-I think we must accept that the partnership failed in the sense that the our concept of it was a failure. It was not implemented in the way that was intended. There were obstructions placed on the path that we tried to follow which prevented the establishment of the kind of partnership which is described in manuals and in the speeches of leaders and those in authority. You have to be realistic and acknowledge that while partnership is a goal and an ideal, different countries have different economic situations. Everyone knows that some countries have more resources than others and that means that from the outset, we have a situation which is not really conducive to partnership. There are donors and recipients and the latter do not have as much power as the former, even if they both started out with the best of intentions. On the other hand, we are all aware of the history of development cooperation. Partnership cannot be divorced from reality, from what is actually happening in the world and from the realpolitik of North-South relations. The situation in the real world can also affect relations between Northern and Southern NGOs. In areas like international trade or technology transfers, we have undoubtedly seen forms of interference which have prevented the establishment of the desired partnership.
Today, however, it looks as if there are more promising signs. It is not just that there is still a will within the NGOs for the partnership to retain its vitality. There is also the fact that we learn by experience what direction to take to advance in future, and what traps to avoid.
· What impact do you think the Liaison Committee has had ?
- The establishment of the Committee was an important act. It involved the creation of an organisation which respects the autonomy of society and holds out the possibility of a fruitful and permanent dialogue with it, in the context of a European system which was set up with clear economic aims and political intentions. In evaluating the Committee's impact, I personally think that, although we have already achieved a lot and have developed a certain way of involving ourselves in the process of cooperation between Europe and the South, we could have progressed even more quickly. I think that we must now, as quickly as possible, give some thought to the fundamental nature of what we are doing-something which probably would not have been possible in the past. We need to bring about an increase in interaction between the Liaison Committee and the various structures of the EU-whether it be the Parliament, the Council, COREPER or the Commission. As regards the Comission, I am not just talking about the NGO unit but about the institution as a whole. I would like us to move forward more quickly.
· What, therefore, are the current priorities ?
-Priority must be given today to the EU's cooperation policy. It is not possible to work outside it, swimming against the stream. The EU could have a very good policy of cooperating with NGOs, but if this is not coherent, the NGOs will find it difficult to make their action effective. The priority is therefore for the Liaison Committee to contribute to the definition and inauguration of a coherent development cooperation policy. This can be achieved in different ways. Dialogue is important, but most important of all is the ability to take time to ask the key questions. The most recent General Assembly, in fact, set the pace by raising the question of revising the Maastricht Treaty. By the same token, it is necessary for the Liaison Committee to be able to participate, in its own way, in next year's Intergovernmental Conference. Loms also of fundamental importance. It is not just a question of joint financing of projects, financial resources or other technical factors. There are other aspects that are more importance, such as the definition of cooperation strategies.
· In this connection, what do you think about the future of the Lomonvention ?
-I think it is very dangerous to set one's sights on something that will dilute the formula offered by LomDespite all its faults and failings, the Convention represented a desire for something special as regards dialogue, cooperation and partnership. It was a form of multilateral cooperation which went beyond fine phrases. And it has led to some concrete results and genuine negotiations. Certain mechanisms were inaugurated and implemented that have had a real impact. I think that killing off this aspect would be a step backwards in the history of cooperation.
Secondly, I think that a great deal of experience has been accumulated in the sphere of cooperation and a large number of people have been mobilised to enable Europe and the ACP countries to come closer together. It would be a pity now to say 'Alright then, all this is a waste of time. Let's move in another direction'. I for my part favour a much more hard-headed evaluation; I think that the evaluation carried out for the LomV mid-term review was very weak. And, more worryingly, the real problems regarding financing were not touched upon. The Liaison Committee, working with other European networks, discussed and reflected on the issues. We shared our thoughts and worked more closely than ever before but there was no echo of these deliberations in the final texts. It was all compartmentalised at an official level. Doubtless, this is partly due to the fact that international structures often do not provide the conditions which are most conducive to sustained collaboration. So there should have been a better evaluation aimed at breaking down the barriers which have originated both in Europe and, more particularly in the ACP countries, notably on questions relating to competences, which have impaired Lom effectiveness.
If Lomails, and is expunged altogether, then the only remaining hope for the future will be the international charity, assistance and emergency aid movements. There will be nothing else.
· Are you suggesting that the NGOs' main role is now a political one ?
-Development cooperation inevitably has a political dimension. Things cannot be allowed to continue to depend on the goodwill of people acting in a spirit of mercy in the face of suffering. This presupposes changes in structures which involve redefining cooperation policies, and the NGOs have a part to play in this respect.
Today's NGOs refuse to be mere witnesses. We will not refrain from intervening until such time as the level of suffering absolutely demands it. There is a lot of talk about democracy, but the way in which it is conceived sometimes means there are areas where states reject the involvement of civil society. This is the case for foreign relations and defence. These are areas which are almost state monopolies. But the gradual intensification of democratic awareness implies that there will also be intervention in relations between nations as we, the people, express our political opinions. That is what we already do in the case of social and economic problems, which are seen as areas of legitimate democratic concern. But democracy also entails the capacity and right to intervene in foreign policy. The aim is not just to ensure that there is peace between nations, but also to establish international justice, and the NGOs are of fundamental importance in this respect.
by J. Bossuyt and P. Develtere
Northern development NGOs are increasingly dependent on official funds to realise their civic agenda. This partly reflects their popularity as alternative channels of aid delivery, partly the stagnation of private gifts accruing to them. Only a few NGOs reject public funding on principle. The changing nature of government support compounds the problem. Throughout the OECD, donor agencies are earmarking funds to special programmes (e.g. on democratisation, women, the environment). Northern NGOs can apply for these funds, but there are generally conditions attached to them. This also means that there is less money available for NGOs to finance their own initiatives.
This dependency presents a rather paradoxical situation for civil society organisations that are fiercely attached to their own values and autonomy of action. It causes tensions between NGOs and governments, reflected in vivid debates on autonomy, subcontracting and complementarity. At best, NGOs fear a loss of freedom and flexibility. At worst, they see themselves being co-opted by governments as cheap executing agencies.
In this article, we look at some of these trends and related tensions. We distinguish different systems of government sponsorship and related NGO strategic responses. We argue that both NGOs and governments have a stake in finding a new modus vivendi. Positive trade-offs can be realised for NGOs that seek and accept official sponsorship. To achieve this, NGOs should replace their dogmatic attachment to the principle of autonomy with a strong stand on identity.
NGO-financing: a menu of options
Governments in different Northern countries have developed various ways to support NGOs. At the lowest level, they provide indirect support by allowing tax deductions for private donations. Most countries, however, have developed cofinancing schemes to match funds raised by NGOs themselves. Sometimes, funds are earmarked for specific components of NGO work such as transport, personnel, or even for the Govemment/NGO-dialogue.
Four distinct approaches to government sponsorship for NGO-activities can be identified: the programme approach, the project approach, the 'window' approach, and the 'quango' approach (each of which is analysed below). In most countries, they are taken care of by a single ministry for Development Cooperation. NGOs often use the four approaches in a mix to finance their varied operations. This might be a surprise since each of these approaches to NGO sponsorship differs in its origins, underlying philosophy and consequences for the autonomy, working methods and even the development actions of an NGO.
The four approaches can be placed on a continuum. At the liberal end, there is the programme approach. At the other and most restrictive end, is the socalled 'quango' approach (i.e. quasi-autonomous NGO approach).
As the table shows, the roles of government and NGOs in initiating action, in executing projects and in financing varies between the different approaches.
Four approaches to NGO - financing
A government relying on a programme approach accepts the existence and free development of a civil movement which is concerned about North-South problems. Because government positively appreciates the value, representativeness and effectiveness of NGOs, it provides them with funds-on a contractual basis -to execute their activities. NGO efforts are seen as a complementary contribution to the government's own policies and programmes in development education). A strong NGO sector, in turn, is perceived as broadening political support for development cooperation. This approach is very much inspired by the public sponsoring systems for traditional civic movements (involved in labour, youth and adult education, health care, etc).
Few governments have developed a programme approach which is based on mutual trust. Most have institutionalised their scepticism and discomfort with NGOs by adopting project approaches. Proposals are scrutinised on a case-by-case basis by public servants who check if the proposed activity falls within governmental priorities and if it is 'politically acceptable'. The negative side-effects of this approach have become apparent. NGOs and their partners in Africa, Asia or Latin America have to rely on ever more creative packaging to suit the system. The NGO's own identity and social project may find itself diluted in favour of a hotchpotch of isolated activities that donors are willing to fund. It may also lead to a growing bureaucratisation of the NGO sector.
A window approach is less appreciative of the specificity of the NGOs than the programme and project approaches. Here, governments elaborate their own diversified strategies for tackling development problems and invite outside actors, including NGOs, to present concrete project proposals for financing. Well-known examples are the specific budgetlines for gender projects, human rights, democratisation and the environment. In this system' NGOs compete with private consultants, research institutes and national organisations all trying to get the same scarce resources.
All previous approaches leave the initiative to the NGOs. It is their choice if they want to ask for government money and if they want to accept the strings attached. Under the quango approach, governments consciously utilise NGOs to execute projects aimed at achieving government objectives. These quasi-auto nomous NGOs thus become mere executing agencies. They are called upon for their flexibility, their better contacts with certain target groups, their cheap delivery of services or their experience and professionalism. The objectives and the strategies of the development actions implemented by the subcontracting quaNGOs are determined by the governmental funding agency.
Different NGO responses
As mentioned before, NGO financing patterns are changing in most OECD countries. Some governments are both flexible and prepared to provide multi-year programme financing. Others adopt a more conditional and restrictive approach and prefer window and quango types of support. Northern NGOs are responding in different ways to these challenges to their autonomy and funding base:
'Close your eyes'
This seems to be the implicit strategy pursued by several Northern NGOs. These are usually dogmatically attached to their autonomy and reluctant to accept change. They blame the government for being intrusive while refusing to co-operate with other NGOs (seen as competitors), or with official aid agencies (seen as the enemy). This strategy offers few perspectives for efficient action in the field and institutional survival at home. It leads to a proliferation of small, generalist NGO's, scrambling for projects and gifts.
'Follow the market'
A second category of NGOs links its survival and growth to the market. The priorities of these NGOs are increasingly determined by prevailing market opportunities and special funds rather than by constituencies. In some cases, this has led NGOs to become private firms, tendering for government contracts. Other NGOs see the market as a means to earn untied money (e.g. by setting up trading associations like Oxfam). In principle, there is nothing wrong with a more market-oriented approach. It may lead to quick and cost-effective responses to genuine needs (e.g. emergency aid). But this approach may also induce NGOs to become too 'greedy' and obsessed with financial growth rather than with development impact, innovation and political work. It may increase (unfair) competition among NGOs. Governments prefer to do business with NGOs acting as subcontracting agencies than with those displaying a political agenda and critical watchdog attitudes.
Some Northern NGOs believe that specialisation is the best guarantee to ensure both greater development impact and institutional survival. In an increasingly complex world, knowledge and expertise are highly valued. The development agenda has expanded dramatically, thus creating new opportunities for NGOs that have specialised skills to offer in certain niches. The rapid growth of NGOs in the South also compels Northern NGOs to show that they have real added-value to offer (beyond the provision of funds). Experience so far suggests that specialist NGOs will have little problem in securing their funding needs on a relatively autonomous basis.
'Move towards internationalisation'
Internationalisation is high on the agenda of several Northern NGOs. This strategy is a two-edged sword. It has great potential if it is done to overcome chronic problems of scale, duplication and competition for dwindling funds. Through larger entities, Northern NGOs may develop the critical mass of funds and skills required to influence policy. But internationalisation can also be used by Northern NGOs to ensure their own (financial) survival. The risk of reduced funding at home is circumvented by diversifying funding source from abroad. According to Ian Smillie, this may lead to a situation in which international NGOs 'do to older and smaller NGOs what McDonald's does to established restaurants when it moves into a neighbourhood: they put them out of business',
'Put identity before autonomy'
A large group of NGOs reject both a sterile attachment to the principle of autonomy and a too market-oriented approach. In their view, NGOs are more than cheap delivery systems. They see themselves as independent actors, with a specific role to play in international cooperation and in their own societies.
To achieve their objectives, however, they will have to make some hard choices. The first is to remain unambiguously in the civic realm. Funding that reshapes NGOs into parastatals or private firms should be avoided. The second is to put identity before autonomy. This means investing heavily in refining their own mandate, role, funding strategies, inhouse skills and expertise. Thirdly, having clarified their identity, they need to build strategic alliances with a wide variety of other actors (such as governments, trade unions, social movements, private sector associations and local authorities). For too long, development NGOs have worked in 'splendid isolation' in both the North and the South. This is a luxury that can no longer be afforded. According to Thomas Dichter: 'All the necessary ingredients for an effective aggregation of the players in development are present, perhaps for the first time... Perhaps what is needed now is a balancing, an articulation of the parts'. Northern NGOs with a clear identity may have the best chances of find their niche within this new configuration.
It is rather hazardous to speculate about the future of the Northern NGO sector. Most of the premises underlying their activities are in a process of rapid change. Development problems are becoming increasingly complex. Roles and responsibilities of Northern NGOs are being questioned by their Southern partners. There are doubts about impact and sustainability. Sources of secure finance are under pressure. And unconditional support from public opinion is no longer guaranteed.
Against this background, the most promising strategy for NGOs seems to rest on developing a strong identity. Northern NGOs that are firmly rooted in their own societies (e.g. in social movements) and that provide clear added value, will probably have less to fear from government co-option, market regulation or direct funding.
For this scenario to prevail, some other thorny issues will have to be resolved. First, how to reduce the unhealthy competition among Northern NGOs for public opinion support? This leads to a proliferation of fund-raising appeals, often based on miserable images of Third World countries. Here also, developmental NGOs with a sound message are in no position to compete with those promoting relief or child sponsoring. Second, how to provide incentives for NGOs to abandon their almost exclusive focus on local NGOs and to work together with a wide variety of development actors ? This holds major promise for greater development impact and sustainability. Third, how to build new partnerships between Northern NGOs and their governments, based on mutual respect for each partner's identity and role ?
In each of the three cases, the way in which government funds are used is a most critical factor. If carefully managed, they can provide powerful incentives for increased co-operation among NGOs, diversification of partnerships in the field and a new relationship with governments.
1. Smillie: NGOs in Civil Society: Strengthening Capacity,
Paper prepared for a seminar on 'Emerging Issues in Capacity Development', organised by the Institute on Governance, Ottawa.
T.W. Dichter: The Changing World of Northern NGOs-Problems, Paradox" and Possibilities.
Development, Journal of SID, no. 4,1988.
by Dr Joel Rocamora.
NGOs in the Philippines have among the most extensive and complex advocacy experience among NGOs in the developing world. International conferences dealing with NGO concerns, whether it is development, ecology, human rights, gender or some other issue, will, more likely than not, have Filipino NGO representatives present, actively participating and often leading discussions.
The ubiquitousness of Filipino NGO representatives in national and international fore does not necessarily mean that they have a coherent theoretical and political framework tying together the various advocacy positions. The Philippine NGO community's record of success in advocacy is at best patchy. But it is a wide-ranging, sophisticated and rapidly changing advocacy, nonetheless. In recent years, NGOs in the Philippines have been in the throes of what some have called a 'paradigm crisis'.
Grappling with reality
The 'Europe-Philippines in the 1990s' Project (EP-9Os), a joint programme of research and advocacy undertaken by the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam and five major NGO and PO ('people's organisation) coalitions in the Philippines, provides a good example of new trends in Philippine NGO advocacy work. After over a year of research and consultations on various aspects of Europe-Philippines relations, the five coalitions produced a policy paper which was submitted to a conference in Amsterdam in March 1995. The conference included representatives of the European Commission, EU member country development ministries, European NGOs, Filipino migrant worker organisations and Philippine solidarity groups.
In contrast to similar documents in the past, which tended to be premised on unmitigated opposition to the Philippine government, and its foreign ODA donors, the EP-9Os policy paper posed a framework of development which challenged both the EU and Philippine government frameworks. Instead of dismissing these competing frameworks on ideological grounds, the policy paper engaged them on the basis of an analysis of the current Philippine political and economic situation and on mutually acceptable goals such as poverty alleviation.
The document is also one of the first NGO coalition statements to grapple with politically controversial economic issues such as the Philippine government's structural reform programme, in particular its stabilisation and liberalisation policies. While the carefully worded and nuanced position on this and similar economic policy issues cannot be easily summarised, it would not be inaccurate to characterise its stance as a call to work for 'pro-people' goals, with an eye to the opportunities and the limits imposed by national realities.
One aspect of the EP-9Os conference which drew the attention of European government officials was the presence of Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Ernesto Garilao. At the conference and in subsequent meetings, Garilao appealed for European support for NGOs and POs as necessary partners of government in the implementation of agrarian reform. While critical of the present agrarian reform law, NGO and PO representatives are willing to work with sympathetic and reform-oriented government officials such as Garilao to secure limited gains for their constituencies.
The changes in perspective reflected in the EP-9Os policy paper can also be seen in Philippine NGO participation in the various UN summits and other international fore, and most importantly in the documents, campaigns and multifaceted political activism of NGOs and POs in the Philippines. This sea-charige in perspective can only be understood, however, by placing it in historical context.
From dictatorship to 'elite' democracy
If we exclude church and other civic organisations which focus on various permutations of alms giving, NGOs in the Philippines can be said to have developed mainly during the period of the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986). Their political, goal - providing services to peopl's organisations fighting the dictatorship were clearcut and explicit. Their initial activities; awareness-raising, ('conscientisation'), training and organising, research and publications, and health and human rights work, can be understood within this context.
The political context determined the issues taken up by NGOs and their overall framework of political and economic analysis - in other words, their overall political stance. At this time, all progressive NGOs supported radical, structural change in Philippine society. Development work was seen as inextricably linked to political work. More often than not, NGOs were either organised by, or linked to, political groups. They were oriented mainly towards changes in the national government; towards variations of the 'seizure of state power' paradigm. Working for change within government was not seen as important, except in purely utilitarian and tactical terms.
Efforts at organisation were focused on the disadvantaged classes; the urban poor, unionised workers, the peasantry and indigenous communities. Urban middle class groups were only targeted as sources of activists, not as a sector to be organised in its own right. Mobilisation and mass protest were the preferred instruments. NGOs became involved in electoral politics, albeit with very few skills and resources. Awareness-raising, organising and human rights work came first and socio-economic activity would only develop later.
In many ways, the early years of the presidency of Corazon Aquino (19861992) represented the high water mark of NGO influence. During the first few years of the Aquino period, NGOs and POs exercised considerable influence in the shaping of national political discourse. President Aquino at first tried to coopt some of the NGO-PO issues-land reform, human rights and women's rights, among others. Even after she abandoned these issues to all intents and purposes, NGOs and POs continued to have influence in the media, the universities and the churches. They had become the shapers of ideological consensus in the society.
The NGOs' and POs' choice of political terrain was determined partly by available resources-in other words, by their strengths. They had considerable mobilisational capability and the institutional infrastructure for shaping political issues. During the first few years of the Aquino period, these resources made for significant influence. As the regime became consolidated, however, partly through concessions by the President to major power centres and partly through the institutionalisation of an 'elite' democracy, NGO-PO coalitions found themselves increasingly marginalised.
Towards the end of the Aquino period, NGOs began to adjust to changing conditions, but it has been a very slow process. Work on ecological and women's issues has expended rapidly. More recently, several NGOs have been trying to raise their capability to intervene in the area of credit provision using a range of techniques from small savings programmes to the building of rural banks. There is an increasing tendency to work with government units, to access their resources and even work with them in joint projects. There was a lot of excitement about the implementation of the Local Government Code passed in the last year of the Aquino period.
Pushing for change
A number of factors have pushed development NGOs and the progressive movement as a whole into a renewed process of strategic reorientation. One is the crisis in the national democratic (ND) movement, the largest and best-organised segment of the Left in the Philippines. Another factor is the worldwide crisis of socialism. The messy collapse of the whole socialist bloc and the 'market socialism' being espoused by China and Vietnam have thrown up a lot of questions about anti-or non-capitalist alternatives whether they be Stalinist or 'democratic socialist.'
Another factor pushing strategic reorientation is perceived change in the political economy of Philippine society. Many people in government and business circles believe that the decade-long economic crisis is over, and that the economy is entering a period of steady, if modest growth. The inflow of foreign investment and the return of capital, combined with large migrant worker remittances, has led to the perception that the 'boom and bust' cycles are now over. People in NGO circles remain sceptical, but economic developments have led them to re-examine their assumptions about the economy.
Another, more widespread perception is that the locus of economic and political change is shifting away from Manila to local areas. Despite the economic stagnation of the past decade, local industry and commerce have grown around key centres such as Cebu and Davao. Combined with the limited resources of the central government, and the simple fact that Manila cannot physically absorb more industry, it is generally accepted that the logic of development is, of necessity, going to follow political decentralisation.
Challenges to NGOs
The widespread perception of the increasing importance of local areas has also found its way into the NGO-PO community. While progressive groups continue to cling to their national agendas, more and more of them believe that structural change at the national level must be based on accumulation of power at the local level. To compete effectively with local centres of power, NGOs are scaling up the size and impact of their projects. This has led to movement away from small, village-based livelihood projects towards integrated area development.
These trends have fed into changing relations between NGOs and political groups. As the capability of NGOs developed, especially in socio-economic work, there was a stronger tendency to resist the 'guidance' of political groups. The formation of NGO coalitions added to this tendency as the coalitions became the locus of political discussion and advocacy across political blocs. One key outcome was a change in perspective on the relationship between development work and national political struggle. As one NGO study put it: 'NGOs of all stripes have begun to integrate political visions with development requirements in a manner which, perhaps for the first time, sacrifices neither'.
The biggest challenge comes from Philippines 2000, the Ramos regime's political project - its comprehensive economic and political strategy. Many progressives continue to be sceptical about Philippines 2000. Others oppose it outright. But the programme, especially its anti-monopoly thrust, has provoked many policy struggles among competing upper class factions and this has opened up new possibilities for multi-class fraction alliances. These developments have forced progressives to question their economic assumptions and at a minimum, to increase their capacity to handle macro-economic policy issues.
Elite political projects create problems for progressive groups. If President Ramos succeeds in projecting a reform agenda, he can mobilise and energise large segments of the upper classes. He can drain middle class support away from NGOs. More directly, Philippines 2000 challenges NGOs not only to criticise, but to devise an alternative project. To do this, NGOs have to move beyond finding fault with specific government programmes and projects, to appreciate issues from the vantage point of governance, and to learn to see the national interest 'forest'-not just the 'trees' that are the specific demands of NGO constituencies.
by Brita Schioldann Nielsenth
Development cooperation is seen as having important political implications and lobbying is, therefore, undoubtedly one of the NGOs' major roles. Although, for the majority, it is secondary to their main task of carrying out development actions, there are some that focus almost exclusively on lobbying. NGO networks have also been established for this specific purpose. Eurostep, which coordinates the lobbying work of a number of European NGOs, is an example of one of these. It pursues two main objectives: to influence the policies of multilateral institutions while promoting alternative models based on the specific NGO perspective, and to improve the quality and effectivenees of the aid provided by these organisations We approached Eurostep for their views on the lobbying process, the motivations which lie behind it and the outcomes, if any. We asked them to focus on lobbying of EU bodies. Here is their frank and sometimes pointed contribution.
On a grey December morning in 1992, a group of people are protesting outside the Council of Ministers' building in Brussels. This is an almost daily occurrence, but what makes this event unique is the three dromedaries and turbaned Tuaregs who are among the protesters. This colourful protest against European beef dumping in the Sahel was organised by Eurostep, a relatively new face in the growing crowd of lobbying organisations in Brussels. The initiative to create a European network, with the overall aim of influencing EU development policies, was taken by experienced leaders of some of Europe's major NGOs. The founders from six EU countries had, through their work with the Commission, realised that it was no longer sufficient to have a relationship only with their national government. The EU was here to stay and decisions on development policies would increasingly be taken in Brussels. Another realisation was that, to be effective, the network should have members in all EU countries, and preferably also in European countries outside the Union. Members should be actively involved in the South and membership would be limited to two organisations per country.
When the Eurostep secretariat was set up in Brussels in 1991, it had 21 like-minded, non-denominational organisations as members. They come from 13 European countries and work in more than 90 developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their combined annual contribution to development actions amounts to more than ECU 400 million. To have members actively involved in the South was seen as fundamental for the advocacy work of Eurostep. Policies have to be founded on the experience of the members together with their Southern partners. Another important feature is the economic independence of the network. Eurostep is funded through annual fees levied on its members and is not reliant on the EC or any other institution. Hence, it is free to pursue objectives which might not always be in line with official policy. Each year the General Assembly reviews Eurostep's programme and sets priorities for the following year. These are influenced largely by the official agenda for development cooperation at the European level, by the members' own concerns and by what is happening in the UN.
Eurostep concentrates on a limited number of issues. It operates a 'lead agency' principle whereby member organisations take a leading role in the development and implementation of programme activities. This ensures both that members are actively involved in the work of the network and that the activities reflect the concerns of the member organisations and their partners in developing countries. For each issue in the programme there is a working group. One example is the Gender Working Group, currently focusing its energy on issuing position papers in the nun up to the Beijing conference. This meets once a year but it has a Task Force which convenes approximately every two months to take the work forward and monitor EU and international conferences. The Gender Group has two lead agencies: Oxfam UK for the advocacy, and NCOS, Belgium to engender activity among the member agencies.
Three people are employed in the Brussels office. The members' insistence on having a small secretariat has several advantages, apart from the obvious financial one. For example, it means the members feel obliged to undertake work themselves. Also, the staff know each other well and are able to create an atmosphere characterised by good interrelationships and appreciation of the work of each member of the team. The latter is essential if success is to be achieved while working under constant pressure.
Measuring the concrete results of lobbying is always a tricky matter. The effects may depend on changes in mentality in how development should be seen and pursued-which may take years. We do believe, however, that some concrete results have been achieved due to our efforts, in cooperation with other networks and NGDOs. For example, an EU decision to launch a special initiative for recovery programmes backed by more than ECU 100 million, came after NGDO lobbying during the Danish Presidency. A permanent budget line for rehabilitation -another NGDO objective-has also been created with the help of the European Parliament. During the same Presidency, Eurostep pushed for extra personnel for the 'women in development' desks in the external relations and development departments of the Commission. Two extra people were employed. With the approach of the LomV mid-term review in 1994, which saw proposals that could radically alter the nature of the agreement, Eurostep helped set up a joint programme in collaboration with the three other major Brussels-based NGDO networks, (APRODEV, CIDSE and the NGO-EU Liaison Committee). The purpose was to monitor the review and contribute to the debate with comments and proposals. Two main reports and six smaller consecutive reports were produced.
The World Social Summit was also closely monitored by Eurostep. Position papers were drafted before each preparatory committee and reports on the progress of the official and NGO meetings were written after each session. These inputs were greatly appreciated by NGOs and official delegates. If one compares the NGOs' 'Quality Benchmark' paper for the Summit with the final official paper, it is clear that NGOs had a major impact on the outcome. A careful assessment has to made in each case however, in order to evaluate the time and money put into this kind of event in relation to the output.
The major 'success' to date has clearly been the beef dumping case. The impact of EU agricultural subsidies on developing countries is a serious cause for concern, and with this in mind, Eurostep produced a report in 1992 calling for further reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy. This was followed in 1993 by a campaign focusing on EU subsidies for beef to West Africa. Research undertaken by Novib, Eurostep's lead agency on trade, showed how frozen European beef, sold on Sahel markets at subsidised prices, prevented local farmers from selling their fresh meat. It also revealed a lack of coherence between agricultural and development policies. Development aid was being given to the farmers but, at the same time, they were being driven out of business by the dumping of European surpluses. During the research, suspected fraud involving EU subsidies was also discovered by chance. It appeared that some EU exporters were being funded to sell capes (a meat product) whose fat content was much too high to be eligible for export refunds. The dossier was passed to the fraud administration of the Commission. When the campaign began on that December morning in 1992, with Sahelian farmers handing over the report to the Council President, it attracted support from 250 organisations in Europe and West Africa. TV reporters and journalists from several EU countries covered the event. The European Parliament also became actively involved, supporting demands for abolition of subsidies and policy coherence. At the same time Eurostep members sent the report to their ministries of agriculture and development, and sought talks with the responsible ministers. Although all accusations were denied from the outset, EU export restitutions on capes destined for West Africa are now 28% lower than when we started the campaign. EU exports to the region have decreased and Sahelian farmers are regaining their market share. In combination, the reduction in export subsidies and the devaluation of the CFA franc are largely responsible for this encouraging result. Other positive news is that the Commission has accepted an internal guideline which is intended to bring about a coherent EU policy towards the livestock sector of West Africa. Though this is a 'success story', seen from the point of view of a lobbying network, the main question still remains: how to make the EU coherent in all its policies.
Having a small office, as underlined above, has positive aspects but it also has its negative side. There is a lack of time to pursue all the things that need to be done. An advocacy office needs to have a clear overview of who is who in the European institutions. Time is needed to develop connections. But elections mean that there are changes in the Parliament, Commissioners also change or move to new portfolios, and within the administration, new geopolitical visions mean changes to the structure and composition of the directorates-general just as one is beginning to understand the old set-up.
For a Brussels-based NGO, the European Parliament is without doubt its best ally. It is an open institution and most MEPs take the view that, as the only democratically elected EU body, they should listen to the 'people' and put forward their concerns if they find them reasonable.
The Council is more distant but this is not a particular problem for the Eurostep secretariat as Council lobbying is undertaken by the network's members at national level. The Council press-department is easily accessible and its personnel are very helpful in finding and forwarding press releases and reports of Council meetings. A problem which crops up now and then is it can take several weeks to get Council reports in English, which is Eurostep's working language. Another difficulty is access to the agendas of meetings. This is probably not the Council's fault but rather that of the rotating Presidencies. One somewhat surprising experience during the recent Danish Presidency was the discovery that openness (one of Denmark's main themes), certainly had its limits. In spite of some good results and the very positive working relations with the Danish Development Minister, it was very difficult for the Working Group on the Presidency to get information in either Brussels or Copenhagen.
The same difficulty of access is often experienced with the Commission. It is possible to develop relationships with single individuals but generally, Commission papers are heavily guarded until they become public. We experienced this problem when seeking information about the Commission's work on the Cairo Summit. The views of an American stagiaire at Eurostep, writing subsequently in an internal report are instructive. She had thought the US Congress was difficult, but went on to say had never experienced 'bureaucracy like this before'. As a result, and in order to understand better the Commission's working methods, Eurostep, together with WIDE (Women in Development in Europe), carried out research and published a report entitled 'Gender mapping of the European Union'. Our vision of a good relationship with the Commission, is where the official drafting a policy paper finds it natural to contact a relevant NGO to hear its views on the subject. We should also like to see NGO networks like Eurostep, which produce newsletters on EU development policies that are sent all over the world, allowed to attend relevant press conferences and receive press information from the Commission. The Commission President has spoken of the need for more openness and for the EU to get closer to its citizens. We have another and very simple proposal. Let us work together!
Over the last 10 years or so, the public's generosity towards the world's most deprived peoples has been regularly tapped. The collection of money has yielded to the laws of communications and marketing and it is nowadays a source of competition. Although the majority of NGOs act according to a professional code of ethics, some, by going over the top, seem ready to 'sell their souls'. This is a negative aspect which impinges on all who work in the field not to mention those in the South.
Few, today, could say that they have never been approached by an NGO ? It may be in the form of a personalised leaflet through the post, or a smiling boy scout on a street corner clutching some symbolic object which he hopes you will buy. It may not be a direct approach- perhaps a wall poster advertising an organisation, or some publicity on TV. Collecting money is fundamental for any NGO concerned about its independence, but the era of attracting funds in the, traditional manner is long past. It is really only in the United Kingdom that charities still hold out collecting tins to generous souls, although even there the exercise has 'gone professional'. The very use of the phrase 'collecting money' appears obsolete in an age where we speak of fund-raising.
Although the success of collecting money depends largely on how well known the organisation is (fame does not always go hand in hand with efficiency), good mobilising capabilities have also become decisive. While some NGOs have chosen to delegate this task to specialised marketing agencies, many others have had to reorganise their staff with a view to professional fund-raising. The amateur approach is no longer acceptable. It may be a sign of the times, or an imperative of competition, but NGOs have adopted management and operating methods which make them look more like businesses, although they stop short of becoming fully commercial companies. Fundraising has thus yielded to the laws of communications and marketing. 'Value marketing' today has its own manuals, seminars, specialists and techniques. There are TV slots and sometimes highly imaginative poster campaigns, not to mention all the objects such as pens and T-shirts bearing the organisation's logo. And, of course, there is direct mailing, which has proved to be the best way of recruiting potential donors and of retaining those who already contribute.
For many, the donation has thus become a 'product' to be defended in the same way as any other commercial product. As such, it has become a source of competition. Such competition is not, in itself, negative, since it is the very essence of fund-raising. However, it cannot be said that the playing field is level. Most donations are commandeered by the few 'big' NGOs. It is a question of having a high profile, certainly, but also one of financial resources. In order to make use of direct mailing, which is very expensive, an NGO has to use up a proportion of its resources. According to Karel Claes, who is the director of the Direct Social Communications agency; 'a direct-mailing campaign to recruit new donors means that, on average, no more than 50% of the money raised goes to actual NGO projects. The rest is needed to cover costs.' He points out on the other hand that 'when the campaign is aimed at retaining current contributors, direct-mailing costs are of the order of 10-20%'.
Not every association can afford such an investment, particularly since there is a finite number of potential donors. All those in the profession concur that the pool is limited. The association's files may, therefore, actually constitute its 'goodwill'. The best files, says Mr Claes, 'are those containing the profile of the ideal donor. In Belgium, for example, this would be an elderly female who is probably Catholic'.
Public profile, financial resources, and current trends, are all involved. Some associations are linked more with the public's immediate concerns at a certain time (with the aid of the media). This is the case of NGOs which aim to protect the environment. In terms of raising funds from private sources, such organisations have experienced an upsurge, but this already appears to be on the wane. Just like any other commercial product, donations have their own life cycle. Some claim that the next 'victims' of the changing markets will be the emergency organisations. It is certainly true that they have succeeded in penetrating the donations 'market' in recent years but the old adage is well-known-all fashions go out of fashion.
The market share lost by an NGO (to continue using the commercial jargon) is not necessarily picked up by others. Thanks to the new approach in collecting funds, private donations have increased spectacularly over the last decade, both in terms of numbers of contributors and amounts given. Over the last two or three years, however, a downward trend seems to have set in, at least as regards the number of people dipping into their pockets. (The overall amount has remained stable because of larger donations). The reason for this is two-fold. There is, of course, the current economic climate, with the general public less likely to contribute during a recession. But there is also a sense of weariness when confronted with a proliferation of requests. This proliferation has come about because certain NGOs have an annoying tendency of issuing an appeal every time there is an emergency and also because of the increase in the numbers of NGOs. the result is what the English-speaking media calls 'aid fatigue'.
In order to stand out in the public eye amongst the flood of requests, some NGOs have made great efforts to be creative. But, beware! If there is, indeed, a donations market, it must continue to be based on genuine ethics. The end does not always justify the means and this generosity race has more than once got out of hand.
Although certain moral standards linked to fund-raising might be dubious, such as, for example, the sale of objects totally lacking in symbolism, others, on the other hand, are a source of genuine concern. The aim is transparent-to make a profit.
The end does not always justify the means
An NGO which raises funds from private sources must be honest in its dealings with the public, but at the same time it will be aware that it has to present its actions in the most profitable way possible in financial terms. Unfortunately, honesty does not always go hand in hand with profitability. Other factors may intervene. There is, of course, action for its own sake, but not all action brings a return. As John Clark, has stated 'although everyone agrees with the old adage that it is better to teach people to fish than to give them fish, when it is a matter of donating money, the private donor prefers to carry on paying for the fish'. Although the majority of NGOs are firm in advocating integrity, others (relatively few, it must be admitted) have chosen to operate in murkier waters. These are the ones whose real actions are somewhat different from those they choose to portray to the public.
There are many more NGOs, however, that conceal from their donors the cost of their fund-raising campaigns. In France, the amounts set aside for this purpose represent 18% of total costs. The figure for Belgium is only slightly lower while in the Netherlands they can be as much as 37%. In fact, if one examines the accounts of NGOs (those that are actually published), one comes across figures which, at the very least, appear to require further explanation. What is one to make of the 25% of expenditure to be found in some cases under the heading 'sundry expenses' or other 'administrative costs'? Why do some NGOs put fund-raising and information under the same heading ? Naturally, the auditor's initials appear, carefully written, in the margin of the accounts, but in most cases this official is passing judgment only on fund management and not on the qualitative use of monies. This attitude, whereby NGOs lack the courage to inform the public that its activities incur costs as well as generating income, is an obvious shortcoming.
Such an absence of controls damages the 'brand image' of the voluntary development movement as a whole and of fund-raising in particular. Supplemented by media criticism (some NGOs have been revealed to be completely fraudulent), including some TV programmes whose compilers have chosen to make no allowances, public mistrust of NGOs is on the increase. Indeed, as part of the current debate concerning NGO autonomy, above-board fund-raising is now more necessary than ever.
Of course, NGOs are by no means alone in suffering from the activities of a dishonest minority. For the latter, the people of the South represent little more than an easy 'profit opportunity'.
Let us go back ten years. In terms of development and the Third World, the 1980s were, for many members of the public, symbolised by the terrible famine in the Sahel with pictures of starving children, their eyes full of flies, being watched helplessly by their mothers. These image, dubbed by some NGO activists as 'pornographic' were presented on TV every evening. Images of similar 'bad taste' arrived through the letter box in the morning from certain NGOs, tempted by gain. Ethical principles and codes of conduct, if such had ever existed, were discarded. It was the birth of what many have described as the 'charity show'.
The use of these wretched, negative images, whose sole aim is to shock sympathetic people, to generate compassion on the part of the public and to trigger the donation reflex has not, it would appear, been checked by media weariness of the famine in the Sahel. For these unscrupulous NGOs, any tragic situation is fair game. Proof of this can be seen in the example of an NGO (whose high profile needs no boosting) which sent out by direct mail, the picture of a little Colombian girl, buried alive in the rubble of Armero. There are other examples although many NGOs have recognised their mistakes and nowadays, the trend does appear to be on the decline. However, we should not be surprised, in the current climate, to see a swing back towards 'compassion' fund-raising.
Of course, some NGOs will defend their cause by citing disasters where immediate emergency aid is required and there is a desperate need for funds. A shock image is therefore seen to be excusable. Is it not the case that such images portray the truth ? Of course it is. The pictures have not been 'cobbled up' in a studio, after all, and they reflect a reality shown regularly on our screens. But, according to the NGO Liaison Committee, it a question of human dignity. And how many NGOs are engaged in this emergency work? Few indeed, it would seem, if the piles of wretched images sent out are to be treated as the 'norm'.
Such an approach harms development. The use of such images reinforces the notion of an assisted and passive population. They are usually accompanied by texts which also aim to 'accost' the reader ('if you do not donate £20 immediately, this child will starve to death'.) And they do nothing to help the people of the South who are trying to project a different picture - one in which the people themselves take responsibility for their own development. European public opinion polls confirm this sorry state of affairs. All the NGOs' efforts to increase awareness and knowledge of development are thwarted by such imagery. (This includes the efforts of some who themselves resort to such images for fund-raising -which not surprisingly can generate internal tensions.)
Ethics as the sole aim
Various codes of conduct in fundraising have been set up to restore a professional approach in the world of voluntary development cooperation. These are aimed at inducing 'troublemakers' to return to the straight and narrow. Some regulate the use of files and publication of accounts and others deal with images and messages. Still others systematise all these various topics. In this way, signatory organisations undertake both to guarantee the dignity of the recipients and to safeguard the private life of the donors. They also undertake to ensure that their activities are serious. In some countries, such as France, the Netherlands or Germany, this code of conduct has arisen from a mutual desire on the part of the NGOs. In Belgium, on the other hand, there is no such code as yet. Many agree that an initiative is necessary, but it has become bogged down in argument.
The reason for this is that not all NGOs have the same intentions. For example, some (often those most concerned by these codes) have been criticised as being concerned solely with their own interests - awarding themselves with some kind of quality label while still failing to practise what they preach. In fact, the codes being proposed could be criticised for 'aiming too low'. Certain elements are left vague, leading to differing interpretations, and others are simply omitted altogether. Those, more numerous, NGOs which demand tougher rules and therefore refuse to sign the watered-down version, nun the risk of being denied the 'quality label'! Adherence to a code of ethics should certainly not be viewed as a promotional tool.
Another area of disagreement is whether or not there is a need for a monitoring body. A code of conduct which does not penalise is largely ineffective. But who is there to carry out the task of monitoring ? In some places, this problem has actually been solved. Government departments are responsible for this in France and the United Kingdom (the famous Charity Commission) while in Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, independent foundations or institutes have assumed the task.
Not all countries, however, have statutory requirements dealing with the ethics of fund-raising. This shortcoming is partly offset by larger-scale initiatives. This is the case, in particular, of the code of conduct relating to images and messages drafted by the EC-NGO Liaison Committee.
In the final analysis, other than formal regulation, the most effective constraint is, undeniably, an examination of one's own conscience. Fund-raising is an independent tool in the service of the recipients, but ethical considerations should always prevail over the requirements of marketing.
by Michel Falisse
Courier dossiers are intended to provide an in-depth analysis of particular subjects or sectors by approaching them from different viewpoints. The author of this article, who is the Secretary General of SOS Faim (a Belgian NGO), offers his own forceful, and undeniably controversial opinions, about the relationship between NGOs and governments in an era of 'cofinancing'
Historically speaking, NGOs appeared on the scene at the start of the 1960s. This was at a time when the colonial powers were no longer finding it easy impose their views on their former dependent territories. The missionaries who had catered to the health and education of the 'natives' during the colonial period were suddenly dependent on the sovereign authorities of the newly independent states. Voluntary Service Overseas was one of the responses to this and was intended to provide a legal and financial basis enabling missionaries to continue their work.
Much of the North's population had been made aware of Third World poverty and they tried to help as best they could, usually by collecting money to finance small projects. These had the advantage of being in direct contact with realities at local level. This approach, and the positive results achieved by it, were in notable contrast to the billions spent in 'official cooperation' - expenditure which often brought only very limited benefits to local people. Furthermore, 'official development cooperation' was frequently only one element in the policies towards the Third World adopted by former colonial powers; policies hereafter referred to as neocolonial.
In most European countries, joint NGO and government financing is doubtless linked to these two facts. On the one hand, it provided a response to criticism that the former colonial states were failing to confront the problem by making it possible to reach local people through NGOs. On the other hand, it also provided financing for organisations closely connected to Churches and political parties allowing them to continue their neocolonial work. Co-financing was also the logical consequence of a genuine commitment on the part of the people of the North, who had been shaken by the contrast between their standard of living during the 'swinging sixties' and the poverty of the South. The dynamism of this commitment owed more to Christian charity than to the traditions of proletarian internationalism. Admittedly, churches were no longer financed as in colonial times; projects involving churches were now co-financed and the 'multi-purpose room' played a vital part. On Monday, it might be used as a clothes-making workshop, on Tuesday for the catechism, on Wednesday as a meeting place for young people and on Sunday for Mass! By the same token, the NGOs that were structurally linked to political parties benefited from the generosity of their cooperation ministers who met their colleagues from their sister parties of the South at conferences to take stock of the situation. Cofinanced projects resulted from this. In one place, it might involve working for democratic consolidation (for this, read support for party structures). Elsewhere it might involve setting up a health centre (for this, read, softening up the voters in favour of a future party candidate standing for election).
The political upheavals of the 1970s in the South also helped to bring about changes within NGOs, not just by causing them to abandon the charitable approach but also by giving them a much more political profile on all questions associated with development. NGOs became genuine advocates of the peoples of the South and, increasingly, began to upset those who, up to that point, had financed them. NGOs were involved in all manner of struggles. They denounced neocolonial domination, the power of multinationals ('states within states') and infringements of human and national rights. No subject was taboo for them!
Global economic crisis and the increasing monopolisation of the planet's wealth by a diminishing group of privileged people, together with the political upheavals following the fall of the Berlin Wall, plunged most African countries and a number of others-which had not yet managed to take off economically-into severe crisis. In response, Western countries again imposed their solutions in the form of structural adjustment, multi-party systems and military and humanitarian intervention. In this situation, NGOs were called upon increasingly to act as subcontractors, implementing policies defined by governments. This is particularly true of emergency aid policies. French and Belgian doctors have, today more than ever, become simple tools of state policy.
States and multilateral organisations have considerably refined their subcontracting policies, getting others to do what they want done, at less expense. Why not, therefore, entrust the implementation of policies to those cheap research units called NGOs? A few scandals combined with the actions of political lobbyists will soon lead the authorities to draw up new regulations. The final outcome will be that only a few chosen NGOs-those that satisfy the new and more draconian demands of their co-financers-will be preserved. Today's discredited policies will give way to others formulated by those who hold the levers of power.
This development is particularly dangerous since it will end up by considerably limiting the number of NGOs. Only those which have proved their professionalism will be preserved. There is a real risk that there will no longer be any real NGOs to represent the concerns of the public. The first to lose if this happens, will undoubtedly be the public authorities themselves. Deprived of opponents and dynamic criticism, governments will find themselves staring into a void, their own policies having no more validity than those of totalitarian regimes.
by Nicholas Stockton
This short paper sets out to de. monstrate how the emergence of a media-dependent, international rescue and crisis management industry is degrading the quality of humanitarian space. This transformation has been heralded by the deregulation of the humanitarian theatre and the creation of a market in which a proliferation of diverse agencies compete for contracts. In this new market, the humanitarian mandates of intergovernmental bodies are muddled with a myriad of contracted goods and services. Humanitarian action is, there. fore, expressed in a Gordian knot of financial contracts, well beyond the reach of international humanitarian law and accountability. The commercial necessity to portray contractual achievement, harnessed by the Northern political demand for triumphant televisual humanitarian interventions, helps to fashion a contract culture where 'success' is imperative. Thus, even while the collective impact of the new humanitarian industry falls below established international minimum standards, accountability for this, by apparent mutual agreement, goes unremarked and disregarded.
Humanitarianism is probably best understood by reference to the body of international law that defines human rights in the specific context of conflict. This mainly consists of the Geneva Convention and later Protocols, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, and, in Africa, the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention. Together, these place obligations for the protection of civil populations upon governments, and upon two specialised inter-governmental institutions: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)-which is not, as some believe, an NGO - and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Humanitarian law mandates these organisations to monitor the performance of signatory stat", and the associated statutory instruments provide some technical standards against which to judge humanitarian performance.
These legal instruments range from qualitative rights, such as protection from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, to quantified standards on food, water, health and shelter. In the post-Second World War period, when most of these standards were negotiated, contemporary opinion held that proper standards of accountability and control could only be met by government agencies. Therefore, humanitarian action became the near-exclusive domain of governments and intergovernmental authorities. In principle, accountability for meeting minimum standards was, at that time, a relatively straightforward matter. First, the actors in humanitarian crises were few, and 'audit trails' were short. Second, these agencies operated under, and were explicitly named in, international treaties.
The humanitarian market
The emergence of the new humanitarian industry is a direct result of the ideological hegemony of the new right in the post cold war era. On the demand side, Bernard Kouchner's formulation of the 'right of interference' and the popularisation of Paolo Freire's 'theory of con-scientisation', were symbolic of the growing assertiveness of the private relief and development sectors. On the supply side, the introduction of commercial competitive tendering in most official aid programmes financed the massive growth in the NGO sector, particularly in the social service and welfare field.
This growth was encouraged by many Northern donors to help fill the vacuum created by cuts in social welfare services resulting from economic adjustment policies. The retreat of the state from guaranteeing national health, education and welfare norms (including emergency relief), has created numerous opportunities for the private sector, especially at the community level.
It is at this local level where NGOs claim comparative advantage over governments, that life chances are increasingly determined, and where civil loyalties therefore gravitate. NGO credibility in 'community-based' service provision is frequently earned at the expense of central government's perceived legitimacy. It is ironic that the proliferation of ethnically-defined livelihood conflicts probably derives, in part at least, from the political success of NGOs in strengthening 'civil society' at the communal level, compounded by their failure to meet rising aspirations in the economic sphere.
As nation states have divested themselves of their operational welfare role, many have emphasised their residual security functions, and have resorted to terror and violence to stay in power. Under these circumstances, armed insurgency may be seen as the only available means of political expression and economic advancement. Subsistence resource wars, often identified with ethnic loyalties, have created an explosion in political violence and human suffering. From ten wars in 1959, there are now over 50 being waged. From less than 10 million refugees in 1980, the world now has more than 23 million. In response to this, a significant shift from development to emergency aid has occurred. From less than $200 million in 1971, emergency aid spending by OECD countries had expanded to $2.6 billion by 1992. The UN consolidated appeal for Rwanda in 1994 alone raised over $1 billion.
This is big business and the competition between the humanitarian NGOs and between human rights organisations is intense. The designer flags, tee-shirts, watches, flak jackets and other branded apparel of the new humanitarian workers jostling for television profile, testify to this.
Markets versus mandates
Markets are, in theory, regulated by consumer choice. In humanitarian emergencies, the 'consumers' are often destitute, and excluded from planning and coordination meetings. 'Choice', from the perspective of the intended beneficiary, is academic. If refugees and other disaster victims are unable to exercise consumer sovereignty, market-driven humanitarianism is certainly responsive to meeting the needs of other categories of 'consumer', such as major donors and army commanders. This can be illustrated by contrasting the operational approaches of mandate and market-driven humanitarian organisations.
The French word, 'unicite', is the concept used by the ICRC in circumscribing their operational jurisdiction. It is used to define territory in which the ICRC is 'uniquely' able to operate. Thus, where international NGOs gain entry to conflict zones under the recent phenomenon of integrated UN/NGO negotiated access programmes (such as Operation Lifeline in Sudan, and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia), the ICRC's principle of 'unicite' would indicate their own withdrawal. In the absence of the ICRC, it is more likely that breaches of the Geneva Conventions can be perpetrated with impunity, since NGOs have no legal status in international humanitarian law, no mandate, no leverage and no experience in the matter of protecting prisoners of war, visiting military detainees and so on.
The very process of negotiating UN/NGO access to conflict zones also confers legitimacy upon warring parties and coincidentally facilitates the incorporation of relief aid into military strategies. Given the media profile that NGOs seek, it is obvious why aspiring insurgents prefer the international NGOs to the publicity-wary ICRC. Furthermore, in pursuit of televised humanitarian success, Northern politicians are much less likely to finance the traditionally tight-lipped ICRC than the publicity-hungry new humanitarian contractors.
The market-led introduction of NGOs into the space formerly occupied solely by the ICRC undermines the chances of holding Geneva Convention signatories to account. In addition, 'negotiated access' replaces the formula of relief determined by need, with a political negotiation between two warring parties. Such interventions may well reinforce the capacity of parties to wage war and may also offer an incentive to starve captive civilian populations to bolster a negotiating position.
It also appears that the power of the NGO lobby is now so great that it is further eroding the quality of humanitarian space through its well-developed lobbying ability. In this regard, ad hoc UN resolutions often demand far less than the victims of war and persecution are actually entitled to under the Geneva and Refugee Conventions. Instead, the protection of humanitarian agencies is the justification for military intervention, and this sometimes becomes the major expense in humanitarian operations.
Erosion of accountability, and the 'culture of success'
One peculiar dimension of the humanitarian industry is the interdependence of the contracting parties, and the ever-present risk of market exclusion. For example, the official aid establishment projected public outrage at any suggestion that refugee mortality rates in Goma during July 1994 (at that point running at ten times the level designated by the World Health Organisation as 'catastrophic'), were an indictment of the international community. Thus, whilst organisational mandates may reflect higher purposes and outward goals, the greater need to project images of success can subvert the quality of public debate about humanitarian action, even in the midst of the most appalling human tragedy witnessed for many years.
Another dimension of the new humanitarian imperative to dress up failure as success is reflected in the recent trend to introduce developmentalist concepts into the emergency relief domain. Humanitarian projects are defined, measured and judged by achievable goals such as clinics built, human rights monitors deployed, doctors deployed, mine awareness kits distributed, gender awareness workshops nun, litres of water distributed, and so on. By concentrating upon the fulfilment of contracted inputs and outputs rather than upon actual humanitarian outcome, the industry is able to demonstrate contractual success even within spectacularly unfulfilled mandates. This approach coincidentally offers a way of accommodating and legitimating a long-term role for NGOs in the conflict zone.
NGOs-humanitarian cure or curse?
Nobody who witnessed the cholera camps in Goma could reasonably doubt that the humanitarian NGOs represent a profound expression of human compassion. Nevertheless, there is surely a deep paradox in the rapid expansion of the humanitarian industry and the simultaneous decline in refugee welfare and protection standards.
Certainly the absence of an independent inspectorate of humanitarian intervention does allow maverick organisations to exploit the new market more easily, and this diminishes all agencies. In this respect, the recently published NGO Code of Conduct is a worthy initiative of self-regulation. However, in view of the widespread erosion of existing minimum standards, and commonplace defiance of international humanitarian law, there can be very little hope that the Code of Conduct will significantly alter matters on its own. Ironically, the concept of a 'culture of impunity' that is used to describe the political and moral economy of the Rwandese refugee camps, could equally be employed to describe the modern humanitarian aid industry; donors, NGOs and all.
by Pierre Laurentth
Among the litanies that regularly exercise the limited world of Third World assistance, one particular complaint crops up continuously, namely the impossibility of interchange between emergency and development aid. There have been many variations on this theme A few brave thinkers have propounded views which are less linear, talking about the transition from development to emergency aid. Others have been more bold, daring to introduce a transitional concept and an arena in which the two alms can be balanced, which they term rehabilitation. These are the three key terms which can be combined in a variety of permutations. Those on the grandest scale have even been applied in practice. And Boutros Boutros Ghali has recently tried to make the apt proaches more coherent by advancing the concept of a continuum.
There is some evidence of a reconciliation between the different approaches. Supporters of emergency assistance are now integrating long-term aims into their emergency action and are entering into local partnerships, while 'developers' are agreeing to work with or withdraw in favour of local agents. There are numerous examples of collaboration. The tools used to effect such a reconciliation are simple since after all, apart from the very different know-how possessed by both sides, all that is needed is intelligence, understanding and a willingness for dialogue. Of course, it is not always easy to put the new ideas into practice. There is a cultural divide which needs to be bridged and ideological preconceptions that need to be abandoned. However, the intention is there.
A brief glossary and critique of received ideas
'Providers of emergency aid leave everything as it was before !'
Responding to this assertion, it should be noted that, with only a few rare exceptions, no one now believes in the provision of emergency aid on its own. Most humanitarian organisations are engaged in consistent rehabilitation and development operations.
It also appears to be the case that NGOs, the usual 'providers of emergency aid', have now reviewed their approach in depth and are trying, as far as possible, to incorporate a long-term view right from the start of the emergency. Few organisations today withdraw as soon as the immediate criris has passed. They have all developed strategies, based on the continuum approach, enabling them to deal with rehabilitation and long-term problems from the viewpoint of both human and material resources. This is done either in an integrated manner, or by using local or international partners.
'Emergency humanitarian aid is using up all resources, both public and private'
Clearly, the fact that emergency humanitarian emergency aid is more visible influences both ordinary citizens and elected representatives in its favour. One can hardly criticise the type of public awareness which sees acute suffering give rise to immediate generosity. As regards public funds, it is clear that large amounts have been mobilised for humanitarian aid and this has certainly had a negative impact on development assistance. And we should not delude ourselves into thinking that the two areas are sufficiently connected that an increase in the former somehow mitigates a reduction in the latter. Emergency aid mobilised by public authorities is not for use in development. But despite the big increase in emergency humanitarian assistance, it is still insufficient. Only rarely, are there enough resources to respond properly to a particular crisis. Another element is the doubt that has arisen over the last 20 years about the capacity of development aid to promote actual development. Economic stagnation in many developing countries has coincided with the abandonment of certain ideological positions giving rise to considerable uncertainty among politicians. The result is that the latter find it easier to justify humanitarian assistance. It ought also to be pointed out that the greater visibility of humanitarian aid makes it easier for elected representatives to boost their political profile.
Nonetheless, supporters of emergency assistance still have long-term financing difficulties. The issue is not so much whether one can restore the lost 'equilibrium' between development and humanitarian aid-which must be an impossible aim-but how to reform the administrative structures for the management of the funds by intergovernmental bodies. Administrative structures are never neutral and the current division between emergency and development aid does not encourage flexibility.
'Supporters of humanitarian assistance handle information in a sensational manner instead of using it to educate and develop the views of the general public'
Looking at this proposition, we should start off by saying that no one can control the actions of the media, and that this very fact represents progress in our democracies. In any case, sensationalism is not what the supporters of emergency aid set out to achieve, although communication is incontestably one aspect of their action. In fact, many human dramas remain outside the limelight, despite the efforts and strategies adopted ? The long list includes Sudan, Angola and Nigeria for example. The principle whereby a single train derailment gets publicity but regular derailments are uninteresting, unfortunately, continues to apply.
Achieving an adequate response
None of these comments or refutations, however, constitute a response to the complaint made at the beginning of this article and the main problems are not in this area. Let us accept that neither emergency assistance, nor rehabilitation, nor development, even in their most open forms, are able to respond to all the suffering and vulnerability that exists. Let us also accept that, however complex the approach described by these three words, they do not constitute a way of approaching the real world which involves learning from experience and that a large number of victims and crises are still slipping through the net provided by this perspective. Rwanda has without doubt been the most striking example of this.
In other words, it is not a question of defining situations in terms of 'emergency', 'rehabilitation' or 'development'. The reality is that there are only different forms of vulnerability of peoples and individuals, and very different ways of responding. They may be immediate emergencies, long term crises or both at the same time. They may necessitate conflict prevention or the rebuilding of a legal system. They may entail political, diplomatic or humanitarian solutions, used exclusively or to complement one another. Such an approach entails a reassessment of the wide variety of institutions involved and the form they take (NGOs and international agencies) in a spirit of complementarity.
Are we to conclude from this that NGOs, using the sociological strategy adopted by organisations, have hitherto been seeking to justify their existence by reducing the real world to what they are able to perceive ? This is certainly the case, though it does not explain the situation fully. The approach proposed here does not simply entail abandoning our existing conceptual frameworks, but also attempting to deal with the real world, which is now more fluid than ever, on a national and international scale, and to distinguish common lines of cleavage and peculiarities.
It is not so much a question of NGOs reviewing their theoretical and conceptual framework in a spirit of pure abstraction, but rather of changing our viewpoint. We must also make it possible for all public and private agents to find the space in which they can exercise their responsibilities, which is one of the features of our society.
Definition of the people most at risk-those who have been the worst hit, or who seem likely to become victims- allows us to cast light on a whole range of smaller risks. NGOs are symbolic agents and, as such, they must use their power to cast light into dark places in a way which will lead to speedy action. Definition of other risks will only be useful if we are able to respond to them in concrete terms, as effectively as possible and in a sustained manner. The role of organisations of international solidarity is not solely to bear witness or to denounce abuses, but rather to affirm that they have been assigned an area of responsibility by society which will never be dealt with by other structures, (notably the state). These are 'the margins of the margins of the margins'. NGOs live where the illusion that the state provides ends-where new forms of citizenship are being developed at the same time as other people at risk are being revealed. The state must take care of the remaining area. To say that orphans are among the most vulnerable groups in Rwanda today, and to work in this area creating durable structures based on solidarity, is to cast light on other groups at risk, such as women, soldiers and so on and to accept that another agency, namely the state, will take charge of this. In this process, the areas in which the state intervenes, and its legitimacy, are redefined.
We must remember that those of us in NGOs of the North and South are not a substitute but a structural solution to certain types of risk, responding in the short, medium and long terms by making proposals - but especially by taking action.
But this entails a major change in the philosophical approach adopted. There must also be an end to the dichotomy between the supporters of emergency assistance, who can be caricatured as people who think that saving an individual means saving humanity, and the developers who think that individual interests can only be met by adopting a collective approach. Accepting the ideological and conceptual barrenness of this distinction will allow us to respond better to people who have been psychologically hurt and who are physically at risk. Whether, in the final analysis, the response is geared towards one person or many, we must be ready to tackle complex situations outside a conceptual framework, giving ourselves the means to adopt a suitable response which does not necessarily fit into comfortable pre-existing categories.
by Myfanwy van de Velde
It's not so often that a country sees its very distant past as of importance to its future. That is the case, though, in Vanuatu, where a small-scale project-the Vanuatu Cultural and Historic Sites Survey- has, over the past five years, made a tremendous achievement in recording the many facets of the country's heritage for future generations.
The VCHSS (or Rejista Thong Olgeta Olfala Ples Thong Vanuatu, as it is known in the vernacular) sets out to identify, record and map as many as possible of the Melanesian country's archaeological, cultural and historic sites. In examining known sites-and in many cases discovering new sites in the process-the project is unearthing and preserving for posterity a wealth of detail about Vanuatu's prehistory as well as about its more recent social and economic history.
The manner in which it is done demands a wide variety of skills. Vanuatu is not, of course, one neat island, every corner of which is easily accessible-few, if any, of the Pacific island countries are. In Vanuatu's case there are dozens of populated islands, and some 100 indigenous languages. (Most of the people of Vanuatu - the pi-Vanuatu - speak a newly emerged contact language, called Bislama, which is now the national language).
The Survey (which the EU has been part-funding since 1990) has employed the services of some 60 volunteer fieldworkers to visit sites and record their findings. In general village people and their chiefs welcome the volunteers, and demonstrate pride in 'their' site and satisfaction that government has sought to preserve it. Local knowledge about the myths surrounding the site and its original and later uses is noted (and often photographed) and this-together with its physical characteristics-is reported back to the government-run Cultural Centre in the capital, Port Vila. Here the findings are recorded not only in written form, but also electronically (with software designed specifically for the project), with site position data recorded on a geographical information system, Mapinfo.
The survey is not limited to physical evidence of the past, however: the volunteers often set out with cassette recorders and cameras to register traditional stories or songs and dances.
The work of the dedicated few (all ni-Vanautu) working on the VCHSS is well advanced, but there is no danger that the inventory that has been created will itself become history. A prime function of the Rejista is that it should serve as a tool in the appropriate planning of development projects, reducing-indeed preferably eliminating-the damage so often done to a country's cultural heritage through ignorance or disregard of sites of cultural or archaeological value. And things are looking good already: though the Survey is brand new, it is already a government requirement that it should be consulted before a development project is planned. Prehistory shaping future development: in Vanuatu, at least, that is felt to be right.
by Ewout Klungel
Although The Courier's main focus is on ACP countries, we try from time to time to feature events in other parts of the developing world. The author of this article, who works for the UNDP's Empretec programme in Uruguay, reports on the initial success of an EU-sponsored scheme designed to promote the expansion of business links in South America.
After the infamous, 'lost decade' of the 1980s, Latin America is regaining the confidence of international banks and foreign investors. A wave of democratisation has swept away the military dictatorships, economic reforms are starting to bear fruit, and ambitious integration programmes such as the Mercosur, have moved high on to the political agenda.
To help reinforce economic progress in the region, the EU recently set up the AI-lnvest Programme-an initiative to promote entrepreneurial cooperation between the Union and Latin America. It covers such areas as technology transfers, the establishment of joint ventures, educational activities and sub-contracting of public works. Initiated with a grant of ECU 20 million (with a 50% maximum for EU participation in projects) the programme covers entrepreneurial cooperation between 33 European and Latin American countries. One of its most innovative characteristics has been the creation of Eurocenters of Entrepreneurial Cooperation. By the end of 1994, 12 of these were up and running and 8 more were in the pipeline. Their function is to bring together all local organisations and institutions that have the potential to contribute to entrepreneurial cooperation and are interested in participating. This covers such bodies as chambers of industry and commerce, employers' and professional organisations, and institutions specialising in entrepreneurial or development cooperation. The principal tasks of the Eurocenters are to:
-Inform enterprises about the Al-lnvest Programme and the
opportunities it provides;
-Look for European business partners using the close links that have been established between the Eurocenters and their European counterparts who are members of the Coopeco (Economic Cooperation) network;
-Analyse the enterprises' needs and improve both their professional image and the image of their industrial cooperation and/or investment projects.
The Eurocenter Uruguay
A look at the functioning and accomplishments of the Eurocenter in Uruguay offers a perspective of how the Programme operates. The country's Chamber of Industry was selected as the location for the Centre which began operating in October 1994. It brings together various organisations including the sectoral commission of Mercosur, the national SME organisation, the Chamber of Commerce and the Associacion Empretec (which coordinates several UNDP programmes and has wide experience in organising trade missions and business negotiation rounds). All of these bodies are able to consult the EU's BC-Net network, a database containing company profiles which is intended to match the interests of European and Uruguayan enterprises.
Additionally, the Eurocenter Uruguay has developed a series of activities promoting the Al-lnvest Programme. A brochure has been designed, 1500 enterprises have been directly informed about the programme, articles have been published in the country's main newspapers and radio interviews have been given. Most importantly, all of Uruguay's main business associations have been thoroughly briefed about Al-lnvest.
Information on business conventions in the EU is systematically disseminated to Uruguayan companies. Trade missions have been organised to fairs in Santiago and Cordoba producing promising results in terms of both export and import opportunities. The most recent trade mission was to Hannover. Future plans include an Italian trade mission to Uruguay and an Al-lnvest sponsored Uruguayan mission to Asturias.
One of the biggest and most promising activities is planned for October 1995. This is an EU-sponsored Round Table Business Meeting, organised in association with Empretec, which is expected to attract some 300 participants. It will cover five sectors: plastics, textiles, food, electronics and biotechnology, and is open to any interested company. The only requirement is the submission of a company profile for the Eurocenter to review, so as to ensure that the enterprises attending have similar interests. The European companies participating will be selected by the organisations that are members of the Coopeco network. The Eurocenter maintains regular contacts with 'Coopecos' in the larger EU Member States but Robert Villamil, who is the Eurocenter's Director, is keen to encourage participation from other Member States. 'Events such as these are a great opportunity to initiate cooperation with countries that trade with or invest little in Uruguay,' he points out.
There are already many examples of successful cooperation under the Al-lnvest Programme and, with numerous business conventions planned for the coming year, the momentum is expected to be maintained. Of course, business cooperation between Europe and Latin America is not as developed as it could be. Distance, language barriers, and different business cultures all have the effect of limiting contacts, especially at the level of SMEs. But as Mr Villamil emphasises, 'the Al-lnvest Programme, through its cooperation networks and the business conventions it facilitates, can act as a stimulus to overcome these barriers, bringing European and Latin American enterprises together.'
The statistics are indeed horrifying in this the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. From only five complex emergences in 1985 involving some 8 million refugees, the international community is today dealing with an average of 28 such emergencies annually involving more than 25 million ret fugees. Projected to the year 2045 and taking into consideration the rapid growth in the world's population, there would be 140 complex emergencies annually and more than 55m displaced people thoughout the world. At the moment some 70 countries are hosting refugees. The cost to the international community has been enormous and it is escalating: from $5 billion in 1980 to $30bn in 1994. By the end of this decade these expenses are expected to rise to $40bn annually, according to UN sources. The costs to development are even more alarming as large proportions of development budgets continue to be spent on relief and peacekeeping operations.
The changing nature of conflicts
Brian Atwood of the United States Agency for International Development wrote recently that the world spent more on peace-keeping operations in 1993 than it did in the previous 48 years combined and that in the same year, investment in development declined by 8%. The share of official development assistance (ODA) allocated by OECD countries to relief rose from less than $500m in 1980 to $3.5bn in 1993, and this at a time when overall ODA is declining. Last year over one billion dollars were raised for the Rwandan crisis alone, more than the amount received in development assistance by the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
This situation has led to renewed interest in the linkages between relief and development and has provoked a debate on their validity in conflict-related emergencies. Following natural disasters, relief operations are aimed primarily at ensuring the survival of the afflicted population and restoring their means of livelihood as far as is practicable. Experience has shown that this process is as lengthy and expensive as development itself. However, the concept of a 'relief/development continuum' in conflict-related emergencies is problematic, given the absence of peace. Hitherto, relief and development strategies have both tended to rely on the existence of state structures. Today, donors are increasingly being confronted with a credibility problem, whether in their relationship with partners whose legitimacy and accountability are questionable, or with relief agencies whose conduct in complex political and military situations is unpredictable. The number of 'failed' states, particularly in Africa, is growing.
Although there has been an expansion of 'the democratic zone' recently, the pattern of modern warfare has also changed. The inter-state conflicts of the past have been superceded by internal struggles. Liberation wars have given way to power struggles between warlords unencumbered by ideological motives. Arms are now freely available to criminal groups and violence is no longer the monopoly of states. Drug trafficking in conflict zones is on the increase. Humanitarian assistance on the other hand is increasingly coming up against issues of good governance and human rights.
With only a few exceptions, donor countries have not redefined their policies to take account of the current situation. On the contrary, they appear to be in disarray. Indeed, the impression is of a gradual withdrawal with an increasing tendency to subcontract humanitarian aid to private and voluntary bodies. As a result, we have seen a proliferation of relief agencies and NGOs working in the field, sometimes in an uncoordinated fashion.
Defining a policy
Against this background of near anarchy and in order to arrive at a greater understanding of the issues, a common analysis of the problem and a definition of policy, a seminar was held at Wilton Park, Sussex, in the United Kingdom, from 7-9 April. The title of the seminar was Aid Under Fire: redefining relief and development assistance in unstable situations. Organised in association with the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, the Overseas Development Institute and Actionaid, it was attended by senior and middle-ranking officials from multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, NGOs and academics from across Europe, North America and East Asia, as well as aid recipients from the developing world.
A key question, among the many posed by the organisers, was whether conflict-related emergencies were still primarily a matter for relief agencies given their proliferation in recent times and the greatly increased costs involved. In other words, is the aid system the appropriate mechanism to deal with the political and military dimensions of conflicts, and is it sensible to link relief with development, in the light of the fact that the conflicts are assuming an increasingly 'permanent' character.
The seminar naturally took stock of the politico-economic context in which these emergencies are taking place, notably with the ending of the Cold War and the breakdown of old alliances. This has changed the dynamics of relations between donors and recipients (the former had promoted the economic growth of states and provided support to leaders of questionable character and legitimacy). It has also resulted in greater availability on the black market of large quantities of arms from the former Communist bloc, an increase in arms trafficking to unstable regions of the world, enormous strains on aid budgets, political and economic pressures on governments in donor countries, and economic failures leading to a massive increase in poverty in some parts of the developing world.
Concern was expressed that the international community had not mobilised sufficiently to halt arms trafficking, especially when information is available on their routes, and that it has not done enough to monitor and fight human rights violations. The result is that a culture of impunity has developed with relief assistance often deliberately disrupted and manipulated. Humanitarian assistance, some participants warned, risks becoming a camouflage for inaction-diverting attention from tackling the fundamental problems. Compassion, they said, is no substitute to taking up the challenge. There is a need for the international community to reappraise its understanding of the nature of conflicts and of peace. Poverty, injustice, environmental changes and population pressures are not the only causes of civil conflicts. Historical animosity and memories of such animosity, as Bosnia and Rwanda have shown, are also important factors.
As preventive measures begin to prove effective in dealing with natural disasters, some participants pointed out, a similar 'insurance policy' against manmade ones needs to be taken out, especially when it is possible to forecast where and when they will occur. Some practical measures can be taken. These include a commitment to fight illegal arms trafficking, a ban on the production of mines, promotion of good governance, the development of a free press and encouragement of press freedom, strengthening of indigenous capacity to manage and resolve conflicts within society and, where necessary, support to those local, national, regional and international organisations that are best placed to resolve conflicts using a multi-track approach.
Significantly, there were few voices advocating the advancement of democracy, even though aid is now often linked to it as a matter of policy. Democracy, especially in multi-ethnic societies, is proving a risky undertaking as the experience of Rwanda and Burundi shows.
The conference agreed that although information is available, there is often a lack of understanding of the root causes of conflicts and a lack of understanding of the local culture. This highlights the need to strengthen national crisis management capacity. Indeed many were of the opinion that the international community should assist more in conflict management than in resolution, 'because some conflicts are cyclical and unresolvable.' Rwanda and Burundi, they said, have enjoyed periods of peace and stability only because their leaders were able to manage the crisis during those periods.
The growing shortage of funds did not escape the attentions of the participants. While there was regret over the increasing costs of relief and the dwindling funds available for development, the conference agreed that there is an enormous amount of waste, as was clearly illustrated at the height of the Rwandan crisis. Although efforts are being made at the United Nations to find ways of raising funds, the current situation calls for a more rational use of resources. A suggestion by one speaker which attracted widespread support was that a proportion of the huge funds normally generated internationally during large-scale disasters of the type suffered by the Rwandans and the Iraqi Kurds, when public sympathy translates into substantial donations, should be set aside for long term humanitarian aid and development.
Inherent link between relief and development
In discussion groups, opinions were divided as to how far relief agencies should be involved in conflict management. There were those who felt they should adhere to the principle of 'nonintervention', restricting themselves to saving lives and creating 'a human space', on the basis that they have neither the skills nor the capacity to mediate. Others believed they should be part and parcel of the multi-track approach to conflict resolution. In either situation, there was a general recognition of the danger of donors indirectly increasing tensions, legitimising otherwise criminal groups, influencing the dynamics of the conflict and compromising their neutrality. The uncomfortable relations between relief organisations and military authorities in recent conflict situations, with the former obliged to negotiate with the latter to gain access, as exemplified in Bosnia, Sudan and Angola, was emphasised as being a negative aspect. The majority of participants, however, agreed with the idea of agencies being involved in prevention and for an international body to be responsible for gathering and disseminating information in an early warning capacity.
On the fundamental question as to whether there is an inherent relationship between relief and development, the seminar concluded that there was. It noted the failure of policies in this post Cold War period where the tendency is to separate relief from development. The idea behind this is that civil conflicts are temporary interruptions to normal development processes. But today we are witnessing conflicts of very long duration and of great intensity and destructivenesss. Those that do end leave little or no infrastructure as a basis for the resumption of production and development. The seminar deplored the lack of planning at the relief stage which meant that the development aspects are ignored. Relief in the current global context, must have a clear 'window' on development. There must, in short, be an interface between the two, and institutions should devise their relief and development policies accordingly.
by Debarati Guha Sapir
Wilton Park conferences 'have gained a reputation in the UK as a useful forum for high-level participants wishing to engage in a free exchange of views on foreign policy issues. The Courier was privileged to attend the recent conference on 'Aid under fire' with permission to report in genera/ terms on the key elements of the discussion (see previous article). Below, we supplement this with an abridged extract of one of the conference presentations kindly supplied to us by Debarati Guha Sapir who is a Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium! In a world where humanitarian crises are now more likely to result from human conflicts than natural disasters, Professor Sapir argues that the international community needs to rethink its approach end come up with a new global policy in the field of relief and development activity.
The developmental and long-term implications of disasters and relief have been an international concern since the famines of the early 1970s. A small but persistent group within international and national agencies have pushed for disaster preparednesss and prevention. Their activities implicitly included development issues. However, their focus remained largely on natural disasters, with some awareness of the complexity of causes in the case of famine. By the 1980s, conflicts had taken centre stage in relief programmes, and discussion shifted to the complexities involved in this area. The militarisation of these crises, with the emergence of humanitarian interventions involving armed forces, has resulted in an increase in the number of key players in the decision-making structures of national and international agencies. Responsibilities have become divided between various government ministries (defence, development, foreign affairs), and international agency departments. This is a situation which is conducive, overall, to increased ideological polarisation between non-militarists and militarists, and between pragmatic developmentalists and action-oriented relief practitioners. As in most cases, all sides have valid arguments. The problem now is to find the right mix of arguments, sad transform these into a concrete and applicable policy.
That relief is increasingly being provided at the cost of development is undeniable. Arguments include the one that humanitarian aid offers a 'way round' finding difficult political solutions to thorny problems, or that relief is quicker, easier and much more visually appealing than development programmes. Today, the main actors in the international community concur, to a greater or lesser degree, on some of the parameters of the current humanitarian situation. Notwithstanding this, they have had difficulties in coming up with a response, especially in terms of programme planning, budget allocations and overall policy. Many practical problems confront field agencies as a result of ambiguities at the donor level and contradictions in this context.
The difficulties in introducing any long-term perspectives in relief arise chiefly from two factors:
-the very hard-to-change traditional views of relief as defined
by the historical 'fire-brigade' approach, namely a short, sharp input to save
lives (an approach which has long-dominated the relief scene), and;
-the rigidity of existing administrative structures within and among many donor institutions.
Responsibilities are sharply divided between those involved in development cooperation, and those operating in the field of emergency relief. As a result, all activities that ensure the transition between emergency and development action fall between two stools. Field-level ambiguities resulting from the current situation are readily illustrated in the Somali context. Was the reconstruction of the Mogadishu sewerage system an emergency action or part of the development programme ? Dithering over such mundane questions led to a delay in funding and resulted in a cholera epidemic. Serious consequences, both human and financial followed the mistakes made in efforts to disarm and demobilise the population. Emergency programmes began demobilisation in Somalia without the necessary concurrent investment in providing alternative means of livelihood or education. The result was that a costly effort failed lamentably; within days of handing over their arms, nearly everybody had succeeded in regaining them.
Of the many questions and lessons emerging from these examples, I would like to point out what is, in my opinion, the key underlying issue. Given our awareness of the magnitude of current crises, and agreement that strategic planning, (which includes developmental/technical as well as political aspects) is the key to successful international response, do we not need to explore where and how we should establish structural and institutional links between relief and development? Should disaster preparedness fall under development cooperation or emergency assistance ? Should the policies be rethought in the post Cold-War period where the nature of humanitarian crises changed ?
A global policy, spelling out institutional links between development programmes and relief operations in the light of new realities, needs to be devised. Inter-agency (or service) coordination, while critical, is rarely useful in the absence of policy or long-term strategic plans. More often than not, emphasis on coordination only becomes an alibi for inaction. Countries such as Liberia, Angola, Somalia, Sudan, Cambodia and Myanmar demonstrate the difficulties facing development and relief workers in deciding which 'hat to wear' when asking for funds.
In conclusion, international agenCies involved in countries with protracted emergencies or chronic unstable conditions need urgently to review their strategies both for relief and development.
by Alain Labrousse
At the beginning of the 1990s, the International Narcotics Control Board (lNCB) issued a report in which it said: 'The situation regarding the abuse of and traffic in narcotics has continued to deteriorate in Africa over the past few years. If effective action is not taken (these phenomena) will be added to the poverty, violence, corruption and instability of the communities concerned.' Several years later, this pessimistic forecast has been largely confirmed.
Though cannabis has been known in East and Central Africa since the 14th century, it was not introduced to West Africa until after the Second World War, by Ghanaian and Nigerian soldiers who had fought in Burma with the British.
At first, the marijuana trade in rural areas was relatively limited and controlled, but in the last decade, following the drop in the prices of raw materials such as cotton, ground nuts, coffee and cocoa beans, farmers have started to cultivate the cannabis plant more extensively. Their activity ranges from just a few patches, hidden among subsistence and market garden crops, to relatively large areas covering several acres and belonging to a single owner. There are also indications that, here and there, experiments in the cultivation of poppies and coca trees are being carried out.
It would appear, however, that far from being a survival strategy, the cultivation of such crops in Ghana and Nigeria has been seen from the outset as an attractive way of making money. Ghanaian and Nigerian traffickers have started to 'export' their form of production to other regions of West Africa, in particular Senegal and Southern Gambia. The islands of the Saloum Delta and the Gambia and Casamance rivers (the main areas of production in the region owing to a favourable climate and relative isolation) are home to peasant farmers with relatively large areas under cultivation. Across the region, Nigerian and Ghanaian traffickers offer seeds to farmers, paying them in advance for the harvest which they come to collect when it has been taken in. The system involves paying CFAF 300 000 for the cannabis harvested from 10 m², which must be delivered within three months. The farmer who does not meet this commitment must then supply double the quantity stipulated.
The Nigerians have also started to extend their activities to Benin, where cannabis is known locally as gue. It is found in each of the six provinces of that country. And the Ghanaians are extending their activities to Burkina Faso. There are significant areas of cultivation in the central and western region along the Sissili and Nahouris rivers to the north of the frontier with Ghana. These are effectively under the control of Ghanaians, as the same ethnic groups live on both sides of the frontier. A significant proportion of the crop produced is reputed to be for export.
In Cot'lvoire, cultivation seems to have developed hand in hand with implementation of the first structural adjustment programme between 1984 and 1988. It developed more rapidly when world cocoa (and coffee) prices collapsed in 1988/89. This period also saw a restructuring of the cocoa marketing and distribution system, and the dissolution of credit networks in an area where farmers had been forced into producing nothing but cocoa. The price paid to the producer for a kilo of cocoa beans fell from CFAF 400 to CFAF 200. In some cocoa growing regions of the south west, 'ganja' has been established for a number of years now among young cocoa plantations (two or three years old). It is also found in plots of land used for subsistence farming, among rice below the normal ground level and in cassava fields. It is even possible to see areas of up to three hectares devoted solely to the cultivation of cannabis.
Sub-Saharan Africa: a market crossroads for traffickers
Alongside this development, Africa has, since the 1980s, become a significant air and sea transit route for heroin from Asia, destined for the USA and Europe, and for cocaine heading for Europe from America. At the start of this decade, heroin intended for Europe and the USA began passing through Nigeria. Initially, it was so-called 'brown sugar' (heroin no. 3) imported directly from the Indian subcontinent. In South East Asia, traffickers also dealt in 'Chinese' heroin (heroin no. 4) and the routes were later diversified to pass through East and Central Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Zaire). The African networks, meanwhile, extended to cover more countries. By 1994, it was estimated that 30% of heroin consumed in the USA had been introduced there by Nigerian networks.
The through traffic of cocaine from South America also affects most of the large countries of West Africa, in particular Senegal and Cot'lvoire. It has recently begun to have an impact on South Africa as well. As for heroin, large-scale trafficking is accompanied by the activities of the 'small fry', made up of thousands of small-scale couriers of all nationalities who take chugs to the various European nations with which their countries have historical and linguistic links.
The increase in the number of production areas and trafficking networks has had an overspill effect on local populations. But there are other crucial influences-the economic crisis, the flight from the countryside, the effects of structural adjustment on unemployment, and the destruction of family life as parents seek a livelihood leaving the children to their own devices. Psychotropic drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates, and tranquilisers can be found on sale everywhere and are in widespread use, especially among the street children of the urban areas. In the Sahel countries, (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger), farmers are poisoning themselves without realising it by using amphetamines provided by pedlars, in order to cope with hard manual labour during the short rainy season.
The most worrying factor is the advance of cocaine and heroin. These were the preserve of the privileged classes a few years ago but usage is now growing among the common people in all the big cities. The fact that heroin and cocaine are the only two imported products not to have increased in price (CFAF 15 000 per gram) in the poor areas of Lomnd Abidjan, following the devaluation of the CFA franc, indicates that traffickers have targeted their activities on these local markets.
What comes first, development or education ? This was a question posed by Unesco in the February 1995 issue of its magazine 'Sources'. Their conclusions, which we reprint below, make interesting reading. Looking at indicators such as population growth, health and per capita income, Unesco revealed that the two elements actually go hand in hand. In other words, education gets better as countries develop, and development picks up speed as the level of education rises. Their conclusion is that for governments everywhere, education remains a sound investment.
Average number of children per woman
Fewer, healthier children
Raising the level of female literacy facilitates women's access to information on contraception and planned parenthood. They also become more aware of hygiene and nutrition, which means their children live longer and are generally healthier: evidence indicates that each additional year of a mother's schooling translates into a 5-10% drop in child mortality.
This changes the way women think about child bearing and motherhood and, as the graph on the left show's, usually leads to a significant drop in fertility.
The trend is especially apparent in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Asia and the Pacific. In Brazil, for example, illiterate women have an average 6.5 children while those with a secondary education have only 2.5
Statistics also reveal a direct correlation between literacy levels and life expectancy: the more literate the population and the more years of schooling, the longer the life span.
As mentioned above, people who have reamed to read and write are more attentive to hygiene and health care. They tend to be less fatalistic and, in the event of illness, are more likely to turn to a doctor. Of course, literacy is not the only factor that affects life expectancy. Access to medical treatment, the family's financial circumstances, and the social environment are also crucial factors.
Adult literacy rates
Does an increase in per capita income cause the level of education to rise, or is it, on the contrary, education that enables the economic situation to improve ? No doubt it is a two-way process.
National income is, of course, governed by the rate of production. But it is also contingent on factors such as natural resources or population growth: the more mouths to feed, the more thinly spread the benefits of increased production.
Nonetheless, the statistics show that, generally, better educated populations are also richer ones.
As the last graph shows, there is no great difference between the number of years spent in school and rates of activity. This may reflect on the quality of education. The difficulty of finding a paid job that matches the aspirations nurtured in school and/or university, and the inability to create a paying activity by and for oneself, despite all the training one has received, could mean that the content and standards of education are not relevant enough.
It may also reflect the inroads that modern technology continues to make into the workplace; technology that certainly allows for growth in production, but which replaces rather than creates jobs.
by Gilles Roussel
The author of this article is the Secretary-General of 'Africrion' (African agency for creative youth, 77 Rue de Charonne, 75011, Paris). He writes here about the vitality of cultural entrepreneurs in a number of African countries where his agency operates, focusing on their training needs and their potential role in economic development
In February 1995, Africreation initiated its second African Cultural Entrepreneurs' Training Programme. This project, entirely financed by the EDF, is the brainchild of the Benin Ministry for Culture and Communication and is supported by the Ministries for Culture in neighbouring countries. A selection committee chose 10 future trainees from the 170 candidate files submitted. All are under 30 and they come from seven African countries. Six are women. Their aim is to set up projects involving the theatre and museums or under the multidisciplinary heading of 'Cultural Action'.
The Racines (Roots) Festival took place in December 1994 in Porto-Novo (Benin). This was a multi-faceted occasion, encompassing music, dance, theatre, lectures/debates and exhibitions, demonstrating the creative wealth and open-minded spirit of this historic town on the Gulf of Guinea. Events were initiated, conceived and produced by a team headed by 27 year-old Igor Agueh.
If you travel via Cotonou, the economic capital, take the coastal route. On the left, an unassuming wooden notice announces the 'Mediathe de Diasporas' (Diasporas Multi-media Centre). Where the road ends, there is an African house where artists and their works, exponents of the plastic arts, dramatists and musicians intermingle. It is here that highly organised exhibitions (such as the first Cotonou Carnival) or improvised events and concerts are prepared. The results are achieved in a lively and energetic atmosphere which alternates between serene and tempestuous. The principal organiser at the centre, Camille Amouro, is a 32 year-old dramatist.
Continuing on to Lomyou will find, at the start of a very quiet road, one of the first African design enterprises, offering decorations, furniture-making and fabrics. Kossi Assou, a 35 year-old plastic-arts designer, is the man behind these prolific and authentic forms which are sold throughout Africa and Europe.
In Burkina Faso, Chadian Koulsy Lamko, a dramatist who returned to Ouagadougou after two years as writer-inresidence in Limoges, has opened an agency for training Burkinabe artists. Meanwhile, Parfait Doudy from Congo is collaborating in the development of a Burkinabe regional audiovisual production unit. He is awaiting an improvement in the situation in his own country, which is currently not favourable to the setting-up of cultural enterprises. He sees his project in Burkina as the forerunner for a Bantu Communication project he plans to set up later in Congo.
Lastly, there is Maryam Maloumbila from Chad. Her native country presently has more pressing concerns but she has, nonetheless, successfully established Kadja Kossi, an artistic and socio-cultural centre, in N'Djamena.
Most of the young Africans who completed the first training programme organised by Africrion in Lomwhich ran from February 1992 to March 1993, are therefore proven entrepreneurs and innovators. Although, unfortunately, not all were successful, 144 candidates got their projects through the selection procedure, overcoming the difficulties of that troubled time in Togo and, above all, the problems they encountered on return to their countries. It would be useful to give an explanation at this point of why this 'gamble' on people and their spirit of enterprise was actually made, the bet being placed as much on the diversity of content as on the continuity of implementation.
Culture in development
Without wishing to oversimplify matters, it ought to be said that, in Africa, planned, administrative solutions have too often been sought merely to satisfy the operators and at the expense of those actually involved. This is particularly true in the cultural sector where a number of pare-administrative or pan-African events or structures were set up, virtually all of which were stifled by bureaucracy and by the fact that they lost sight of their initial objectives. This must be countered by the notion of cultural entrepreneur-first and foremost an individual with a specific project and an artistic and organisational vision. In Africa, where art has a strong presence and is integrated into many spheres, a cultural entrepreneur is often an artist or an economic player. His project is always autonomous or as independent as possible. To make a virtue of necessity, budgets have to be modest and public financing realistic (for Africrion, these are essential criteria for verifying the feasibility and duration of productions).
It is thus possible to discern a particular notion of cultural development which concentrates on relevance and the entrepreneurial skills of the players. Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, many young Africans wish to set up cultural enterprises and this is undoubtedly just the beginning. Here, culture has an essential role as an alternative development model, geared more to real people, their creativity and desires, reconstructing communities on a local scale and attempting to set up effective cooperative networks between players on the African scene.
An African cultural entrepreneur's actions are, of necessity, innovative owing to numerous constraints which can be overcome only by ad-hoc solutions, often conflicting with pre-established structures. For such projects to function in the long term, they must be of modest size, and this also applies to the promoter's ego, although he must have a great sense of commitment.
During the selection procedure for the second Africrion programme, it was certainly demonstrated that reasonable size and ambition could go together. Proposals full of vitality were made for theatre projects (21% of the total), live shows (17%) and plastic arts (10%). Some projects were somewhat ill-defined with 27% designated under the catch-all term 'Cultural Action'. This often reflected a lack of rigour in the initial approach. It should be noted that much progress remains to be made in enterprises involved in sectors which require technology or networks such as audiovisual, publishing and multimedia activities. These are currently underdeveloped in Africa. Similarly, there is a real gulf between French and English-speakers, Nigeria, in particular, being looked on as a continent apart. If cooperation within Africa cannot overcome this obstacle, it faces a bleak future.
Cultural enterprise is obviously of limited importance to the African economy which is essentially dependent on North/ South relations (trade between African states represents just 3% of the continent's total trade). The African entrepreneur must, therefore, develop projects which are relevant and, above all, small-scale, capable of serving as a basis for local development and regional relations.
The post-colonial and sometimes 'neo-colonial' situation which prevails mean that the work of the cultural entrepreneur can be particularly relevant. He or she is in a position to be an agent both for genuine local economic development and for the advancement of local democracy. Cultural centres, cinemas which have been converted into theatres, artistic events and festivals all contribute to the emergence of local cultural policies, even if it is a very slow process. The democratising role is accompanied by something more concrete, namely job creation, albeit on a modest scale. The number of artistic and musical groups which survive and evolve under uncertain conditions in Zaire, Burundi, Togo, Nigeria and Chad is impressive.
The original nature of the African artistic outlook means that the economic dimension, although small, plays an innovative role in a field where relationships between disciplines are very strong. It also combines with the liberalising dynamic created by all cultural life. It is, however, markedly different from the role of culture in Eastern Europe, for example, where ideological criticism still predominates.
The cultural entrepreneur is a rarity. He or she has to be a manager capable of performing amazing feats: for instance matching the financial constraints to the ambitions and innovative spirit of the creator. In Africa, the requirement for skills is considerably heightened by the weakness, and in some cases, complete lack, of cultural administration (this is the case, for example in Zaire, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as by the major problems involved in financing. There is a particular dependence on financial circuits originating in the North. Entrepreneurs have to adapt to these, gain an understanding of the rules and procedures and try to tap into pre-existing networks of relationships.
The training requirements of African cultural executives are thus immense, all the more so when set against a context in which the universities do not have a role. At this point, we ought to pay tribute to the CRAC (Regional Cultural Action Centre) in Lomwhich is responsible for training many cultural administrators. It enjoys a precarious existence, but it must be acknowledged that a number of projects and policy developments have been due to its work.
Training requirements are essentially of two types: methodology and access to cultural networks. Methodology, broadly speaking, covers administration, management, implementation of cultural projects and definition of cultural policies whether at a local or national level. Access to networks is fundamental. It entails a knowledge and understanding of both the cultural policies and the bodies that exist to implement them. There is also the issue of implementing a genuine network of cooperation and (essentially in our view) creating linkages between the 'actors' end Africa's cultural institutions. We believe, from this standpoint, that the regional dimension is crucial. It is by this means that Africreation, through its various projects, enhances exchanges and collaboration throughout the Gulf of Guinea, with a particular focus on Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. The last-mentioned country has made a genuine cultural policy into one of the driving forces behind its development.
The stakes involved in artistic and cultural training programmes are thus crucial and must include the following features:
-encouragement of creativity, improvement of technique and
development of the notion of method;
-progress in Africa itself, but also favouring comparative work through courses staged in both Africa and Europe;
-creation of trans-African cooperative networks;
-a high profile through the achievement of professional and entrepreneurial projects: this forms the very backbone of educational and vocational awareness;
-improvement of complementarity between technical, artistic and managerial training programmes on the one hand and administrative colleges on the other hand. CRAC in Lomould be relaunched in this context.
In historical terms, art in Africa has always been a force favouring social cohesion and unification, idealising and transcending the attributes of power, the sacred and the people. It is always fascinating to observe that the 'transmutative' virtues which are applied directly, and largely without intermediaries, to the entire group, are always active in contemporary African art. This expresses a directly perceptible reality by using a language which is sometimes highly sophisticated. African culture is and always has been a crucial element in development because the transcendency of forms of expression is combined with contingency, an immediate and structure-giving 'applicability'. The role that culture has to play in development in Africa also brings hope for a northern art which is smothered by the microcosm and which has lost its sense of reality; which is, when all is said and done, less essential, less vital and too concerned with appearances.
Today's emerging African cultural managers, are helping to reveal to the world that the 'aesthetic' stakes have a direct and significant contribution to make to economic, social and political development.
by Don Walmsley
The member states of Caricom are all net importers of livestock products and these account for 40% of the total regional food import bill amounting to a little more than $1 billion. The domestic livestock industry has traditionally enjoyed government protection in the form of tariffs, quotas and subsidies. With the recent trends towards trade liberalisation, and the attendant removal of protective barriers local producers and processors have become very concerned about the future of the industry, and indeed about whether it has one! Caricom countries are GATT signatories and as such are bound by its rules. However, up until last year, agricultural products were not included in the commodities covered by the agreement. This has changed with the conclusion of the Uruguay Round in April 1994.
The aims of the GATT agreement on agriculture are to provide the mechanism to bring about increased access for members to each other's markets, and to reduce subsidisation of exports and domestic support of agriculture. In addition, the agreement covers sanitary and phytosanitary controls on trade in agricultural products since these have been used as non-tariff barriers, sometimes unjustifiably. A set of uniform rules to guide and enforce the sanitary and phytosanitary measures is to be provided in order to minimise their negative effects on trade.
The changes are scheduled to take place gradually extending over the six years of the agreement, that is from July 1995 to June 2001. However, there is provision for greater flexibility for developing countries; the reductions in tariff levels, domestic support and export subsidies, which are set at two thirds of the general level, may be effected over a ten-year period and international financial institutions may be approached for help in making the required adjustments. In addition, there are special concessions for net food-importing countries.
What are the implications for Caribbean livestock farmers? The reduction in subsidies will force them to become more cost effective or go out of business. The expected increase in feed costs will reduce their competitiveness since the industry is heavily dependent on imported feeds. On the other hand, the price of imported milk and meat products is likely to rise as export subsidies are lowered in the developed trading countries and this could lead to a reduction in the demand for them and thus stimulate domestic production. Some countries, notably Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, have begun the process of removing trade restrictions under structural adjustment programmes. The general consensus is that there is potential for growth in the Caribbean livestock industry, but lack of a definite policy presents a difficulty in its realisation.
Therefore, conscious of the need for discussion on how the changes in international trade would affect the livestock industry in the member states of Caricom, in March this year, CTA and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) organised a regional seminar in Port of Spain, Trinidad, with assistance from the local Ministry of Agriculture.
Under the title Livestock Policies for the Caribbean, the objectives of the seminar were to examine the existing livestock subsector, define a regional policy and identify priority areas for implementation. Participants came from the Caricom member countries, Canada, the USA and the Netherlands. They included representatives from the regional government ministries, agricultural R. & D. organisations, universities, international institutions, veterinarians, farmers, livestock producers' associations, processors, credit agencies, feed manufacturers and other input suppliers.
In preparation for the meeting, CTA and CARDI commissioned three background studies that examined the implications of trade liberalisation, growing trends towards regionalism and structural adjustment measures for the Caribbean agricultural sector and, more particularly, the livestock subsector. As well as the consequences of the new GATT, the investigations also looked into the possible effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) agricultural sector loans programme in the region. The results of these studies were presented to the meeting for discussion. Papers given by staff of the World Bank, FAO and USDA also provided information to put the regional situation into perspective.
The livestock industry
The domestic livestock sector has been a major factor in food security efforts. The region's annual production of poultry meat in recent years has been about 94 000 tonnes, which makes it the main type of meat produced, exceeding by far that of beef (22 000t), pork (13 000t) and mutton/ goat meat (8500t). Some countries have become self-sufficient, or almost so, in some meats. This is the case for pork in Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad 8 Tobago, beef in Belize and Guyana and broiler meat (especially whole chicken) in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. Nevertheless, the successes with pigs and poultry are associated with high costs for imported feeds and feed ingredients.
The regional dairy industry produces about 98 000t per year of whole cow's milk, but this satisfies less than half of annual consumption. The shortfall is met from imported powdered, evaporated and condensed milk. Caricom nutrition plans have set a target of at least one pint (570 ml) of milk per day for each child of school age and also for pregnant and nursing mothers. This means that, at present, the region is producing less than a third of its minimum requirements.
There is a wide variation in trade protection measures applied to meat and milk in the different countries of Caricom although the Common External Tariff (CET), as its name implies, was designed to provide uniform protection for agricultural and industrial production. At present, it is set at an overall level of 30% but there are lower rates for certain foodstuffs and special goods that are critical in low income diets. The Caricom heads of government have exempted agriculture from the general provisions and agreed to maintain a rate of 40% pending international developments that might affect regional trade, such as GATT and NAFTA. There have been problems in implementing the CET because of the conflicting interests of tourist-based economies intent on low import prices and those countries wanting to develop and give protection to their agricultural sector. The compromise solution has been to allow flexibility to individual governments in setting the CET for agricultural commodities. Also, there are still problems of market access within the region in the form of non-tariff barriers for agricultural products, although for other commodities, these have largely been removed.
As can be seen in the following situations regarding the major types of meat consumed - broilers, beef and mutton/goat meat-the trading arrangements are by no means standard.
With regard to their broiler industries, both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago have implemented 'tarification' (i.e. converting non-tariff restrictions such as quotas, variable levies and negative lists into equivalent ordinary tariffs). In Jamaica, whole broilers are subject to no other charges than the CET of 40% whereas in Trinidad & Tobago, there is also an import charge of 20% with a phased reduction to zero by 1998. The story is different again for chicken parts: imports of all parts into Trinidad & Tobago are restricted but in Jamaica, backs and necks (important for low-cost nutrition) enter free of tariffs while other more expensive parts such as legs and breasts are subject to the same tariff as whole chicken.
The local production of mutton and goat meat has been provided with adequate levels of protection by imposing tariffs of 30% in Guyana and 35% (declining to 15% by 2000) in Trinidad & Tobago. Trade distortions associated with quotas and licences have been removed. It is considered that a tariff of 30% would allow for competition and improve productivity in all Caricom countries.
The situation with milk is somewhat more complex because of non-trade concerns such as social factors, nutrition, food security and rural stability. The majority of dairy farmers in the region are small and usually part of a mixed farming system where the sale of milk provides a valued cash income. In the past, because of nutritional concerns, governments tried to design policies that would stimulate milk production and, at the same time, make it affordable to the poorer sections of the population. This has not been successful because of conflicting objectives. For example, previous policy has been to put low tariffs on imported milk powder intended for processing and consequently, insufficient protection was given to the domestic dairy farmers. This has even threatened the survival of the industry. A solution to this problem, put forward at the meeting, would be to introduce regulations to prevent powdered milk being used in the milk processing industry. Under this system, milk powder could be imported free of duty, providing an alternative for those consumers who are not able to afford the (anticipated) high price of fluid milk.
During the course of the meeting, three working groups were formed (covering the broiler industry; mutton, beef and pork; and dairying). They were given the task of reviewing the papers presented, indicating other areas and factors affecting policy, making policy recommendations, indicating priority areas and suggesting a mechanism to get the recommendations on to national and regional agendas for agriculture, especially those aspects affecting livestock development.
The findings of these groups, which were presented to the meeting and incorporated into the seminar's conclusions and recommendations, are set out in the box.
Following, where required, favourable opinions from the EDF Committee, the Commission has decided to provide grants and special loans from the 5th, 6th and 7th EDFs to finance the following operations (grants unless otherwise stated). Major projects and programmes are highlighted:
Economic and social infrastructure
Cape Verde: ECU 3.09 million to improve the road infrastructure on the islands of Santiago, Sao Nicolau and Maio.
Guyana: ECU 6 million for the water supply system in the Pouderoyen region.
Kiribati: ECU 1.2 million towards the upgrading of the airports of Bonriki, Kanton and Cassidy.
Trade promotion/structural adjustment
Guinea: ECU 19 million for a general import programme in support of structural adjustment.
Haiti: ECU 23 million for a general import programme in support of structural adjustment.
Caribbean region: ECU 12.8 million for a regional tourism programme designed to improve the sector's performance and income.
All ACPs and OCTs: ECU 3 million to finance a variety of actions promoting trade and tourism.
Benin: ECU 6.5 million for a rural structural programme in Mono department.
Malawi: ECU 1 million for an agro-forestry pilot project designed to ensure locally managed, viable food production at the family/village level, within the framework of the fight against poverty. Mauritania: ECU 3 million for rural development in the Lake Aleg region in the centre of the country. Mauritania: ECU 1 million to support agricultural activity in Gorgol and Trarza.
Dominican Republic: ECU 4.2 million to support the development of the productive and trading capacity of local small and medium-sized enterprises.
Togo: ECU 625 000 to support the combined 'information-education-communication' approach in respect of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmittable diseases.
Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal: ECU 16 million for a training and information programme on the environment.
Palop countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe): ECU 2.5 million to support the setting up of a Portuguese-language book fund.
New Caledonia: ECU 830 000 towards the establishment of a school of commercial management for the training, in particular, of Melanesian officials.
Mauritania: ECU 500 000 to support the unit attached to the National Authorising Officer responsible for coordinating EU-financed programmes, with a view to improving aid absorption.
Cot'lvoire: ECU 30 million for Petrochi (the national oil company) to support the first phase of exploitation of the 'Lion' and 'Panther' fields recently discovered 13 km from the coast. The new finds should enable the country to reduce its imports of oil and gas.
Ayala Lasso, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
On 23 May, Prof. Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the Commissioner responsible for relations with the ACP countries and South Africa played host to Ayala Lasso, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Discussions centred on cooperation between the two institutions and on the specific situation in three African countries: Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire.
On the subject of cooperation, Mr Pinheiro assured the High Commissioner that the EU was ready to maintain its efforts in the human rights field and that it was awaiting concrete proposals. Replying, Mr Lasso indicated that there was a need for support in establishing a corps of human rights observers so as to give the High Commission the capacity to react when the need arose. He also emphasised the importance of coordinating the actions of the UN, the EU and the NGOs, seeing, in this context, a pivotal role for the Union.
The High Commissioner went on to congratulate the EU on its initiative in sending human rights observers and technical personnel to Rwanda.
He took the view that the mere presence of the observers exerted pressure on the 'local actors' and that it had prevented further aggravation of the situation in recent weeks. Prof. Pinheiro spoke of the possible prolongation of this mission which was currently due to be concluded at the end of August.
As regards Burundi, the High Commission is looking at the possibility of supporting a similar operation in order to avoid a crisis developing. Currently, there was a need to look at the modalities of any such operation, and to establish the position of the Burundi authorities, Prof. Pinheiro indicated that the Commission was studying this question pending an initiative by the UN High Commission and that a decision in principal would shortly be taken.
With the same preventive approach in mind, a 'human rights' operation is envisaged for Zaire. The UN will shortly be setting up an office for this purpose in Kinshasa. Prof Pinheiro indicated that the Commission was again ready to study any proposals put forward by the United Nations.
Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Africa in general, and Rwanda and Mozambique in particular, were the main themes under discussion when Professor Pinheiro recently met Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
It should be noted that half of the UNHCR's resources are currently being devoted to the African continent. One problem, which is proving particularly difficult to resolve, is that of the Rwandan refugees. As Mrs Ogata pointed out, it is extremely expensive to support two million people in refugee camps, but the conditions necessary for their return home have not yet been created.
Prof. Pinheiro indicated that the situation would be studied in the light of the report by the international commission of inquiry. The Commission was looking at the conditions required for a resumption of aid-something which he envisaged taking place before the summer. The inquiry report had limited the responsibility of the Rwandan government for the events that had taken place in the Kibeho camp. For her part, Mrs Ogata was seeking clarification of the contents of the report.
Turning to Mozambique, the discussion then focused on the programme aimed at tackling poverty and reintegrating war victims in the country, which had been implemented jointly by the UNHCR and the European Commission, in close collaboration with the Mozambique government. The High Commissioner expressed the hope that this programme could serve as a model for Africa.
At the end of the meeting, Professor Pinheiro said he hoped that a further meeting could be arranged with Mrs Ogata once agreement had been reached on the 8th European Development Fund, for the purpose of discussing those aspects of the Fund which would require coordination between the two institutions.
Commissioner Pinheiro meets ACP ambassadors
Commissioner Pinheiro paid a visit to ACP House in Brussels on 8 June. This, his first official meeting with ACP ambassadors, was of particular significance given the current position of the Lomid-term review negotiations following the failure to reach agreement within the Council of Ministers in Brussels in February. There was considerable interest, particularly on the ACP side, in what Professor Pinheiro would say about ACP-EU cooperation and more specifically, about the negotiations and the renewal of the financial protocol.
In his welcoming address, Abdi Hassan Mshangana, the Tanzanian ambassador and President-in-office of the Committee of Ambassadors, stressed the significance of the Commissioner's visit at a time when cooperation with the ACPs was going through a difficult phase. He spoke of the marginalisation of ACP-EU cooperation, noting that, in spite of this apparent trend, Professor Pinheiro had been keen to take on responsibility for the policy. The ambassador went on to praise the personality and commitment of the Commissioner who, he said, did not view developing countries in general and the ACPs in particular, as a 'world apart'.
Referring to the problems with the Lomidterm review, Mr Mshangana warmly thanked the Commission for its commitment to a just and reasonable sum for the 8th European Development Fund. He said that the figure of ECU 15.8 million being sought by the ACPs would enable a renewed Convention, based on transparency and a spirit of mutual confidence, to be rationalised in an efficient manner. At the end of his speech, he urged the EU to seize again the opportunity to work with the ACP countries in a partnership for the future. He also argued for joint reflection aimed at establishing the basis for effective cooperation in the next century.
Commissioner Pinheiro, who was accompanied on his visit by Steffen Smidt and Peter Pooley (respectively Director-General and Deputy Director-General for Development at the Commission), began by thanking the Committee of Ambassadors for its invitation. It gave him the opportunity, he said, to share a number of thoughts about the future of ACP-EU cooperation and to tackle the feeling of disappointment arising from the blockage in the Council of Ministers which had persisted for four months. He himself might be justified in feeling a particular sense of frustration. On assuming responsibility for relations with the ACPs, he had not taken long to discover the significance of the system that was in place, both in symbolic terms and as evidence of the vitality of ACP-EU cooperation. But within just a few weeks, the Council had found itself deadlocked.
Professor Pinheiro argued that the impasse with which they were confronted at least tended to show that the mid-term review was no mere exercise in style. Despite the doubts that people rightly had in the current circumstances, he felt it was necessary to remain confident. Using a railway analogy, the Commissioner compared the current hiatus to that of a train stuck between stations because the electric current had been cut, or because somebody had pulled the emergency handle.
Professor Pinheiro stressed that, since the middle of February, the Commission had done all it could to support the Council Presidency in its efforts to convince the most reluctant Member Stat" on the subject of the proposed increase in EDF resources. He declared his conviction that it was not simply a debating matter involving specific Member Stat". The entire policy of the Union vis-is the countries of the South was at stake.
He added that although the resolution of outstanding issues in the Lomid-term review was important, the problem should not be allowed to cloud the other objectives and priorities that the Commission was intending to develop in the coming years. With the Lomonvention at a turning point, the question that should be asked, according to the Commissioner, was whether it was able to respond to the new needs and challenges resulting from recent international upheavals. In his view, it was essential to find an answer to this question. In a similar vein, he spoke of the need to respond to the new geostrategic realities. In this context, he said, South Africa took on particular importance. He said that it was a priority for the Commission not only to see the specific nature of the EU/South Africa relationship defined, but also to ensure that there was a proper articulation of the way in which this would mesh with policy under the Lomonvention.
Concluding, Professor Pinheiro sought to offer reassurance to his listeners by explaining the basic philosophy which underpinned his actions. He said that he would devote all his energies to ensuring that development policy, founded on a combination of political commitment, interdependence, generosity and solidarity, regained a significant place in the EU's scheme of things.
During the discussion which followed, the ACP ambassadors raised a number of issues with the Commissioner including the use of Portuguese within the ACP Group, the Uruguay Round and its possible impact on the poorest sections of the world population, support for private investment, and improvements to the current Lomonvention mechanisms. Other subjects aired included the problems of regional economic integration and the specific case of South Africa. Commissioner Pinheiro replied fully to all these questions and said he was willing to consider all ideas and suggestions put forward from the ACP side.
On his departure from the building, Professor Pinheiro signed the 'Golden Book' of ACP House. He included an eloquent message- '3C (coordination, complementarity and coherence) + E (effectiveness) = F (future)'.
EU gives financial assistance for Haiti elections
The Commission has recently agreed a proposal submitted by Joao de Deus Pinheiro to make a contribution of ECU 1 million towards the legislative and local elections taking place in Haiti in June. The poll is an important one covering the election of all the country's democratic organs with the exception of the Presidency. A Presidential election is expected in December 1995.
The aid is a concrete expression of the Commission's commitment to supporting democracy in Haiti. An expert has just been sent to the country to identify, in close cooperation with the Haitian authorities, the ways in which the aid can be applied to help the democratic process and the judicial reforms needed to ensure the proper functioning of the state in accordance with the rule of law.
This assistance is part of a much wider aid package, involving the EU and other international donors, which was put in place following the return of President Aristide in October 1994. It is recognised that Haiti currently faces a critical situation, the economy having gone into steep decline following the military coup and the resulting international economic sanctions, in 1991.
The country has urgent needs in all economic and social sectors. Recognising this, the Commission was not slow to react once President Aristide had been restored to power. In November 1994, it signed a national indicative programme with Haiti which is worth ECU 120 million (ECU 106 million in grants and ECU 14 million managed by the EIB). Schemes already approved by the Commission include:
-a rehabilitation programme to the value of ECU 25 million for
road infrastructure, agriculture, water distribution and education;
-a energy sector rehabilitation programme to the value of ECU 16 million, to repair a power station rendered inoperable by a fire;
-a structural adjustment support programme to the value of ECU 23 million, the funds from which will go into health and education; -the unblocking of Stabex funds (used to compensate for losses in export earnings resulting from its lower agricultural commodity prices-covering, in Haiti's case, cocoa, coffee and essential oils). The sum involved here is ECU 25 million and the funds will be used for the rehabilitation of infrastructure and rural facilities. Other projects in priority sectors are in the process of being identified. In addition to emergency aid valued at ECU 18 million (which was never suspended), the EU is also supplying significant amounts of food aid in the form of basic food products and agricultural inputs. If one adds to these totals, the various actions undertaken by the EU under other budget lines (refugees, decentralised cooperation, NGO cofinancing, Aids etc) for which the Commission services are ready to examine proposals submitted, Haiti is benefiting in the short term to the tune of almost ECU 210 million.
Development ministers meet
Meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday 1 June, under the chairmanship of Jacques Godfrain, French Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs with responsibility for cooperation policy, the Development Council discussed and approved a number of texts on different subjects. Three resolutions were adopted:
1. Complementarity of EU and Member State policies
This text, which is part of the follow-up to the document 'Horizon 2000', seeks to increase the effectiveness of the mechanisms that have been put in place. Stressing that complementarity is important for the efficiency of both Union and Member State development policies, the Ministers recognised that this did not pose a threat to the policies of the latter. It represented, instead, a means of gaining added value from the experience of both sides-a synergy which could only benefit the recipients of aid in the final analysis.
2. Support for structural adjustment
This resolution, which fixes orientations for the Commission, is aimed at improving the effectivenes of the structural adjustment facility in the light of the mixed experiences of ACP and Mediterranean countries in this area.
3. Support for regional integration
The text adopted refers to the lees-than-decisive results of past experience in the field of regional integration, sets out the preconditions for success in this area and makes recommendations in the fields of trade policy, donor coordination and general development cooperation policy.
In addition, the Council adopted a declaration on research in the developing countries which sets out priorities for the EU and its Member Stat". Thee include a lasting improvement in the food security and health spheres, support for better utilisation of university resources and assistance for development-related research activities. The declaration referred to the need for research results to be used and disseminated, and for aid in this area to be made more effective, as well as reiterating the basic purpose which is to allow developing countries to achieve sound and sustainable development.
There was a detailed exchange of views on the evaluation of EU development programmes, leading to the adoption of a document which sets out the way in which this should take place (terms of reference, field of application, methods and implementation rules). This follows on from the declaration made by the Development Council in November 1994.
As regards cooperation with South Africa, the Council adopted conclusions on a Commission proposal for a regulation concerning the legal framework for implementing the EPRD (European Programme for the Reconstruction and Development of South Africa). This establish the modalities for managing the ECU 15 million which have been allocated to this programme under the Community's 1995 budget.
The Ministers welcomed with some enthusiasm, the positive outcome of Commissioner Pinheiro's trip to South Africa, and made an appeal for the General Affairs Council to adopt the negotiating mandate pertaining to the Community's long-term relationship with this country, at its meeting on 12 June. This would allow the Commission to proceed rapidly with the negotiations.
The Council also noted, with interest, a proposal for a regulation on humanitarian aid that was presented by Emma Bonino, the Commissioner responsible for the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO). This foresees the establishment of a legal base for a number of budgetary lines devoted to humanitarian aid, in particular as regards ECHO's own operations.
The Development Council's decision to engage in a political and technical dialogue with Rwanda, with a view to the resumption of aid, was perhaps the most significant on the agenda at this particular session. Ministers discussed the situation in the country in the aftermath of the Kibeho massacres. With the assistance of Commissioner Pinheiro, it was possible to resolve the outstanding differences between the different delegations. The Council decided to send an emissary from the Union, within the following 10 to 15 days, to open a dialogue with the Rwandan government.
This decision was taken, bearing in mind the need to support the process of normalisation and reconciliation in the country, and the positive reaction of the Rwandan government to the conclusions of the International Commission of Inquiry. On the basis of the report from this emissary, it may be possible to resume provision of the aid that has been suspended (amounting to between ECU 40m and ECU 45m), thus allowing the EU to resume its participation in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Rwanda. These decisions were the subject of a joint declaration by the Council and the Commission, the text of which is reproduced in the Common Foreign and Security Policy section of this News Round-Up.
During the press conference which followed, Minister Godfrain and Commissioner Pinheiro expressed satisfaction with the positive outcome of the meeting. They were particularly encouraged by the decisions taken in respect of Rwanda.
The President in Office of the Development Council also expressed pleasure at the progress made on the subject of coherence in Community policies, and on the operational coordination taking place in six 'pilot' countries (Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Cot'lvoire, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Peru) in the fields of health, the fight against poverty and Aids.
During lunch, the Ministers discussed, among other subjects, the situation in Angola and Mozambique, Eritrea, humanitarian flights to Somalia, and the Conference on Women scheduled for Beijing later this year.
Within the framework of its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the European Union has recently issued a number of statements, details of which are set out below:
Rwanda: condemnation of events in Kibeho
Declaration of 25 April 1995
The European Union utterly condemns the violence which led to several thousand civilian deaths in the Kibeho camp during Rwandan army operations to close down the camp on 22 April. The Union urges the Rwandan authorities to launch an inquiry without delay in order to identify those responsible for the massacre and to take all the necessary sanctions speedily. Events of this gravity can only make it more difficult for refugees and displaced persons to return, this being an essential prerequisite for national reconciliation and a lasting solution to the Rwandan problem. The EU would point out that its development aid for Rwanda is conditional on respect for human rights and progress towards national reconciliation. It emphasises that international aid to the local population must be allowed to proceed unhindered. It therefore calls on the Rwandan authorities to make it easier for the international and non-governmental organisations to carry out their task of relieving suffering.
Rwanda: development aid suspended
Joint Council and Commission declaration of 12 May 1995
Following the events in Kibeho, implementation of the aid programmes for the Government of Rwanda undertaken by the Community pursuant to the recommendations of the Development Council on 25 November 1994 in the light of the objectives and priorities defined in the common position of 24 October 1994 has been temporarily suspended. Following detailed consultations, it has been established that the suspension will affect the Community's development aid programmes and will not affect humanitarian and emergency aid, aid to the health and education sectors or measures in support of human rights and the rule of law. Subject to action to be taken following the conclusions of the Committee of Inquiry, which must work in total independence, the gradual resumption of assistance will depend on the concrete efforts of the Rwandan authorities to achieve the objectives and priorities of the common position adopted by the Council on 24 October 1994. The Commission will provide the Council with further information as necessary.
Rwanda: dialogue on the resumption of aid
Joint Council and Commission declaration of 2 June 1995
Taking account of the positive response of the Rwandan Government to the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry, and the need to provide support towards improving the situation, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission have decided, fully respecting the common position of 24 October 1994, to engage in political and technical dialogue with the Rwandan government aimed at the full resumption of EU assistance to Rwanda and at the pursuit of efforts designed to establish ways and means of promoting rehabilitation and reconstruction within the country.
Niger: peace agreement with Tuareg rebels
Declaration of 10 May 1995
The European Union welcomes the signing of the peace agreement between the Government of Niger and the Armed Resistance Organisation (ORA). It is heartened by this decisive step towards national reconciliation, which offers hope to the population of Niger and the region as a whole, urges the signatories to do their utmost to consolidate the peace, and will, in future direct its cooperation with Niger towards attainment of that objective.
Angola: Dos Santos and Savimbi meet
Declaration of 10 May 1995
The European Union welcomes the fact that the long-awaited meeting between President Dos Santos and Mr Savimbi finally took place smoothly in Lusaka on 6 May. It pays tribute to all who worked for the holding of that meeting.
It considers that the meeting represents an important development making possible the swift of UNAVEM III forces and contingents. It hopes that the climate prevailing at those talks will impart fresh impetus to the application of the peace agreements on the ground and will serve to strengthen in practice the essential process of national reconciliation in Angola.
Sierra Leone: European hostages freed
Declaration of 18 May 1995 The European Union welcomes the release of the ten European hostages abducted in Sierra Leone and pays tribute to all those who played a role in securing their release. The European Union notes that the continuation of the conflict has led to the death, displacement or disappearance of many innocent Sierra Leoneans and calls on all parties to seek an end to the hostilities and to work towards national reconciliation. It welcomes the statement made by the Sierra Leonean Government proposing a cease-fire and unconditional peace talks and announcing the lifting of the ban on political activity. It counts on all Sierra Leoneans to participate wholeheartedly in the peace process. The European Union strongly supports the efforts made by the United Nations Secretary-General and his special representative to promote peace in Sierra Leone. It also welcomes the active commitment of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States and other States in the region.
Commissioner Pinheiro visits South Africa and Mozambique
Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the European Commissioner with responsibility for relations with the ACP countries and South Africa, made an official visit to the latter country, as well as Mozambique, between 11 and 18 May. The aim of the visit was to define the new framework for relations between the European Union and South Africa, and to reaffirm the EU's support for the democratisation process taking place in Mozambique.
On his arrival in South Africa, the Commissioner was received by State President Nelson Mandela at his private residence in Houghton, in the north of Johannesburg. After the meeting, the two men declared themselves to be optimistic and confident about the future of relations between South Africa and the Union. Professor Pinheiro indicated that, notwithstanding any difficulties encountered in the negotiations, he was convinced that a mutually beneficial solution could be found. At the time of the visit to Europe of Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's Vice-President, at the beginning of the year, a number of misunderstandings and disagreements over the future form of relations between the EU and South Africa had emerged. Pretoria was seeking full membership of the Lomonvention while Brussels was proposing a more limited link with Lomombined with a trade and cooperation agreement which could lead to the establishment of a free trade area. The European side took the view that, given the economic weight of South Africa (its exports to the EU are equivalent to 50% of those of the 70 ACP countries), full membership of the ACP Group could have negative effects on the other ACP countries. For its part, the South African Government felt that the EU would be the main beneficiary of a free trade agreement.
The Commissioner's visit provided an opportunity to smooth out some of the differences between the two sides and to relaunch the negotiations on a somewhat different basis. Thus, South Africa would be able to adhere to the Lomonvention but it would be excluded from certain sensitive areas notably in the food production sector. As regards the bilateral agreement, the Commission has proposed an 'asymmetric' timetable which would allow South Africa to have privileged access to the European market, without, in the first instance, having to offer reciprocity for European exports. A definitive decision on the proposals to be made by the European side was expected to be made at the Cannes Summit (scheduled for 26 and 27 June). Having met with President Mandela, Commissioner Pinheiro attended the summit of the World Economic Forum which took place in Johannesburg and 12 May. He had a meeting there with Trevor Manuel, South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister and Jay Naidoo, Minister without portfolio, who is responsible for the country's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). This gave Professor Pinheiro the opportunity to reaffirm the EU's support for South Africa's process of democratic transition and economic reconstruction. In this context, Mr Naidoo and Professor Pinheiro put their signatures to the European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) which allocates the sum of ECU 125m to South Africa for 1995. The parties have agreed that the funds should be used to finance action in the fields of education, health, rural development, promotion of economic cooperation, trade and investment, support for small and medium sized enterprises and, more generally, in helping the democratic process. On the following day, Professor Pinheiro travelled to Pretoria where he met with Vice-President Thabo Mbeki. Mr Mbeki expressed satisfaction at the way relations with the EU were developing. Given the particular characteristics of his country, he recognised that it might be necessary to envisage a route somewhat different from that set out in the Lomonvention during future negotiations between the two sides. The two men also reiterated their wish to associate other countries in the region with the negotiations and Professor Pinheiro stressed that nothing would be done behind the backs of the ACP states. From Pretoria, the Commissioner flew on to Cape Town, the legislative capital. He visited a number of projects supported by the European Union in the townships of Guguletu and Khayelitsha and met with local officials. In the afternoon, he had an exchange of views with Doctor Ginwala, the Speaker of the South African Parliament. The discussions focused on the difficulties in bringing Parliament closer to the people-whether in the EU or in South Africa. Despite having a hectic schedule in South Africa, Professor Pinheiro also took time to visit Mozambique. There he met the President of the Republic, Joachim Chissano, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, Renamo Leader Afonso Dhlakama and a number of other ministers and business leaders. The visit was taking place at a significant time, with Mozambique in the throes of a democratic transition and facing enormous economic problems. In the course of a press conference, Commissioner Pinheiro stressed the need for Mozambique to respect the commitments it had entered into with the IMF and the World Bank. This, he said, would release a 'snowball effect' in terms of commitments from other donors. He also spoke of the need to find a rapid solution to the problem of reintegrating refugees, displaced people and demobilised soldiers, back into society. He declared that he was impressed by the willingness of the Government to implement political and economic reforms and stressed that the Commission would lend full support to the process. Among other actions, practical expression of this support was to be found in the provision of more than ECU 60m in four financial agreements and an additional allocation within the framework of the 7th EDF. Finally, the Commissioner reiterated the importance to Mozambique of close economic cooperation with the other countries in the region and, in particular, with South Africa. It was essential, he declared, for Mozambique not to remain isolated. Francis Caas
Italian humanitarian and emergency aid reaches ECU 50 million in 1994
The increase in civil strife in countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda has prompted a redirection of Italian aid towards humanitarian assistance in recent times. According to Under-Secretary of State, E. Scammacca del Murgo e dell'Agnone, particular attention has been given to the integration and coordination of Italian aid with the operations conducted by the United Nations and the European Union. In 1994, Italy provided ECU SO million for operations in the emergency and humanitarian field in 30 countries. 80% of this was utilised by the Emergency and Development Office of the Italian Foreign Ministry with a particular focus on ex-Yugoslavia (ECU 14m) and Rwanda (ECU 6m). The remaining funds were granted to countries with difficulties of an exceptional nature such as Mozambique, the West Bank and Gaza territories, Croatia and Albania. The 1994 Annual Report of the Emergency and Development Office gives the following breakdown of emergency aid allocations: 40.3% to Eastern Europe, 35.5% to Africa, 5.6% to the Middle East, 2.2% to Asia and 1.3% to Latin America. Most of the aid (40%) was granted to the health sector while 18% and 17% respectively were committed to food aid and emergency assistance for refugees and displaced people. The aid can also be broken down as between assistance for victims of natural disasters (37%) and for victims of war (63%). The Italian programme has been directed mainly towards the problems of the weakest members of society, notably women and children. Indeed, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) received ECU 8.5 million, making it the largest single recipient of Italian support in this area. In the food aid sector, Italy is funding numerous agricultural development projects in Bosnia, Africa, Gaza and Montenegro. It is attempting to adopt a longer term approach, going beyond emergency aid and including the supply of seeds and material for animal reproduction in its programmes. Francesco Aloisi de Larderel, who is the Director General of Italian aid, says that Italy has adopted a more transparent and rapid approach with its bilateral aid programme. 83% of Italian aid is managed by international organisations, notably the UN agencies (69%) and the European Community Humanitarian Office (14%). Around 20 Italian NGOs have signed the Framework Partnership Contract with ECHO. A move towards a more decentralised approach through the use of NGOs, accompanied by greater cooperation with international organisations, has increased the credibility of Italy's development policy internationally. At the same time, projects have been dictated by the priorities of the international community rather than by any arbitrary criteria. In this way, it is hoped that humanitarian aid can provide a model for more efficient development aid, which has suffered extensively from budget cuts. Mr Scammacca del Murgo e dell'Agnone maintains that Italian aid in this area has been conceived with a view to connecting humanitarian assistance with rehabilitation and development aid. The objective of establishing a 'continuum' between emergency and development assistance, he says, is an integral part of all Italy's humanitarian initiatives.
Sudanese bishop on whistlestop European tour
Monsignor Paride Taban, the Bishop of Torit in Southern Sudan, visited Brussels and a number of other European cities in early June. His main aim was to highlight the continuing plight of the people in Southern Sudan and to plead for mutual respect and reconciliation as a way of restoring peace in the country as a whole. The problems of Sudan have largely disappeared from the television screens of Western Europe following the ceasefire brokered by former US President, Jimmy Carter. Bishop Taban warned that this event did not necessarily imply progress towards peace in the country. The fighting prior to the ceasefire had been particularly fierce and the government, he said, was using the lull to regroup and rearm. He predicted a new outbreak of fighting shortly. Bishop Taban said that the people of Southern Sudan were crying out for peace. He was critical of factional rivalries within the rebel SPLA movement which had created a 'multi-headed monster', playing into the hands of those who would 'divide and rule'. Continuing with the analogy, he spoke of how the church movement had sought with some success to deal direct with the 'body' (the ordinary people) bringing tribes and local commanders together. He made a plea, however, for outside help to continue work in this area. It was expensive for the church to carry out its monitoring role in the more remote regions and assistance was needed both for relief and for the training of monitors. He urged, above all, the need to develop a culture of peace. S.H.
'Populations in danger': bearing witness through images
Photographs from the celebrated Magnum Agency and texts by renowned authors were recently made available to Medecins sans Frontieres to mount an exhibition entitled (in French) 'Regards'. Working in tandem, the photographers and authors went to areas in crisis which the media has recently tended to neglect or ignore.
The thinking behind this initiative on the part of the humanitarian agency may be expressed in the following way: 'The first humanitarian gesture is to recognise the existence of those for whom one is working by witnessing what is actually happening to them and speaking about them.'
In other words, in order to tell their story you need to look and listen, so as to achieve a better understanding. This is what was proposed, and what the authors and photographers set out to achieve. Thanks to their talents, they succeeding in shedding new light, not just on the humanitarian work, but on the actual people who are threatened, coming to their aid by helping them to escape from the status of 'anonymous victims'.
The places and subjects chosen by the different teams of photographers and writers were Cambodia (Carl de Keyzer and Tim Crabbe), Guatemala (John Vink and Bernard Comment), the homeless in Moscow (Donovan Wylie and Brigitte Raskin), Rwandan refugees in Tanzania (Eli Reed and Manuel Vicent), Liberian refugees in Cot'lvoire (Leonard Freed and Alain Borer), Afghanistan (Chris Steel Perkins and Olivier Rolin) and Southern Sudan (Sebastiao Salgado and Jean Lacouture).
(The Magnum 'Regards' Exhibition runs from 19 June to 29 September at the 'Espace Photo' of Medecines sans Frontieres, 94 Rue Dupre, Brussels. Tel. 474 74 74, Fax. 474 75 75)
The Commission has recently decided on the following financing for projects by organisations working to support victims of human rights violations.
Sudan: ECU 40 000 for a rehabilitation programme for torture victims.
Argentina: ECU 100 000 for medical, legal, psychopedagogical and social support to adolescents in families that suffered repression and torture under the former military dictatorship.
Bosnia: ECU 100 000 for therapeutic and psychological help to women and children in Tuzla, traumatised by the war.
Bosnia: ECU 60 000 for psychotherapeutic help for refugees with a particular focus on victims of torture and racist attacks.
Bosnia/Croatia: ECU 70 000 to finance intensive training sessions for psychiatrists and psychologists involved in helping people traumatised by the war.
Estonia: ECU 30 000 for medical, psychological and social help for victims who suffered torture under the former Soviet regime.
Romania: ECU 40 000 to establish rehabilitation services for people in Bucharest and its environs who were tortured under the former regime.
Romania: ECU 40 000 for a rehabilitation centre covering the lasi area to help people who were tortured under the former regime.
ECU 140 000 for a rehabilitation programme for torture victims. The programme includes research, the establishment of networks, education, training and awareness-raising.
ECU 56 000 for a programme of medical and psychiatric care for both female and male victims of sexual attacks.
ECU 56 000 for a programme to identify and document torture practices and their effects.
ECU 86 000 for a programme of psychotherapeutic support to adult torture victims with a view to reintegrating them into society.
ECU 173 000 for a programme to support migrants from specific countries who have been tortured and/or are suffering from trauma.
ECU 60 000 for a 'mobile ambulance' to provide psychological support for refugees-notably Bosnian women-from the former Yugoslavia.
ECU 27 500 to finance an international seminar entitled 'Reconcile to rebuild? Impunity, Justice or Pardon ?'
The Commission has recently taken the following decisions to provide humanitarian aid (including emergency and food aid):
Central and East Africa: ECU 4.62 million for the prolongation until November 1995 of the Echo flight operation providing for the transport of people and goods in this region.
Angola: ECU 7 million to follow up the humanitarian assistance plan, particularly in favour of displaced people, with food aid, logistical support, shelters, other basic essentials and sanitation.
Cot'lvoire: ECU 400 000 for sanitation and the rehabilitation of water points for the population of Tabou-Grabo, most of whom are Liberian refuge".
Niger: ECU 215 000 for a vaccination campaign against meningitis, with particular emphasis on 200 000 children living in the capital and the surrounding area who have been most exposed to the epidemic.
Niger: ECU 250 000 to extend the vaccination campaign against meningitis to children in the Maeradi, Dosso and Tahoua regions.
Sierra Leone: ECU 550 000 to provide basic essentials for displaced people in the Moyamba district.
Somalia: ECU 350 000 for medical aid for the people of the Hoddur region and for nutritional support in six other regions.
Zaire: ECU 250 000 for a sanitary project over a three-month period aimed at ending the spread of the Ebola virus, for which there is no known cure.
Haiti: ECU 6 million for food, sanitary and medical aid covering a period of eight months. Priority will be given to primary health care, food aid for children and pregnant women and the provision of drinking water in both urban and rural areas.
Bolivia: ECU 1.15 million for a food programme and medical assistance for some 7500 families who are victims of drought and flooding in the departments of Potosi and Chuquisaca.
Colombia: ECU 400 000 for a variety of projects to reconstruct hospitals and health centres destroyed by earthquakes.
Ecuador: ECU 450 000 to help displaced people in the wake of the hostilities with Peru.
Guatemala: ECU 1.1 million for food, medical and logistical aid aimed at helping the re-establishment of Mexican refugees and the return of displaced people to their place of origin.
Nicaragua: ECU 3 million to help displaced people and demobilised soldiers in the northeast of the country achieve self-sufficiency. Support will be given, in particular, to agricultural production, the re-establishment of live stock herds and the rehabilitation of infrastructures.
Nicaragua: ECU 450 000 for medical and logistic aid in favour of victims of droughts and epidemics in the north of the country.
Peru: ECU 200 000 for a programme designed to eliminate cholera in the poorer quarters of Lima.
Peru: ECU 750 000 for medical assistance aimed at putting an end to two epidemics.
Former-Yugoslavia: ECU 93.89 million to cover the essential needs of the population affected by the war.
Russian Federation/northern Caucasus: ECU 10 million for the population affected by the conflict. ECU 3 million of this is for Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia and ECU 7 million is for displaced people from Chechnya in neighbouring republics.
Russian Federation (Sakhalin Island): ECU 250 000 to help victims of the recent earthquake which has severely damaged the oil-producing town of Neftegorsk.
Afghanistan: ECU 6.635 million for displaced people from the Kabul area, Kunduz, Kandahar and Jalalabad.
Armenia/Azerbaijan: ECU 7.65 million to provide food aid for displaced people and the other most vulnerable sections of the population of the two countries, following the collapse of their economies and the serious decline in agricultural production resulting from the conflict over Nagorny Karabakh.
Iraq: ECU 1.435 million for refugees and displaced people in the camps around Zaho in the north of the country.
Kirgizistan: ECU 2 million to supply medicines and medical materials to certain hospitals aimed at supporting the least-favoured sections of the population.
Tadjikistan: ECU 1 million to purchase wood so as to enable the construction of housing for displaced people in the centre of the country and in northern Afghanistan.
Chechnya: ECU 10 million for war victims, in the form of food and medical assistance and support for re-establishing water supplies.
Lebanon: ECU 250 000 for an evaluation of the medical and sanitary needs of the Palestinian population living in refugee camps.
Cambodia: ECU 2.34 million for the purchase, transport and distribution of rice to people who have been repatriated, particularly in the north of the country.
Corrigendum Danielle Sepulveda
In issue number 150, we omitted to provide biographical information about one of the contributors to the Dossier on Refugees. Danielle Sepulveda, who wrote 'Challenging the assumptions of repatriation' (page 83 of the issue), is a Visiting Study Fellow at Oxford University's Refugee Studies Programme and is undertaking a doctorate in philosophy within the University's Faculty of Anthropology and Geography.
LomV mid-term talks concluded
The negotiations in the mid-term review of the fourth Lomonvention finally ended with agreement in Brussels just before midnight on the evening of 30 June 1995. The talks, which began early last year, had been progressing relatively well until EU ministers sat down to discuss funding for the eighth European Development Fund. Initial 'offers' from the EU Member States revealed major divergences among the contributing countries. Some sought a real terms increase, others were happy to maintain the level of funding and others still demanded reductions. Following strenuous efforts by the French Presidency, a compromise acceptable to all the Union countries was reached at the Cannes Summit of European Heads of Government. The EU leaders agreed to propose an 8th EDF of ECU 13.307 bn (compared with ECU 10.8 bn for the 7th EDF). Although the ACP 'bid' was for considerably more, they have lost little time in approving the deal. A few outstanding substantive issues, notably as regards trade cooperation, were also settled at the Brussels meeting, allowing the closure of the talks to take place just minutes before the French Presidency came to an end. Overall, the Financial Protocol for the second five-year period of LomV sets aside the sum of ECU 14.625 billion. This includes the above EDF figure and the funds to be made available through the European Investment Bank. This represents a nominal increase of almost 22 % on the previous protocol (ECU 12 billion). More detailed information about the outcome of the negotiations will be provided in the next issue of The Courier. Later in the year, once the changes to the Convention and the Financial Protocol have been signed by the contracting parties, we will be devoting a complete number to the revised Convention. This will include the full treaty text, and comment and analysis from the some of the key players. S.H.
(Evolution of agrarian systems in the Adrar oases in Mauritania)
Mari- Laure Gibaud and Pascale Le Roy: 20, rue Larrey, F-75005 Paris. Report on a study canted out in Mauritania, April-August 1994. 120pp.
The text may be consulted at the GRET (213, rue Lafayette, F-75013 Paris), at the AFVP (Le Bois du Faye, Linas, F-91311 Monthlery), at the IEDES (58, boulevard Arago, F-75013 Paris) and at PNUD and CIMDET Documentation Centres in Nouakchott (Islamic Republic of Mauritania).
In the following summary, the authors of the report examine the future of the Adrar oases in the Mauritanian Sahara region.
The Adrar region in Mauritania, the Adrar Tmar ('the mountain of the dates' in Berber) is the country's centre for the date-palm crop and the fiefdom of the Moorish tribes. Traditionally, the oases in this region were merely staging posts for the nomadic stockmen and the great trans-Sahara merchant caravans. Only the lower social castes (slaves and emancipated sharecroppers) worked there throughout the year, the nobles staying only for the date-harvest period known as the guetna. Today, the oases still enjoy a prestigious, romantic image amongst Mauritanians, representing an area for rest and barter.
Even after the colonial period (1921-1960), Moorish society still bore the marks of its nomadic, tribal culture and it still operates largely on a system of trade based on payment in kind.
Repercussions of drought on the production system
The period of drought which began in 1970, and is still causing acute problems, affected an environment already weakened by the intensification of agricultural activities, linked with the former French presence. It considerably hastened the trend away from a nomadic lifestyle and accelerated the rural exodus. A number of proprietors affected by the drop in yields were obliged to free their slaves, who were replaced by paid workers or sharecroppers. The dual constraint of a drop in the water table (from two to five metres, depending on the oasis) and the need to reduce manpower costs contributed to the rapid development of the use of motorised pumps for water extraction. This constituted an additional financial demand and, in this context, market gardening was encouraged by international projects and government actions. Unfortunately, despite the efforts made to group communities together in cooperatives, producers in the Adrar region suffer from the fact that the area is very isolated. The sight of oases which specialised too soon in vegetable production and are currently seriously threatened by over-exploitation led a number of villages to reject intensive methods and seek alternative solutions such as the development of tourism during the guetna.
Agriculture on a 'drip feed'
Nowadays, traditional agricultural methods at the oases do not produce sufficient surplus to renew production capital. Agriculture survives, therefore, only by virtue of non-agricultural local activities and, above all, through the repatriation of assets and money sent by rich and noble urbanised merchants and officials who originally came from the region.
Most people have their inherited palm groves maintained by a sharecropper when there is no family member left in Adrar to do the job, and visit only during the period of guetna. To keep these workers on their land, it is obviously in their interest to offer them the opportunity to carry out market-gardening activities. Given the low level of income obtained by the sharecroppers, their continuation appears to be at risk and this forces proprietors, unwilling to take on higher manpower costs, to sell their palm groves. The properties would probably be bought up by a second type of absentee proprietor which appeared in the 1980s and who combines profit with traditional leisure pursuits, investing on a massive scale in highly lucrative intensive date production.
Agriculture and social inertia
The permanent population at the oases consists mainly of proprietors of small multi-purpose food-producing gardens. These people are often of lower caste, old stockmen ruined by the drought and sharecroppers and workers mainly from the families of emancipated slaves who did not previously receive payment. It is difficult, these days, for these people to gain access to property ownership owing to the increase in land prices.
The two criteria differentiating those involved in farming, namely the level of non-agricultural resources and inherited means of production, are thus largely determined by their inherited social status. It is this which offers them mobility, a range of customers and the opportunity to have access to powerful interdependent networks. These in turn, condition their capacity to mobilise funding, international finance and information on new techniques, market status, etc.
Which social groups hold the key to the future of the Adrar oases ?
Will the small market gardeners be able to benefit from effective and long-lasting supply and marketing networks enabling them to release the funds they need to remain at the oases?
Given the results obtained by the urban producer-proprietors, will other entrepreneurs make a contribution to increasing national date production by investing in a palm grove in Adrar?
Will the proprietors who are more interested in receiving tourists in the guetna period be capable of competing with the spa resorts which are increasingly popular with the younger generation ?
The future of the oases undoubtedly depends on rational water management to preserve the fragile oasis ecosystem and on development support carefully adapted to the physical and human characteristics which differ from one oasis to another.
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