| The Courier N°152 July - August 1995 Dossier NGOs Country Reports Belize, Malawi |
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.