| QAI - 4/89 - 1/90 - GATEs cooperation partner programme |
by Achim Steiner.
In recent months, in connection with the topic of direct financing of NGOs, a lively discussion has developed as to the whys and wherefores of promoting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as a part of government development cooperation (in particular GTZ and KfW - the Kreditanstalt fÃ¼r Wiederaufbau). The aim of this brief article is to present a summary of both sides of the argument.
GTZ is currently holding intensive talks with representatives of German NGOs with a view to formulating criteria for future cooperation with non-governmental organizations. It is intended that these talks should focus on concrete experience gained in practical work.
However, the topic also provides an opportunity for a critical appraisal of our own approaches and standards in our local cooperation with NGOs. Nobody whould deny that we in GTZ have made mistakes in this area in the past. In most cases there may be reasons and explanations, but they must not be allowed to become justifications. Government development cooperation bears a special responsibility, because NGO structures in our partner countries are often still in their early stages of development and in many cases their very existence is threatened. To use them as ends in themselves, i.e. as a means of carrying out GTZ projects more efficiently, would also be a mistake for GTZ as a partner of the NGO movement.
In the last few months German NGOs have repeatedly drawn attention to the dangers of so-called direct financing of southern NGOs by government development aid organizations. In this context, there has been a tendency to use banner headline phrases such as "Trojan horse" or "ruinous competition" in an otherwise very serious discussion. And in addition to the BMZ (the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation), GTZ has become one of the main targets of this ciriticism.
At the heart of this debate, initiated by the central Church agencies (EZE-MISEREOR) and the Bensheimer Kreis (an association of "free" NGOs), is the fear that the southern NGOs, after many laborious years spent building them up and promoting them, could now be engulfed in a flood of money, the effects of which - with certain qualifictions - are regarded as negative and counterproductive. It cannot be denied that these warnings are well founded: the first negative experience in an international context has made this plain.
Right in the forefront of German NGOs' attitudes to this question is the fear that governments are attempting to replace "non-conformist" NGOs with those that comply with government policy, and that closer cooperation between government donor organizations in the north with NGOs in the south is promoting this kind of monopolization. The arguments put forward to support this view are as follows:
• NGOs often play a latent or open role in opposition - offers of government finance put this autonomy at risk.
• NGOs are turned into substitute organizations to fill the gap where government services are lacking.
• Small NGOs can overestimate their capabilities. That is, they are 'overtaxed' and lose their links with the grass roots.
• Government financing could lead to southern NGOs being set up for a particular purpose, and thus merely strengthen the interests of certain elites.
• Southern NGOs are suspected of being instruments of foreign governments.
• Northern NGOs are losing competent partner organizations in increasing numbers.
• While southern NGOs need long term partners, direct financing is subject to political fluctuations in the donor country.
• Intensive cooperation between GTZ and southern NGOs could also result in less government money being made available to German NGOs for their work in partner countries.
Thus it appears that success - and a benefit for the target group - can only be achieved if the donors do not falsify the character of NGOs, if they respect the autonomy of the NGOs and help preserve their traditional conception of themselves, as elements which must be protected and promoted within a system. However, it is feared that in many cases precisely this cannot be guaranteed by government development cooperation and hence not by GTZ either. The conclusions drawn from this are not yet definitive, but they range from a categorical "no" to cooperation, through "yes, but only with the approval of German NGOs" to a qualified "yes", i.e. on certain conditions (e.g. with the approval of a German NGO if one is involved).
The present state of the debate in GTZ can be summarized as follows:
• The term "direct financing" is rather misleading. GTZ does not have a fund for direct financing of NGOs. Where there is cooperation with (and in some cases also financing of) southern NGOs, it is in the context of an ongoing Technical Cooperation project and is usually the result of a dialogue conducted locally within the project environment.
• The risk of southern NGOs losing their autonomy by being integrated in government projects is recognized. Therefore, direct promotion of socio-political organizations is not considered a task for Technical Cooperation (TC). However, non-governmental institutions in partner countries cover an extremely broad range, from private enterprise through cooperative to non-profit organizations.
• The above-mentioned fundamental risks of cooperation with southern NGOs are not, however, limited to TC; they are potentially a part of any form of external promotion, i.e. they should not lead to this form of cooperation being rejected. Rather, they should be taken into account in the concrete design of instruments for and approaches to cooperation between GTZ and southern NGOs.
• The experience gained in development work over the last thirty years, the increasing importance of non-governmental organizations in the development process, and the realization that target group-oriented and participatory development cooperation is only possible with the involvement of all social groups and organizations, have helped bring about a situation where government development cooperation is increasingly taking non-governmental organizations into account and involving them in its conceptual and instrumental orientation.
• The principal goal of such an orientation is to improve the development conditions and the necessary freedom for self-help initiatives by the poor and the non-governmental organizations promoting them. The spectrum of such activities ranges from the government counselling level to the promotion of forms of village organization. Here, cooperation with southern NGOs is not only desirable, but a necessary part of practice-oriented counselling.
• An approach of this kind is justifiable as long as it does not restrict the scope for forms of self help independent of the state, or paralyze the motivation of the target groups to find forms of their own, or obstruct organically developed partnerships with northern NGOs.
• Therefore, cooperation with southern NGOs should also be coordinated with any German NGOs affected (where possible with local representatives). This does not mean that one organization has a right of veto with regard to the partnerships entered into by another, nor, in particular, that decisions of partners in the south are taken for them; rather, it aims at putting the conception of complementarily and joint responsibility between governmental and non-governmental development cooperation into practice. In this context, as the ongoing debate has shown, GTZ must display particular sensitivity in its dealings with southern NGOs.
This synopsis of the arguments is not definitive. The aim of the current dialogue is to find practicable ways of coordination and cooperation with non-governmental organizations, with the approval of the BMZ. At the same time, this should be accompanied by a critical appraisal of experience gained so far in our projects. For this reason readers are asked to regard this article also as an invitation to contribute to this policy formulation process by discussing the issues raised above and to inform us of the results and for recommendations they may have reached.
This article looks at the ongoing debate as to whether non-governmental organizations in the Third World should be financed directly, as a part of the federal Republic of Germany's official development cooperation. The debate is of prime concern to GTZ as the instrument of this form of cooperation. In coordination with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ), GTZ is attempting to find practicable ways of cooperating with NGOs.
L'article Ã©voque la discussion actuellement en cours sur le pour et le contre du financement direct d'organisations non gouvernementales dans les pays du tiers monde dans le cadre de la coopÃ©ration au dÃ©veloppement apportÃ©e par le gouvernement de la RÃ©publique fÃ©dÃ©rale d'Allemagne. En tant qu'instrument de cette coopÃ©ration au dÃ©veloppement de la part du gouvernement fÃ©dÃ©ral alemand, la GTZ est tout particuliÃ¨rement concernÃ©e par cette discussion. Celle-ci aspire a trouver, en accord avec le ministÃ¨re fÃ©dÃ©ral de la coopÃ©ration Ã©conomique , des formes praticables de collaboration avec des organisations non gouvernementales.
El informe se ocupa de la discusiÃ³n de actualidad sobre los pros y los contras de la financiaciÃ³n directa de organizaciones no gubernamentales en paises en vias de desarrollo en el marco de la cooperaciÃ³n estatal pare el desarrollo de la RepÃºblica Federal de Alemania. Como instrumento de la cooperaciÃ³n estatal pare el desarrollo en la RepÃºblica Federal esta discusiÃ³n afecta tambiÃ©n principalmente a la GTZ. La sociedad aspira, en colaboraciÃ³n con el Ministerio Federal de CooperaciÃ³n EconÃ³mica, a hallar formas de cooperaciÃ³n practicables con organizaciones estatales.