01 / 1999
1 The context and the challenges
If the civil society is to be crucial in the emergence of a democratic culture, then decentralised cooperation is to be seriously thought of as a key policy. Poverty alleviation must by-pass government controlled operators since it is mainly concerned with social infrastructures, social services and income generating activities altogether with an even more sophisticated challenge aiming at increasing the capacity of the actors.
2 . The actors
During the previous period, the unit focused on micro-projects as an aim in themselves. A new procedure has been developed that firstly focuses on the capacity of the operators. NGOs must be established, reputable, able to plan a project. It must prove that it knows how to work with local communities.
A contract is signed with the NGO and the unit supervises and accompanies the project hand in hand with the contracted NGO. Private companies have also benefit from this arrangement. They contribute in the investment and accept to invest some of their benefits in social infrastructure that will indirectly benefit to them in the long run.
3. The procedure
Monitoring and control are done by the unit, acting as a genuine capacity building process. Capacity building is based on two basic pilars: time and communication. It takes time to mould new social interactions in the society. Money is a shortcut that can worsen the situation rather than solving it. Communication as a collection and exchanges of information is also a cultural feature: looking for the right information wherever it may be rather than functioning in a vertical command line.
It is a big advantage of the microproject unit to be able to tailor procedures to the size of the operator. For example, first instalment can be adapted as well as the rythm of providing accounts. The comparative advantage of microprojects unit is to have many grips in the country and to be flexible enough to stick to the changing context. Microprojects unit has a pro-active approach with potential partners especially from the private sector - mines company interest to improve the health status of their workers, export firms interested to improve infrastructures in the area of production.
4. The donor in the process
Huge amounts of money are poured in the central budget assuming that the government has the capacity to spend it and account for it. This assumption has not proved being right. Accountability beyond accounts means to stick to a plan of action and being able to replace or adapt it when the context justifies it because it changed. Accountability stands for results rather than just balancing the books.
However, microprojects as well as decentralised cooperation are disliked by the european commission and the delegations. Civil society is not reliable enough to spend the big amounts of money that they disburse. It would suppose a complex systems of control from the delegation and they prefer not to extend their manpower beyond certain limits.
The funding line by itself does not build capacity. There will always remain a dependency syndrom. It sometimes results in the creation of an articificial civil society, satellite of the donors and not any more rooted in the local communities challenges.
On the other hand, by forcing the government to pull out from many sectors and activities, donors also assumed that it was up to the civil society and to the private sector to fill the newly created vacuum.
Staff at the unit are the key people to make things happen. However, the support - or low support in the Tanzanian case - of the Head of the Delegation is crucial to the impact of microprojects.
The shift from supporting microprojects towards supporting NGOs or companies implementing the microprojects, partly results in a drop-out of the local actors on the benefit of international actors.
While recognising the need to have a civil society with its full capacities, one prefers to depend on already empowered structures and that will yet become even more empowered and experienced rather than taking more time and may be accept to be less strict on the level of capacity of the grass root operators.
Technical Advisor - EDF-Microprojects Management Unit
P.O.Box 2815, Dar es Salaam, TANZANIA - E-mail : email@example.com.
[[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]
Interview with MONTEFORTE, Gian Carlo