- May 1-16 Fair Trade Fortnight
- May 3 World Press Freedom Day
- May 15 International Day of Families
- May 29 – 4 June World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel
Water, the Gift of Life
The arrival of a clean, reliable water supply was a cause for celebration in the Isingiro District of Southwest Uganda. Working jointly with local Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s Groups (OVCs), CWS partner the Centre of Community Solidarity has built 100 ferro cement tanks in the last year which each hold 6,000 litres of water. The local communities met half the cost of the tanks with the rest contributed by CWS.
Isingiro is the most water stressed district in Uganda and the steep terrain makes access to water difficult and time consuming. Rainwater harvesting was identified as the most efficient means of supplying water, taking advantage of the annual rainfall of 600 – 1200 mm.
There are many benefits. Saving the time previously spent collecting water means children get to school on time and participate in after school programmes. Their caregivers devote more energy to earning an income. The children are able to wash more regularly and health is improving.
In addition to building the tanks, the Centre has organized community training, including technical assistance for maintaining the water supply. They have provided education on HIV and AIDS related issues and have also fostered increased joint activities including community savings scheme and greater respect for the orphans.
The report concludes, “CWS New Zealand support has created a positive impact on OVCs and their Carers within a short time. This was so because the project really targeted the areas communities most felt need. A lot has been done on HIV and AIDS awareness with little investment on mitigation of its impacts.”
CWS is inviting churches and concerned people to take part in the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel. Supported by the World Council of Churches, it is a week of action and advocacy for a just peace in the region. See: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/events-sections/wwppi.html
Fair Trade Fortnight
Have you considered swapping to fair trade? Despite the economic downturn, ethical shopping is growing in New Zealand. A greater range of products are now available and people are opting for the fair trade label or the Trade Aid brand. CWS with Trade Aid and the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand invites you to take part in Fair Trade Fortnight, held 1 – 16 May. Many churches will be offering A Fair Cuppa after services and focusing on the need for a fairer trade system in their morning’s worship (CWS has prepared resources). Other local events are being organised around the country and further details are available from the CWS website. CWS has information, posters, fliers, DVDs and more available for those wanting to take part. See: http://www.cws.org.nz/take-action/trade/fair-trade-fortnight-2010 or contact email@example.com or Tel 0800 74 73 72 for a resource kit.
Poverty becoming worse in PNG
Despite being rich in natural resources, the conditions of the people of Papua New Guinea are becoming worse rather than better according to the Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
“We know that social services are very inadequate and our people are becoming frustrated with the Government,” said Bishop Francesco Panfilo. Despite both countries being rich in natural resources, people remain poor because foreign companies exploit the resources under the guise of investment.
The Bishops call it ‘pilferage of the country’ but are worried their statements have little effect.
In an April 19th letter the Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully writes that the government has decided NZ Overseas Development Agency (NZODA) funds should be focused on economic development in the Pacific region and that current partnerships with NGOs are out of step with these priorities.
To meet these priorities the Minister HAS asked officials to redesign arrangements for funding NZ development NGOs. He envisages a fund, administered by officials, that prioritises support for the Pacific and South East Asia with the ability to support some projects else in the developing world.
He says he has asked officials to look at arrangements for funding responses to humanitarian emergencies. He wants funds to be more readily available for NGOs to meet priority needs quickly and efficiently. He believes tender processes have wasted time and set back relief efforts.
Finally he says he looks forward to sharing the new framework and plan to transition from the old system with the NGO sector.
His letter raised more questions and provided few answers. Some of you may have heard me (and others) on Radio NZ’s Morning Report last month voicing this opinion and lamenting the fact that Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) staff no longer attend the traditional MFAT/NGO meetings.
At these meetings we could have put questions to the officials regarding these new arrangements. We only heard that MFAT staff would not be attending the meeting shortly before it took place and that the Minister was going to send a letter later.
On Morning Report the Minister made comments about the way NZAID’s funding schemes for NGOs are administered. The Minister said they are administered by a committee of NGOs and there was a perception that those not on the committee miss out on funding and there are some alleged issues of fairness.
The funds were administered by a committee made up of elected representatives from NGOs on a rotational basis and staff from NZAID. It was a peer review process and projects were judged on whether they fitted the KOHA criteria and meet NZ Overseas Development Agency guidelines. A recent review by an independent consultant found that this process was robust and fair, as have previous reviews.
CWS has always found the process to be engaging and sometimes challenging but the scheme has provided the NGO sector with cohesion, strong skills through training programmes, and ensured high standards of programme delivery.
CWS is monitoring the situation carefully. We are very concerned at the fact that there is very little time until the end of the financial year on 30 June for us to learn fully about the transition plans as mentioned in the letter.
This situation and its associated uncertainties have major ramifications for CWS and its programme partners. We will keep you posted on all developments and particularly when we learn precisely what will replace the funding schemes.
Reprinted with permission from Touchstone, May 2010.
CWS partner CEPAD, has reported a generous response from Nicaraguans reaching out to assist the earthquake damaged Haiti. The loyal listeners of Radio CEPAD, most of extremely modest means, have given over USD $2,500 to the earthquake victims, one small donation at a time. Listeners called the radio station to express solidarity and compassion for the Haitian people. They also shared memories of the 1972 earthquake that demolished Managua’s city centre.
Big banks spend aid billions but neglect poverty ...
Donors such as the World Bank are spending billions of dollars on projects whose effects on poverty and the environment are uncertain at best, warns a new report.
Bottom Lines, Better Lives? has been produced by Christian Aid in collaboration with the Bretton Woods Project, ActionAid, Eurodad, Campagna per la riforma della Banca Mondiale and Third World Network. It raises serious questions over the ways that multilateral aid donors, including the World Bank Group, try to boost private companies in developing countries.
‘Multilateral development banks’ funding of private companies has risen ten-fold, from around $4 billion a year in 1990 to more than $40 billion today,’ said Jesse Griffiths, coordinator of the Bretton Woods Project. ‘But their seeming inability to assess or prioritise the social, environmental and poverty reduction benefits of their investments means that it is difficult to see how these huge sums can be justified.’
Alex Cobham, Chief Policy Adviser at Christian Aid, said: ‘Our experience of development on the ground shows just how important it is for local companies in poor countries to have access to finance. It is this which will create the jobs that are needed to beat poverty once and for all.
‘So it is shocking to see that this tidal wave of lending, which could have done so much good, has not been carefully designed in order to maximise its development benefits. And it is hard to see how these multilateral development banks, as they currently operate, can be an effective way for a country like the UK, which does have a clear desire to eradicate poverty, to distribute its aid money.’
The new report criticises three main aspects of multilateral development banks’ (MDBs) operations:
• Their approach is based on existing private finance approaches, emphasising the importance of attracting foreign investment rather than developing the domestic economy.
• Project selection, monitoring and evaluation techniques have tended to prioritise commercial rather than social or environmental returns. Internal evaluations have regularly found that MDBs have failed to demonstrate sufficient ‘additionality’ for their financing – meaning that they run the risk of merely replicating the activities of private lenders, rather than driving investment towards businesses or sectors that have the greatest sustainable development benefits. Multilateral lenders’ monitoring and evaluation methods have also been insufficiently focused on poverty reduction, while their transparency and disclosure of information has been weak.
• The rapid growth of ‘arms-length’ investments in the financial sector, through financial intermediaries such as private banks and private equity firms, is a particular cause for concern. The MDBs’ failure to clearly define the development objectives of their investments is particularly worrying in this case, where operational decisions are delegated to financial intermediaries.
Haiti works hard on recovery
The ACT Alliance reports that the Haitian Senate passed a bill (already ratified by the Chamber of Deputies in March) on 15 April extending by 18 months the post-earthquake State of Emergency and the establishment of the Interim Committee for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH).
The country is currently experiencing a fuel shortage following an incident at the port of embarkation of Antigua which may hamper delivery of emergency assistance.
There are 1373 settlement sites identified in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Leogane, Petit and Grande Goave, which is higher than initial estimates. Of these identified, only 289 had camp management agencies present, registering an overall coverage rate of 21%. Some 411,090 households (2,090,877 individuals) are estimated to be displaced. Health partners are reporting an increase in suspected malaria. In view of the rainy season, long lasting bed nets are required for 1.4 million people. About 937,000 have been ordered and distributions are ongoing.
ACT Alliance members are continuing to implement programmes aimed to meet immediate needs for food, water and shelter as well as medical care and support for rebuilding. They work closely with local committees to ensure that those most in need receive the benefits first. Work for cash and tool schemes are being introduced to help clear up rubble and rebuild houses. They are training and supporting local people to undertake psycho-trauma programmes in their own communities. CWS continues to call for support for its Haiti Appeal.
Donations can be made at: www.cws.org.nz or sent to PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8142.
Aid costs high for Multilateral agencies
New research by New York University says multilateral donors like the World Bank and the European Commission spend far more than individual country donors on overheads.
Multilateral donors spent a third of their aid on overhead costs and one fifth on salaries in 2008, which was respectively three and five times more than bilateral donors.
New York University Economics researcher Claudia Williamson studied aid figures reported by donors to calculate the ratio of administrative costs to official development assistance (ODA, official support given by governments to developing countries) and official development financing (ODF, including grants and loans from multilateral banks); the ratio of salaries and benefits to ODA or ODF; and the total ODA or ODF disbursements per employee.
When salary and overhead cost rankings were combined, Norway, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Australia came in the top five, and UN agencies WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the Global Environment Fund (GEF) come last out of 42 donors studied.
However, UN agencies are practitioners, not just donors, and thus such like-for-like comparisons do not really work, an aid analyst at a recent aid transparency conference told IRIN. Costs are also affected by the fragility of strength of the state aid is channeled to.
WCC joins World People’s Conference on Climate Change
Concern for the future of the planet was the focus at a 19-22 April conference in Cochabamba hosted by Bolivian president Evo Morales. Over 10,000 people, many of them from indigenous groups and environmental networks attended.
In an ecumenical declaration presented at the final session of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Christian organizations and individuals stressed the positive role that religions and spirituality can play for a more harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature.
“Climate change is the product of a human mentality which regards nature as an object of domination, exploitation and manipulation and the human being as its owner and the measure of all things,” the ecumenical declaration states.
Its signatories “recognize that a certain interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition has contributed to fostering this kind of anthropocentrism and merciless exploitation of nature, misinterpreting the responsibility of being a ‘caretaker’ and advocate for the creation, entrusted to humanity by the creator.” The declaration calls for a new spirituality of respectful co-existence, to be forged in a dialogue among the peoples of the earth.
“The People’s Conference was an opportunity to listen to those who will be most affected by climate change,” said Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive on climate change. “The WCC sees it as an instrument to build a global consensus on climate change and put forward the perspective of actors who have not been heard enough in the United Nations negotiation process – such as the indigenous peoples.”
Sudan church leader says elections flawed
The Rev. Ramadan Chan Liol, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, has said that current national elections in Africa’s biggest country do not qualify as free and fair.
“The view of the Church is that the whole exercise is one that cannot be described as free and fair,” Chan told Ecumenical News International. “There are too many challenges. Peoples’ names are missing from the registers. They are scattered in different rolls in different towns.”
The poll, which started on 11 April, is the first multi-party elections in Sudan since 1986. Churches had mobilised people to vote in the presidential, legislative and local elections, according to Chan, but some voters said they were frustrated by party boycotts and candidate withdrawals.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, (SPLM), which had fought for greater autonomy, resources and services in the south during the civil war, withdrew its presidential candidate. Opposition parties in the north have also boycotted the election.
However, church leaders still view the elections as a key step in the implementation of the country’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The 2005 accord was signed in Nairobi between the government of Sudan and the SPLM, ending 21 years of civil war, fought mainly in the south.
A referendum to determine whether the south will remain united with the rest of the country or will become independent is due to be held in 2011. Many church leaders in southern Sudan support the independence of the region saying it can help the mineral-rich region where Christianity and African traditional religions predominate.