Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Population Concern


Population Concern has been working with the European Commission since 1986 on sexual and reproductive health issues. Collaboration has spanned both Directorates I and VIII of the EC including programmes in Bolivia, Peru, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam.

  We commend the European Commission for introducing new terms and conditions and a standard contract for grants to NGOs, although the process, unfortunately, took several years. Recently the European Commission went through a rapid consultation with civil society, including NGOs, in respect of a development policy paper. UK and other European development agencies were able to submit very cursory comments, given the impossibly short time limits.

  DFID is increasing multi-lateral contributions for development to the European Commission. However, the past performance of the European Commission in its relationships and work with NGOs has been unacceptably poor. NGOs have had to wait over a year for programme approval, initial release of funds has been delayed and even more serious has been the delays in release of funds for on-going programmes.

  Population Concern would like to take this opportunity to elucidate on the negative effects of delayed release of funds for development programmes. We use just two examples, Population Concern's Andean Reproductive Health Initiative and Community Based Distribution programme and Surgical Centres in Karachi, Pakistan.

  The Andean Reproductive Health Initiative is funded by DFID, the European Commission and Population Concern. With regard to EC funding, on 7 July 1998 Population Concern submitted a request for funds to the European Commission. Eventually funds were received on 2 August 1999 causing a delay of 13 months in the implementation of four mini projects in Bolivia and Peru.

  One of the mini projects is with CEMSE, a Bolivian NGO working in a deprived city centre area of La Paz, to develop a curriculum for secondary school students. With the 13-month delay, the establishment of a resource centre for materials on sexual and reproductive health, research and development of research tools, training of researchers, questionnaires to students in five schools and involvement of teachers in focus groups was postponed. This in turn led to young people being denied access to SRH education which in turn probably led to untold misery from unintended pregnancies, infections from sexually transmitted infections and violent acts against young women, among other sufferings.

  In addition to this, the setting up of PC offices and employment of staff in Bolivia and Peru were hampered. The spin off was delayed implementation of the programme, including support to potential partner NGOs in those countries. Population Concern had to use its own funds (which it could ill afford) to fill the gap in funding which then had a knock-on effect on its other activities. This particular programme has several donors with different project year spans. The situation is complicated even more by delayed funding as some activities are jointly funded. Parts of some activities now end before the other part because of staggered funding. The reputation and credibility of Population Concern has been put on the line due to delays in programme implementation caused by late receipt of funds.

  It is also difficult to pinpoint who is responsible within the EC bureaucracy for which level of decision. The confusion within the EC has also contributed towards delays in approval, etc.

  Similarly, the Community Based Distribution Programme in Karachi, Pakistan has suffered from tardiness of funds from the European Commission. So late was the approval of the extension programme that interim funding from the Packard Foundation had to be sought for a nine-month period between the two phases of the initiative. Later, the funding situation became so dire that the Director of the organisation in Pakistan took out a personal loan to pay staff salaries, using her residence as collateral. A claim submitted in August 1999 was not actually paid until March 2000. This was despite the efforts of EC officials in Islamabad who repeatedly followed the matter up with the European Commission in Brussels. The staff commitment of the Pakistani NGO enabled the successful achievement of the purpose of the programme. However, the partner NGO has requested Population Concern not to seek financing from the European Commission in the future.

  Population Concern would like to suggest that DFID gives and allocates attention, time and resources to streamline and make more effective and efficient the work of the EC. Attention is also needed to ensure greater transparency of the EC bureaucracy and to more consultation with NGOs. The goal of DFID, the European Commission and NGOs, including of course Population Concern, is to support women, men and young people to positively change their lives and enhance their quality of life.

Sandra M Kabira

Director—International Advocacy and Resources, Population Concern

June 2000

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