Examination of witness (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 17 JUNE 1998
220. You said that in this bracket you would
include the church. Do you call the church an NGO?
A. I am not sure
if legally it is an NGO, but if it is representative of civil
society and represents the same principles, yes.
221. Given that there is some scepticism
in your approach, would you want to modify slightly your recommendation,
which is very strong, that it is necessary to establish a clear
consultation process that facilitates NGO participation in EU
decision making and require monitoring and evaluation of TACIS
Environment projects by outside agencies such as NGOs? Just because
somebody calls himself an NGO you do not automatically put him
in that category? Is it fair to say that you are sceptical and
you do not automatically accept into your compass of what is good
and representative of a civil society anything that chooses to
call itself an NGO? Nevertheless, you are quite tough in scrutinising
those who come forward and describe themselves in such a way?
A. Yes. I suggest
that we are engaging NGOs and/or other representatives of civil
society, acknowledging that there may be organisations or structures
that are not NGOs that should be engaged in that process if in
their community or country they are the most appropriate voice.
I would not take out NGOs even though I am sceptical about some,
but I acknowledge that there are other agents of people at work
in those countries with whom we should be engaging in a dialogue.
As a conservation organisation, we could not be working in these
countries if that were not so.
222. Those structures may have a quasi-governmental
relationship. For instance, if they had community councils or
something like that established by government encouragement would
you consider that such a body was representative of civil society,
A. I would not
assume that. If I investigated it and found that that was so I
would be more than happy to treat them as such. I take the example
of the education sector where around the world, and increasingly
in the transition countries, we are engaging with the formal education
ministries to introduce environmental education into schools and
curricula. They are not NGOs. Many would says that they are representatives
of the system but worldwide they have become a significant partner
to WWF. I would include the possibility of engaging organisations
like that in this dialogue.
223. Are there such organisations in either
Russia or Ukraine with whom you could happily form partnerships?
A. In Ukraine
and Georgia we work with the ministries of education. Increasingly,
in Russia we are looking at the training of teachers through a
particular area of our education programme. There is a range of
structures in all these countries. One needs to take time to understand
their place in their societies and determine which are the most
relevant organisations to have a partnership with a conservation
224. For instance, we heard in Russia that
each local authority had a designated environment officer. Some
of them are crying out for courses, information and help. Would
you work with people like that within local authorities?
225. How do you work with the education
departments? Is it teacher training or career development? Is
it done directly with teacher organisations or is it a mix?
A. It is a mix.
For example, in Georgia we do both. Over the past five years in
Georgia we have built four education training centres where we
train 300 teachers. I can provide the details. Throughout the
Georgian system, senior and primary, we are developing curriculum
materials and working with the ministry and with schools and teachers.
It is a model and system that we have applied all round the world.
We feel that it is a very constructive way of engaging those countries
in developing levels of awareness and participation that we cannot
do through other means.
226. How is that funded?
A. That programme
is funded by the German agency BMZ.
227. Not TACIS, although it could be?
A. One could
argue that it should be.
228. Is the principal problem the definition
of an NGO? We all know in the west what it is; we know how you
are funded, how you are set up and under what charity laws you
operate. Is not the total lack of that kind of activity in the
former Soviet Union satellites a real problem? There is not a
suitable law and if they try to fund themselves the money is taxed?
I do not quite know how you would go in and operate in the way
you do in the west?
A. That is exactly
what we do. We operate as a legal entity in Georgia, Russia and
229. As a charity?
A. As a registered
NGO. WWF is an organisation which is 28 separate legal entities
of national organisations and it has programme offices in Russia,
Georgia and Mongolia. They are NGOs in the legal context of that
country run by nationals, but I agree that it is very difficult.
In Russia we have had extreme difficulty over the past 10 years
establishing our legal presence and avoiding huge tax problems.
We can operate there because our Russian office is part of an
international programme and has support from the whole infrastructure
system for national organisations that are developing on their
own. That is a lot more difficult. One should not underestimate
those difficulties. Sometimes we have to adopt alternative points
of entry like education.
Lord Mackie of Benshie
230. Who are your enemies? For example,
in agriculture certain practices act against your intereststhe
preservation of wild life?
A. We try not
to call them enemies but potential partners. For example, in Russia
there are vast areas of stands of timber. They are ready to be
logged by the highest bidder. What we are trying to do is introduce
concepts of certification and sustainable forestry management
and working with everyone from the government to local communities
to build a consensus and understanding about how to manage forests
for local economic gain and environmental protection. Mining is
also an issue. One has in mind the whole concept of pollution.
For example, the western concept of the community's right to know
about chemicals and what is going into the water supply is unknown
in the many countries. If we do not work with industry, foresters
and farmers we will not get anywhere in any country anywhere in
the world. It is a lesson that we as a conservation organisation
have had to learn. Thirty-five years ago we established protected
areas by throwing out all the people who lived there and putting
fences around them. Now one establishes a protected area and determines
how economic activities can continue to be undertaken by the local
population while maintaining the integrity of the eco-system.
The challenge in NIS in the central European countries, and increasingly
in the Baltic, is immense in terms of engagement because of the
levels of suspicion and past conflict between these groups.
Lord Lewis of Newnham
231. How far do you find that the populace
at large correlate pollution control with unemployment?
A. If you talk
to communities in these areas the issue that predominates is the
health of their children and their ability to stay on the land
and use it. The concept of unemployment is less pressing because
people have a greater sense of the need to sustain themselves.
232. Hunting is a problem, is it not, especially
when people are at or around subsistence level?
A. I attended
a wonderful meeting in Bulgaria. We met community representatives
all of whom were supporters of conservation. A man at the back
of the room stood up and said that he was a hunter. He wanted
WWF to protect the wetlands in which he was interested because
it attracted the birds that he shot. You have to find a way into
people's hearts and figure out how to work with them effectively.
233. We keep hearing from the people who
run the know-how fund how splendid it is and how much better than
TACIS it is.
A. I am afraid
that I know very little about the know-how fund. I have no knowledge
of WWF working with it in these countries.
234. What about the TACIS "Bistro"
facility and its ability to get up very quickly short-term programmes
of training and seminars? When we spoke to people there we got
the impression that it was very popular?
A. I think that
it is an important facility. It is important for making sums available
for very fundamental things that need to be done quickly. One
of the difficulties is that the effectiveness of the management
of the Bistro fund depends very much on each Delegation, how it
is managed and the enthusiasm and commitment of the Delegation
staff to the programme. Largely, it is fine but it can be an issue.
We also have a concern about the rate at which funds are committed
and spent. For whatever reason, the Bistro funds seem to be underspent.
That is an odd feature given that every small grants programme
that we have operated has always been over-committed by about
100 per cent. It is an interesting facility, but one wonders whether
thought should be given to how it can be more effectively integrated
into the local system.
235. I suspect that it may not be sufficiently
A. It is a secret
Chairman: I did not
know about it.
236. Do you think that it has a wider significance
in terms of the real problem of relating the bureaucracy of the
EU to the creative dynamic of development or environmental work,
in the sense that small amounts of money which may be needed at
critical stages can have a disproportionately positive effect,
whereas sums dished out bureaucratically and accounted for over
a long period of time have almost lost their usefulness by the
time the money is actually used?
A. I agree. Sadly,
the Commission is not alone in struggling with that. We as an
international organisation struggle with the same problem. One
comes back to issues of accountability to donors. They want to
know how the money is being spent, what structures are in place
and so on. I am a social scientist within a conservation organisation.
I was brought up to believe in the dynamic of development capacity
building. The problem of getting resources to invest in a process
rather than product is extremely difficult both with the formal
institutional donors but even within our organisation and external
donors. You can put TACIS under the microscope and see that that
tension is alive and well, but you will find it with most donors
237. It is a matter of trusting people sufficiently
to delegate the responsibility, is it not?
A. It is a matter
of trust and being prepared to take risks. It is also a matter
of investing in people as opposed to outputs, to use bureaucratic
language; and it is also a matter of spending time developing
relationships and an understanding between the different constituents.
That does not always fit easily with financial regulation, funding
requirements, contractual stipulations or whatever. You see that
tension more readily in the NIS because of the whole emerging
dynamic of the civil society and the whole issue about how resources
are managed. It is a process and a dynamic that is changing on
a daily basis. The system tends to come into conflict with that.
238. Without wanting to turn this into a
thesis, is there any evidence that sometimes the people who do
the most exciting work with the most dynamic effect are not necessarily
the best people to follow all the bureaucratic procedures?
A. I agree, but
I do not think that those people necessarily need a lot of money
to do what they want to do. What they need every now and again
is the facility and will of the people they are working with,
like donors or organisations like ours, to have trust in them
to be able to move forward in a slightly unusual way. Increasingly,
in conservation the reason that we are working with education
and in capacity building with a whole range of partners is because
some of those traditional avenues have not worked and produced
239. In Ukraine one aspect that I found
astonishing was that TACIS was funding a monitoring unit of 40
people to look at the TACIS programme. If one multiplies that
across the NIS that appears to be an extraordinary waste of money.
These people are just ticking boxes and forms. Admittedly, they
are doing some evaluative work as well, but the main evaluative
process takes place in Brussels and these people are just monitoring
this enormous group of people.
A. I am concerned
by the tendency to tick boxes and to count the number of meetings
and publications as opposed to seeing what has been achieved as
a result of those products being delivered. I was also concerned
to hear someone from one of the monitoring units say that no future
support should be given to NGOs because they were too unreliable.