Call to Minister Kaag: do not waste time and help poor countries through local organisations
The world is turned upside down in this pandemic. Ordinary life is disrupted on our end. Many people suffer from the ‘polder lockdown’, although fortunately we have enough resilience and safety nets to meet our most urgent needs. Unfortunately, outside the Netherlands this all too often lacking. Especially in countries where public health structures are weak and where people are in a total lockdown. Because local communities that are shackled today may be hungry tomorrow. And aid and money does not naturally flow to the most vulnerable citizens there. So extra financial support is urgent.
The usual suspects
The good news is that Minister Kaag of ‘Foreign trade and aid’ has quickly released 100 million euros in consultation with other European member states. But the less good news is the partners she appointed. We are concerned about choosing these usual suspects. Because we doubt whether they will be able to act as quickly as necessary. And we believe that we need to look for new solutions just now. The real lesson that Covid-19 teaches us is that we can open ourselves up to a different way of life, to different ways and to new solutions.
The big challenge is to get that Covid-19 money to the right people as soon as possible. Speed is vital in this global crisis. We would like to challenge the minister to bet on several horses at the same time. For the time being, Minister Kaag only opts for well-known large partner institutions such as the World Bank group and the UN organisations. But the past, unfortunately, shows that they need a lot of time to get that money into local communities. Time we don't have now.
As a result, large groups of vulnerable people outside the formal flow of funds, such as women, small farmers, fishing communities and indigenous peoples, will not be reached. While they are precisely where this crisis will inevitably deliver the hardest blows.
Cooperating with local people
There are different ways to do this. Precisely by working closely with those local communities. Thanks to its strategic way of cooperating in recent years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already built cooperative relationships with numerous organizations that are in direct contact with the neighborhoods, streets and villages in poor countries where the most vulnerable people live. These organisations are set up by people who want to help their own community. Because of their direct relationship with urban and rural women's groups, with farmers' cooperatives, with fishing communities or indigenous inhabitants of forests in Brazil, Indonesia or the Congo, they are able to determine, even during a lockdown, where the support is most needed – in close collaboration with the communities themselves.
Thanks to the support of Minister Kaag, these organisations have developed innovative, locally rooted financing channels. They are ready to help the most vulnerable people to get out of this misery. This innovative approach to development aid has worked excellently for years. This is the chance to also show the world that money can flow differently and then end up with the right people, so that they have a say in how aid should be organised for them. This gives us a significant "innovative advantage".
The ministry has had this option successfully in its toolkit for the last five years. There is now also confidence in the quality and accountability of our partner organisations. So Minister Kaag has the choice to quickly and smartly prevent major consequences for hard-to-reach communities and to also include other donors on this path. We therefore challenge the Minister to also choose this new route for Covid-19 funding. Local leaders are ready to go.
This article was published in Dutch on the 18th of April 2020 in ViceVersa online
For more information about alternative financing mechanisms:
4-pager Small grants, Big impacts
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