Blog / 21 October 2013

Minister of Trade and Aid chooses fresh head wind

Minister of Trade and Aid chooses fresh head wind

Ploumen sets out to allocate the extremely reduced budget that survived the last round of disproportionate cuts to civil society funding to partnerships with organisations that critically monitor the role of (Dutch) companies and governments in the global economy. These organisations help her to implement and execute coherent, sustainable and fair policies on trade, aid and investments.


By spending her small budget on the more critical civil society organisations, the minister makes a strategic choice; while financing for civil society organisations is growing, for example through funds such as the Gates Foundation, this money is rarely spent on organizations that question activities of companies or governments.


The people I speak to in the U.S. confirm minister Ploumen’s conclusions.  It’s true that a lot of money is available, but very few funders in the U.S. are willing to stick their necks out and support local critical organizations like minister Ploumen intends to.


This worries the people I’ve met. They have a hard time convincing their colleagues of the importance of funding organisations that challenge the powers that be.. Meanwhile, the developments in Europe worry them as well. Private funds in Europe are less progressive than those in the U.S. and more inclined to stay away from activities that might be politically sensitive. They fear that European public funds will also gradually withdraw from financing the more critical organisations and instead will spend scarce resources on strengthening their own, European private sectors.


Minister Ploumen is not afraid of opposition; in fact she chooses to finance her own ‘fresh headwinds’. She can’t do this on her own. If she really wants to innovate, she has an important mission. Other funders, private and public, will have to start recognising that local countervailing powers linked to international networks are crucial in striving for a better world. Ploumen will have to start convincing her fellow ministers and private funds in and outside the Netherlands to share her vision. In doing so, she will strengthen both her own agenda and that of hundreds of organisations that, often under harsh conditions, keep pushing for a fair and green economy.


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