Co-Financing NGO Projects in Yemen [Archives:1998/12/Law & Diplomacy]

March 23 1998

NGOs in Yemen represent a relatively new phenomenon. Their numbers increased following the unification of Yemen because of the freer political climate that prevailed since then.
However, NGOs in Yemen are facing serious difficulties. There is no law to regulate their activities. They are governed by an inadequate law, Law No. 11 of 1963. This law was first enacted in the former Yemen Arab Republic (Northern Yemen). The draft of the new law has not yet been adopted by parliament.
Another problem is that some of these NGOs are plagued by the corruption, especially financial, of their administrators. This corruption has created many conflicts and disputes within some of these NGOs, resulting in their division or even suspension of activities.
Mr. Amadeo Brusasco, the EC Coordinator for the Co-financing of NGO Projects, visited Yemen during 11-18 March. He met several Yemeni officials. His job is to coordinate the management of the budget, which co-finances development projects, with the European managing office.
Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor, met Mr. Brusasco, and filed the following interview.
Q: What is the purpose of your visit to Yemen?
A: I am here to visit projects that we have already co-financed through the budget line, to evaluate the environment in which the Yemeni and European NGOs work, to inform the relevant government ministers of our activities and discuss a series of new proposals that have been presented by NGOs for future co-financing. Another objective of my mission is to meet Yemeni NGOs.
European NGOs are all interested in establishing themselves in Yemen. I think these objectives were met within the time allotted, which was too short.
Q: How does the co-financing process work?
A: The European Commission has two parallel lines of policy. One is the development policy, which is coordinated here in Sanaa by Mr. Freund. Parallel to that, there is a non governmental policy for which there has been a considerable amount of funds earmarked.
The non-governmental line has been going on for more than 20 years. It works in more than 100 countries worldwide. The funds earmarked for the European Commission Budget for cooperation with NGOs are 800 million ECU annually, which is 15% of the Commission’s development budget. Of that, 200 million ECU are earmarked for 1998 for the co-financing of projects with European NGOs in developing countries.

This budget is the one that I am responsible for in Brussels. We use this money to co-finance annually some 800 projects in more than 100 developing countries.
Projects co-financed by the EC must meet two criteria. As a first priority, they must provide the basic needs of the poor such as food, security, water, health, training, etc. The second is that they must have an active local partner in the benefiting country working in cooperation with the European NGO. It must be an equal partnership.
We get literally thousands of applications from different countries and NGOs and we judge them by their merit, the quality of the project and the correspondence of the project to the criteria I mentioned before.
Q: How do you see the NGO situation in Yemen?
A: I got the impression that there is a certain interest in the NGO dimension to intensify cooperation between Yemeni and European organizations with EC backing.
Q: When did the cooperation between European and Yemeni NGOs start and how is it developing?
A: Cooperation with European NGOs for projects in Yemen started about five years ago. In the last five years, we have co-financed 7 projects with a total of 3 million ECU in contributions from the EC. The Yemen-EU joint venture has been worth some 6 million ECU.
I want to stress that in the last five months, we have added project applications from European NGOs for projects in Yemen for 2 million ECU. In the last five months, we have spent almost as much as we have in the last five years.
Moreover, during my visit to Yemen, I was contacted by at least 4 new European NGOs that are known to us in Brussels, but have never worked in Yemen.
Q: Do you finance local NGOs only or those that cover all of Yemen as well?
A: We think that an NGO should not try to do too much, but they must do all that they can. If they have a good project, which is in a particular governorate rather than in another one, we are not going to influence them otherwise. We respect an autonomy and we are concerned that they have a good partner.
Q: How many projects are you financing?
A: I should first make a difference between those which we have co-financed already and those that we are examining now. We have already co-financed about 3 million ECU worth of projects. There is a project in Sanaa co-financed by Oxfam. It is a clinic in Bab Al Sabah. It’s a small project, but it is a beginning.
The total number of projects is 39, big and small. We have co-financed with a British organization called ICD for health activities in Reima and Hodeida. We also co-financed a project for Somali refugees in Sanaa.
Q: How do you evaluate the cooperation between European NGOs and their Yemeni partners?
A: I could say that my meetings were extremely constructive, an ideal opportunity to meet European NGOs, some of which have much experience in Yemen and others who are thinking of coming in and came to the meeting to see what it’s all about.
The Yemeni NGOs are quite numerous and are keen to know the possibilities of co-financing. Some Yemeni NGOs pointed out that it would be nice to have direct financing rather than having to go through European NGOs. This is a very legitimate desire, but as I explained to them, I am managing only one of many budget lines, of which there are more than 40 open to NGOs. Some of the others may be open for the local NGOs.
Q: How are the European NGOs selected to operate in Yemen?
A: A European NGO brings a certain amount of value to a project because it contributes up to 50% of the funds. Then, it must also be a good NGO. My job is to select a European NGO that has been operating for years. A good NGO follows good principles and thinks of the welfare of the poor.
We do not employ expatriates only. In our rules for co-financing, we stress that local capabilities be used. If that is impossible, expatriates are allowed, but it must be justified. If the expatriates take too much of the budget, they are sent back to Europe. I am not here to plead the cause of the European NGOs, but it is my duty to explain that there is a certain value added by the European NGOs.