Education International
Education International

Decreasing development aid

published 24 September 2012 updated 15 October 2012
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Enhancing use of funds in Latin America

In Latin America, sustainability and the use of funding are predominant issues. “Co-operation development underwent a deep and far-reaching crisis due to the worldwide economic situation, and is less important and not top priority now,” says Combertty Rodriguez, the Chief Coordinator of the Latin America EI Office.

“EI must investigate how it can help unions consolidate and be sustainable, otherwise small trade unions will not survive,” says Rodriguez. “It is of utmost importance to focus on trade unions’ financial autonomy, developing strategies and clear proposals to solve problems at country level.”

Keeping unions’ involvement in solidarity activities in Europe

Concerning Europe, Lärarförbundet’s International Secretary Paula Engwall says that, in Sweden, “Lärarförbundet’s Congress has allocated 1.5% of the membership dues to international cooperation, of which at least half should be allocated to development co-operation.

“Besides that, we apply for Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) funds.” Detailing her union’s financial involvement in development cooperation, she adds, “Lärarförbundet contributes around 10% of the requested funds. The Swedish government does not interfere in the choice of partners, and collaborates with us as long as the programme or project is following the SIDA guidelines. In practice, there is harsh competition for the funds from other parts of civil society, trade and industry.”

Diversifying funding sources in North America

Barbara MacDonald Moore from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) echoes Engwall’s thoughts that solidarity projects among education unions globally are becoming more difficult to set up, as the funding available for international cooperation decreases.

“Many of our provincial member organisations are facing tough negotiations with their governments,” she says. “In the international cooperation area, along with many other Canadian civil society colleagues, we are frustrated by the lack of decisions on project proposals to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), due in mid-August 2011. We are anxiously awaiting the CIDA decision.”

In relation to funds available for international solidarity activities, Ms MacDonald Moore says that 6% of CTF money comes from membership dues, amounting to C$286,000. “This covers core organisational costs, overseas projects, travel costs and others,” she says.

Because CIDA changed its rules, a quick shift was needed for unions to support the core funding and program areas. Unions have to cover administrative costs and core activities, leading to cuts in administrative and salary costs.

When questioned in more detail by the union, the Canadian government argued that CTF could not demonstrate who would run the programs later and that there was no sustainability. CTF decided to go to other foundations to find resources which will enable the union to design projects that can be run self-sustainably.

At a global level, the funding crisis forces unions to give a clearer focus to activities they undertake, diversify sources of funding, and find more efficient ways to use funds allocated to development co-operation. By providing clear evaluation grids to cooperation development programmes, unions will also leave Governments no excuse to cut funds available for external aid and deepen austerity measures.

In 2012 and the coming years, EI and its affiliates need to keep on showing educators’ solidarity worldwide, developing new strategies to help the weakest unions flourish. Only then can the latter play a crucial role in their communities and countries, take the lead and contribute to setting up socially fair and education-focused policies to exit the crisis. And a considerable step towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals will have been taken.

Currently faced with fewer available resources, stricter conditions and increased funding competition because of Governments’ budget cuts, education unions must renew their commitment to development co-operation activities, and develop new strategies.

The primary objective of development cooperation in the education sector is to empower education unions to grow. It aims to enable them to function as independent, autonomous, sustainable and democratic unions.

EI acts mainly as a coordinator and facilitator in partnerships.

Building strong and independent unions in Africa

In Africa, EI must keep on promoting co-operation to build strong organisations, says Assibi Napoe, Chief Coordinator of EI Regional Office in Africa. “There are country-based priorities, but we should align our development co-operation policies with the EI one.

“There are major difficulties in West Africa, where we have weak unions and communication issues. We are trying to solve this problem in French-speaking countries, together with DLF/Denmark and Lärarförbundet/Sweden. You have to bear in mind that, in some countries, teachers receive only US$20 a week. In order to engage in fruitful collective bargaining with governments, we do need to build strong unions.”

Evaluation is key to development cooperation

The evaluation of programmes’ outcomes is a key issue for unions to consider in terms of development cooperation and receiving funding from national, as well as international, authorities and agencies.

“As far as indicators are concerned, EI should try to be better at measuring. Evaluation is important but it is related to requests made by national agencies,” said EI Senior Coordinator Nicolás Richards. “Education is often not considered as an objective of development cooperation. It is believed that development cooperation should yield economic results, especially in terms of food, security and water supply.”

The state of development co-operation differs worldwide, with strong, well-structured unions experiencing financial cuts having to re-think, and sometimes unfortunately stop, activities in this field.