Trends in Development Aid, Negotiation Processes and NGO Policy Change
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- Johansson, K.V., Elgström, O., Kimanzu, N. et al. Voluntas (2010) 21: 371. doi:10.1007/s11266-010-9131-y
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Non-governmental organizations (NGO) and government donor agencies (GDA) are often caught in a dilemma; an NGO between responsiveness to its target group(s), expectations of individual donors and demands of its GDA; GDA between its policy to respect NGO’s integrity, its wish to keep NGOs accountable for received fund and its operation within the bounds of its general policies. This dilemma is mirrored in the NGO–GDA negotiation for funds. Based on negotiation theory and using three explanatory approaches, 18 years of negotiations between an NGO, Vi Skogen (ViS) and its GDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), are analyzed in order to demonstrate how organizational structures, power relations and the context influence the outcome of the negotiations. All three approaches help to explain how ViS managed, mainly in the interest of its individual donors, to resist changes demanded by Sida and also to explain how the agendas of ViS and Sida finally converged.
KeywordsNegotiation theoryPolicy changeGovernment donor agencyDevelopment cooperation
Les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) et les organismes donateurs gouvernementaux (ODG) sont souvent pris dans un dilemme : pour les ONG, satisfaire à la réactivité pour leur (s) groupe (s) cibles (s), aux attentes des donateurs individuels et aux exigences de l’organisme donateur gouvernemental auxquelles elles sont rattachées; pour les ODG, mettre en œuvre leur politique visant à respecter l’intégrité des ONG, obtenir que les ONG rendent compte des fonds qui leur sont versés, et mener leurs opérations dans les limites de leur politique générale. Ce dilemme se retrouve dans les négociations pour l’attribution des fonds entre ONG et ODG. À partir de la théorie de la négociation et en utilisant trois approches explicatives, nous analysons dix-huit ans de négociation entre Vi Skogen (ViS), une ONG, et Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida, l’agence suédoise de coopération au développement international), l’organisme donateur gouvernemental dont elle dépend, afin de démontrer comment les structures organisationnelles, les rapports de force et le contexte pèsent sur le résultat des négociations. Ces trois approches contribuent à expliquer comment ViS a réussi, principalement dans l’intérêt de ses donateurs individuels, à résister aux changements demandés par Sida, et comment les programmes de ces deux entités ont fini par se rejoindre.
Nicht-staatliche Organisationen und staatliche Spendenorganisationen stecken oftmals in einem Dilemma; die nicht-staatlichen Organisationen stehen zwischen ihrer Ansprechbarkeit gegenüber ihren Zielgruppen, den Erwartungen individueller Spender und den Forderungen ihrer staatlichen Spendenorganisationen; die staatlichen Spendenorganisationen stehen zwischen ihrem Grundsatz, die Integrität der nicht-staatlichen Organisationen zu respektieren, ihrem Wunsch, die nicht-staatlichen Organisationen für erhaltene Mittel zur Rechenschaft zu ziehen und ihrer Tätigkeit, welche innerhalb der Schranken ihrer allgemeinen Richtlinien zu erfolgen hat. Dieses Dilemma spiegelt sich in den Verhandlungen über Mittelzuweisungen zwischen den nicht-staatlichen Organisationen und den staatlichen Spendenorganistionen wieder. Begründet auf der Verhandlungstheorie und mittels dreier Erklärungsansätze werden die seit achtzehn Jahren stattfindenden Verhandlungen zwischen einer nicht-staatlichen Organisation, Vi Skogen (ViS,) und ihrer staatlichen Spendenorganisation, der schwedischen Behörde für internationale Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (Sida), untersucht, um darzustellen, welchen Einfluss Organisationsstrukturen, Machtverhältnisse und der Zusammenhang auf das Verhandlungsergebnis haben. Alle drei Ansätze tragen zu der Erklärung bei, wie die ViS es, hauptsächlich im Interesse ihrer individuellen Spendengeber, schaffte, sich den von der Sida geforderten Änderungen zu widersetzen und wie sich die Ziele der ViS und der Sida letztendlich näher kamen.
A menudo, las organizaciones no gubernamentales (ONG) y las instituciones donantes gubernamentales (GDA) se enfrentan a un dilema: las ONG deben decidir contentar a sus grupos meta, las expectativas de los donantes individuales y plegarse a las exigencias de su GDA; las GDA entre su política de respetar la integridad de las ONG, su deseo de hacer a las ONG responsables de los fondos recibidos y su funcionamiento dentro de los límites de sus políticas generales. Este dilema se refleja en la negociación entre las ONG y las GDA a propósito de los fondos. A la luz de la teoría de la negociación y utilizando tres enfoques explicativos, se analizan dieciocho años de negociaciones entre la ONG Vi Skogen (ViS) y su GDA, la Agencia Sueca de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (ASDI), con el fin de demostrar cómo las estructuras organizativas, las relaciones de poder y el contexto influyen en el resultado de las negociaciones. Los tres enfoques ayudan a explicar cómo ViS consiguió resistir, sobre todo en interés de sus donantes individuales, los cambios exigidos por la ASDI y también cómo convergieron finalmente los programas de la ViS y la ASDI.
非政府组织(英语缩写 NGO)和政府捐助机构 (英语缩写 GDA)往往处于进退两难之中:非政府组织夹在对其目标群体的反应、个别捐赠者的期望及其政府捐助机构的要求等之中;政府捐助机构则夹在其对非政府组织完整性的尊重、其在保持非政府组织对接受资金负责方面和这些组织经营操作限于该机构一般政策范围内方面的愿望等之间。 这一进退两难反映于非政府组织与政府捐助机构在资金方面的谈判之中。基于谈判理论和使用三种解释性方法,对一个名为 Vi Skogen (ViS) 的非政府组织及其政府捐助机构”瑞典国际发展合作署”(Sida) 之间在十八年中的谈判进行了分析,以演示组织结构、权利关系及其背景对谈判结果的影响。所有三种方法帮助解释了 ViS 在主要是保护其个别捐赠者的利益情况下如何得以成功地拒绝了 Sida 所要求的变化,同时也解释了双方的议程如何终于趋於一致。
非営利団体(NGO)と政府ドナー機関(GDA)は、目標グループへの反応におけるNGOの相互間、 個々のドナーの期待、NGO保全を尊重する方針におけるGDAへの要望、受け取った基金に責任を持つNGOへの期待、一般的な方針の結合における運営において、よくジレンマに陥る。このジレンマはNGOとGDAの基金交渉で明らかになる。交渉理論に基づき、3つの説明可能なアプローチを用いることで、NGO、Vi Skogen(ViS)、GDAであるスウェーデンの国際開発協力庁(Sida)における18年間にわたる交渉を通して、組織体制、力関係、状況が、どのように交渉の結果に対して影響を及ぼすかを分析する。これらすべての3つのアプローチでは、主として個々のドナーの利益においては、Sidaによる要求された変更に対する抵抗に対してViSがどのように管理されるか、さらにViSとSidaに関する基本方針がどのように最終的に集約されるかの説明するのに役立つ。
المنظمات الغير حكومية(NGO) ووكالات الحكومة المانحة(GDA) غالباً ما تكون واقعة في مأزق ؛ المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) بين الإستجابة لمجموعاتها المستهدفة، توقعات الجهات المانحة الفردية و طليات وكالات حكومتها المانحة(GDA) ؛ كذلك وكالات الحكومة المانحة (GDA) بين سياستها على إحترام نزاهة المنظمات الغير حكومية(NGO) ، و رغبتها في إبقاء المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) للمساءلة عن الموارد المالية التي تم إستلامها و التشغيل في حدود سياساتها العامة. هذه المعضلة منعكسة في تفاوض المنظمات الغير حكومية(NGO – وكالات الحكومة المانحة (GDA) للحصول على الأموال.على أساس نظرية التفاوض واستخدام ثلاثة طرق تفسيرية، وثمانية عشر عاماً مفاوضات بين منظمة غير حكومية (NGO)، المنظمة السويدية (Vi Skogen (ViS)) ووكالة حكومتها المانحة ((GDA، ووكالة التنمية الدولية السويدية التعاونية (سيدا ((Sida)، يتم تحليهم من أجل إظهار كيف أن الهياكل التنظيمية ، وعلاقات القوة والنفوذ تؤثر في نتائج المفاوضات. الثلاث طرق تساعد على شرح كيف نجحت المنظمة السويدية (ViS) ، أساساً في الإهتمام بجهاتها المانحة الفردية ، مقاومة التغييرات التي تطالب بها سيدا ((Sida وأيضا شرح كيف أن جداول أعمال المنظمة السويدية(ViS) وسيدا ((Sida أخيرًا تقاربوا.
The importance of sustainable human development and recipient ownership in development aid has increased over time (Cidse 2005; OECD 2005; Accra Agenda for Action 2008). In order to build local ownership and diversity, donor policies for NGO support and cooperation with the civil society, like that of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (Sida) stress the respect for the distinctive character of recipient organizations and the fact that they are primarily accountable to their own target group(s) (Sida 2004, p. 6, 2007, p. 6).
In this view, it is important that NGOs can be primarily accountable and responsive to their target group, i.e. their main beneficiaries, and not to external donors. However, with the rapid growth in number and size of NGOs, the growing funds they attract, their increasing influence in different political arenas (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006), and failure to deliver and/or demonstrate intended impact (Edwards and Hulme 1995; Riddell et al. 1995; Salamon and Anheier 1996; Gibelman and Gelman 2001), there is a growing demand for increased transparency, tightened accountability (Edwards et al. 1999; Brown and Moore 2001; Choudhury and Ahmed 2002; Jordan 2005) and a reinforced government framework for NGO control (Gibelman and Gelman 2001; Jordan and van Tuijl 2006). These multiple commitments and loyalties corner NGOs into a dilemma, namely; between responsiveness to the target group(s), expectations of individual donors and demands of their government donor agency (GDA). The NGO dilemma has, in one way or the other, also been recognized by Edwards and Hulme (1992, 1996); Anheier and Themudo (2002); Ossewaarde et al. (2008). Less considered is that a similar dilemma is relevant to many GDAs with a policy stating that NGOs should be allowed freedom of integrity to develop their own distinctive character and to be primarily accountable to their own target group(s), while simultaneously, having to hold them accountable for received funds and their activities in accordance with general policies and predominant aid ideology.
The increasing complexity of the NGO situation in development raises the question whether NGOs can continue to constitute alternatives to dominant state centred models, practices and ideas about development (Bebbington et al. 2008).
The objective of this study is to demonstrate how the related GDA and NGO dilemmas have been resolved in practice and to use negotiation theory to shed theoretical light on the GDA-NGO negotiation processes that mirror the dilemmas.
The Swedish NGO Vi Skogen (Vi Agroforestry Program), hereafter called ViS, represents an interesting case, notably from the perspective described above. ViS is a well-documented NGO that started through idealistic efforts in 1983 based on two contemporary narratives: ‘desertification’ and the ‘fuel wood crisis’ (Leach and Mearns 1996, p. 1; Lundgren 1983, pp. 2–4). ViS was registered as an independent NGO in 1986, but had virtually no experience in development cooperation, desertification or fuel wood production in the tropics. Sida started to fund ViS in the fiscal year 1987/1988. Today, ViS is a popular NGO under the Swedish Cooperative Centre (SCC) but still with its own distinctive character and with its operations within the contemporary predominant aid ideology.
How could ViS continue to pursue its initial policy concept despite enduring criticism from its apparently more powerful negotiating partner?
Given these disagreements, how did ViS and SIDA eventually reach a consensus on a policy that required substantial change in the initial ViS concept?
Elgström (1992) used four explanatory approaches for analyzing 30 years of development cooperation negotiation between Sweden and Tanzania. In this study, three of these approaches, the power, organization and contextual approaches, are employed to analyze the negotiations between ViS and Sida from the start in 1985 up to 2002.
This is a case study of a negotiation process between an NGO and a GDA and of the resulting NGO policy change. The case of ViS–Sida negotiations has been used to explore the above research questions. ViS was selected because it is a well-documented case, with different sources of information, of an NGO that has been growing from a single initiative to a medium size NGO.
articles published about ViS in the Vi Magazine (ViM);
documents established from correspondence and negotiation mainly between ViS, Sida and Forum Syd and within the three organizations;
reports from the assessments of the ViS project(s) made by different consultants;
official Sida, FS and ViS documents.
Theory and Operationalizations
The theoretical perspective employed in this study is negotiation theory. Bargaining is one type of decision making (Bercovitch 1984, p. 127; Morley and Stephenson 1977, p. 23) and is characterized by interdependence and the existence of both common and conflicting interests (Jönsson 1990, p. 2; Zartman and Berman 1982, pp. 57, 113; Pillar 1983, p. 37). The bargaining process was studied in line with Elgström (1992, p. 12), i.e. with regard to the relative presence of distributive and integrative bargaining. Distributive denotes confrontational bargaining where the interests of the negotiating parties are almost diametrically opposed—a win–lose situation. When joint problem solving and cooperative behaviour are predominant the term integrative is used. Even if conditions for integrative bargaining are present, the process may become distributive if, for instance, the bargaining attitude of one or the other party is distributive and/or if one or both parties uses coercive tactics. In this way, an apparently integrative bargaining situation can be turned into a distributive process. The terms coercive and persuasive are used to characterize the bargaining strategy and tactics used by the negotiating parties (Elgström 1992, pp. 16–18).
Similar to Allison (1971), Elmore (1978) and Elgström (1992), three theoretical models, the power, organizational and contextual approaches, were used as explanatory approaches when analyzing the empirical material. Each approach places the focus on a particular set of variables. Thus, three separate explanatory perspectives are presented. These could be viewed as mutually exclusive theories; however, in line with Elgström (1992, p. 8), the three approaches are considered as supplementing perspectives, each highlighting some particular aspects of the bargaining process.
The power approach argues that the power of the actors involved in the negotiation is the main determinant of bargaining behaviour and results. The distribution of material power resources is one essential dimension of power, and the presence of influential norms is another (Elgström 1992, pp. 22–24).
The organizational approach claims that it is crucial to study factors pertaining to characteristics of the organization of both negotiating parties, such as organizational culture and capacity (Elgström 1992, pp. 27–32).
dominant international and domestic models, practices and ideas about development cooperation (hereafter, called aid ideology);
narratives related to the natural resources and environment (Leach and Mearns 1996, p. 1);
predominant perceptions of the NGO’s role in development.
The rationale behind using these approaches is that the three perspectives, taken together, help to explain how the related GDA and NGO dilemmas are resolved; whether the NGO prioritizes responsiveness to the GDA, to its individual donors, or to its target group(s) and; whether the GDA prioritizes its policy of NGO integrity, accountability of the NGO funds or to keep NGO operations in accordance with predominant aid ideology
A general definition of narratives is given by Roe (1994) ‘policy narratives are stories (scenarios and arguments) which underwrite and stabilize the assumptions for policymaking in situations that persist with many unknowns, a high degree of interdependence, and little, if any, agreement’. As ViS’s activities lay in the areas of natural resources and environment, the focus, in this study, is on narratives related to topics such as desertification, fuel wood crises and overgrazing
the first syllogism, 1980–1989: complementing government;
the second syllogism, 1989–1995: the rise of civil society;
the third syllogism, 1995–2002: the rise of good governance;
the fourth syllogism, 2002 onwards: the return of state supremacy.
The Foundation Vi Planterar Träd (commonly known as Vi Skogen, hereafter called ViS) is an international non-governmental organization with its headquarter (HQ) in Stockholm, Sweden. ViS coordinates the Vi Agroforestry Program at present registered as an international NGO in four East African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. ViS is mainly financed by Sida, the Swedish cooperative movement and over 30.000 private annual donors in Sweden (http://www.viskogen.se/English/Organisation.aspx).
The decision to plant a forest in Kenya was taken in December 1982 (Viklund 1992, p. 9) by the Vi Magazine (ViM). The first article about ViS was published in the ViM in 1983. Readers were asked to give away trees for any celebration or commemoration, trees to be planted against the spread of the desert in Kenya (Lundgren 1983, p. 4). The response was overwhelming, nearly 2-million SEK was contributed during 1983 (Lundgren et al. 1995, p. 103). To use all the money became one of the most difficult problems. A local NGO, Faith Home of Kenya (FHK) was engaged to raise seedlings to be planted in the semiarid areas of West Pokot. However, due to weak planning, accountability and lack of focus FHK faced difficulties in coping with the pace of contributions (Viklund 1992, p. 14).
In 1985, a coordinator located in Sweden was employed. The cooperation with FHK was terminated and, at the beginning of 1986, a partnership with Kenya National Farmers Union (KNFU) was initiated. ViS was registered as an independent NGO in Sweden in 1986 (Viklund 1992, p. 21; Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 50); later, ViS was registered as a local NGO in Kenya, first named as the Vi Tree-Planting project later as the Vi Agroforestry Project. The cooperation between ViS and KNFU, which in practice ended in 1988, was officially terminated in 1990 (Viklund 1992, p. 28, Lundgren et al. 1995, p. 96; Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 51–52)
ViS had and still has close and regular communication with its individual donors through ViS articles in the ViM (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 99–117). Journeys to the ViS project(s) are arranged annually for the ViM-readers; this activity started in November 1986 (Lundgren 1986, p. 53)
In December 1992, an article published in the ViM presented ViS’s vision of a 20 km green belt of agroforestry around Lake Victoria (Lundgren 1992b, pp. 62–64; Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 59–67). ViS was registered in Uganda 1992 and in Tanzania 1994.
At the end of 1996, Sida approved ViS’s organizational set-up with its own local NGOs (Sida/SEKA 1996). ViS continued to reform its policy and organization during the following years (Lundgren 1999, p. 63; Makokha et al. 1999; Haldin et al. 2000; Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 82–91, Vi Skogen 1998a, 1998b, 1999) gradually developing into its present organization with its distinctive character and a policy in line with today’s predominant aid ideology recognized for its efficiency and good results (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 91–98).
Administration of and Guidelines for Sida’s Support to NGOs
In the guidelines of 1986, the main principles for Sida’s support to NGOs were that it should be a support for the NGO’s own development aid activities and that the activities should be in harmony with Sida’s aim for development cooperation (Sida 1986, p. 1). Every organization’s effort is coloured by the ideals that the organization has been created to promote and it is in each organization’s interest to uphold this distinctive character, even in connection to development cooperation (Sida 1986, p. 3). In the guidelines of 1988, it is stated that: ‘The cooperating partner to the Swedish organization in the recipient country should under normal circumstances be an indigenous non-profit NGO with its own members’ (Sida 1988, p. 11).
From 1992, Sida funds to NGOs were channelled through independent organizations. From 1995 up til today, Forum Syd (FS) has this responsibility. FS is one of Sida’s frame-organizations, an independent NGO operating in accordance with Sida and Swedish government policies concerning support to NGOs and civil society.
In 1993, it is stated as a condition that in order to obtain Sida support; ‘the Swedish organization has to have a cooperating partner in the recipient country that has been active for more than a year and works for democratic development and people’s participation’. As one of ten criteria for NGOs to be considered for Sida funding, the local anchorage and sustainability of the NGO project in the recipient country (Sida 1993, pp. 6–8) is listed.
In the guidelines of 1998 (Sida 1998, p. 7), it is stated that the basic principle for programs of development cooperation via NGOs is ‘that a Swedish organization enters into and develops close cooperation with a partner in the recipient country’, and that ‘Regardless of the focus of the activity, the guiding principle shall be to support and develop the knowledge, understanding and skills of a partner organization to enable it to take over and run the activity in question itself’. It is further stated (Sida 1998, p. 7) that development is a bottom-up process: ‘This means, among other things, that the activity shall be the result of a local initiative and that there is a clear division of roles and responsibilities between the parties. The development project shall supplement the knowledge and resources which exist locally and both men and women shall be active in describing the problems and formulating the goals’.
Issues of Long-Term Disagreement
The relationship between ViS’s core activities and the contemporary discourse has been explained regularly and skillfully in the ViM (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 99–117). However, ViS’s organization, activities and policies have not always been in agreement with Sida/FS policies, contemporary narratives and aid ideology (Johansson and Nylund 2008). ViS’s negotiations with Sida for funds have focused on some issues of long-term disagreement (ILD), issues that originated from the initiation of Sida funding and lasting over a number of years.
ViS’s use of paid labour went against the growing importance of local participation and ownership in Sida’s policy.
HQ control vs. local involvement: ViS was continually criticized for top–down decision making and lack of local involvement.
The condition of the project area: ViS’s project area in the lowlands of West Pokot was regarded unsuitable for tree planting and the return of invested resources insufficient.
ViS’s lack of local partner in the recipient country went clearly against Sida’s guidelines for NGO support.
ViS’s organization with central nurseries and issuing of free seedlings went gradually against recipient country policy and Sida’s policy for building local capacity.
Chronological Account of Disagreements
ViS’s central nursery approach and the use of hired labour started in the lowland of West Pokot District. The first assessment (Boëthius 1986b, p. 44) highlighted, in line with Sida’s policy (Sida 1981), that local adaptation and integration of project activities would fail due to the use of hired labour. The importance of local ownership was stressed. ViS was furthermore recommended to move away from the arid and semiarid areas of West Pokot. The areas were considered too poor for tree planting and the return of invested resources unproductive. ViS’s concept of planting trees as a connected barrier against the spread of the desert was furthermore regarded as a misconceived remedy for desertification. Instead, ViS was recommended to start a new project area in the high potential area of Trans Nzoia District (Boëthius 1986a, p. 24, 1986b, pp. 42–44). In response to the assessment, ViS declared that activities would start in the highlands but the ‘trial’ in the semi arid areas would continue against the recommendations of the assessment (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 46; Vi Skogen 1987a).
In 1987, ViS stated that local cooperation around the nurseries had improved and cooperation had been established with district authorities (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 50; Vi Skogen 1987a, b). In a letter from SCC to Sida/SEO in April 1987 (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 51; SCC 1987), it is stated; ‘ViS is cautious to keep its distinctive character and own administration. According to ViS, this is because we stress, in the information about the project to its individual donors, our ability to deliver tree seedlings directly from donors to recipient. The base of ViS fundraising activities is that “donors buy seedlings”’.
In the second assessment, it was stated that ViS’s policy had been developed in Sweden without local Kenyan involvement and knowledge about the conditions in Kenya. However, it was also declared that ViS had managed to reconstruct its policy and implementation approach remarkably good and the relationship with the local people was considered an excellent foundation for future development work (Hofsten et al. 1989). ViS responded that it was obvious to everyone that policy and methods should be adapted to new knowledge and conditions, but it has to be done gradually at a pace that the individual donors could accept (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 56). The assessors considered the activities in the lowlands to be uncertain and the scope too narrow. ViS was recommended to broaden its scope and include animal husbandry and rangeland management (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 54). ViS was also urged to ask the farmers to pay for seedlings. ViS rejected, stating that ‘it is unreasonable to ask the farmers to pay for seedlings that we have already been paid for’ (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 58; Vi Skogen 1989).
After the assessment, a frequently used argument in the ViM was; ‘thanks to the large-scale production of seedlings the contribution for one tree in the dry and semidry areas is also enough for 5-10 seedlings to be distributed in the highlands’ (Lundgren 1989, p. 62, 1991, p. 58, 1992a, pp. 40–41). The renowned success of ViS nurseries probably contributed to this internal appreciation. After the cooperation with the KNFU ended, instead of finding a new local partner in line with the recommendations of the 1989 assessment, ViS registered its own local NGO in Kenya (Viklund 1992, p. 28).
Based on central nurseries and the use of paid labour for raising seedlings in the highlands, and for raising seedlings, establishing and maintaining the plantations in the lowlands, ViS’s organization gradually grew (Lundgren 1992b, pp. 62–64; Makokha et al. 1999, p. 19; Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 46, 50, 53, 58, 62, 65–6, 70; Vi Skogen 1986, 1989, 1993a, 1994; SPM Consultants 1995). The so called trials in the lowlands increased from year to year and in the beginning of 1990s reached 1,000 ha per year (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 62). In 1992, there were a total of over 60 central nurseries, with a plan to increase to 60 nurseries per project; thus, producing a total of 60–70 million seedlings per year (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 60).
Narratives and aid ideology were used in the ViM articles to justify changes in praxis as well as lack of policy changes (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 99–117).
The issuing of free seedlings was criticized in 1993 by the DCO (Sida/DCO Nairobi 1993) in Nairobi. The same year, ViS declared that the central nurseries approach would be abandoned in favour of extension and direct sowing (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 67; Vi Skogen 1993b). However, 1 year later ViS still defended the approach to distribute free seedlings (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 67; Vi Skogen 1994).
The 1995 capacity study again criticized ViS for top–down decision making in strategic issues, for the lack of local involvement and local partners, the use of hired labour and the use of methods that were not in harmony with local country policies (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 69–71; SPM Consultants 1995). ViS explained in an answer to the study that some of the strategic issues have to be centrally controlled and that it is the task of the HQ management to ensure that primary goals are attained and that funds are used efficiently (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 71–72; Vi Skogen 1995). ViS also explained that the project had many local partners instead of only one in each country. The issue of sustainability was secured mainly through the building of farmers’ knowledge and capacity and through having many local partners (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 72; Vi Skogen 1995).
In April 1996, the lack of local partner organization was again established and criticized by FS in connection with ViS’s application for the second half 1996. FS stresses this shortcoming proposing that the funds to ViS should be decreased as a first step of phasing out the support to ViS completely (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 77; Forum Syd 1996). However, in the same application (Forum Syd 1996), the formulation of the aims for the project in Kenya shows that ViS’s perception of the importance of its own knowledge in relation to that of the target group and other local stakeholders had become more balanced (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 82), indicated by the phrases; ‘to help small-scale farmers’, ‘through cooperation’ and ‘through development of knowledge and ideas’. In October 1996, Sida/SEKA approved ViS’s local organization on the condition that ViS describe its local cooperation, sign agreements with all its local partners, and participate in annual three-part discussions with FS and Sida (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 81; Sida/SEKA 1996)
Also in 1996, ViS declared that participatory silvopastoral extension would be given priority in land rehabilitation (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 80; Vi Skogen 1996), but still in 1997 close to 400 ha of enclosure had been established with ViS support (Makokha et al. 1999, p. 19). However, in an assessment of the ViS activities in the semidry areas in 1999, it was concluded that the silvopastoral enclosures improved the livelihood of the pastoral people, and that; ‘The land can be rehabilitated by individuals, households and communities, with a minimum of external intervention’ (Makokha et al. 1999, pp. 61–65).
In 1999, ViM stated that almost all ViS central nurseries had been closed (Lundgren 1999, p. 63). However, the strong HQ control over strategic issues, the course of implementation and methods used continued up to 1996, including hired labour and issuing of free seedlings.
After the capacity study in 1995 ViS started to implement a number of important changes that paved the way for positive reform. The interest and knowledge of the farmers and local stakeholders increased in importance. Activities and resources were increasingly concentrated on capacity building and empowerment of the target group. The success of this reform process was later proved by the assessment in September 2000 (Haldin et al. 2000) confirming that ViS operated in accordance with Sida’s policy.
Negotiation Characteristics and Explanatory Approaches
The negotiation process between ViS and Sida was an interaction between a government donor agency with extensive relevant experience and knowledge but with politically set objectives and an NGO working close to the target group but with a policy driven mainly by the interest and opinions of key initiators and individual donors.
The power relation between ViS and Sida is inherently asymmetric mainly because ViS is dependant on Sida/FS for a majority of its funding. The level of funding is predetermined by the monetary funds that the NGO manage raise in Sweden but is still subject to other conditions stated in the Guidelines for Sida’s support to NGOs (Sida 1986, 1988, 1993, 1998). However, there is a strong element of what Iklé terms identical common interest (Iklé 1968, pp. 2–3), in that ViS and Sida share the general goal of development.
The inherent asymmetry could be balanced by ViS’s access to ViM and its readers. Through the magazine, ViS managed to have a close communication with its individual donors and to build public support. A comment to the SPM-draft report by Sida/Natur (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 68; Sida/NATUR 1995) says: ‘It is not possible to be completely without the suspicion that the main text has been given a reconciling nature due to the broad public interest and support the project receives’. This comment underlines Sida’s concern over the increasing public support for ViS.
ViS’s capital reserve passed 15 million SEK at the beginning of the 1990s (unpublished data from ViS) and it could be assumed that this reserve had a bearing on ViS’s power relation and negotiations with Sida, in the sense that ViS was able to take temporary cuts in funding if necessary. With the capital reserve and regular contributions from Norway (Lundgren 1996, p. 27), ViS dependence on Sida decreased with the result that ViS’s issue specific power increased (Habeeb 1988, pp. 21–22).
Thus, ViS gradually developed important characteristics that balanced the standard power asymmetry between GDA and NGO to its advantage.
ViS’s organizational culture was formed out of its original concept and the first years’ unexpectedly good contributions from individual donors. The strong commitment to the individual donors was primarily a consequence of the fundraising strategy. The practical implication of ViS’s commitment was not only that seedlings had to be raised in nurseries and planted, but that all seedlings/trees paid for had to survive and mature to form a connected barrier against the expanding desert. To ensure tree survival in areas populated by pastoralists and their livestock, and dry to the level that it was threatened by desertification, was a demanding task. Following serious media criticism, ViS became aware of the sensitivity of its concept. The harsh experience of the media attack and the journeys arranged to the project(s) for individual donors gave little room for failure or excuses. ViS had to fulfil its commitment. Hence, it became important to be in full control of all aspects—from the money contributed to the survival of the trees in the desert threatened area. From this situation, ViS’s organization grew with the use of paid labour strong HQ control over project finances, strategic decisions and implementation. The foundation of ViS organizational culture was formed during this process into a culture that was foremost to be decisive, efficient and free from corruption while honouring commitments to the individual donors. One of the first project managers for ViS-project in Kenya, Stig Karlsson, summarized ViS’s commitment in a few words ‘to work for ViS is to be devoted like a missionary and efficient as a businessman’ (Gynne 2002, p. 66). As ViS managed to solve the initial problems and the trees in West Pokot grew, a self-content image and attitude became central to ViS’s organizational culture: ViS perceived itself as a pioneer in its field of work (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 13–15) and the picture of the ViS project conveyed to ViM-readers was a better and more efficient alternative than bilateral and multilateral aid projects.
Sida’s organizational culture: Within Sida, a tacit norm is to avoid exploiting its advantage as a donor. Conflict avoidance is part of Sida’s organizational culture (Forss 1985, p. 247) and a conviction that donor interventions are immoral is inherent in Swedish negotiation attitude (Elgström 1992, p. 146). An ambition with the support to NGOs has been, and still is, to provide NGOs sufficient autonomy to be able to develop in response to the interest and needs of their partners and target groups in the recipient countries (Sida 2004, p. 6).
ViS’s organizational capacity: There was a strong interaction between the formation of the initial concept and ViS’s poor organizational capacity in relation to the activities they had committed themselves to carry out; ViS made the promise to individual donors without knowing its practical implication—how difficult and complicated it was in reality. Although long-term commitment was part of ViS’s information to ViM-readers and Sida/FS, results and progress were mainly expressed in the numbers of seedlings produced, distributed and planted, the number of species, and later also in terms of survival percentages. ViS focussed on results that fulfilled the commitment to individual donors and the immediate needs of the target group, but the methods used to obtain the results and its long-term effects on development could not have been fully understood until the end of the 1990s. This could be explained by the initial lack of key knowledge and experience at the HQ-level. Up to 1997, lack of sufficient capacity was still visible. ViS’s annual application for funds was seriously criticized by Sida/Natur (Sida/Natur 1997; Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 83) e.g.: ‘In Kenya, participatory extension is a project goal but should be an implementation strategy (…..) there is a tendency of simplified problem analysis (lack of trees) and the following equally simplified solutions (more trees and forests around Lake Victoria)’. The link between ViS’s activities, immediate objectives and long-term goal of improved livelihood was not clear. This was first clearly expressed in the work plan and budget for the FY 1998 (Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 82; Vi Skogen 1998a).
ViS’s initial policy concept was formed from the perceived reality of the ViM and its readers in the beginning of the 1980s. ViS’s vision and the aim of the project, as it was originally designed, focussed on environmental conservation and a concern for livelihood, a design that matched well with the main conclusions of the Brundtland Commission in 1983 (WCED 1987). The ViS concept was also well founded in contemporary environmental narratives that were part of public awareness. ViS’s initial concept was tightly bound through its fundraising strategy to two contemporary narratives: desertification and the fuel wood crisis. The corresponding remedy of planting trees against the spread of desertification became ViS’s implementation approach. ViS’s organization and policy were gradually formed around these two narratives. Concern over desertification increased after the UN conference on desertification in 1977 (United Nation 1978). The beginning of the perceived fuel wood crisis is usually attributed to a study by Eckholm (1976), and was further recognized during the 1980s (Persson 2003) with the IUFRO meeting on ‘Forest Energy and the Fuel wood Crisis’, in Uppsala, 1984 (Sirén and Mitchell 1985).
At that time, NGOs were regarded as better at delivering service to the public than governments (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, p. 10). In this perspective, the ViS concept was generally in line with the overall perception of the NGO role in development.
The recommendation of the 1985 assessment to abandon activities in the lowland was probably influenced by studies with cost benefit calculations to analyze profitability of soil- and water-conservation projects (Bojö 1986). The outcome of these studies showed a poor rate of return for soil conservation in low-potential areas. A similar view became part of a Sida policy document in 1992 (Sida 1992, p. 23). ViS’s approach to plant trees as a barrier against the spread of the desert was almost disqualified by the increasingly diversified picture of the cause–effect and remedies of desertification taking form in mid-1980s (Glantz and Orlovsky 1983; Hammer 1983; Lusigi 1984; Eckerholm 1984).
Even though concern for local ownership and participation was expressed in policy documentation during the 1980s, it was not applied in practice. Instead, conditionality was the predominant view in aid ideology and a focus on the market and the macro-economic level with the first generation of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) leading the way (Odén 2006, pp. 88, 93–96; World Bank 1981). Sida’s strategy for rural development in 1981 (Sida 1981) was a sign of change in perception towards local participation, but little happened in reality. The report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987) was probably the turning point for the revival of livelihood and poverty alleviation but this did not gain momentum until the mid-1990s (Odén 2006, p. 108). In a Sida contribution to the Earth summit, Holmberg (1991, p. 31) argued that ‘all experience indicates that tackling poverty and environmental degradation on the ground, where the people live and are directly concerned, will require the active involvement or empowerment by these people’. With its changing roles policy in 1992 (Olsson 1992), Sida clearly moved away from the conditional-oriented perspective to focussing on the recipient. In this policy, Sida’s key to aid effectiveness was local ownership, to stimulate the recipients to carry out development by themselves in a system that they themselves control (Olsson 1992; Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 123).
From the beginning of the 1990s, it was increasingly evident that ViS’s policy, and the narratives on which it was built, did not match the general understanding of the causes and remedies of environmental problems and poverty in the South. Remedies with a narrow focus on solving environmental problems, such as tree planting and soil conservation, were replaced by comprehensive solutions with a more balanced focus on environmental services and production for improved food security and livelihood, such as agroforestry and land husbandry (Lundgren et al. 1993; Johansson and Nylund 2008, p. 96) linked to an aid ideology with focus on participatory implementation approaches designed to build local ownership and empowerment of the poor.
Conversely to this development, ViS continued to work through its own local NGO, expanding its approach with central nurseries, distribution of free seedlings and the use of paid labour for land rehabilitation. ViS’s 1992 vision of establishing a green belt around Lake Victoria included an expansion from a total of 60 central nurseries to 60 nurseries in each project (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 59–60). For ViS, effectiveness in fact meant efficiency; the use of time and resources in relation to seedlings survival or ha of rehabilitated land.
In the beginning of the 1990s, the prevailing perception of NGOs role in development was clearly positive. Apart from delivering public service, NGOs were regarded as important for democratic development (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, p. 11). This positive NGO climate changed in mid-1990s to an increasing demand for NGO governance (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, pp. 11–12), probably working in favour of ViS’s strong control of funds and resources.
At the turn of the millennium ViS activities in the lowland came into a more positive light with the positive assessment in West Pokot (Makokha et al. 1999) together with a change in the previous Sida policy regarding development investments in low-potential areas (Sterner and Segnestam 2001, p. 28).
Initial Policy Resistance
The first two ILDs emerged as a direct consequence of ViS’s initial concept. The use of paid labour and strong HQ control were both necessary to secure the result expected by the individual donors. With time this implementation approach went increasingly counter to Sida’s growing concern for local participation and building of local capacity.
A reliance on a participatory approach and local initiative did not match ViS’s need for immediate and secure results and its narrow perception of effectiveness. The establishment of ViS’s own local NGO was a further step in ViS/HQ control over implementation and resource use at the local level, but was clearly counter to Sida/FS guidelines.
To meet the criticism and advice of the first assessment ViS modified its initial concept, building an organization of central nurseries and distribution of free seedlings in the highlands. This was still an approach creating dependency rather than empowerment. The ViS strategy for coping with the criticism of paid labour was to rephrase its activities in the low-potential areas as trials. With this tactic, ViS diverted some of Sida/FS attention from its activities in the semiarid areas.
A weak organizational capacity and a narrow perception of aid effectiveness made it difficult for ViS to fully understand the reasons behind, and the potentials of, the changes advocated by Sida/FS. With ViS’s growing issue power, increasing public support and the favourable NGO climate from the 1980s to mid-1995, the first and second syllogisms, (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, pp. 10–12) helped improve the power relation in ViS favour. This together with Sida’s divided negotiation attitude, weakened by Sida’s tacit norm and policy of NGO integrity, as opposed to ViS’s decisive attitude, can explain why ViS managed to prevail in the negotiations.
By the time, ViS started to realize the changing contextual circumstances and the weakness of its concept, the organization had grown too large. The necessary change from the central nursery approach to an extension organization would be expensive in terms of funding and the commitments to local employees and stakeholders, a fact that prolonged the distributive negotiation situation.
Furthermore, there is a crucial time-lapse between Sida, ViS and its individual donors as to when a contextual change becomes important enough to influence perceptions and the policy process. The ability of narratives to penetrate from the inner circles of development scientists and professionals to the public sphere (Leach and Mearns 1996, p. 2) is important in this respect. There must have been a point when ViS realized it could not continue with policies and activities that were somehow in divergence with the values gradually becoming part of individual donors’ perception.
ViS’s aim in the negotiations up to end of the 1990s was in general to be independent enough to follow its policy and commitment to the individual donors. Sida/FS’s aim was to adjust ViS policies and activities to be in accordance with its policies and predominant aid ideology.
Gradual Policy Change
Sida’s persistent demands and the criticism of the assessments together with direct and indirect contextual influences forced ViS to implement changes over time. Environmental narratives and predominant aid ideologies influenced the process that led to the important policy changes that ViS finally implemented. This influence was probably mainly indirect through assessments and the negotiations with the main GDA. After a time-lapse (described above), the changed priorities of the individual donors induced policy change. ViS gradually increased its focus on extension and capacity building, closing all the nurseries and decreasing the cost for paid labour. Local participation further improved as did the collaboration with local stakeholders gradually integrating the ViS projects in their respective localities. These gradual changes were crucial for the development of ViS’s local organization, the silvopastoral enclosure system in the low-potential areas and its agroforestry extension approach into the success stories they have become.
From the mid-1990s to the beginning of 2000, a number of contextual circumstances worked in favour of both ViS’s and Sida’s aim in the negotiations contributing to a convergence of the perceptions and opinions of the two parties. The increasingly demanding NGO climate (the third syllogism; Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, pp. 10–12), with growing demands on accountability (Edwards et al. 1999) and delivery of intended impact (Edwards and Hulme 1995; Smillie et al. 1999, p. 10) improved Sida’s legitimacy to increase its pressure on ViS. Simultaneously, the increasing demand matched well with ViS’s motivation for keeping its own local NGOs in the recipient countries; to ensure efficient use of funds and goal achievement was clearly in line with predominant ideology. The increasing importance of local empowerment and ownership in Sida’s policy and in predominant aid ideology (Olsson 1992; Sida 1993, 1998; Johansson and Nylund 2008, Appendix III) became gradually part also of the individual donors’ perception. The radical change from discouraging to encouraging investments in land rehabilitation of low-potential areas (Sterner and Segnestam 2001) gave ViS’s activities in the lowlands improved legitimacy pressuring Sida to change its opinion on this issue.
The sequence of events further explains how the long-term disagreements between ViS and Sida started to dissolve. With the individual donors’ increasing awareness of local empowerment and ownership, Sida’s enduring demands and the criticism and advice of assessments, ViS’s capacity improved and its perception started to change gradually leading to implementation of policy and organizational changes in line with Sida/FS demands. The severe criticism of the capacity study in 1995 pointed to the lack of relationship between ViS’s activities and sustainable impact. The criticism was in accordance with Sida’s changing role policy (Olsson 1992) and the conclusion of the Sida financed NGO evaluation study; to improve the development impact of funds provided by Sida to NGOs (Riddell et al. 1995) and the general increasing demand on NGO impact from the mid-1990s (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, pp. 12–13; Smillie et al. 1999, p. 10). FS’s threat of coercive sanctions accompanied by ViS’s improved capacity and the updated perception of individual donors, probably made ViS realize that the only way forward was to acknowledge the criticism and accept change.
However, ViS managed to keep some of its most valued but also most criticized characteristics. ViS’s own local NGO was clearly at odds with the Sida and FS guidelines for NGO support and the main reason behind FS’s threat. Following ViS’s earlier work of local integration and commitments in line with the recommendations of the 1995 assessment, Sida finally accepted ViS’s arrangement with its own local NGOs in the recipient country. Also, with the positive effect of implemented changes proved by the study in West Pokot (Makokha et al. 1999) and Sida’s radical policy change towards investments in low-potential areas, ViS concept in West Pokot was now clearly in line with Sida’s policy and predominant aid ideology.
As ViS’s implementation approach and goals became increasingly consistent with the contemporary aid ideology and Sida’s policy, integrative bargaining became possible, which in turn helped ViS accelerate the reform process allowing ViS to be more responsive to its target groups and the reality in which it operates.
ViS’s development from a narrowly defined environmental tree-planting project to an international development organization focussing on agroforestry for poverty alleviation and sustainable development was a slow and intricate process. The move from paid labour and central nurseries to local participation and empowerment was a process that took almost 20 years.
ViS’s narrow initial policy concept gave rise to a clash between ViS and Sida, thus activating the GDA and NGO dilemmas, described in “Introduction” section. It can be concluded that ViS’s and Sida’s contrasting organizational cultures and ViS’s power advantage, together with ViS’s weak organizational capacity and contextual circumstances all prolonged the distributive negotiation situation and help to explain how ViS could continue to pursue its initial policy concept year after year despite enduring criticism from Sida and negative assessments.
ViS’s focus was on short term goals. Through their daily wages, community members were able to meet some of their urgent needs and the interest of ViS’s individual donors was met by the immediate and obvious results of their labour. Due to its weak capacity, ViS did not realize that the method and approach employed to meet the immediate objectives influenced sustainability, and the accomplishment of the long-term goals, negatively. The focus was on what was being done, with less consideration of how it was done. An NGO with the freedom to be responsive to the needs and interests of its target groups may rather choose to respond mainly to the interests of its individual donors and only secure the most pressing demands of its GDA and urgently felt needs of its target groups—in this case implemented with methods that create dependency instead of empowerment.
It can be further concluded that all three approaches used in the analysis also help to explain how ViS and Sida eventually reached a consensus. As a result of a fortunate sequence of events including contextual changes that worked in favour of both ViS’s and Sida’s negotiation agenda the negotiation climate started to improve and the dilemmas to dissolve. ViS managed to retain some of its most valued characteristics while some of its previous weaknesses were removed or transformed due to the repeated interventions of Sida/FS. Hence, in spite of the distributive situation, the ViS–Sida/FS negotiations included a certain degree of integrative bargaining. Still, this also illustrates how an NGO even in a seemingly powerful position and with a strong organizational culture may face long-term problems in keeping up support for its most important ideas, if these go against the wishes of its GDA.
As the individual donors’ perception of development cooperation came closer to that of Sida with a focus on sustainable human development and local ownership the NGO dilemma started to dissolve. The interest of the individual donors, the needs of the target group and the demands of the GDA gradually converged as ViS implemented changes in line with an aid ideology that all now more or less shared. Sida/FS’s perception of ViS ability to control disbursed funds and to build local ownership was probably positively influenced by ViS’s arguments for keeping its local NGOs in the recipient countries and its local integration with many local partners. As the ViS–Sida negotiations became increasingly integrative Sida/FS’s task to follow its policy to respect NGO integrity became easier.
The policy process presented in this study covers almost 20 years, passing from the first to the fourth syllogism (Jordan and van Tuijl 2006, pp. 10–12); from an aid ideology strongly influenced by neoliberal principles and the first generation of structural adjustment programs to reconstruction of the public social sector (Odén 2006, pp. 95–110); from the 1980s conditionality in aid to poverty focus and coherence; from an emphasis on physical environment rehabilitation through biological interventions to focus on a production for improved livelihood (Johansson and Nylund 2008, pp. 125–123).
Bebbington et al. (2008) ask the question whether NGOs can continue to constitute alternatives to dominant models, practices and ideas about development (the big ‘D’ development) in the face of neoliberalism, the poverty agenda in aid, the new security agenda, institutional maturation and the simple imperatives of organisational survival.
We learn from this study how assessments together with NGO–GDA negotiations influence the policy process, and how they help NGOs to develop in the demanding environment in which they operate, with multiple commitments and changing circumstances. It enhances the ability of NGOs to learn from experience, to mature and build adaptiveness through balancing multiple accountabilities and commitments.
In this view, an integrative negotiation process together with regular and objective assessments of NGO capacity, goal achievement and development impact are important not only from the donor perspective; in order to keep up NGOs’ reputation as serious development partners, these aspects are crucial also to NGOs not least for new and small NGOs.
The ViS case also demonstrates that not only NGOs ought to be responsive; for the negotiations to be truly integrative and the policy process to consider local and practical circumstances as well as a changing context; responsiveness ought to work in both directions. Under these conditions, NGOs may still play an important, if not central role in the big ‘D’ development.