Credibility of funders’ procedures
Donors intervening in environmental preservation actions of civil society organisationsin the Congo Basin espouse their reputation of exhibiting and seeking transparency, effectiveness and efficiency in the initiatives they support. This is demonstrated in several areas. Firstly, by the rigidity of the procedures that regulate the funding processes, which are accessible only to a restricted elite of civil society organisations. Secondly, in the monitoring processes that these organisations must follow; compliance with implementation deadlines, operational and financial reporting, etc. However, the added value of expected results is questionable. If we consider all the contributions made to CSOs in the environmental sector, real change is yet to be seen. It is fair then to ask, with so many structural safeguards in place, why these same organisations, with such limited results, are always the ones to secure access to funding?
The guiding hand behind the requirement to respect procedures
On the one hand, this can be explained by the relationship of trust built between the CSOs and their funders over several years of collaboration. On the other hand, it can be explained by the CSO beneficiaries’ knowledge of donors’ procedures and language. Beyond these factors we must also consider the ‘unknowables’. These include, but are not limited to, the failure to control the minimum time for change to occur, or the externalities inherent in botched planning of initiatives. This may occur as a result of the poor capacity to understand the dynamics of the state and the evolution of their integration context. The unknowable factors are not considered in a limited financial implementing capacity.
Despite these elements, and behind these “unknowable bonds of trust”, an unofficial under-the-counter system is said to award points to certain CSOs, empowering them at will – and more importantly, away from the public eye – for when the proposals are assessed. We can thus talk about clientelism, racketeering and ‘businessification’ in the way funding is awarded.
Values of shared ethics: a necessary foundation
What we are talking about here does not call into question the favouritism of donors when choosing the civil society organisations with whom they wish to interact. It is simply a matter of taking an in-depth look at local reality. Which values and principles are lost between international representation and what actually happens at a national level? Is it about underpaid staff, or has the pandemic of corruption – deeply entrenched in the country – managed to penetrate the overly standardized systems of technical and financial partners? Which compromises, or mechanisms, do we need to develop to ensure that funding by technical and financial partners remains clean and permanent? And this, in order to ensure that CSO interventions get credible results, not only on paper but also in the field?