Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the World Wide Fund for Nature


  1.1 The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is one of the world's leading conservation organisations, with 28 Affiliate and Associate National Organisations around the world and over 5.2 million regular supporters. WWF aims to conserve nature and ecological processes by preserving genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity; by ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable both now and in the long term; and by promoting actions to reduce pollution and the wasteful exploitation and consumption of resources and energy.

  1.2 WWF has had an operational presence in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Mongolia for the last five to 10 years, working in partnership with national governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and European institutions, with offices staffed by nationals from each country. WWF funds conservation projects, worth some tens of millions of dollars, ranging from protected areas management and environmental education to policy on biodiversity and public awareness initiatives.

  1.3 WWF has had contact with the TACIS programme, in one form or another, for a number of years. At the policy (focus, priorities, instruments) and programming (project funding) level WWF has endeavoured to engage the EC—in both environment policy/priorities dialogue, and as a project partner. Experiences to date reflect that the orientation, structure, technical and management capacity of the EC and its TACIS technical partners, tends to preclude natural interaction between the NGO sector and the EC TACIS programme.


  2.1 Our evidence relates specifically to WWF's experience with TACIS in relation to designated TACIS Environment funding. WWF's (European Policy Office and International) experience with TACIS has been limited and this reflects the difficulties that WWF encountered in establishing dialogue with the EC regarding the larger TACIS programme and the potential it has to significantly influence structural changes to the advantage of the environment and sustainable natural resource use. It should be noted that having spent considerable time and expertise reviewing and assessing the wider TACIS programme, WWF abandoned its efforts to engage with the EC. This was based on the lack of access given to discussion of programme priorities in the New Independent States and the apparent lack of transparency vis á vis major bilateral funding decisions (specifically as they related to environment issues).


  3.1 Over the past three years WWF has had regular contact with the officials managing TACIS Environment funds. This dialogue has been welcome, focusing as it has on regional priorities for funding in the area of environment.

  3.2 However, the traditional orientation of TACIS—independently developed objectives, large budgets and tender processes oriented towards private sector agencies—has frustrated WWF's interest in managing and/or delivering projects. Further, these "TACIS processes" have prevented the legitimate participation of smaller NGOs and Community based organisations (CBOs) to utilise TACIS funds for local actions (of the kind that global experience tells us can contribute significantly to enabling processes, enhancing public participation in natural resource management and sustainable development).

  3.3 A clear example of this frustration is WWF's recent experience with the TACIS Environmental Awareness project (ECU 2.9 million for Phase 1, and ECU 2.5 million for Phase II)—designed to raise environmental awareness and capacity in the NIS amongst the media, NGOs and parliamentarians.

  3.4 The TACIS Environmental Awareness project has been managed for the past eighteen months by a Brussels based Public Relations firm. WWF (as party to a European consortium) had tendered to manage this project. Despite being unsuccessful, WWF was keen to support the project—a position that was further encouraged by the TACIS Environment EC officials who appointed a WWF representative to the project Advisory Committee.

  3.5 Unfortunately, the continued engagement of WWF in the project did not progress much beyond the appointment. Following an initial introduction meeting, the project, managed by the PR agency, progressed for over a year before a second Advisory Committee meeting was held. At that meeting it became clear that issues raised at the initial meeting (related to NGO capacity building in the NIS; appropriate awareness raising processes and strategies; the need to establish partners etc.) had not been addressed by the project. Rather, the project managers had proceeded to implement the project at the level that they felt most competent, that is media training and video resource distribution.

  3.6 To all representatives on the Advisory Committee this outcome—the result of ECU 2.9 million in expenditure—was unsatisfactory. All the more frustrating was the fact that the processes and mechanisms driving TACIS, and the capacity constraints that TACIS Environment officials face (i.e., their limited ability to monitor the outputs and outcomes achieved) had allowed the situation to arise.

  3.7 Frustrations were strengthened when the Advisory Committee became aware that the negotiation of a Phase II (with the same contractor) was already well underway, and, that a parallel funding line for the establishment of new RECs (Regional Environment Centres) in the NIS was also well developed. Our concerns were two-fold:

    —  Despite the fact that the Awareness project had received no external assessment, the EC TACIS office was proposing a Phase II. It was clear that in part the decision to proceed was one of the expediency—that is, it avoided the complexity and lost time of another tender round (issues of real concern to the Advisory Group, but not issues that should override focus and quality of delivery)—but it also appeared completely to ignore any possibility of evaluating the needs addressed by, quality of, and outcomes achieved in Phase I. Once again the TACIS funding mechanism was driving programming.

    —  The decision to open new RECs had been taken without any obvious consultation with those organisations operating in the NIS (i.e., those who can identify need and appropriateness), or with experience in working with the existing RECs. As a result, when the decision was announced to the Advisory Committee, there was a clear split in NGO and development agency perceptions of the value and performance of RECs, and those perceptions and assumptions of the TACIS Officials. Once again, expediency—the need to allocate large amounts of funding through limited delivery channels—was driving a funding decision, where consideration of the issues and experiences associated with the existing RECs would lead NGOs such as WWF to rethink the REC model, and develop a more appropriate programme.


  4.1 All of the above is presented to illustrate the frustrations that WWF has experienced with TACIS. Namely:

    —  The programming limitations that result from a system that requires the distribution of large funding packages through single delivery agents—it is easier for the EC to give funds to one European consultancy than to distribute funds to a consortium of NGOs (and their partners) operating at the local level.

    —  Consultation processes are not transparent, and, as such, fail effectively to capture the perspectives and experiences of NGOs and CBOs who have been working at the local and national level for some years. As a further example, the development of the EC position paper outlining the orientation of the next five years of TACIS Environment funding has been developed by a European consultant, and without NGO consultation and input (at least not WWF's).

    —  Funding for the environment within TACIS continues to be driven by political, rather than resource, considerations. For example, the RECs once again reflect the allocation of funds along formal bilateral lines, rather than through dialogue with civil society. It should be noted that the process surrounding the announcement and establishment of the new RECs has been greeted with extreme cynicism by NIS NGOs and their European partners.

  4.2 WWF's recommendations arising from the above are—

    —  To establish within TACIS flexible funding mechanisms that allow for the allocation of small (that is, realistic) funds to be distribute directly to NGOs and partner agencies working in the NIS. The TACIS Environment funding is in WWF's experience the most flexible of TACIS funds, and yet it is clear from the above that its effectiveness (and legitimacy as a capacity building tool) are limited by size and process.

    —  WWF calls not only for a refinement and reorientation of the TACIS Environment funds, but also for the allocation of TACIS funds to activities that respond to the needs and opportunities represented by civil, rather than government, stakeholders at the local and national level. Driving forces that need to be addressed in the NIS include economic factors (the use and exploitation of natural resources); legislative forces (policies and legislations); and human factors (awareness and capacity to participate). All of these issues require a blending and interaction of social, environmental, economic and political issues—that is, the dynamic and processes that NGO's and community based organisations are well placed to address, but to whom TACIS funds are currently inaccessible.

    —  To establish clear consultation processes that facilitate NGO participation in EC decision making processes that are determining where and for what TACIS Environment funds will be allocated.

    —  To require monitoring and evaluation of TACIS Environment projects by outside agencies such as NGOs, thereby promoting greater accountability for funds expenditure that is intended to impact civil society.

Bronwen Golder

WWF International

11 June 1998

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