Examination of witness (Questions 240
WEDNESDAY 17 JUNE 1998
240. The problem is that the result may
not be apparent for 10 or 20 years, especially when one is dealing
with attitude change?
Lord Lewis of Newnham
241. You have already made some commentary
on regional environmental centres. In paragraph 3.7 of your paper
you give some specific examples and have some fairly strong views.
What do you see as the defects of this particular arrangement?
A. One of the
matters that concerns me is that a model is being used and applied
to a completely new environment without an assessment of the needs
and opportunities that those countries offer for alternative ways
of doing things. If I take Russia as an example, the introduction
of a REC illustrates to me the under-estimation of the existing
capacities that are already operating in Moscow in relation to
environmental NGOs. What one is doing is introducing a new structure
to mentor those NGOs through their growth process whereas they
need different kinds of inputs, to the extent that a round table
of environmental NGOs in Russia have minuted their opposition
to the establishment of a REC and our national office has said
that it does not want to engage or be involved in this institutional
development. I have no argument about the creation of REC-type
facilities. The example of Hungary has shown an excellent result.
But before one replicates a model and introduces it into vastly
different kinds of environments one needs to understand one's
constituency better and build partnerships with those people to
ensure that what one is delivering is what they need. I am not
sure that the REC process has done that. One needs to be very
wary of introducing and developing another institutional system
that requires continued support and continued funding of for itself
before it delivers any kind of support to its supposed beneficiaries.
It is a rather patronising model and it underestimates what already
exists in those countries.
242. The point you make is well and truly
understood; namely, one must understand what is being imposed.
To take one model and just impose it in another totally different
environment can lead to real problems. If that has happened here,
what can be put in its place?
A. One can do
any number of things. One can look at the REC in Hungary. There
is a level of technical expertise and an ability to deliver funds
to particular country projects. If one looks at Georgia, for example,
there are a number of institutions one can name where one will
say, "We will give you this funding facility to manage this
programme. Will you take it on?" instead of saying, "We
will establish a new institution to deliver this programme."
You use what already exists. If you need to develop what already
exists in order for it to deliver this kind of support that is
also an important step. I take the Baltic example. We in WWF have
a capacity building facility for the Eastern Baltic. We are using
those funds to build a capacity of selected institutions throughout
the Eastern Baltic in order that in two years' time they are able
to deliver the programmes that we are currently doing. We do not
need to establish a new WWF or another institution. We will look
at the institutions that already exist and have the potential
and invest in them. The sad thing about the RECs is that they
make the assumption that none of that potential exists within
a national form in those countries. By investing in and enhancing
those institutions you can achieve the same results. It is too
late to stop the RECs. To a certain extent that is regrettable
because in discussions with our people in those countries over
recent months the level of national resistance, cynicism and mistrust
about these new structures is worrying. It could be a wasted opportunity.
It is following a pattern that is perhaps not appropriate.
243. The point you make about long-term
funding is very important, too. It is not nationally-based and
covers more than one country. It is difficult to see how the funding
will continue unless it comes out of Brussels?
A. It must be
sustained. The US is supporting the REC in Ukraine but it will
have to be sustained for some considerable time, which means that
you have to be committed to funding strategy, salaries and so
on whether or not they are appropriate. You cannot close it down
after 12 months because you find that it does not meet the needs
of the people. It is a minimum five-year commitment to institutional
funding and we do not know whether or not it is really appropriate.
244. The original motivation was political,
referring to the establishment of the process in Budapest. Do
you see the one in Ukraine being driven by a similar motivation
rather than environmental?
A. It does not
always have to be bad but it needs to be balanced. It may be too
early to tell. The reaction of the Russian environmental NGOs
to the proposed REC in Moscow is a clear indication of their reaction.
It is not resentment, but they are hurt that the Commission has
made the assumption that they need this new institutional presence
in order to build their capacity when in reality a number of them
already have a great deal of capacity of different kinds.
245. Do you think that the Commission would
feel happier about dealing with one single body rather than trying
to work with the messiness of a number of NGOs?
A. I think that
it allows them to create a discrete facility that deals with NGOs.
246. The expression "pocket NGOs"
was one offered to us in Ukraine to describe NGOs set up by a
politician who furthered his own particular programmes.
A. There are
a lot of those.
247. Do you think that TACIS is sufficiently
demand-led? You mention in your summary the need for TACIS to
be more responsive to civil rather than government stakeholders.
But how can that be best achieved within what must necessarily
be a multilateral government-to-government programme?
A. I do not think
that it is a demand-led programme in considering the facilities
with which I am familiar; namely, the inter-state environmental
projects and cross-border projects. As to national and bilateral
funding, it may well be argued that these programmes are demand-led
because they are what the government want. How far do you want
to extend demand? They are not demand-led from the environmental
sector because that sector does not participate in that dialogue.
They may be demand-led by government, industry or whatever but,
not being party to that dialogue, I cannot comment. If one looks
at inter-state projects that fund environmental initiatives or
the cross-border programmes, the Commission is cutting the cloth
and asking people to wear it, as opposed to the people telling
the Commission what kind of cloth they would like and the Commission
providing the facility to which people can have access. In order
to say that what is being provided is demand-led one needs to
invest time and effort in understanding who the beneficiaries
or stakeholders are and forming a partnership with them which
allows one to trade between what is desired and what is on offer
and what one's objectives are. WWF is a donor in many of these
countries and deals with a vast amount of funding to countries
of the NIS in terms of conservation. We have clear conservation
objectives, but unless we engage in dialogue with the people who
own or manage the forests, or the people who are killing endangered
species, and understand what incentives drive them and what issues
influence the decisions that they make there is very little reason
for us to invest in a programme with no local input. It is demand-driven
only if one is engaging in a dialogue and one is investing in
something that is a negotiated objective. I do not see that happening
with TACIS. I see terms of reference developed by European consultants
published for European consultants to respond to in order to deliver
programmes that the EU and its member states have decided that
they want to consider. In an environmental context that is not
248. It is meant to be or is described as
a person-to-person programme. How true is that? What are the principal
A. First, I would
like to understand what "person-to-person" means. I
am not even sure I can assume that I know what it means. If it
means that what they are doing is delivering funds and expertise
from the west to the people in the east in the hope of transferring
knowledge or resources then that is what it is: it is the transfer
of knowledge and resources. But "person-to-person" seems
to be a nice warm phrase to describe all sorts of interesting
249. It must be a two-way process, must
A. Yes, and that
is what we are not seeing. We do not see the level of engagement
at the outset which says, "What is it that you want and need?
How can we negotiate an arrangement whereby you move towards achieving
that goal and we achieve the objectives that we have as a European
Lord Mackie of Benshie
250. Do you have any experience of the twinning
of towns and cities which we are told is much more "person-to-person"
than anything else?
A. My experience
of going to towns in Bulgaria which are twinned with other towns
in Europe is that that is important to the local mayor, council
or head of local school. It is a level of engagement beyond their
boundaries which they greatly value. It is therefore a valuable
investment. A good deal of what is happening in these countries
that have been behind such high walls for so long is the need
to break them down and see what is happening outside. If twinning
programmes facilitate that process then they serve a good purpose.
251. We have heard about two partnership
programmes with authorities in these countries, one of which is
helping with the city transport system and the other of which
deals with waste water problems. It provides them with practical
help and assistance.
A. It is very
important that it is practical and grounded in realism. I can
think of a number of communities where people from the west have
been talking about wonderful eco-tourism developments and historic
villages in the Cotswolds and this is in the context of a completely
devastated environment with a half-finished nuclear power plant
nearby and complete degradation of natural resources. I have been
in the position of having to tell whole communities that their
expectations are totally unrealistic. But consultants have told
them that this or that is possible.
252. Do you think that the lesson to be
learned from what we have heard is that the process has been altogether
too proactive, that it is a programme set up in the EU which has
to prove itself as distinct from having financial resources available
in the EU which can respond to the genuine initiatives that come
from the area itself?
A. I can speak
only about the inter-state funds spent on the environment which
over the past four years amount to 24 million. That is an interesting
observation. I am not sure that I totally agree with it.
253. I spent half my life in NGOs. It has
always fascinated me that NGOs focus on the World Bank. They are
angry with the World Bank and focus on it in a way that they never
focus on the traditional UN aid programme. Is that because they
see the World Bank as having a particularly important role to
play and they want to get it right, whereas they see the agencies
as rather old-fashioned and interventionist?
A. I am not sure
about "old fashioned". WWF has partnerships with the
World Bank so it is no longer our enemy. We are working with it
in the Ukraine and Russia. The difficulty facing an organisation
like the Commission is its inherent political nature and the needs
of the Commission to serve the member states. Every time there
is a project proposal, committee meeting or whatever all of those
member states express their particulars interests in Georgia,
Estonia, Russia or whatever. For us to engage in that process
is more time-consuming and difficult than we have the resources
to put into it. As to the European Commission, we have spent the
past eight years engaging with the Commission on structural funds.
That has been an exhaustive process. It has taken important but
quite small progressive steps. Do we engage on every aspect of
the EU in order to do that? A couple of years ago we became so
frustrated by the bilateral TACIS facility that we decided it
was not really worthy of our time and investment. We decided to
work with inter-state and the environmental projects and engage
where and how we could. I sit on a TACIS advisory committee, but
beyond that WWF does not have the capacity to engage in that political
254. Reading your memorandum, which I found
very stimulating, it almost suggests that the relationship between
bureaucrats and consultants has become very cosy and self-perpetuating,
that the consultants are not really listening or researching as
to what is really needed externally. What do you believe the helpful
role of consultants and experts can achieve, assuming that they
have a helpful role?
A. A number of
comments can be made about the consultants. To a certain extent,
because of the limited capacity within the Commission the officials
rely on those key consultancies to deliver a number of projects
on their behalf and take care of them. Together with a number
of other NGOs we have found that on TACIS projects the Commission
officials do not have the time to see the process through. Essentially,
they hand the matter over to consultancies they trust because
they know that at least on paper they will have all the necessary
financial statements and so forth. Consultancies fulfil that role.
But it has reached a point where the consultants are out hunting
the dollars as opposed to trying to understand the needs and opportunities
in those countries. They are looking at the terms of reference,
tenders, budgets and determining whether or not it is profitable
to deliver without understanding whether the stakeholder groups
in the Ukraine, Georgia or Russia want or need or are prepared
to engage in this project. I have seen a number of examples of
that. To a certain extent the process has become consultancy-led.
Consultants will do technical reports and feasibility studies
and will come back with a proposed programme to deliver that.
For an institution that is severely under-resourced that can become
an easy solution for the Commission.
255. Do you feel that there is greater room
for enlisting the practical experience of people in eastern and
central Europe, recognising what whatever the faults in the Soviet
Union and the rest there is a tremendous degree of expertise and
scientific achievement? Do you think that that is being sufficiently
A. No, I do not.
To a certain extent I think that we are under-estimating the capacities
that exist in those countries. For example, last year I went to
Bulgaria to run some strategic training programmes for a local
NGO. Before we started we were told that the previous group of
consultants who had been there had taken them into the woods and
made them do participatory training processes by drawing patterns
in the mud and so forth. They said that all of them had PhDs and
were scientists and that was not necessary. I was warned that
I was not there to develop their capacity; they already had it.
They had some specific things that they wanted us to look at.
Another point of interest is that the Commission's rules preclude
non-European consultants participating in a number of projects.
I am WWF's capacity building specialist and I am a New Zealander.
My skills and contributions to any work throughout the NIS cannot
be supported by those programmes, to the extent that I and a Canadian
colleague, who is an international specialist on the community's
right to know in relation to chemicals, worked with NGOs in central
and eastern European countries to develop a programme lauded by
the Commission and provided with funding, only to be told that
we cannot participate in the project. That is also ridiculous.
The European consultants tend to engage and want to fund their
own staff or contractors rather than engage those in the NIS countries.
To some extent that occurs because of employment and tax systems
and the difficulty of engaging a number of these consultants,
but we need to find ways better to integrate the national experts
into the projects. Resentment arises within our own institution
and bodies of national experts in Russia where European consultants
arrive funded by the Commission and essentially gain access to
all of the research work which is then replicated in a report
that is delivered to the Commission to secure project funding.
That happens to the extent that when I contacted some of my colleagues
in Russia about this process and their interest in contributing
to it they simply said that they rejected TACIS out of hand; they
did not want to deal with it. Their experiences had been so marred.
They are professionals and they feel that they have been used.
256. You have already referred to monitoring,
evaluation and follow-up. You suggested that evaluation might
take place by outside agencies such as NGOs to promote greater
accountability for funds and to gauge the impact on civil society.
Can you expand on that?
A. I wrote that
because of my experience with the TACIS Advisory Committee for
the awareness project that is currently being run. They have brought
together a number of experts from NGOs, the private sector and
NIS countries. The intention was that we would view the process
and comment on programmes and make suggestions. As you see from
the memorandum, that has not necessarily occurred in the most
appropriate way. What that advisory group did was to create a
forum for people with different perspectives and experiences.
The idea was to create a forum that would allow those peopleparliamentarians,
industry, NGOs and so on - continually to review and revise what
was suggested by consultants. The advisory group forum was established
but consultants have proceeded on a very traditional tack. On
some aspects they have received particular criticism from the
advisory group. We are there as professionals to contribute to
enhancing the project as much as possible and ensuring its quality.
I think that that could be done more often. It requires the time
of the TACIS officials and contractors but it could significantly
enhance the quality of what is delivered as long as the TACIS
system or bureaucracy is flexible enough to respond to the changes
both in activities and emphasis that that advisory group may advise
upon as the project progresses. At the end of this project the
advisory group will have sat for three years. We have been hugely
under-utilised and we are all prepared to contribute more. We
should integrate more participants from the NIS. In that committee
currently we have one. At our last meeting we said that we really
needed at least one from each of the key countries with whom we
257. Is it not contrary to the whole notion
of sustainable development which must mean participation and ownership
if subsidiarity means anything; otherwise, it is not sustainable
beyond the individual project?
A. I agree. Those
words are used all the time in Brussels. Whether they are applied
in practice is another matter.
258. Do you have a final suggestion about
what we should be saying to the Commission about the TACIS programme?
A. I was interested
to learn from your questioning of the officials about the Bangkok
facility and the opportunity that that provided for investment.
It would be very interesting to explore the establishment of a
similar kind of mechanism for delivering support of a more creative
developmental kind to organisations in the NIS countries, perhaps
managed or co-ordinated by a consortium of interests: NGOs, the
private sector and government sector, either international organisations
like mine or European ones. What has been lacking is access to
the kind of facility which becomes demand-driven and is about
dialogue and a negotiated understanding between the different
constituents. I think that as TACIS considers the future of its
facility it will be interesting to see whether that kind of mechanism
can be developed and those kinds of potential partnerships can
be supported in future.
259. A sort of Brussels NGO?
A. Not even Brussels,
but a facility that allows for outreach as opposed to delivery.
Chairman: We are most
grateful to you for your help.