Examination of witness (Questions 260
WEDNESDAY 1 JULY 1998
260. Dr Hindson, thank you for joining us.
For the sake of the record, would you begin by describing the
role of the Field Studies Council and its general background?
(Dr Hindson) I have brought with me some bits
and pieces that the Sub-Committee can peruse at its leisure. They
describe the work of the Field Studies Council especially in central
and eastern Europe. The Field Studies Council started in 1943.
We now run 16 environmental education or field centres in England
and Wales. Our main work in the UK is to provide field courses
related to the school curriculum. About 40,000 to 50,000 school
students visit our centres each year. Some of these places are
well known, for example Flatford Mill in Suffolk. We also run
a centre in Epping Forest and in the City of London. I run a small
bit of it which is concerned with environmental education and
training largely overseas, although some of its work takes place
in the UK. A large proportion of that work takes place in central
and eastern Europe. I have a team of four to five people. We network
with other organisations to provide training all over the world,
but most of our work is in central and eastern Europe. We are
gradually expanding especially in Russia and Ukraine and the newly-independent
261. How is that funded?
(Dr Hindson) We have a variety of sources. Most
of our money comes from the British Government in one way or another
by way of the British Council, through the Know How Fund proper
and the Environmental Know How Fund. It also comes through smaller
agencies like the Charities Aid Foundation. I am not sure whether
or not it is government money, but recently we won an international
lottery award for work in India rather than in this region. We
get money from the European Union for projects involving four
countries of the EU dealing with environmental education courses
for universities. We have also had some PHARE and TACIS partnership
projects. We have made applications for the LIEN programme. Money
also comes from business. Our work began on the basis of funding
by British Petroleum. We started in Poland about eight years ago.
We still get some corporate sponsorship and funding but it is
becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, especially for Russia
262. Tell us what you are doing particularly
in Russia and Ukraine. Fortunately, it coincides with the places
that we visited.
(Dr Hindson) In the Ukraine we have three ongoing
projects. The larger is located in Donetsk in the Russian-speaking
eastern part of Ukraine. It is also an area in which the Know
How Fund has a number of projects relating to advising the region
on restructuring the mining industry, for example how to cope
with the closure of mines. As to that project we are working with
the local Ministry of Environmental Protection together with a
number of local NGOs. It is funded by the Environmental Know How
Fund and the World Bank, although the latter's contribution is
very small. The Know How Fund contributes about £130,000
and the World Bank's contribution is about £15,000. That
project has three main thrusts. One is to develop environmental
education materials and trainers to work in schools. The second
element is to train the local ministry on how to develop community
awareness. That was quite strong under the communist regime but
has almost totally disappeared with the decline of communism.
The third area is how to run effective public awareness-raising
campaigns, because the local ministry has the responsibility to
inform the general public about environmental issues.
263. That is not TACIS, is it? TACIS has
an enormous programme concerned with raising public awareness?
(Dr Hindson) TACIS is not involved in that project.
The second project is a very small one. We work with an NGO in
a place called Kryvyi Ril which is a big industrial city. That
is concerned with environmental education through music, art and
drama. That is a small but very interesting project. Thirdly,
we are working with the British Council in Kiev on a government-funded
project to try to develop a new approach to training on governmental
organisations. The British Council has a network of five or six
information centres in the Ukraine. We are working with it on
a project to develop learning sectors (to use a trendy phrase)
for non-governmental organisations where NGO volunteers can come
and either read printed material or gain access to training on
the worldwide web and gain access to local consultancies. In Russia
we have two projects. One is funded under the new Charities Aid
Foundation scheme. That is located in Moscow. It works with the
National Russian Association of Environmental Education (ASEKO).
It is designed to train NGOs in management and how to work with
local communities to get things done in the local environment.
That is a two-year project. The second Russian project is in St
Petersburg with the local branch of ASEKO. That is a project being
undertaken with the University of St Petersburg, which is a pedagogical
university, and a NGO to develop teacher training programmes for
264. How many staff do you have there?
(Dr Hindson) In Russia and the Ukraine we have
just one member of staff who is largely responsible for co-ordinating
things and translation/interpretation. She is employed by the
Field Studies Council, but all the work on the ground is done
by the local non-governmental organisations or the Ministry of
Environmental Protection, both of whom have part-time project
officers allocated to the task. They are not directly employed
by the Field Studies Council; they are employed locally and part-funded
by money from the project.
265. They are Russians and Ukrainians, basically?
(Dr Hindson) Yes.
Countess of Mar
266. Can you tell us a little more about
the environmental NGOs in Russia and Ukraine? For example, how
are they funded and what sort of interests do they represent?
(Dr Hindson) In my experience, there are basically
two sorts of NGO. First, one has quite a large number of relatively
small issues-based NGOs. For example, in Donetsk in Ukraine there
are four or five which focus on particular issues. One of them
recently formed under the Know How Fund is called Green City.
That just focuses on trying to improve the yards around tall blocks.
There are a large number of those. The second group comprises
more national ones with local branches, such as the National Eco
Centres of the Ukraine or the Ukraine Society for Nature Protection.
There is another one called Eco Prava. Quite a lot of them are
hang-overs from the communist period like nature protection societies.
They are funded in two ways. The more active innovative lobbying-type
NGOs in my experience are funded mostly by overseas support from
a whole variety of different sources. Most of them rely on that.
When that starts they become active; when it stops, unless they
have thought ahead, they often stop as well. Some of them are
quangos rather than NGOs and have some government support, usually
from local authorities. Some get small amounts of business support,
but it is incredibly difficult to persuade businesses to do it.
I know that you have been to the Ukraine and you are aware of
the situation there. To persuade businesses to give money is very
difficult. However, in Donetsk part of the Know How Fund project
was to run a public awareness campaign. Part of what it had to
do was to raise sponsorship. It managed to do that in Donetsk
from local businesses. It raised about $8,000 and was incredibly
pleased about it. It was a remarkable achievement in the Ukraine.
That money came mainly from the steel industries and a vodka manufacturer.
The project logo was put on the bottles. It was a mixture of funding
but it was largely western funded.
267. So, it is very much a hand-to-mouth
(Dr Hindson) Yes.
268. To what extent do they have influence
over the authorities? Are they respected like our WWF and RSPB?
(Dr Hindson) In my experience, there are not really
any national lobbying-type NGOs such as WWF or RSPB. Some have
specific foci. Eco Prava lobbies to change the law. It took part
in the AÐrhus Convention recently. There is also the National
Institute of Democracy and another one called Mama `86 which is
partly a women's group and partly an environmental group. They
campaign but not in the same way as WWF and not particularly effectively.
They have one or two successes. The National Institute of Democracy
has just managed to get a Bill concerned with participation into
the parliamentary process, but in my experience it is not very
269. You mention in your paper a lack of
understanding of how NGOs work in the newly-independent states.
How far have you found that cultural differences both among NGOs
and official bodies compared with Western Europe are a significant
obstacle when working in Ukraine and Russia? What is the best
way of overcoming it?
(Dr Hindson) One of the biggest differences between
our NGOs and those we work with is that a large number of them
are almost completely volunteer organisations. Some of the national
Eco Centres and quangos have full-time employees, but the numbers
are going down as it becomes difficult to pay salaries. They are
almost entirely volunteer organisations. I do not know whether
you met any NGOs. They work incredibly hard and make a lot of
personal sacrifices to get work done and undertake projects. We
do not always understand the amount of sacrifice and hard work
they put in and lack of payment involved. Among government bodies
the biggest issue is money. There is a lack of understanding about
how things work in the Ukraine. I think that part of our job is
to challenge how things work. I do not think that we should just
accept it because that is how it has always been done. For example,
in Donetsk the biggest problem is that the local officials have
not been paid their salaries for three months. That is very common.
School teachers and university lecturers are all paid one or two
months behind or they are not paid for December but are paid for
January. That is a big problem. These people are doing a lot of
work but are not getting any money for it.
270. As to co-ordination between TACIS and
other aid programmes, your report points out that there is considerable
room for improvement in the co-ordination of the programmes of
the different donor agencies, especially in Ukraine and Russia.
Can you suggest how this can be brought about?
(Dr Hindson) Before this meeting I talked to a
number of colleagues in Ukraine. They highlighted the lack of
co-ordination as one of the biggest problems with donor agencies,
including the individual EU countries and TACIS and the United
States. Very often they do the same things. One colleague said
that very often they were doing the same things with the same
people and making the same mistakes. The suggestion about co-ordination
came from one or two sources. My colleagues suggested that if
it was established in the right way the new regional environmental
centre could have some co-ordinating role and that perhaps that
could be one of the functions of TACIS. Rather than try to give
away large amounts of money, it could co-ordinate the different
agencies in some way. One of the problems, which perhaps is highlighted
by a case study of the regional environmental centre, is that
all of the donor agencies have different regulations, do things
in different ways and ask for project proposals to be formulated
with different deadlines. To co-ordinate them will take a massive
activity in terms of trying to get people to see the need. For
example, I believe that in the case of the new regional environmental
centre although the donors are trying to co-ordinate some will
give money only to the Ukraine, some to Russia and some to other
specific projects. One of the difficulties in trying to get these
regional environmental centres set up was the donors themselves.
The message I received was that co-ordination should be relatively
formal but so as not to slow down the process it would require
discipline on the part of the donor agencies to try to match their
systems. It may be that if TACIS can be reorganised in some way
they can do that rather than form new regional centres.
271. The concept of RECs is very unpopular
in Ukraine and Russia. It is felt that it is being imposed upon
them. The one we saw in Budapest four years ago was tremendously
successful. The feeling is that that model has been picked up
and dropped on top of the Ukraine and Russia without sufficient
(Dr Hindson) I think that is right. On the other
hand, the people to whom I have spoken believe that the concept
is a good idea. I was working in Hungary when the regional environmental
centre started there. It had a very difficult three-year start-up.
It was distrusted and received a lot of flak from the different
countries that it was trying to support. There were accusations
of bias about the giving of money. A lot can be learnt from it.
Gradually, it managed to sort itself out. It is now doing a very
good job in the countries in which it is involved, especially
through the local country offices. I am more optimistic but perhaps
cynical. The moment it has money to give out a lot of the problems
will probably disappear. The moment it involves the NGO community
in the country a lot of the difficulties will disappear. The concerns
of the people to whom I have spoken have been related mainly to
how the process of setting it up has been dealt with. I believe
that the fact the donor agencies have appeared to set up competition
between Russia and the Ukraine as to where one of the major offices
should be located has caused unnecessary antagonism between the
two countries. I would be quite optimistic if it was done in the
right way. I am not sure where the process is at the moment.
272. I think the general theme was that
there was lack of consultation and the west was trying to impose
solutions on them.
(Dr Hindson) I think that it will work if there
can be a lot more local involvement and ownership. I think that
the REC model can be useful.
273. To pursue the question of co-ordination
and co-operation, we read with interest in your paper that there
may well be closer working between the Member States in Europe
in area of NGO training. Perhaps you would elaborate on that.
(Dr Hindson) There is quite a lot of interest
in training non-governmental organisations. The United States
has a large number of organisations that do that. One of the biggest
in the Ukraine is called Counterpart which has a large number
of programmes, not so much on environmental issues as on social
issues, women's issues, human rights and political responsibility.
They have been doing a large amount of work on setting up independent
groups and training non-governmental organisations. At the moment,
because of the Field Studies Council network in the regions we
tend to know what is going on. We have made links with these organisations
independently but if some mechanism can be found to talk to and
link with some of the bigger donor agencies in the United States
we can capitalise on the benefits. Earlier I spoke about setting
up these NGO learning centres. To begin with, we were told by
the environmental NGOs that NGOs needed a lot of training and
were badly provided for. However, when we spoke to Counterpart
we found that it had developed a lot of local material already.
We were able to bring it into the project. A lot of support is
needed to build up a network of qualified, experienced people.
Lord Hughes of Woodside
274. TACIS has sometimes been described
as a people-to-people programme. We have heard some very positive
comments about so-called Bistro facilities, especially from beneficiaries
in St Petersburg. In paragraph 4.2 of your paper you mention certain
shortcomings: lack of awareness of the reality and so on. If the
shortcomings can be put right, is there a case for expanding the
facility for introducing other programmes or promoting small local
(Dr Hindson) Yes. I hope that it did not sound
too much like sour grapes in the sense that because I did not
get money from the Bistro therefore I should complain about it.
I was impressed by two things. One was the fact that Bistro was
quick, which is what the word means. I was less impressed by the
general complexity of the application process for a very young
NGO. It is working with quite small NGOs that do not have experience
of the application process. They find it quite complex and nerve-racking.
Sometimes they feel that their honesty is being called into question.
Why does it want to do this or that? Why does it cost so much?
We tried to explain that it was all part of the process of making
sure that the application was right. When they did not get the
money there was a very curt feedback"You have not
got the money." I felt that it was not right. I followed
it up and spoke to the people in Moscow who made the decisions.
From my experience in St Petersburg I began to uncover the fact
that the people who made the judgment did not really have the
experience required to say whether or not the projects were worthwhile.
I think that the user-friendliness of the application process
for a lot of programmes in the EU, not just TACIS, needs to be
streamlined. The whole process needs to be made accessible to
non-government organisations. The best model that I have come
across to date is the international lottery in the UK. I have
heard nothing but praise for the structure of the international
lottery applications and the way that the whole system is run,
the booklet and the friendliness of the language. It also holds
regional meetings in which it explains the process to people;
it goes out to NGOs, explains how to do it and how to be successful
and says, "We are here to help you and want to give you money."
If improvements like that can be made and there is an opportunity
for feedback and assistance of NGOs then I suggest that the scheme
can be extended. I am glad to hear that you have some success
stories. It would be nice to hear more about those. I think that
it is the opportunity for interaction and feedback from donors
which is one of the matters that NGOs appreciate, particularly
in countries where they are just beginning to develop.
275. What about the proper role of consultants
and other experts from EU donor countries? You have spoken about
user-friendliness and so on. Do you think that the consultants
and so forth invest sufficient time and intellectual effort in
understanding the needs, attitudes and traditions of their clients?
(Dr Hindson) Yes and no. It is a bit difficult
to say because I am one. I do my best. I do not speak Russian
or Ukrainian, although one of my project officers does. Many consultants
do not make a big enough effort. One comes across quite a large
number of consultants who are in the region for a variety of reasons.
One of them is that they are not good enough to get work in the
UK but are good enough to get work in other areas. The ability
of NGOs and others to judge how good a consultant is is not as
well developed as perhaps it should be. They cannot always be
certain that they are getting value for money. Some consultants
make a good deal of effort. Normally, they are the ones associated
with slightly longer-term projects. One of the problems is that
many of the projects are funded for only a year. Therefore, the
consultant puts a vast amount of time and effort into getting
to know the user and the person working in the region. Very often,
it is unpaid time. It is interesting to talk to the Know How Fund
to see whether it will pay for time like acclimatisation visits
and things like that. Usually, it does not. When there is a short-term
project most consultants will try to do their best but there is
considerable room for improvement. That is one of the structural
issues in running projects. If the donor agencies recognise that
the changes that they want to achieve will take longer than a
year and are prepared to give project funding for two or three
years, certainly in my area of NGO training, then the situation
will improve. I do not want to paint too black a picture.
276. We have heard a fair amount of criticism
about large consultancy firms that the decision-taking as to what
projects should be proceeded with has less to do with what people
want and more to do with what the consultants can provide. That
is not the universal view, but is it one that you share?
(Dr Hindson) Certainly I have come across projects
like that. I work very closely with one of our local consultants
in the Ukraine, Vladimir Tikhi. Interestingly enough, he was a
member of the board that set up a regional environmental centre
but left for a variety of reasons. He said that what he would
appreciate most of all was the trust of donor agencies to make
more local decisions. For example, he is involved in a USAID-funded
project on pesticides. It has just gone through the process of
trying to select 10 NGOs in a competitive manner to develop education
materials for farmers on pesticide management. The USAID allowed
it to set up local committees to judge the worth of each proposal.
The local committees made one set of decisions but then USAID
sent some consultants from the States who looked through the proposals
and came up with a different set of decisions. It was the USAID's
version that had to be accepted because of the funding. There
is a very difficult balance between funding accountability, funding
decisions and local responsibility. That has created some tension.
The more local ownership there is the better.
277. Do you want to enlarge on the point
you make in 4.3 about the bureaucracy. You say that it is in marked
contrast to the UK programmes. How can TACIS be made more demand-led?
(Dr Hindson) As to bureaucracy, TACIS has a terrible
reputation among the people with whom I work. It is very slow
and bureaucratic. People do not answer letters and it is difficult
to telephone people. It is slow to make decisions. Timescales
lapse by three, four, five, six or nine months. That puts off
a lot of NGOs who are even thinking about using the opportunities
that TACIS can provide. There is also a problem with lack of user-friendliness
in terms of the volume of documents. There is lack of managerial
training on the part of some TACIS officers in order to be able
to work with people. There is a lack of opportunities for interaction
and feedback. I think that TACIS could be a wonderful thing if
it could be made to work and be made efficient. The frustrating
point from my perspective is that there is a lot of money and
opportunity there but it is difficult to get hold of it because
of the bureaucratic problem. There is lack of local decision-making.
I cannot claim to understand TACIS completely. If someone can
explain it to me I shall be very grateful. The constant referral
to Brussels within some programmes slows down everything. We have
a project in Bulgaria and Romania and also the Black Sea programme.
There one has the strange situation where one has funding for
a geographic entity, which is done by PHARE and TACIS, but the
administration of the programme is so inefficiently handled that
if one TACIS officer just forgets to file an application to extend
the deadline the project is lost. Because of that the project
has to come to an end. The regulations say that without a formal
extension it has to close. Therefore, the money was lost and the
project came to a standstill.
278. How can it be more demand-led by the
recipient countries instead of the apparent imposition from outside?
How can we improve the process so that we know what the people
actually want to do under TACIS?
(Dr Hindson) From the perspective of the Ukraine,
which is a country about which I have greater knowledge, the way
that other organisations do it is to go out to the people and
find out what they want and then develop a coherent strategy over
three to five years based on what they have been told by the people
on the ground. That process can take a number of forms. There
can be individual consultations with NGOs or open meetings or
TACIS roadshows, as it were. The feedback one has is that if one
spends six months talking to people to find out their requirements
and produces a strategic programme it will bring results. That
would not be a difficult process. Consulting people is not all
279. Presumably, there will not be much
demand for TACIS if the general perception is that TACIS cannot
(Dr Hindson) I think you are right, except that
the situation can be rescued if TACIS begins to behave differently
and delivers results. Bear in mind that they may be delivering
wonderful results in all sorts of areas but not the area of which
I have experience. From my perspective, there needs to be quite
a big rescue job. One has an organisation with a huge image problem,
and it is not delivering. Something should be done about it if
TACIS is to continue as a donor organisation.
1 Neither do they have the large membership of WWF/RSPB
so cannot claim to represent a membership. Few NGOs in the Ukraine
are really democratically oranised and those that do have a membership
do not have effective ways of seeking their views to lobby. Back
Another idea might be for different donors to fund different thematic
areas of work, but again this might be difficult. Back