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Posts Tagged ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’

Humanitarian situation deteriorates in Juba after coup attempt

Posted by African Press International on December 18, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/– Armed clashes in Juba since 15 December have left hundreds in urgent need of medical care. Thousands of civilians, including women and children, have fled their homes in search of safety, taking very little with them. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is providing the city’s two major hospitals with support so that they can cope with the heavy influx of patients.

More than 300 people have been admitted to Juba Teaching Hospital and Juba Military Hospital over the past two days. The ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross have delivered to the hospitals enough wound-dressing materials and other urgently needed medical supplies to treat up to 500 people.

“We know there are more people who need care, but they are having difficulty reaching health-care facilities because of the security situation and the lack of available transportation,” said Felicity Gapes, an ICRC delegate who is leading the medical response on the ground. “Staff in both hospitals have been working around the clock, but they are struggling because of the sheer volume of patients and the severity of the injuries.”

The ICRC is calling on the fighting parties to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian casualties and to allow people to safely reach health-care facilities. The organization is closely monitoring needs. Together with the South Sudan Red Cross, it will take further action as the security situation permits.


International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


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Norway gives NOK 20 million to UNICEF’s work in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 14, 2013

Norway gives NOK 20 million to UNICEF’s work in the Central African Republic


OSLO, Norway, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/  “The situation in the Central African Republic is now so serious that the UN humanitarian system has decided to operate collectively at the highest level to mobilise staff, equipment and other resources. Norway is therefore allocating NOK 20 million in funding to UNICEF for its efforts to protect children in the country. In wars and conflicts, children are the most vulnerable group of all,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.


The UN and aid organisations are reporting a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, as a result of the escalating armed conflict in the country. Violence against civilians is on the rise, including in the capital Bangui, and a growing number of people are being driven from their homes.


“Some of UNICEF’s most important work is protecting children from abuses and suffering caused by conflict. UNICEF ensures that families with children have access to water, shelter and food, and it establishes safe, child-friendly spaces where children can take part in activities and receive help to overcome traumatic experiences. Norway is now making a major contribution to this important work,” said Mr Brende.


Norway is providing humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières. Following this latest allocation, Norway’s humanitarian contribution will total NOK 52 million. This sum comes in addition to Norway’s contributions to UN funds and programmes in the country.



Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Norway increases its humanitarian support to the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2013

OSLO, Norway, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – “I am very concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic. Norway welcomes the decision by the UN Security Council to authorize an expanded peacekeeping force, in order to contribute to the protection of civilians and the restoration of security and public order,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is steadily deteriorating. Attacks on civilians and violations of human rights are widespread, and law and order is virtually absent. The local population and displaced persons are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

The Norwegian Government is therefore increasing its humanitarian support by NOK 20 million, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (NOK 15 million) and Médecins Sans Frontières (NOK 5 million). Norway also contributes to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in CAR. The total humanitarian support to CAR now stands at NOK 32 million. In addition, Norway contributes to other UN funds and programmes in the country.

“I am concerned about the impact of the crisis on the region. There is a risk that the lawlessness we are seeing in the Central African Republic will turn the country into a haven for extremists, armed groups and international organised criminals, thus increasing instability in the region,” Mr Brende said.

The Foreign Minister considers the decision by the UN Security Council to authorise the deployment of an African-led stabilisation force (MISCA), which will be assisted by an expanded French force, to be crucial for the country.

“We are following the situation closely and we will consider further contributions to the humanitarian response early next year,” Mr Brende said, underlining that all parties to the conflict are obliged under international humanitarian law to ensure that people in need have access to humanitarian assistance.



Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Discussing possible collaboration

Posted by African Press International on November 18, 2013

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, November 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire and Head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Mrs Aïchatou Mindaoudou, on Wednesday, 13 November 2013, met with the head of a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Georges Comminos.

Georges Comminos, who came to present the activities of the ICRC in Côte d’Ivoire, said he highlighted the areas in which the two organisations complement each other and the possibility of collaboration.

«The ICRC is an organisation independent of the United Nations. However there are areas, especially in terms of humanitarian action, for which we discussed developing responses for the communities living in Côte d’Ivoire. In prisons for instance where ICRC is very active and in the west of the country, where we have a number of humanitarian programmes, it is important to see how we can collaborate and draw up strategies complementary to the work of UN agencies and UNOCI in order to attain our objectives, » explained Mr. Comminos.

The head of the regional delegation of the ICRC said he was satisfied with the discussions and in general, the level of cooperation between ICRC and UNOCI and with the different humanitarian agencies of the United Nations.



Mission of UN in Côte d’Ivoire


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Wounded soldiers treated at Gisenyi hospital

Posted by African Press International on November 10, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 8, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Following the latest clashes between government forces and armed group M23 in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 76 wounded soldiers have crossed the border into Rwanda and been admitted to Gisenyi hospital.

A surgical team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was immediately sent to provide urgent support to the facility’s medical staff as of 8 November. “Our medical teams are now assessing the urgency of each case,” said Georges Paclisanu, head of the ICRC delegation in Rwanda.

The ICRC worked with Rwandan Red Cross volunteers to transfer the war-wounded from Kinigi to Gisenyi hospital on 5 and 6 November. Nineteen people with battle injuries had already been admitted to the hospital the previous week. “We’re also making sure the patients are getting enough food,” added Mr Paclisanu. The hospital has been supplied with medicines and medical equipment.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, the ICRC continues to bring aid to those affected by the recent fighting. In Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, an ICRC surgical team is treating people wounded in combat at Ndosho hospital. Meanwhile, in Uganda, delegates have registered over 100 children who became separated from their families as they fled the hostilities. With the support of Uganda Red Cross volunteers active in the refugee camps, the ICRC is offering families the chance to get in touch with their loved ones.



International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


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Armed group releases five soldiers

Posted by African Press International on November 7, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Five Sudanese soldiers held in Darfur were released today by the Sudan Liberation Army – Ali Karbino (SLA-AK), an armed opposition group. The International Committee of the Red Cross facilitated the operation in its capacity as a neutral intermediary.

“The Sudanese authorities and the SLA-AK asked us to facilitate the transfer and provide logistical support for this operation,” said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. The regular dialogue the ICRC maintains with the government authorities and various armed opposition groups allows it to play its unique role as a neutral intermediary.

ICRC delegates accompanied the released soldiers as a helicopter flew them to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, where they were placed in the care of the Sudanese authorities. Prior to the transfer, the delegates spoke privately with the soldiers to make sure they were being transferred of their own free will.

Similar operations in Sudan this year involving the ICRC have resulted in the transfer of five South Sudanese prisoners of war released by the Sudanese government and of 32 Sudanese armed forces personnel and 36 civilians released by armed opposition groups.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978. In 2003 it extended its operations to Darfur, where it helps people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.



International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


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Loosing all hope – a wish to commit suicide

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– When Uganda resident  Rose Lamwaka had two sons abducted by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) 10 years ago she felt she had lost all hope. “I w as feeling a lot of pain, I was feeling like committing suicide,” says the 51-year-old widow with seven grandchildren.

Last week, Lamwaka joined hundreds from the northern district of Lamwo to remember their abducted children, still missing from the decades-long civil war between the LRA and the government. More than 200 family members with relatives still unaccounted for read the names of their lost ones in a ceremony of prayer and song.

Northern Uganda was the epicentre of a legacy of violence, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the number of people abducted since the war started in the late 1980s ranges between 52,000 and 75,000. Though Uganda has been free from LRA attacks since 2006, and a number of former child soldiers have returned, the ICRC estimates thousands remain missing from the north as a result of the conflict.

“Because there is no official figure of those missing, we had to extrapolate on what we found here,” said Camilla Matteucci, ICRC protection coordinator. “And our projection is that at least 10,000 people are still missing in northern Uganda.”

Left behind

The commemoration in Uganda not only acknowledged those still missing but also marked the end of a four-month community counselling pilot programme for more than 200 affected family members of the abducted in Lamwo District. As that project initially targeted only one sub-county, it used those affected families as a baseline to extrapolate the total number that have gone missing across the northern region.

According to Beatrice Ocaya, the local women’s councillor in Lamwo, the ceremony was an important step in recognizing the ongoing support needed by families torn apart by the LRA conflict.

“There is no longer war, but some parents are ever crying,” she said.

ICRC says relatives left behind have been silently suffering with ambiguous loss, and the isolation that breeds has far-reaching social and economic impacts on populations still recovering from conflict.

“They don’t know if the person is alive or dead, if they’re still with the armed group, which also puts a stigma on the family, and therefore it’s hard for them to deal with the community at large,” Matteucci said.

For Lamwaka, the group brought her relief, and support from her community. “Other people are really understanding, they sympathize and care,” she told IRIN.

A global loss

To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August, the ICRC has released a handbook to call for a broader global response to the families of those missing in conflict and natural disasters. The handbook draws on more than 10 years of similar ICRC projects, from the Balkans, to Nepal and Timor-Leste – all countries where thousands have gone missing with families left behind to bear the burden – and provides an understanding of what families of missing persons go through. It also acts as a practical guide for local “accompaniers” from the community, trained by ICRC to counsel peer support groups to be able to share experiences and coping mechanisms.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are separated from loved ones in such situations,” said Marianne Pecassou, head of the ICRC team dealing with missing persons, in a statement. “The families will tell you that what they need more than anything else is to find out what happened to the person who vanished. Unfortunately, in too many cases, that question may never be resolved. But they also have other needs that go far beyond this.”

According to ICRC, during the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, they received more than 34,000 tracing requests from families searching for answers.

Legal issues such as inheritance and property rights, the financial stress of searching for the lost while supporting a household, as well as the psychological trauma of loss have devastated communities already scarred by conflict.

According to Milena Osorio, ICRC’s mental health and psychosocial support adviser, psychological needs such as emotional isolation, feelings of guilt, anger, depression or trauma, and tensions among family members or with members of their communities are common.

“The families of missing people frequently find themselves grappling with uncertainty. Most societies have religious or cultural rituals to deal with death,” said Ms Osorio in the statement, “but there is very little to help the families of missing persons.”

In May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to join an international treaty aimed at “eliminating enforced disappearances and stop impunity for this scourge”.

pc/kr/cb source



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“I am deeply concerned over the difficult working conditions for humanitarian workers in Somalia; Says Norwegian Minister

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

“I am deeply concerned over the difficult working conditions for humanitarian workers in Somalia, and the security risks for those seeking to access aid. The population is in need of humanitarian support in many areas of the country, and the right to safely receive aid should be respected by all parts of the conflict,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.

Somalis has been suffering from armed conflict for more than two decades. Despite some political progress over the last year, the security situation remains difficult and unpredictable in many areas. Yesterday, Médecins Sans Frontières announced the closure of all its medical programmes in Somalia due to unacceptable working conditions including the killing of staff and attacks on medical facilities. The organisation carried out more than 624 000 medical consultations in the country in 2012 alone, and their efforts will be greatly missed by those in need.

“Médecins Sans Frontières has performed life-saving and courageous work for the people in Somalia for 22 years. The fact that they have now made the tough decision to pull out of the country sends a strong message on the extent that humanitarian space is being compromised. People in dire need should be able to receive the assistance they need and aid workers should be able to carry out their duties without risking their lives,” said Mr Holmås.

Norway provides extensive humanitarian and development aid to Somalia, and will continue its efforts to promote political stability and peaceful development in the country. In 2012, Norway started to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Norwegian Red Cross on the initiative “Health Care in Danger”. The initiative aims to increase awareness of the consequences of attacks on health personnel and facilities in crisis situations, and how this can be mitigated. 



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Negotiating aid delivery in Mali’s conflict zones

Posted by African Press International on April 24, 2013

BAMAKO/MOPTI/DAKAR,  – Aid agencies managed to work in northern Mali throughout its occupation by Islamist militants in 2012 and the new complications triggered by the French-led military campaign earlier this year. No single template guided their engagement.

IRIN spoke to aid staff in Mali about how they navigated access challenges in a region facing critical nutritional and health needs over the course of 2012 and 2013.What has humanitarian access looked like?

When rebel and Islamist groups first occupied northern Mali in April 2012 many international NGOs and UN agencies initially withdrew, often after having their offices, vehicles and aid supplies looted. Some relocated staff to the central region of Mopti and sent international staff down to the capital, Bamako; others shifted their programmes further south to Mopti, Douentza and Ségou.

Many agencies experienced access problems that hampered their scale of operations. Most of these were involved in longer-term development projects. For the World Food Programme (WFP) and several others, access is still a problem: “One of our top concerns is for humanitarian access to be re-established,” WFP head Sally Haydock told IRIN in March of this year. “This would allow WFP to reopen its offices in order to assist a larger caseload and for our partners to operate fully.”

However, many NGOs continued to operate in northern Mali throughout the Islamist occupation, and several significantly increased their humanitarian reach because of the crisis conditions. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Médecins du Monde (MDM), Action against Hunger (ACF), Solidarité Internationale and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) all worked across northern regions in 2012 and 2013, and heads of each organization said their access was not significantly affected. These organizations together provided nutrition support, healthcare, and water and sanitation services to a significant proportion of the remaining population.

After the French-led military intervention, which began in January 2013, things became more problematic as there were no clear authorities in place in many northern regions, said Frank Abeille, the Mali director of Solidarité Internationale. Civic administrations are for the most part still unstaffed, and the military chain of command is often unclear.

ICRC spokesperson Wolde Saugeron, in Geneva, told IRIN, “Paradoxically, things got more complicated with the intervention, as the interlocutors started to change.”

“Now it is much more complicated with a lack of authorities in place. We negotiate access with whoever we can find,” ACF head Franck Vannetelle told IRIN.

MDM said the same of the northeastern region of Kidal, where access has been confused by power struggles among the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA) and other groups. “We don’t know who to address access-wise, who decides what. It is confusing for everyone, including the population,” MDM Belgium’s coordinator, Sebastien Lemaire, told IRIN.

The situation has eased in recent weeks, said Saugeron, who estimated that as of April 2013, ICRC’s access is back to pre-French-intervention levels.

What were some approaches used to secure access?

After the initial occupation, some organizations re-established access by working with local partners. WFP, for example, teamed up with ACTED in the area of Ménaka and Norwegian Church Aid in Kidal, both of which connected with local NGOs. According to WFP, its food aid reached up to 150,000 people in 2012 and 2013. ICRC also worked very closely with the Malian Red Cross.

On the other hand, many agencies negotiated access with whomever they needed to, including, in 2012, Islamic insurgent groups like the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Ansar Dine, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and, in 2013, the Malian, French and Chadian armies, local authorities and the MNLA.

For example, in April 2012, MSF set up a large healthcare programme in Timbuktu Region and parts of Gao Region by negotiating with all the parties to the conflict – including armed groups and, more recently, the French and Malian militaries.

“All have to be approached. We worked out a way to keep our teams in the north last year and to keep them there this year – little by little we built up our humanitarian space,” said Johanne Sekkenes, MSF head in Mali. “This is part of our work as a humanitarian agency; it’s no secret. There is no guarantee of being accepted.”

According to ACF’s Vannetelle, MUJAO in Gao never refused access. “We had to confirm our movements 24 hours in advance, and they always cleared it. There was a direct chain of command, which gave us assurance.”

How has negotiation changed?

The use of negotiation to deliver aid in rebel-controlled areas has shifted over the past 20 years. In the 1990s, UN agencies often led negotiations over humanitarian access on behalf of much of the aid community – as in Operation Lifeline Sudan. Negotiation was considered integral to putting the humanitarian principles into practice.

This changed after the 9/11 attacks on the US, according to research by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). “Humanitarian organizations have long been pressured by states not to engage with [armed non-state actors], in part because they fear that doing so may lend them legitimacy,” said the ODI report Talking to the other side. But now these non-state actors “are often listed as terrorists in situations where humanitarian engagement is most necessary,” discouraging direct interaction.

This has marked a shift in the humanitarian culture, particularly for the UN, said one seasoned aid worker: “Now we’re more scared than we used to be… We’ve lost that culture of negotiating with rebels… It’s always been a high-risk job, but whenever we go now, we side with the government.”

For one senior UN official, who requested anonymity, the UN has no choice but to be more careful than other aid groups. “You must recognize the nature of groups like AQIM, MUJAO and Ansar Dine – who have said the UN is among their top five targets… If you are a UN employee, you’re on their target list,” he said. “That’s why we work through partners.”

But some agencies, such as MDM, fear that working with local partners could jeopardize their operations’ impartiality because it is impossible to know exactly where partners’ personnel stand without strict monitoring.

Many interviewees said training is needed on negotiating access in conflict zones, a point also made in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 2011 report To Stay and Deliver.

Several organizations, such as ICRC, already do this. ICRC uses networking and awareness-raising to help negotiating parties gain confidence in its impartiality.

“This is something that has been developed over a long, long period of time – and it is directly related to the practical issue of having to work in conflict zones,” said Saugeron, who mentioned some agencies have approached ICRC for guidance in this area.

In Mali, rather than negotiating access directly with armed groups, many aid providers negotiated with village-level crisis committees, which included civilians and rebels, said the UN official. Access worked out through these committees largely worked, he said, in part because two of the groups in question – MUJAO and Ansar Dine – had no interest in diverting humanitarian aid. The advantage of these crisis committees is that they could work back and forth between southern and northern Mali, with multiple points of contact, he pointed out.

“What was done was the best that could have been in the circumstances,” he said.

What are the remaining security challenges?

Given tight military control following the French-led intervention, much of the north is again opening up to aid groups. But access is still limited by opportunistic banditry and criminality where there are no security forces, said a UN worker.

Banditry includes attacks on vehicles up and down the Niger river valley and along certain routes, such as the main road from Gao to Kidal. Threats also include improvised explosive devices and mines in parts of Gao. Illicit trafficking in cigarettes, drugs and other contraband are likely to pick up again.

“We have security, for the most part, in towns, and insecurity elsewhere – much like pre-conflict 2012,” noted the UN official. “We don’t want to return to how things were. We want to go beyond.”

The UN Security Council is reviewing a draft resolution to put a 12,600-strong peacekeeping mission in Mali by 1 July. If such an initiative attempts to integrate military, humanitarian and political operations, the neutrality of UN agencies could come into question.

“The nature of the mandate of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] in Mali will be a determinant,” said Fernando Arroyo, head of OCHA in Mali. “There is wide consensus among humanitarians that it is imperative to keep humanitarian and political agendas separate, as a failure to do so could undermine the perceived impartiality that humanitarian organizations have gained so far in the north.”

On the other hand, said the UN official, integration could give humanitarians a voice at the table, which could result in better security for their programmes.

But for now, said Arroyo, aid agencies’ top priority is to getting the right people in place to restore basic services.

aj/rz source

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Cooperatives championed amid NGO restrictions

Posted by African Press International on November 9, 2012

ADDIS ABABA,  – As Ethiopia imposes increasing restrictions on foreign-backed NGOs, cooperatives – which have boosted the country’s coffee industry – are being championed as a preferred model for economic development.
NGOs have been active in Ethiopia for roughly 40 years, yet the country still ranks in the world’s seventh percentile in terms of health, education and living standards, according to the UN Development Programme’s human development index. This has led to questions about the effectiveness of NGOs – especially those that are foreign-backed – in creating tangible, long-term progress.
By contrast, say development observers and government advisers, the cooperative model gives ownership of development issues to those affected by them, creating incentives for lasting change. “Cooperatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members… They have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits,” according to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
Ethiopia’s coffee industry has recently seen significant growth, thanks in part to indigenous coffee cooperatives – demonstrating, advocates say, cooperatives’ superiority to NGO assistance.
But others argue that cooperatives model on its own isn’t capable of achieving long-term sustainability, and that many cooperatives remain reliant on NGOs for support. Success, they say, will depend on the combined efforts of cooperatives, NGOs and the Ethiopian government, and even foreign government assistance, where appropriate.

  • Fraught political history
Both cooperatives and NGOs have had fraught relationships with Ethiopia’s political establishment, with cooperatives once perceived as an arm of the government and NGOs now seen as agents of foreign influence.
The cooperative movement in Ethiopia emerged in 1950s, during an effort to transition from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture. In the 1970s, under Mengistu Haile Mariam’s socialist-inspired Derg regime, cooperatives were used to implement a series of radical policies, such as the March 1975 Land Reform Bill, which outlawed private land ownership. Farmers were forced to join cooperatives and give up land for collective use; as a result, cooperatives became very unpopular.The 1991 rebellion that ousted Mengistu paved the way for more democratic, member-constituted cooperatives, even as the government itself came under criticism over its commitment to democracy. General assembly members were elected to determine cooperatives’ policies, and cooperatives began to adhere to the principles of the ICA.
Over a decade later, NGOs became targets of government ire. Several were perceived as assisting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s political opponents during the 2005 election, which nearly saw Meles’s defeat, according to Stephan Klingelhofer, senior vice president at Washington-based the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law.
In the following years, members of organizations such as the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and the Swiss branch of Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) faced arrests and detentions. The International Committee of the Red Cross and MSF Belgium were expelled by the government in August and September 2007.
In February 2009, the government adopted the Proclamation to Provide for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies, which restricted the activities of NGOs receiving more than 10 percent of their financing from foreign sources. Over the past six months, the restrictions have expanded, Klingelhofer said.
  •  Concerns about dependency
These tensions are now bearing out in how cooperatives and NGOs are viewed. As the successful strategies used by coffee cooperatives are applied to bolster other agricultural sectors – including dairy, wheat and livestock – cooperatives are increasingly seen as alternatives to the kinds of assistance offered by NGOs.
Particularly problematic is that many NGOs are foreign-backed and are not member-oriented, critics say.
“It’s a problem of dependency syndrome,” said Mesay Kassaye, who works for the Costa Foundation, which assists coffee cooperatives. Kassaye previously worked for the NGO Self Help Africa and argues that too few NGOs promote self-sufficiency. “An NGO would bring all things, so that the community remained like beggars, with no role in development.”
Programmes often collapsed when NGOs departed, and some NGOs channel up to 75 percent of their budgets to administrative costs, he says. Cooperatives are an improvement because Ethiopia’s chronic problems are better tackled by the long-term capacity-building that cooperatives promote, he contends.
This view is shared by Haile Gebre, who is regarded as the father of Ethiopia’s cooperatives. He headed the government’s Bureau for Cooperatives in the 1990s, and his policies have resulted in the way cooperatives function today. He concedes the issue is not quite black-and-white: “Nothing is totally wrong or fair – things are relative,” he said.
“But if I’d been president of Ethiopia in 1973, I’ve have banned NGOs from Ethiopia.”
NGOs are good for providing temporary support after catastrophes, but for poverty, they aren’t the solution, he argues.
  • Outside help
Yet a variety of NGOs have been responsible for supporting the cooperative model.
“We are development-oriented, not relief-oriented,” said Amsalu Andarge, an Addis Ababa-based field officer coordinator for the NGO Agriculture Cooperative Development Integrated Volunteers Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA). In 1995, the US-based organization helped launch Agricultural Cooperatives in Ethiopia(ACE), which established regional-level cooperative bureaus.
“Those cooperatives established by ACE are now leading the economic transformation of the country,” Andarge said.
In fact, some cooperatives receive help not only from foreign-based NGOs but from foreign state aid agencies as well.
Since September 2003, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has worked alongside the Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFEW), a state-run forest protection organization, and local coffee farmers, helping them produce sustainable coffee for the Japanese market, said Fumiaki Saso, a JICA project coordinator in Jimma, 200km southwest of Addis Ababa.
JICA offered technical support, such as organizing Rainforest Alliance certification and facilitating access to the international market, while OFWE controlled the coffee exportation process. After administrative costs – including JICA’s – were covered, 70 percent of remaining revenue went to farmers and 30 percent was retained by OFWE.
In March 2012, full oversight of the project was successfully handed over to OFWE.
  • Support and oversight needed

The cooperative business model contains both the key to economic success and a raft of potential problems, said cooperative expert Gebre.
“They are self-contained: members are producers, sellers, buyers and consumers, and the cooperative that is member-led and member-oriented will remain efficient and effective,” generating profits for members and contributing to self-sufficiency.
But if cooperatives start to focus on profits to the exclusion of their members’ needs, they could be transformed into supply-and-demand driven “oligarchies”, he said, describing organizations controlled by a select few with no concern for improving members’ lives or investing in communities.
“As they get bigger, there may be problems,” allowed Kassu Kebede, a programme manager for ACDI/VOCA.
But growth can’t be avoided; to compete, the cooperatives will need to diversify and become business-oriented. And it can be handled successfully, he reasoned, citing as an example India, which has cultivated large, business-oriented cooperatives that compete internationally while still serving farmers.
For now, cooperatives still need support from NGOs like ACDI/VOCA and the government, he added, noting that the latter should also provide oversight to ensure cooperatives balance business-oriented growth with the needs of cooperative members.


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