In an article in De Volkskrant of 5 August, with the title ‘Major job cuts among biggest aid organisations’, Lilianne Ploumen, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, argues that times have changed in development cooperation and that development organisations should focus on lobbying and advocacy, as well as corporate sector engagement.
Simavi, as a medium-sized NGO, has embraced this view of the Dutch government for some time. Even more so, we have been anticipating this development for many years. International fundraising, business development and advocacy have been integrated into our activities. We have also entered into many private partnerships, for example with engineering firm Witteveen+Bos, Royal Haskoning DHV, Philips and the knowledge institute TNO: parties that are happy to be associated with our work. In association with these partners we export Dutch expertise in the Dutch government’s key areas: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), with the aim to improve the basic health of marginalised groups in Asia and Africa.
The combination of partnerships with the Dutch government and international governments, as well as the support of our Dutch constituency (both private individuals and businesses), enables us to face the future with optimism. This does not mean that the cutbacks in development cooperation and the ensuing job cuts in the sector do not affect us. These disproportionate cutbacks make it difficult for the Netherlands to reach the set development targets, at a time when the Netherlands is criticised internationally for the percentage we spend on development cooperation. However, if the government introduces a thorough transition policy, we will be able to moderate the destruction of capital and expertise and so actively contribute to the government’s goals in terms of Aid and Trade.
The article further states that “the small ones can’t take over the work from the big ones”. As a medium-sized organisation, we in fact emphasise the importance of collaboration in consortia with other Dutch partners, and in particular with organisations in the relevant countries. In this context (as opposed to what is claimed in the article) small and medium-sized organisations like Simavi most certainly contribute to civil society building. Even more so, this is a key element of our working method. We have a strategic partnership with Minister Ploumen in order to strengthen the capacity of social organisations focusing on advocacy.
Finally, it is not our experience that “businesses only want to donate to issues like starvation and disabled people”, as is claimed in the article. Simavi is of the opinion that this does not do justice to the motivation of the private sector, with which we collaborate intensively to achieve our common goals and ambition. Together with the Dutch government and the corporate sector we improve the health of marginalised groups in Africa and Asia, while we also play a part in creating outlets for businesses and the export of Dutch expertise. We are convinced that this mixture of partnerships has the potential to reach our development targets in a sustainable manner. It is not a coincidence that the opening line of our annual report for 2014 states: “We choose optimism.”