Over the past decade there has been a noted decrease in international donor support for NGO programmes in the Caribbean. This has had a number of negative effects on the Caribbean NGO movement and the programmes they implement on behalf of Caribbean peoples. Many NGOs have had to cut back their staff compliment, sometimes by as much as 50%, and reduce the number and scope of their developmental programmes.
The once reliable source of financial support, which many NGOs had come to rely on, is no longer guaranteed. Given the adverse changes in the donor environment, the regional NGO network has prioritised the re-evaluation of the way it operates and obtains financing.
The CPDC was given the mandate by its member organisations to be the lead agency for this work and has sought to analyze the present funding situation and to explore opportunities for alternative financing strategies. In this respect, two research studies were commissioned over the last two years, “Situational Analysis of the Funding of Caribbean NGOs” and “ A Feasibility Study of Funding Mechanisms for Caribbean Non-Governmental Organisation”. These two studies serve as the basis for future CPDC work on this issue and provide the NGO Community with a macro analysis of the impact of declining funding as well as a possible response to the challenge they now face. In addition to this aspect there was also an identified need for NGOs to undertake some level of institutional re-evaluation to enable them to effectively respond to the challenges they now face. Many of the methodologies of programme development and technological equipment being utilised need to be upgraded to improve the efficiency of the movement to implement its projects/programmes.
Supporting the need for regional NGO strengthening, are the findings of the UNDP (Barbados) survey (April 1995) of eleven (11) major national and regional NGOs working in the Eastern Caribbean. The survey highlighted key areas for assistance required improving the capacity of the regional NGO sector for meeting the requirements for becoming reliable partners in the regional development paradigm.
The UNDP survey indicated that practical organization and programme development skills and resources are not consistently available to all NGOs and their partners often resulting in ineffective delivery of services.
The following areas of critical importance to strengthening NGO capacity most frequently mentioned by those agencies participating in this survey were:
- Financial resource development and management;
- Identification and mobilization of technically skilled human resources;
- Human resource development and management;
- Project design and proposal development;
- Skills in policy research and analysis, effective lobbying and advocacy;
- Strategic planning and implementation;
- Administrative development and management;
- Effective participatory approaches to community development;
- Monitoring and evaluation methodologies for programme implementation.
In light of the above CPDC wishes to identify the following:
Strategic Issues: there is a general consensus that NGOs can play an important role in fostering community participation, in addressing issues of poverty and in supporting a sustainable development model for the region. However, there are critical constraints impacting on the effectiveness of this sector;
- Reduction in external funding resources, which historically have supported much of the work of Caribbean NGOs, resulting in the need to develop new strategies for long-term sustainability, including self-financing mechanisms.
- Decreasing technical and human resources capacity within the NGO sector as it confronts increased demand for social services and development programmes