EU, UNDP boost government efforts to manage civil society, biodiversity
Civil Society | Environment | Governance and Social Policy
The European Union has deepened its collaboration with the United Nations Development Program in China with an EUR 8.08 million (USD 10.5 million) contribution to a UNDP-managed “Governance for Equitable Development” program, while funds from an earlier EU-UNDP agreement are now beginning to flow to consortia of international NGO and local government agencies partnering on biodiversity conservation projects.
Around 40% of the governance program funds will be devoted to civil society support projects implemented through the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA), according to Edward Wu (吴晓晖), UNDP’s Team Leader in Beijing for Rule of Law and Democracy.
The Ministry, says Wu, plans to offer nationwide training for local officials responsible for implementing new regulations on the registration and management of social organizations (社会团体). New regulations, Wu believes, will be published “very soon.” He adds, however, that “The original plan was to enact regulations in 2006 but it has been postponed several times.”
The governance program will also support MoCA in drafting detailed schedules (办法) on implementation of the new regulations once they have been enacted.
In addition, says Wu, MoCA plans a series of forums for government and civil society organizations “to discuss hot topics and difficult issues.” The Ministry, he adds, also wants to establish a national association of civil society organisations in order “to increase networking between government and civil society.”
The remaining 60% of the governance program budget will be divided between two “rule of law” initiatives involving, respectively, the Legislative Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Supreme People’s Court.
The Legislative Affairs Committee will receive funding and technical assistance for work to broaden public consultation in legislative drafting and to improve supervisory systems and procedures of the NPC.
Cooperation with the Supreme People’s Court will include supporting efforts to improve the state compensation system for victims of crime and exploring ways to resolve civil disputes without recourse to litigation.
Meanwhile, May 22—designated by the UN as International Biodiversity Day—saw the signing of grant agreements to support five sub-national projects, with a total expenditure of around USD 13 million, under the aegis of an EU-China Biodiversity Program that is also managed by UNDP.
International NGOs will collaborate with local government and agencies and research institutes on each of the five projects, and are contributing counterpart funding.
The Nature Conservancy will work with local partners on conservation and socio-economic development in the north of Yunnan Province.
In Sichuan, Conservation International and TRL Ltd (UK) will be involved in an effort, led by the Sichuan Appraisal Centre, to create environmental assessment guidelines for mining and tourism development plans.
The Beijing-based International Network for Bamboo and Rattan will work with a range of partners in Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan on sustainable natural bamboo forest management.
In Guangxi, Flora and Fauna International will collaborate on a sustainable limestone forest management project led by the provincial Environment Protection Bureau.
Wetlands International will work with the State Forestry Administration and local partners on a conservation and socio-economic development project in Anqing, a wetland area in the south of Anhui Province.
Funds for a further 14 “local” projects are expected to be awarded later this year.
Collaboration between a range of partners, including at least one international and one Chinese agency, was required by the bidding process, which began in June 2006 and was managed by UNDP.
“Consortia are a must. We think that without this kind of good partnership being formed we cannot achieve biodiversity conservation,” EU Project Officer, Chen Min (陈民), told China Development Brief. “The three key words for this program are ‘integration’—both vertical and horizontal—‘innovation’ and ‘partnership’”
Meanwhile, she says, a total of EUR 6.5 million has been allocated for work at national level to strengthen line ministries’ capacity and harmonise their operations.
A program management office was established in August 2006 and is currently engaged in background research and baseline studies.
A further EUR 2 million has been allocated to public education campaigns and raising the project’s “visibility.”
These projects depart from the EU Delegation’s earlier practice in China of reaching bilateral financing agreements with government partners and then contracting European consultancy companies to implement development projects.
Explaining the new emphasis on working with and through other donors, Leah Vuori, a First Secretary to the EU Delegation in Beijing with responsibility for governance and social sector programs, told China Development Brief that “Governance is such a multifaceted issue and an area where donor coordination is very important—otherwise with the kind of funds we have in a big country like China we cannot do much.”
Several bilaterally implemented EU projects in China were in the past dogged by delays, owing in part to complex tendering and procurement processes.
Ms Vuori now notes that “We have a global agreement with UNDP so that if we cooperate they don’t have to follow our normal tendering procedures.”
Report by Nick Young, May 22, 2007