Which funds for managing co-operation projects?

published 24 November 2017 updated 8 June 2018

Some unions manage international co-operation projects either by relying solely upon their own revenue or funds, or by supplementing any external aid they may receive with their own financial resources.

EI has created the ‘solidarity fund’, for which 0.7%  of received dues payments are regularly allocated (see the box explaining the fund below). EI therefore recommends that its affiliates also try to allocate at least 0.7% of their own budgets towards development co-operation projects.

The French education union, SNES-FSU, is an excellent example of implementing EI’s above suggestion. Twenty years ago, at its Congress, SNES-FSU decided going forward to allocate a fixed sum from its received  dues payments (10 Francs at the time, approximately €1.50) towards a solidarity fund. This perpetual contribution ensures the stability of the funds available. It also provides SNES-FSU with the autonomy to decide the best use of these funds, whether that  be in the choice of partner countries or trade unions for projects, or in themes for work. The disadvantage of this approach is the limited nature of the funds available.

Other unions manage their co-operation projects via external donors, funds, foundations, or more often, national development agencies to either partially or fully subsidize their projects. Unions who are able to manage their projects with external funding are able to come by larger amounts of money, which of course, enables more ambitious, lengthy projects to be undertaken. In some cases, these external sources of funds are difficult to obtain, and may be influenced by national or international politics.

For this reason, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) had to deal with a suspension of grants in 2011:

The CTF had an agreement, renewable every five years, with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), for approximately 10 million Canadian dollars over 5 years.

The staff spent a lot of time on administrative tasks imposed by the grantor. In addition, the government had certain preferences with regard to countries, and some specific workshops were compulsory, such as gender equality, AIDS, etc. But the CTF nevertheless enjoyed fairly broad flexibility with regard to projects (essentially on professional development and the strengthening of the organizational capacity), partners, and countries selected.

When the Conservative party came into power, international aid was primarily redirected towards maternal and child health. The government, being hostile to trade union movements, stopped granting funds to the CTF.

The cessation of grants has forced the CTF to readjust its policy on co-operation on development:

As a result of the cuts, we have appealed to our member organizations, some of which now contribute annually. We have had to close down several partnerships and reduce the scale of the projects we have continued with. The team of eleven employees has reduced to two. We have revised our international programme which is now called "Teaching Action for Learning". This program has three components: "Teaching Action for teaching" (professional development), "Teaching Action in support of teaching organizations" (organizational capacity building) and "Teaching Action for gender equality."

The fact that everything is funded by our member organizations and we were no longer receiving any external funding gives us greater freedom than before.

In addition, we value even more than before the work that we can do with Northern Hemisphere partners in order to support projects with Southern Hemisphere partners, as part of a consortium, for example.

One of our challenges remains the type of donors from whom we can receive funds. Since we defend good quality public education for everyone, financed from public funds, we must lead by example and cannot accept funds from private businesses which do not share our values. This fact greatly restricts external financing possibilities for us.

Unfortunately, the departure of the Conservative Government in Canada in 2015 has still not led to a return to the previous situation:

Initially we were very hopeful. The new Liberal government seemed to be listening more to the Canadian people. With the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, being himself a teacher, we thought that this would facilitate the task. Last year, Global Affairs Canada conducted a pan-Canadian consultation on international aid. We were very surprised and disappointed to note that education was not included among the major themes addressed. The CTF and several other NGOS have reacted to this fact. The Prime Minister did not restructure the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affairs, but renamed it Global Affairs Canada.  International co-operation seems to be a little more important to this Ministry than at the time of the Harper government. Unfortunately, the government budget released at the end of March 2017 is disappointing: there is no new money for international aid. At the moment, there has still been no call for proposals in connection with education issued by Global Affairs Canada.

As of 2017, the Norwegian Trade Union (Utdanningsforbundet, UEN) is experiencing the same type of difficulty:

For several years, there has been a debate within Norwegian society about the outcomes of development aid. Although the majority of the population and the parties in Parliament support development aid, elements within the government are sceptical. In 2013 and 2014, the government unsuccessfully tried to reduce the government budget for development aid. The Norwegian Agency for Development, NORAD, was told to reduce the number of beneficiaries: 112 countries in 2014, 85 in 2017.Norway’s policy as regards development co-operation has not changed, with the priority being to reduce poverty. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to maintain its long-term commitments to education, health, business development and job creation, and the climate, renewable energy and the environment. In spite this, the UEN has just fallen victim to the system, put in place by NORAD in 2015, for assessing proposals to support civil society: thus, in 2016, NORAD has retained only 8 projects out of 36, and none of the UEN’s projects.

In Sweden, the situation is different. There is a national strategy for international development co-operation, and the Swedish Teachers’ Union (Lärarförbundet) is involved with its implementation:

The Swedish government‘s 2016-2022 strategy for development co-operation with civil society through civil society organizations in Sweden has two major objectives: 1.) develop the capabilities of civil society players in developing countries and 2.) strengthen a favourable social climate in which independent civil society organizations can become substantial players in development and have the freedom to speak, act and to influence decision-makers. These objectives are broad and facilitate the development of teacher union capabilities.

The Swedish Teachers’ Union (Lärarförbundet) is thus enabled by the national Swedish government to implement development activities/co-operation on the basis of its own philosophy, and it does so in two phases:

On average, 40% of Lärarförbundet’s union co-operation is financed from our own funds. All new co-operation partnerships are initially self-funded. We believe in making small steps in getting to know the partner organization, its structures, its vision, its plans, and its methods, so as to understand the existing capabilities at the various levels of the organization, as regards organization, trade union training, collection of dues, administrative and financial management, etc. All this will give an idea of the way in which the partner organization might wish to tackle a joint project and the context within which the project would be a part. The partner organization also has the opportunity to get to know Lärarförbundet and is able to judge whether we are a development partner with whom it is worth establishing a partnership.

If a project starts to give results and if there is a medium-term plan with a commitment to a more stable partnership, we can include it in our programme proposals with SIDA, the Swedish Agency for Co-operation in Development. Such a request of public funds requires good financial management, good quality reports on the outcomes and audits to international standards.

EI Solidarity Fund

The EI solidarity fund is made of :

1.       the general fund, used for solidarity (50%) and for development (50%) ;

2.       specific funds allocated to specific projects.

The general fund is made of :

-          the annual EI contribution (0.7% of the dues amount) ;

-          contributions of some unions and others.

The specific funds are related to Urgent Action Appeals, like recently for Turkey.

For the last years Education International has been providing assistance through its solidarity Fund to its member organizations for a specific urgent actions in multiple forms.

In this regard Education International is attaching a great importance to the link between a rapid response in crisis situations and more medium and long term development cooperation action.

Taking into account this approach in most of the cases a long term cooperation projects were born.

EI would like to thank all member organisations for their contribution to the solidarity fund and for demonstrating huge solidarity with teachers and education personnel worldwide.