“Donor policies and local actors: complementarity or dependency? Women’s organisations in Lebanon and their relationships with international donors”

April 30, 2015

On the 30th of April, Lebanon Support hosted a roundtable discussion about women’s organisations in Lebanon and their relationships with international donors, questioning the ability of these organisations to develop needs based projects and interventions, the extent of the influence of transnational and global trend, and the ability to connect to connect/ link local needs and struggles to international agendas. This event was the first of a series of roundtable discussions designed to address gender equity and reflect on gender actors’ experiences. The roundtable findings will be featured on the Gender Collaborative Information and Knowledge Network online collaborative platform on Lebanon Support’s online platform the CSKC (Civil Society Knowledge Centre). The discussants were Stine Horn, Deputy Head of Mission of the Norwegian Embassy in Lebanon. Sara Abou Ghazel, activist and writer, member of the collective Sawt al Niswa, and Charbel Maydaa, director of MOSAIC organisation. The participants’ presentations tackled the issue of the professionalisation of organisations, turning local collectives into NGOs with a bureaucratic structure, relying on paid professionals instead of activists , which created a dependency on funds from international donors. These organisations are now aiming at targeting women with specifically designed projects, funded by donor agencies, in compliance with the political agenda set by donor countries. Furthermore, these organisations are trying to deal with the logistical and administrative constraints set by donors. The participants stressed the importance of partnership between donors and civil society organisations, and to take into account the country’s specific context, in order to adapt the international agenda the to the local needs. Local ownership is key and should always be evaluated before funding any project. Still, discussants raised the issue of some local organisations adapting to donor’s demands and designing their interventions based on these demands. Regarding the issue of long-term strategies versus project-based interventions, discussants reminded the necessity to take into account the organisations strategic plans and sustainability , even for small-scale projects. Nevertheless, the discussants pointed out the difficulty for organisations to ensure sustainability after receiving funding for short-term projects, and the difficulty in measuring the real impact of such projects. One final point was to remind the needs for a space to discuss between grassroot feminists organisations and NGOs, even when they have divergent opinions about some issues, since feminist ideas and struggle need to be conveyed to a largest part of the population. The participants also stressed the importance to agree on a common agenda built on common issues; this common agenda could pave the way to establishing a platform to inform and educate donors about local needs, including guidelines on how to establish more egalitarian relationships between donors and local organisations.