Support a strategy, not a project

Key Finding:  Donors have a tendency to support individual projects that may not always feed into broader strategies for development, peace, or justice; this behavior can incentivize competition and fragmentation rather than cooperation and solidarity among civil society actors.

Practical Steps

TJ is not just about state responsibility; it is also about civic engagement. TJ is a social and political process involving a wide variety of actors, whose roles may change over time. International guidance on TJ always emphasizes the key role of civil society actors—and for good reason: it is civil society that must work both to assist the state in its TJ process and also to keep the pressure on when there are political setbacks.

In this regard, a lack of core support is detrimental to civil society’s independence. When donors support projects rather than a strategy (or strategies), they incentivize civil society actors to focus on one-off actions and deliverables: completing tasks and spending down funds, rather than mobilizing for social change. They also incentivize competition between civil society actors, which may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing fragmentation and mistrust that is a remnant of the conflict or authoritarian period. RFP processes may unintentionally feed this dynamic, as they are naturally competitive processes that pit organizations against one another in a limited funding “marketplace.”

"This goes back to the issue of core funding. Because if you give them core funding, it gives them to flexibility to pursue the issues that are important to them, rather than having to deliver project results related to our agendas."

Donor BiH

The focus on projects over strategy is a key challenge for donors—one they recognize themselves, as they struggle to work within short-term funding cycles, and often have no idea what their budgets may be from year to year. Since most governments do not have policies or guidance on TJ, it usually gets rolled into funding baskets on development, human rights, rule of law, or peacebuilding. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, since TJ is related to these broader issues, TJ also needs special attention as a distinct social process.

Finally, pooling funds may be one way for donors to contribute to more strategic support to TJ—although pools created specifically for TJ may be better placed to achieve positive results than larger pools covering a range of donor priorities (which may shift, even over the short-term). An illustration of these differences concerns pooled funds in Guatemala and Uganda.

In 2010, a UNDP-administered fund called PAJUST (Transitional Justice Accompaniment Program) was created in Guatemala. PAJUST represents a five-year commitment, with financing provided by USAID, Sweden, and the Netherlands totaling nearly $21.5 million. Representatives of donor governments explained the emergence of PAJUST to channel TJ funding as the result of three main factors. First, decreases in funding for international missions and the contraction of in-country staff in the late 2000s meant that embassies no longer had the human resources to administer their own aid programs. Second, international mission officials realized that, in some cases, they were duplicating efforts because of a lack of communication. Finally, channeling funds through the UNDP and PAJUST has allowed donor governments to create some distance between themselves and TJ efforts, which have become more politically charged over the past several years, while still supporting important TJ work.

"I don’t think many donors have priorities or a strategy about TJ."

Civil society actor Uganda

In Uganda, donors also created a pooled fund called the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) in 2012. The fund is not dedicated to TJ, although TJ was included under one of DGF’s three pillars, and its funding supported ongoing efforts to assist the government and civil society actors in developing a draft national TJ policy, among other things. In mid-2014, however, the DGF identified new areas of donor engagement, and TJ was not among them, owing to lack of progress on TJ by the Ugandan government. Although this decision only impacted on new partnerships, not existing ones, the decision was an unexpected one for some civil society organizations. As of January 2015, following some headway in the pursuit of LRA perpetrators, the DGF has signaled the continuing importance of TJ by identifying two new implementing partners. DGF is an important model for other complex environments, and there are advantages to including TJ as part of a wider funding strategy on governance. In deciding on how to best pool funds for TJ, donors should consider the advantages and disadvantages of these two models—PAJUST (dedicated pooled fund for TJ) and DGF (TJ as part of larger pooled fund)—for the particular country context.

Practical Steps – Support strategies, not projects

Develop a brief (2- to 3-page) concept note or country strategy on TJ, and revise it periodically.

While there may be little time for such exercises, there can be a clear benefit in terms of “value for money” if donors have some sense of their own goals and strategy for TJ. Donors ask their grantees to articulate goals and strategies—why not do the same? Depending on the context, the task could be led by embassies or by a TJ focal point, for example.

Participate in pooled funds dedicated to TJ.

Rather than “going it alone” with a concept note or country strategy, consider supporting a common strategy developed by a trusted multilateral partner.

Support shared platforms for civil society actions.

Support joint actions, such as developing a common civil society strategy or platform; use the strategy as a road map for guiding funding.

Support process over products.

Ensure that proposals and budgets focus sufficient attention on creative social engagement processes for project deliverables like books, pamphlets, and films; products without an audience are not very strategic investments.

Reconsider the design of RFP processes.

When RFP processes are used, take care to ensure that the design is more inclusive than it is exclusive. For example: take steps to circulate RFPs widely in the appropriate languages and media; require CSOs to submit proposals as partners; and support networking and peer-to-peer learning activities