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The need for international donors to adopt culturally sensitive policies

Sep 03,2023 - Last updated at Sep 03,2023

The impact of international funding is a complex and nuanced topic. Undoubtedly, international funding is not inherently negative, as it is perceived by some. It has played a crucial role in supporting essential development initiatives, improving infrastructure, providing healthcare and addressing poverty in many emerging countries. 

The challenges associated with international funding are often linked to issues of transparency, effective governance, cost-effective spending habits and compatibility of funded projects with the homegrown needs.

As international funding can indeed have some adverse effects on emerging societies, it is essential to approach it carefully and wisely by those concerned. The emerging challenges, whenever they exist, are usually a result of a combination of factors, including the way funding is regulated and managed, the extent to which grassroots voices are included in decision-making processes, the seriousness of efforts exerted in attaining equitable distribution of funding and equitable access to funded opportunities and projects.

Here are some reasons why international funding might be perceived as causing challenges:

In some cases, reliance on international funding can lead to loss of autonomy by local communities. Governmental and non-governmental organisations might be more inclined to pursue projects that are eligible for funding, even if they do not reciprocate nationally-driven development goals. This can lead to a mismatch between externally-driven projects and homegrown needs and necessities.

In some cases also, local initiatives and grassroots efforts may be overshadowed by large-scale international projects. This can lead to a weakening of community-driven initiatives that might have a more sustainable and culturally relevant impact on society.

Projects funded by international sources might bring with them cultural norms, practices and models that are not aligned with the local culture. This can lead to a perceived erosion of traditional values and practices and loss of trust in donors.

The influx of international funds can sometimes be mismanaged, leading to inefficiency in the utilisation of resources and to resource wastage. This, in turn, can exacerbate societal issues and lead to a perception that international funding is resource squandering.

Hence, it is imperative for the global community to make urgent and concerted efforts to enact inclusive and equitable policies that respect cultural diversity and specificities across the globe. Attaining successful "glocal" funding requires aligning financial backing for cultural initiatives with the values, requirements and aspirations of the respective communities.

Therefore, here are some key recommendations for achieving appropriation in international funding:

Involve the local community in the decision-making process for funding. Engage them also in the processes of the project's conceptualisation, contextualisation and implementation. This ensures that the projects funded are relevant, meaningful and reflective of the community's priorities and needs.

Conduct structural needs assessments within the community to understand the national priorities, and required developmental matrixes. This involves active listening, dialogue and open communication to identify projects that will have a positive impact and resonate with the community.

Conduct gap analysis across sectors, helping donors and planners identify areas of deficiency or unmet needs, which can then guide the direction of strategic decision-making. Such analysis pinpoints areas where actual performance falls short of desired development. It is then used to develop strategies to bridge the identified gaps and achieve the desired outcomes.

Make sure to be inclusive of the diversity of cultural expressions and traditions pertaining to local communities. Those concerned should ensure that projects supported do not perpetuate stereotypes or misrepresentation, and do not threaten society’s sets of values and beliefs.

Provide diversification of funding models that cater to different types of relatable and required developmental projects. This flexibility allows for a range of projects to receive appropriate support.

Empower local communities to take agentic ownership of their projects. This could involve providing resources, ongoing mentorship, and training to build the capacity for efficient and effective financial and managerial processes. Foster a comprehensive approach to funding by leveraging local expertise and networks to consult on community needs and priorities.

Ensure transparent processes for fund allocation, decision-making, acquisition process of the fund and reporting. This helps build trust and credibility within the community and ensures that the funding is utilised effectively.

Conduct regular evaluations of funded projects, seek feedback from the community, and study the impact such projects generate. This allows for making necessary corrections, assessments and continuous improvements based on emerging community needs and priorities.

Make the funding approach adaptable to changing funding dynamics and emerging trends, as practices, needs and requirements evolve over time.

 

Wafa Alkhadra is an associate professor at the American University of Madaba and an academic activist

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