Annual Update 2018 VNG International
Building Better Futures by strengthening local government. That’s what VNG International has been doing, for 25 years now, on behalf of the members of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities. That DNA, the fact that we are rooted in local government ourselves, continues to define our drive to help strengthen the capacities of local governments in developing countries and countries in transition. Not as a goal in itself, but so that they can perform well, i.e. provide basic services to their citizens, create a secure living environment for vulnerable groups, enable inclusive and sustainable local development, and be a space where all kinds of differences are overcome through dialogue and where diversity is seen as a strength. Or in short, where local elected representatives and local government staff, together with their citizens, companies, and other stakeholders, work on a daily basis to help realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With this Annual Update we give you an impression of that inspiring work. Work that is done in often complex environments, sometimes even under dangerous circumstances, and always with limited project durations and a limited budget. That makes us even more proud of the results achieved.
Take the projects in Ethiopia and Myanmar, promoting social accountability. At the outset, people did not believe in the possibilities for dialogue between local authorities and citizens. Or people simply thought (local) government services were a kind of favour, that could simply be delayed or sped up as the authorities decided. Imagine how relevant it is for development that people now have the capacities to dialogue with the service providers about their rights; that both sides have a better understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities; that citizens feel encouraged to also play their own part in keeping their living environment safe and clean.
Several of our projects, like in Ghana and Zimbabwe, show that with such an improved relationship between local governments and citizens, people are also prepared to accept higher local taxes. Local resources are a prerequisite for basic services like clean drinking water and waste management, for development in general. Mobilising more local resources means more local development. Of course: if spent well, and that is why it must come with more participation and more accountability.
A lot of our work takes place in the context of global challenges, such as rapid urbanisation, exclusion, climate change, conflict, etc. The world faces unprecedented migration: with high numbers of internally displaced people, and refugees seeking a safer living environment and new perspectives abroad. Most refugees are accommodated in countries in their region of origin. Countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Uganda, experience what enormous impact the presence of such large groups of refugees has on host communities. And it is a fact that most refugees will stay for many years. That is why we believe a new approach to protection of refugees in their regions of origin is needed, linking relief with longer-term development, linking refugees and host communities. Our projects in Lebanon, Jordan and Uganda contribute to that new approach.
But indeed: it would be better if there was no need for people to flee their homes. If the root causes of conflict and forced migration were alleviated or taken away. Here too, without simplifying complex realities, serious and meaningful results can be achieved at the local level. In various fragile and post-conflict environments we support processes to bring conflicting parties around the table. It is motivating to see that, building on local initiatives, concrete solutions for conflicts were found (e.g. between farmers and pastoralists in South Sudan), that inclusive decision-making is possible and leads to more security (e.g. in East DRC), and that as a result the legitimacy of local governments is enhanced.
We use our extensive experience gained in the field also to contribute actively to policy development at national, European and global level, working closely together with partners in our networks and umbrella organisations at European (Platforma) and global (UCLG) level. Please refer to the corresponding chapter for more details.
2017 was a successful year for VNG International. In terms of results achieved and new assignments acquired, but also from a financial point of view. We had a turnover of 21.983 million Euro and a positive result of 366,000 Euro.