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Development Today: Nordic Outlook on Development Assistance, Business and the Environment


October 26, 1998 - The persisting protests against a hazardous waste treatment project financed by Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) in Mozambique is sponsored by the rival Danish organ, Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development (Danced).

Two Danish ministries are thus on a collision course. Danida is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Danced is under the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Rivalry between the two ministries has existed since Danced was established after the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Then, the Danish Parliament decided to reserve a certain amount annually for environment protection projects in developing countries. Danced receives half of the amount, and Danida the other half. The two organs have divided the world between them, with Danida taking the poorest countries.

In this case, an activity financed by Danced has reached into Danida's sphere in Mozambique. Over the past few years, Danced has channelled DKK 20 million to a South African umbrella organisation for NGOs working on environmental issues, Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF), in order to build up the capacity of the Organisation. Of this, DKK 2 million is channelled through the Danish Society for the Conservation of Nature (DSCN) to create a partnership between the two organisations.

'We have our roots in Denmark, but the members are increasingly interested in international environmental work, the Society's International Coordinator Bo Leth-Espensen tells Development Today. The DSCN is one of the largest NGOs in Denmark, with significant influence on environmental and nature protection policies.

He says people are realising that environmental threats do not respect borders, and that trade is increasingly moving environmental problems from one part of the world to another.

'Not only can the South Africans learn from us. We can learn about public participation from them -- they are extremely good at getting people involved," he says.

It is EJNF that took the first initiative earlier this year to work against the Danida-financed incineration in Mozambique of obsolete pesticides. (See separate story) "The project in Mozambique is a clear case. It shows how important it is to have an information flow between organisations in parallel to the trade,' he says.

Three EJNF representatives were part of an NGO delegation that met this month in Copenhagen with Danida and the Environment Committee of the Danish Parliament. Their lobbying in Denmark was made possible by the Danced appropriation.

Leth-Espensen, at DSCN confirms to Development Today that the Danish appropriation has provided a major boost to EJNF. Asked whether it is in line with the appropriation for the South African group to use the money to work in Mozambique, Leth-Espensen admits that it is geographically on the edge.

"But it is within the work plan of EJNF to establish a network in the southern African region,' he says.

Since part of the argumentation against the incineration plant in Mozambique is that it will become a magnet for hazardous waste from other countries, Leth-Espensen says that, in principle, the Danida project concerns South Africa just as much as it does Mozambique.

Mogens Dyhr-Nielsen of Danced comments that EJNF is doing a good job in South Africa and is gradually becoming a competent sparring partner for the authorities.

"We do not see any problems with their involvement in Mozambique. It is all very transparent, and we have already discussed it with our friends in Danida. EJNF has taken the initiative to set up a regional network covering neighbouring countries. It was not our initiative. But we think it is a good idea. People's participation is in line with Danish ideals. Sometimes the organisations are troublesome to the governments, yes, but you have to live with that."


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