Striking a delicate balance
Responsive, unbureaucratic, flexible even to the extent of being opportunistic, willing to take risks and pilot new models, modalities and standards – these are some of the characteristics of Danida HUGGO.
Can an external donor provide massive support to another country’s civil society organisations without undermining the legitimacy of these organisations?
Can an external donor support another country’s judiciary while at the same time supporting NGOs which hold the judiciary to account?
Can an external donor support the judiciary’s independence of the executive in another country without being seen as interfering unduly in that country’s internal affairs?
Striking a delicate balance when faced with these dilemmas is certainly not easy. Still, Danida HUGGO has tried very hard to do all this and more during its existence. Danida HUGGO has almost systematically focused on issues that are extremely sensitive, not only in Uganda, and not only in developing countries, but in any country.
Think of any controversial issue: corruption, human rights, good governance, women’s rights, land issues etc.: Danida HUGGO has been there while others were working through sectors like road construction, health, education, water and sanitation.
A special partnership
The Danida Human Rights and Good Governance Office (HUGGO) is a unique construction based on a very special Ugandan-Danish partnership built up over decades. Now that Danida HUGGO is winding up, the time has come to look back at what fostered this partnership, how it developed over time, and what will happen to it when Danida steps back from its dominant position and becomes one of the partners in a joint set-up for supporting democratic governance efforts in Uganda, the new ’Democratic Governance Facility’ (DGF).
Denmark was among the early donors when Uganda gained independence in 1962, but most Danish-Ugandan relations came to a dramatic end in the early 1970s, when Idi Amin took power, and they were on hold for 15 years during the era of internal conflict and war in Uganda. Still, Danish-Ugandan relations quickly picked up after President Museveni came to power in 1986.
The new regime spoke about democracy, fighting poverty, corruption and mismanagement and Uganda soon became a donor darling. Danida and Danish NGOs also returned, and the Danish-Ugandan links established during Uganda’s first decade of independence were re-established – to the extent that Uganda quickly became one of the main recipients of Danish aid, a position it has retained for almost 25 years.
Priding themselves of living in an old democracy, Danes know from experience that sustaining a vibrant democracy takes more than a government speaking the right language. Even well-established democracies need strong checks and balances and annoying watchdogs to bark when power corrupts.
It is against this background that early Danish support for a strong civil society, an independent judiciary and institutions like the Inspector General of Government and the Uganda Human Rights Commission should be understood. While the Government of Uganda at times may seem irritated by the active watchdogs, as any government would, they were established with the active support of the Ugandan government.
School children perform at the swearing in ceremony of President Yoweri Museveni at Kololo Airstrip on May 12, 2011.
Uganda boasts an active civil society. In 2008, The Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) spearheaded a campaign against corruption in the medical sector. It made the government adopt a recommendation to label all essential drugs as ’Not for Sale’ and ’UG’ for Ugandan Government.
Adapting to new challenges and trends
The first Danish support for Uganda’s judiciary was not that impressive: In 1989 Danida granted some USD 50,000 to cover the purchase of books for the library of the Supreme Court, stationery, a computer and a photocopier. Nevertheless this turned out to signal the establishment of a long-lasting partnership: Danida has funded the construction of court buildings, the introduction of information technology (IT) in the judiciary and other measures to improve its infrastructure. But Danida moved on to also support the human resources manning the new buildings, and eventually to support civil society organisations demanding justice. Thus, Danida’s support to the judiciary serves as an illustration of the attempt made by Danida to base its support on a holistic and long-term perspective, by supporting both the supply and demand sides of justice.
It also illustrates how aid modalities have changed over the past decades: Danida’s support for the judiciary started as ’old-fashioned’ bilateral project support; it developed into broader, but still bilateral, programme support; and it has gradually opened up to being a part of joint donor support, including joint basket funds. The shift from Danida HUGGO to the joint Democratic Governance Facility marks the final step in this process.
Danida’s support does not, however, comply with another of the so-called Paris Principles on more efficient aid: That donors should stop running their own project/programme implementation units and instead make use of – and in the process strengthen – existing, national structures. The Democratic Governance Facility remains a unit run and funded by donors but with Ugandan resource persons as members of the DGF board along with the respective countries’ ambassadors. Uganda’s governance and democracy efforts are not easily placed within the government structure and the checks and balances that are crucial still need to grow and become more robust.
HUGGO – the risk-taker
HUGGO opened in 2The Dummy's Guide001 as a programme implementation unit responsible for Danish support to human rights and good governance. While the Danish embassy has been – and still is – responsible for policy dialogue, HUGGO has carried out the practical day-to-day administration and business in relation to the many partners implementing the governance agenda. HUGGO has been staffed primarily by Ugandans, but also by Danish and other international advisors with specific knowledge and experience and this has enabled HUGGO to deal with the very complex issues of human rights and good governance in greater depth and breadth and also to establish close relationships with Ugandan partners.
In 2006 the name changed to Danida HUGGO, and while this signalled stronger Danish dominance, the office actually became more of a joint donor set-up with different basket fund configurations, which proved a practical way of practising ’donor harmonization and coordination’. Danida provided approximately 50% of the funding, and other donors (UK, Nether lands, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Switzerland) the other 50%.
While Niels Hjortdal, Head of Programmes for Danida HUGGO 2006-11, stresses that it is up to others to judge whether Danida HUGGO has done well, he emphasizes that the special Danida HUGGO structure has made it possible to avoid some of the negative characteristics often associated with ’traditional’ aid.
“We have been able to move on the edge of formal structures, to share the political risks, take well-calculated risks, and to have the patience to give more priority to long-term sustainability than quick results. The fact that we are a group of donors reduces the competition resulting from the individual donor’s demand for quick results. It also helps reduce unhealthy competition among our Ugandan partners. Take the example of legal aid, where we have been able to support a wide range of players in a coordinated way, including assisting the government in developing the national policy for legal aid. Through the Legal Aid Basket Fund we have also been able to support the piloting of new models, rather than just going for the well-known models, which may not be the best ones. Imagine a donor-by-donor approach to this: each donor supporting individual, competing players with no one taking responsibility for the broader agenda of legal aid services for the poor.”
In fact, one could say that Danida HUGGO has specialized in administering basket funds, which takes technical knowledge, insight into local contexts and strong local contacts. This is difficult to build up for individual donor embassies and agencies.
Niels Hjortdal has also enjoyed being able to take risks.
“The coordinated donor support for giving food aid to the LRA rebels in 2007 at a time where the peace process was on the brink of collapse is a good example of that. No other donor wanted to be seen to be feeding ’terrorists’, but it was necessary to get the Juba Peace Talks back on track and we did. We could only do this because we had had a request from the Peace Mediator with the backing of the ambassadors who had cleared the way with the Government of Uganda, and we had competent staff and partners who could tell us that the risk was worth taking and, not to forget, we had a partner able to implement the operation,” says Niels Hjortdal, who has had a busy final year as Head of Danida HUGGO working on winding up of Danida HUGGO and preparing for the establishment of its successor: the Democratic Governance Facility.
Highlights of Danida’s involvement in human rights, good governance, and justice in Uganda
|Danida’s first small grant for the judiciary for purchase of books, computers etc.
||The ’Strengthening the Judiciary Project’, bringing together Danida support for the judiciary under one umbrella, runs up till 2000.
Phase 2 of the ’Strengthening
(HRDP) is launched. HUGGO is established as a ’ project implementation unit’ to run the programme.
The ’Democracy, Justice and Peace Programme 2006 - 2010’ brings together Danida support for the judiciary/access to justice and human rights and democratization. HUGGO is renamed Danida HUGGO.
The Danida Anti-Corruption programme 2006-10 is launched.
|The ’Democracy, Justice and Peace Programme’ ends and is followed up by a joint donor programme: ’The Democratic Governance Facility’. Danida HUGGO closes down in the last part of 2011 while the DGF starts operating 1 July 2011.|
177 Ugandan magistrates were trained in Denmark between 1996 and 2010.
This page forms part of the publication 'Governance for Development' as chapter 2 of 15
Version 1.0. 03-10-2011
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/11090/index.htm