Problems Affecting Environmental NGOS Highlighted


In recent times, the most common problems affecting environmental Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are their survivability, sustainability, capacity and development.
According to Commander John McFarlane, Executive Director of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), the problems were not a reflection on Jamaica alone but in fact, were international issues.
He was addressing the opening of Conservation Training Week under the theme, ‘Connectivity – Strengthening the Linkages in Jamaica’s Conservation Movement’, hosted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on November 15.
The Executive Director argued that most of the problems were rooted in funding. “It is always the problem of attracting the right level of funding, people and volunteer support,” he pointed out.The holding of Conservation Training Week, the Commander explained, would enhance the overall capabilities of the NGOs. The programme, put together by TNC, had the full support of the EFJ, because it would cover some of the essentials of developing the NGOs to discharge and deliver their responsibilities, he said.
“What is being done with the environmental NGOs this week is something the EFJ Board has committed to do, with the NGOs that it serves,” the Executive Director added.
The EFJ funds both environmental and children’s NGOs for programmes that are designed, either to conserve, mitigate or protect the environment, or to enhance the development and survival of children. The EFJ, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are sponsors of the training week, along with TNC.
The week-long conservation training is part of TNC’s ongoing efforts to support institutional capacity building of Jamaica’s environmental NGOs. Areas of focus will include natural resource management, human resource management and the development of Boards of Directors.
Areas to be also covered are developing fund-raising plans, and corporate sponsorships. “People who fund need to know that they are getting value for their money,” Commander McFarlane said, adding that how the NGOs sold their causes were “extremely important”.
“This is done by delivering on the investments, where persons see what they have invested in, is a successful project, and it is sold by the marketing of it,” he pointed out.
Other efforts include direct technical assistance and training on scientific and institutional development methodologies, such as conservation area planning, eco-regional planning, institutional self-assessments and integrated strategic and financial planning.
The areas of focus will be particularly instructive to several representatives from eight local NGOs, which include Jamaica Conservation Development Trust, Montego Bay Marine Park, Friends of the Sea, Portland Environmental Protection Agency, Negril Environmental Protection Trust, Dolphin Head Trust, Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society and Caribbean Coastal Area Management. This is in addition to representatives from Barbados and Bahamas.
Terry Williams, Jamaica Programme Director for the TNC, pointed out that the assembly of representatives was the heart of the conservation movement in Jamaica. “There has never been anything like this in Jamaica,” he said.
Commenting on the lack of standards by which to measure the effectiveness of the NGOs, Mr. Williams said that much of the discussion relating to this issue was subjective, and that the development of the NGO sector had suffered as a result.
The role of TNC, he pointed out, was to get the stakeholders and regulators (government) to accept a standard to measure the effectiveness of an enviromental NGO. “This standard would be comparable across organisations,” he said.
“We want to get away from the idea that you have to convince everyone that what you are doing is legitimate work,” he added.
The Nature Conservancy’s mission is ‘to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth, by protecting the lands and waters that they need to survive’.

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