These guildlines were the outcome of an interesting process of research and negotiation with five Dutch donors.
In them I set out the sponsoring donors’ commitments to support their partners’ efforts to manage HIV in their workplaces in pilot projects in Uganda and India. I also presented the rationale and basic steps for organisations to do this.
Why have we developed these guidelines?
Breaking the silence: in many partnerships between Northern and Southern NGOs, HIV/AIDS is not discussed, or is discussed only in terms of the effects at community level. We want HIV/AIDS to be part of our dialogue with partners, and hope that these guidelines will lead to it being on the agenda, for both donors and partners. The guidelines may also help stimulate discussion within partner organizations.
Acting in solidarity: we are now in the late stages of developing and implementing workplace programs for our own staff, but are funding local partners which lack such programs. We believe we should actively open up dialogue and provide support to our partners, rather than be ‘concerned bystanders’, watching the impacts of HIV/AIDS on our partners but doing little to assist.
Getting our ‘heads out of the sand’: a recent CARE survey3 of 42 NGOs in Southern Africa found that, despite a HIV prevalence rate of around 25%, two thirds of the respondents said they did not think they had any HIV-positive employees! This vividly illustrates how managers may act like ostriches by ignoring difficult realities, a costly habit in the case of HIV/AIDS. These guidelines are about raising our heads, stating our commitments, communicating them to our partners, and helping them also to raise their heads.
Responding to demands from local NGOs: some donors expect better results from NGOs in high prevalence settings, or lower costs, as if HIV/AIDS does not exist. Research with local NGOs shows that instead of that lack of understanding, they want more openness, more support, and more clarity from their donors with regard to managing HIV/AIDS4 . These guidelines should go some way to meeting those demands.
Responding to demands from Program Officers: our Program Officers sometimes get requests from partners to fund their workplace policies. Some of them feel ill-equipped to deal with this new topic, and have asked for guidance. These guidelines should help them make decisions, and should ensure that partners’ requests are dealt with consistently within each of the Dutch donor NGOs.
Influencing others: other NGOs who work through partnership with organizations in the South are facing the same issues, but none have ‘grasped the nettle’ and developed guidelines on good donorship in a time of AIDS. We can share these guidelines with those development agencies, and so use them to stimulate their response. We expect that partners may also use these guidelines to influence their other donors towards ‘good donorship’ with regard to HIV/ AIDS.
Greater accountability: where local NGOs do not have budgets to cover employees’ health care costs, managers may cover the costs with money from other parts of their budgets. They are unlikely to tell their donors about this. These guidelines should increase communication and so accountability between us by providing clarity on what costs we are willing to fund, and by initiating dialogue between donors and partners, so that we can agree budgets to cover the financial costs of HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases.