Six non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have won their bids to undertake poverty relief projects. They will share 11 million yuan (US$1.36 million) and are the first NGOs in China to receive state funding for poverty relief, according to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) yesterday.
The funding is for an experimental poverty alleviation program to be conducted in Jiangxi Province.
"It's a milestone event in China," Tang Min, a chief economist with the Beijing office of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said at a press conference yesterday.
Tang said that this system of allowing NGOs to take on the operational work of the program gives the government the opportunity to act more as a supervisory body.
China earmarks more than 30 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion) every year to help the poor, but traditionally, local governments act independently in poverty alleviation initiatives, which means that often the money is not used to its optimal efficiency.
According to Kang Xiaoguang, an NGO researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the poor in villages, who normally account for 10 to 20 percent of a village population, have little chance of being elected to village boards, and it is these village boards that decide how to use funds given to them. As a result, they do not benefit from the funds that were actually given to help them.
NGOs, however, can play a very different role in helping the poor.
According to Wu Zhong, director-general of the Foreign Capital Project Management Center of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development (CPAD), NGOs are physically closer to people in need and know them better than the government.
According to He Daofeng, vice chairman of the CFPA, there are about 200,000 NGOs in China. An NGO is typically able to raise about 70,000 yuan (US$8,600) a year through donations.
"The lack of funds and manpower is to blame for the sluggish growth of Chinese NGOs," Tang said. "But if the experiment succeeds, this could be a brand new avenue for public welfare organizations within which to carry out their missions."
The six NGOs selected include the US-funded Heifer Project International, Mountain River Lake Sustainable Development Association (MRLSD) of Jiangxi Province, Jiangxi Youth Development Foundation, Ningxia Poverty Alleviation and Environmental Regeneration Center, China Association for NGO Cooperation, and Shaanxi Research Association for Women and Family.
In June, another group of NGOs will be selected for other projects in another 16 villages in Jiangxi.
(China Daily February 22, 2006)