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Grassroots projects focus for aid plan
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The World Bank yesterday launched its second China Development Marketplace initiative, a program that funds innovative ideas and projects from grassroots civil society organizations.


The program, in partnership with the Ministry of Civil Affairs and State Council Leading Group Office for Poverty Reduction and Development, will first raise money from individuals, businesses, government agencies and other organizations to support projects designed to improve the environment, reduce poverty and contribute to people's well-being.


The World Bank will take the lead in contributing funds to the grant pool and cover most of the administrative expenses.


David Dollar, World Bank country director for China, said: "China has had great development success, but it still faces the important challenges of environmental protection and social development.


"Experience worldwide and now in China has shown that grassroots civil society groups are often the most effective at designing solutions to these problems," he said.


Civil society organizations will be invited to submit their project concepts, with the deadline set for the end of next month.


After being independently assessed, in June, 50 projects will be chosen for development.


Each one will be awarded a grant of 200,000 yuan (US$27,000).


On the subject of funding, Dollar said the program will focus on China's corporate sector.


"I'm confident we can raise significantly more than last time," he said.


In 2006, when the first China development marketplace program was launched, organizers raised US$650,000 to fund 31 projects across the country.


In Tongjiang County, Sichuan Province, the program spent US$21,500 on a project to improve women's health, which directly benefited 273 people.


Zhang Haoliang, secretary-general of the Tongjiang-based Dabashan Society for Ecology and Poverty Research, which designed and implemented the project, said thanks to the program, local communities have established self-governing committees to manage community affairs.


"The program has inspired villagers to accept new ideas, manage their community in a transparent manner and take initiatives to improve their own well-being," he told China Daily.


Since 1998, the World Bank has spent some US$40 million on more than 1,000 projects in 70 countries.


(China Daily November 9, 2007)

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