Evalution of Finland's support for good governance and human rights NGOs in Nicaragua
The evaluation examines Finland's aid between 2010 and 2012 to Nicaraguan NGOs working on good governance and human rights issues. The evaluation focuses on institutional support for three good governance and human rights organizations, as well as on the Life in Democracy programme composed of multiple actors. The evaluation was conducted by Impact Consulting Oy Ltd (chosen through a competitive bidding process).
In practice, institutional support consisted of budgetary support for the three NGOs to implement their strategic action plans. The organizations were Ética y Transparencia (NGO with a focus on transparency and anti-corruption issues), research center IEEPP (budgetary analysis, social policy and human security) and the human rights organization CENIDH. According to the evaluation, the three organizations were successfully selected, as they all have a clear profile and strategic role in promoting the rule of law – an objective outlined in the guidelines of Finland's development policy. Also the budgetary support approach was a well-chosen instrument, as it enabled the organizations to plan their operations flexibly and sustainably. The organizations themselves were given a leading role in the strategic planning of operations. According to the evaluation, as the donor Finland could have taken a bigger role in strategic steering. On the other hand, the evaluation considered monitoring through audits as too micro-managing.
In terms of the aid's effectiveness and impact, the organizations' strategic plans turned out to be more ambitious than their capacity to create impact. Also sustainability issues were problematic for the aid's effectiveness. Strengthening the NGOs' capacity increased their work's sustainability, but on the other hand their operations remain dependent on external aid. The evaluation concludes, however, that Finland's support for the Nicaraguan civil society has been justified. Through the support, Finland has contributed to raising awareness of civic responsibilities, and to keeping rule of law issues on the public agenda.
The evaluation recommends continuing the support for the organizations, so that their operations would not be interrupted for financial reasons. Institutional support was recommended as the preferred mechanism to support the three NGOs, as it provides enough flexibility and independence for the organizations. The evaluation recommended taking more advantage of using Finnish expertise in the programme design, for instance through providing training.
According to the evaluation, the concept for the Life in Democracy programme is very intriguing and supports the goals of both Finland's and Nicaragua's development policies through concentrating on the economic and political empowerment of the women and youth. The programme also focuses media attention on the development challenges that these groups face. In practice, however, the programme turned out to be too difficult to implement as it encompassed seven different actors without any previous experience of working together, or operating in the same geographical region. Although individual activities were successful, the gap between the programme objectives and actual outcomes was too wide, taking into account the limited implementation period, volatility of funding and geographical distribution of the activities.
The most sustainable results were achieved in promoting investigative journalism and empowering youth groups. Reporters' investigative skills were strengthened and many media outlets have started to open up for investigative journalism and writing about social topics. The topic has also been added to the curriculum of UCA (Universidad Centroamericana). Regarding empowering youth groups, a positive behavioral change was noted in many youth focus groups, and several youth micro-enterprises have been started since the programme was launched.
The evaluation recommends donors to continue support for the investigative journalism fund to promote pluralism in Nicaraguan media. It also recommends continuing geographically targeted support for young entrepreneurs. The evaluation reminds the implementing agencies of the importance of contin