Bilateral donor funding refers to the donor country’s Government aid to recipient country in a Government-to-Government or a Government-to-NGO/Civil Society partnership. It is part of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) policies of the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which are working towards economic progress and trade. They play a major role in providing development funding to Governments and Civil Society mostly in developing countries.
Bilateral donor funding can cover several areas of development including infrastructure, economic cooperation, trade balance etc but OECD countries also believe in promoting and supporting ideas and efforts that can lead to better democratic practices and good governance.
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Bilateral donors have recognized that NGOs play a key role in addressing issues related to human rights, education, healthcare, social conflicts, gender, women empowerment, livelihood development and more and involve them in a partnership for ensuring overall growth.
According to OECD’s 2013 report on ‘Aid for CSOs’, “In 2011, one-fifth (20.5%) of total bilateral ODA was channelled to or through CSOs.” The report further says bilateral agencies “have a strong preference for supporting donor country-based CSOs over other types, especially in Germany, Spain and Austria where more than 80% of funding goes to national CSOs.”
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According to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) 2015 report on ‘DFAT and NGOs’, “Many civil society actors can be powerful agents for change. Working alongside government and the private sector, civil society can contribute to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.”
So how can NGOs benefit from this trend? Where can they source funding from? Are smaller NGOs also eligible to tap funding from large bilateral agencies?
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Most bilateral donor agencies have funding schemes targeting NGOs and civil society organizations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) frequently announces Request for Proposals (RFPs) where local, international and national NGOs can actively participate and receive funding for a wide range of developmental activities. The Global Development Alliance is one such program that believes in establishing public-private partnerships for sustainable development and NGOs are important stakeholders in it.
Similarly, the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) funding schemes like the Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF) and Civil Society Challenge Fund are major international funding commitments of UK Government for NGOs working in international development.
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AusAID’s (Australian Agency for International Development) has a Human Rights Grant Scheme to openly fund the efforts of NGOs in select developing countries for protection and promotion of human rights.
In order to start mobilizing funds from bilateral donors, NGOs first need to have a list of these agencies. We have prepared one such list (click on ‘Next’ below to learn more). As all types of bilateral agencies will not fund projects in your country or for your specific area of interest, you need to do some research.
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You can then start visiting the websites of these bilateral agencies and look for their focus countries (our list of bilateral agencies has identified partner countries). If your country is listed as a focus or a partner country, then try searching for the latest copy of your country’s strategy paper as most bilaterals issue it every year.
In the country strategy paper, the issues and areas of funding are outlined and you may get a clear idea of how your country is ranked and how you can use the information to develop your own proposal.
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You may then need to find information about the local office of the bilateral donor agency in your country. In most cases, the head offices of bilateral donors will not accept grant proposals from local NGOs in other countries. But they usually have offices in your country if it is listed as a partner. Also the embassies of the donor country may host the office of its bilateral agency or it can have a separate setup for its operations. The best place to find out is the website of the embassy of the donor country. Also these local offices issue regular calls for proposals for funding schemes targeting local NGOs
To learn about different bilateral donor agencies, you can click on the ‘Next’ link below.