COVID-19 and Forum Syd funded projects in the Swedish Partnership Programme

News - 2020-04-02
As all know the coronavirus has been spreading to most parts of the world. Countries and regions which have not yet seen serious adverse effects are probably likely to see it in the near future. As this text is written we are getting an increasing number of emails from organisations informing us that planned activities have to be postponed or cancelled. It is unfortunately difficult to see that not more or less all projects will eventually be effected.
Dalit women marching in Jan Satyagraha
Dalit women marching in Jan Satyagraha. Photo: Goran Basic / Ekta Parishad

In addition to the immediate humanitarian consequences, we are likely to see medical and other short-term consequences e.g. the effects on the possibilities of earning a living and an increase in domestic violence. There are also likely to be severe long-term implications for vast populations. The possibilities to jointly address the challenges people will face are also likely to diminish; not only will international support to civil society actors decrease when countries are getting more occupied with their domestic situations, the global trend of less and less space for civil society to act will accelerate, something that is already taking place. Emergencies have always been seen as opportunities for authoritarian states to tighten their controls even more.

There is also a risk repressive states will move in a direction that increases their control of their citizens and making it more difficult for people to act. A continuous support to civil society actors is therefore vital. Many of them might not for a time be able to operate as planned, or at all, but when the immediate crisis has passed they have a crucial role to play to work towards governments and local authorities to secure medical care, food, education, security, as well as for the people to continue to make their voices heard in other matters. There is an immediate crisis that needs to be mitigated, but there is also a potential long-term crisis that needs to be addressed as well.  

Forum Syd response

Forum Syd’s general approach is that no organisation should suffer from situations caused by the coronavirus. This will mean:

  1. We will grant extensions of project implementation periods. Please contact your contact person at Forum Syd for changes in dates.
  2. We will change reporting deadlines Please contact your contact person at Forum Syd for changes in dates.
  3. We will assist those organisations (Swedish as well as local organisations) which have fixed costs but have to postpone/cancel activities. They should not e.g. have to lay off staff due to the coronavirus. More information on this below.

Some measures have already been taken, and we will continue to be in close contact with organisations to determine what further actions are needed to be taken. A few specific considerations:

Adjustments in projects/programmes

  • Forum Syd will be very flexible in adjusting implementation period as well as in reporting date. Please talk to your contact person at Forum Syd. When it comes to specific adjustments, here are some key points:
  • Every organisation (Swedish as well as their partner organisations) is allowed to keep its funding for fixed costs (e.g. staff and administration), even though fewer or no activities can take place. As long as the costs are the ones in the agreement or already approved budget changes no decision from Forum Syd is needed.
  • The specifics on how staff will work are left to every organisation (e.g. if they work fewer hours for a number of months they will work more in coming months). Labour laws and regulations need to be adhered too, and we expect that whatever decisions are taken in regards to staff funded by Forum Syd are in line with each organisation’s staff policy.
  • If part of the funding is used for fixed costs without any corresponding activities, the result may be that funding for activities can’t be utilized when and if the situation allows for it. We will leave this risk for the moment to focus on the immediate situation and see how it evolves, but this is of course something we need to come back to.
  • Planned activities may be changed in order to better address the changing situation, as long as it is within Forum Syd regulation on what can be supported. Please contact your contact person at Forum Syd if you have questions on this. The approval process is now swift, and you can expect answer within short.
  • There is no possibility to change part of the projects to humanitarian support. The reason is Sida will not allow it, and even if they do, Forum Syd will have a restrictive approach. The main reason is that most organisations, including Forum Syd,  do not have the experience working with humanitarian support, and although there are good intentions they may cause more harm than good. If Sida CIVSAM will allow to use funding for humanitarian support we will get back to you with instructions.

Usage of funding and next disbursement

We expect much funding will not be used this year. Please monitor the situation for your own organisation and your partner organisation(s). Please observe that you should only transfer funding to a partner organisation according to its need. If you are to request funding for the second half of  this year you should consider if it is needed. If you do not request any funds for the second half of the year Forum Syd your contact person will together with you assess the situation for 2021 and see if and how much funds should be carried-over, and if and what changes in the project need to be made. To start with, we would appreciate a short report on the situation for you and your partner organisation when you send in the next requisition.

The April window for applications (1 – 7 April)

When the coronavirus started to hit countries outside Europe, many organisations had finalized or almost finalized their applications for the April window. The April window will continue to be open for applications, but due to the situation we will most likely not be able to assess all applications on their own merits; most (probably all) pre-studies and projects are likely to have been designed pre-coronavirus time. The question is how feasible it is they can be implemented as planned. We might need to dismiss a number of applications, not because of their quality but because they will not be adequate due to the circumstances. Our intention was to have all decisions out by mid-June, but we might need more time, both because a possible need to look at how the epidemic develops, but also because of an increased workload on Forum Syd. Once the window closes and we have looked over the applications, Forum Syd will communicate its strategy moving forward in the assessment of applications.

The September window for applications (1 – 7 September)

We will keep the September window open as planned. We might in the coming months know more about how the epidemic will affect the local organisations’ possibility to operate, and how they can adjust. We will also consider if projects might be designed differently and get funded, e.g. instead of focusing on activities with external target groups there could be a focus on simply keeping the partner organisation (and their possible partners) alive. There is both a need to see how the situation develops, but of course also a need to have revised instructions on how to apply in good time for organisations to adjust their planning. We will get back on this.

Own contribution

Some organisations are now experiencing difficulties raising funds for their own contribution. Forum Syd has for a while raised this issue with Sida CIVSAM, and asked for the own contribution requirement to be removed for 2020 (as have some other of CIVSAM’s strategic partner organisations). Sida has now approached the Foreign ministry (the own contribution requirement is a governmental decision). We are expecting a quick decision on this, and hope it will be a positive one. However, until a positive decision has been taken the standard requirement applies, i.e. you are required to have a minimum of 5% own contribution for your pre-study, project or programme. Failure to comply will unfortunately mean -unless the Foreign ministry decide on an exception for 2020-  that money has to be repaid according to your agreement with Forum Syd.

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