Norec avslår anken til Brigadeprosjektet

Brigadeprosjektet har fått avslag på anken som ble sendt inn til NOREC før jul. Les NOREC sitt avslagsbrev her.

Sustained rejection of collaboration agreement with Norec

Norec refers to the appeal submitted by Latin Amerika Gruppene (LAG) on behalf of the partnership for the solidarity brigade on 23.12.2022 against Norec’s rejection of the application for a collaboration agreement.

Having reviewed the application for a Norec grant from the Solidarity Brigade project for the second time and the corresponding appeal, Norec sustains its rejection of the application. The grounds given in Norec’s rejection letter of 06.12.2022 apply.

In line with section 28 of the Public Administration Act, the appeal will now be forwarded to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has the final authority in the matter. With respect to the detailed arguments presented in the appeal letter, please note that Norec has considered all the points put forward carefully. In the paragraphs below, the three main points highlighted in the rejection letter and contested in the appeal letter are referenced and further explained.

1. Norec finds that the goals of the partnership are not a good enough match with the Norwegian government’s current development goals and priorities, as communicated to Norec.

In the appeal letter, LAG argue that the project falls within two of the four priorities for the Norec grant 2022:

Partnerships that use digital platforms to reach the results

Applicants working in the fields of climate, the environment, and/or marine ecosystems

Having considered the arguments in the appeal relating to the priorities, Norec makes the following considerations:

Partnerships that us digital platforms to reach the results

This priority was included to ensure that those projects that actively pursued projects that combined a digital collaboration with an exchange of personnel, would get an opportunity to compete for thegrant in 2022. Having supported many partnerships that have invested significant resources to strengthen their capacity to collaborate digitally, Norec had a target to encourage partners to continue utilising digital forms of collaboration in future exchange projects. The expectation and criteria for these types of projects is that a significant portion of the project activities will be based digitally. This includes specific results that focuses on strengthening the partner organisations digital capacity or results that are a direct outcome of the digital collaboration. Most partner organisations in Norec projects, by the mere fact of being based in different parts of the world, utilise some form of digital platform in their communication and collaboration. This level of digital activity is insufficient to be regarded as meeting the priority. Based on the project description of the Solidarity Brigades project and the limited number of digital activities therein, the application has not been considered to meet this priority.

• Applicants working in the fields of climate, the environment, and/or marine ecosystems

Norec acknowledges that the partner organisations in Latin America involved in the Solidarity

Brigades project are organisations that represent, organize, congregate and mobilize mostly smallscale farmers and indigenous people. Their objective is among others to achieve food sovereignty, protect environment and biodiversity, and foster indigenous knowledge and practices. Norec also acknowledges and supports the arguments presented in the appeal on the importance of social justice in the green transition and the necessity of a just access to land in this process. The solidarity project has over many years played a significant role in strengthening the capacities and networks small-scale farmers to maintain and protect their social rights to farmland. Nevertheless, Norec’s limited budget situation in the grant for 2022 has necessitated a stricter deliberation of all project applications and related partnerships against the various priority areas of the grant call. In this more detailed consideration, Norec concluded that food security and agroecology cannot be said to be the main objective of the Solidarity Brigades project as it is outlined in the project documents. In the needs assessment of the project document, food sovereignty is identified as one ( 1) of four (4) needs that the project is targeting. As per Norec’s expectation, the outcomes of a project should directly correspond to the needs described in the needs assessment. In this case, only one ( 1) outcome out of four (4) is directly related on food sovereignty. Just three (3) out of thirty (30) proposed participants are planned to focus specifically on learning and sharing knowledge on agroecological issues. All three are professional south/south exchanges. All the other participants will work on political training, political history and theory, advocacy at home and abroad and information dissemination. When considering the budget, only 5 % of the total budgets is directly related to activities targeting food sovereignty issues. Based on the above, Norec is of the conviction that the Solidarity Brigades project cannot be said to have a main focus on the priority areas of climate, the environment and/or marine ecosystems. Applicants working in thefields of climate, the environment, and/or marine ecosystems Norec's l ) Norec's l )

2. Norec finds that the application in itself is satisfactory and in line with the requirements. However, in the multiple review rounds of the current grant applications, the LAG – Brigader - application falls short in view of the priorities set and current budget situation. Norec maintains that the application has been considered as satisfactory and meets the formal requirements as appraised by the program advisor for the project. Based on this appraisal, which LAG has been provided insight into, the application has been recommended for partial approval by the programme advisor. As mentioned above, Norec’s budget situation necessitated additional reviews of all the applications for the grant where internal priorities from Norec’s policy for grant management were considered in addition to the priorities for the grant. The following are some of Norec’s internal priorities disputed in the appeal letter from LAG.

• Norec will prioritise non-traditional recipients of development assistance
Norec acknowledges that LAG and the related partner organisations are not civil society organisations in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, Norec considers the organisations in the project as traditional recipients of development assistance and therefore the application does not meet this partial criteria (Leave no one behind – part 1) LAG has been recipient of funds from Norwegian development cooperation agencies (Norad and FK/Norec) for the past 25 years. Just in the past 6 years (2016-2022) LAG has received close to 20 million NOK through the Solidarity Brigades project funded by Norec.

• Norec will prioritise marginalised and vulnerable groups Provided the overall priorities are met, Norec shall, as far as possible, prioritize projects that are aimed at those who would not otherwise have had this opportunity whether it is the exchange participant, the target group of the project or the partner organisations themselves. This partial criteria specifically targets projects that work with the most marginalised and vulnerable groups (Leave no one behind – part 2). To achieve a diverse portfolio, Norec has in this round strived to include new partnerships that target persons with disabilities. Norec acknowledges that the Latin American partner organisations of the Solidarity Brigades project work with traditionally/historically marginalized groups, especially those in Guatemala, which in addition are indigenous communities. Nonetheless, considering the totality of the project, the number of results and the proportion of funding planned to directly support the most marginalized and vulnerable exchange participants, target groups or partner organisations, Norec has not categorised the Solidarity Brigades project as having met this partial criteria.

• Norec will aim for a diversified portfolio of projects Norec recognises and acknowledges the contribution of the Solidarity Brigades project to the diversity of the portfolio of Norec projects. Considering the partner countries involved and the breadth of thematic focus areas of the project, the Solidarity project can be said to stand out from the portfolio.

Nevertheless, Norec’s consideration of diversifying the portfolio is not a priority that has superseded other priorities in our reviews. This objective is mainly linked to our internal targets of introducing the Norec model to new partnerships and increasing the use of international exchange of young professionals to a wider network. Faced with the limitations of the budget as mentioned above, new partnerships that met Norec’s other priorities were considered favourably for the purpose of diversifying the portfolio.

3. Norec finds that the intended number of exchange rounds is not justified in the application.

The requirements for a 5-year agreement are more extensive than shorter term agreements. 5-year agreements are expected to achieve results at both organisational and community level with solid plans on how to monitor these results over a longer term. In addition to assessing the partnerships’ capacity to implement an extensive exchange project, Norec performs an internal review of a projects achievement of results in previous projects and the quality of previous collaboration agreements. The purpose is to evaluate a partnerships ability to reach the outcomes that will contribute to organisational learning. Having performed an internal review as well as assessing the application documents and the result framework presented by the Solidarity Brigades project, Norec does not consider the level of detail presented to be sufficient for the intended number of exchange rounds. The recommendation from the advisor was therefore to partially approve the application which in essence meant a recommendation for an agreement of a more limited scope than applied for. In this case project period recommended was for up to two years as well as a reduction in the number of participants in each round. Despite this recommendation, the application was rejected on other grounds as explained above. The considerations made regarding the capacity of the partner organisations ability to implement the project was not a determining factor in the rejection of the application. The grant award process Norec recognises and appreciates the well-established partnership with LAG and the Solidarity Brigade project. Through many years of collaboration, the project has made a significant contribution to FK/Norec’s main objective to provide young people with a meaningful work experience and to shape young professionals’ careers. It is also a project that has had a solid contribution to Norec’s partner network in Latin America. Norec has on many opportunities highlighted the positive partnership with LAG and presented the projects in various forums.

As explained, the process for approving grants to the projects in 2022 has been different from previous years. Norec received more applications with considerably larger costs than expected. The annual budget granted to Norec by the Norwegian Parliament cannot accommodate all the project applications that we would consider satisfactory for an exchange project. This led to a more competitive and stricter assessment process which led to many applications being rejected. There were initial reviews performed by the program advisors based on the formal criteria for a grant award and additional review processes at portfolio level based on the available budget. It is in this last round of review that a decision to reject the application was taken. All the criteria used, and the selection process has been made available to LAG. Norec accepts the criticism that the communication with applicants during this year’s award process could have been better and more effective. Recognising this, Norec has initiated several internal processes that will look at improving our grant management routines and systems. The deadlines forfuture applications will also be earlier than in 2022 to ensure that the selection process is finalise within reasonable time before planned start of exchange.

Finally, Norec would like to remind LAG and the Solidarity Brigades project that you are welcome to apply for a Norec grant in the next applicable grant call. The grant call and the priorities for the grant in 2023 will be announced shortly. For projects that are planning to start an exchange in January 2024, the application deadline is 1 June 2023. Norec’s program advisors are available to answer any questions you may have regarding the application process.