Sustainable societies-A A +A
Friday, February 24, 2012
MANY people have heard of debt-for-nature swaps to leverage funds in countries that face the greatest financial strain from foreign debt burdens for use in national ecological conservation efforts.
But how about debt-for-development swaps? Make that for sustainable development with emphasis of social, economic and environmental bottomlines or what John Elkington, the founder of the British SustainAbility consultancy, coined the triple bottomlines (TBL).
The Foundation for a Sustainable Society Inc. (FSSI) was in Negros Occidental recently to visit its partners’ projects and to lobby the provincial government to enshrine a social enterprise policy in a provincial ordinance, in strengthening the provincial green economy.
FSSI is a non-government organization, the fund manager of the debt reduction agreement between the Philippines and Swiss Governments in 1996, the outcome of a joint lobby effort between Swiss and Philippine civil society.
I know FSSI since its birth. It has provided the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND) with a bridge loan to finish its contractual obligations with the DENR’s in the first community forestry in Barangays Bagong Silang in Salvador Benedicto and Marcelo in Calatrava. That community was the first in Western Visayas.
I managed that forestry project which nearly came to a standstill halfway through its timeline. We accomplished our performance billing on time. DENR finished its field inspection. What went awry was the government fund releases which we use to pay the staff and for subsequent subproject accomplishments.
The three-week payment period sometimes stretched to three months. With no project funds, BIND had to borrow funds from its food security and organic agriculture projects. But these internally borrowed funds mature fast since they could create a chain reaction on the non-accomplishment of other projects.
Thank God for FSSI who came to the picture as the cavalry to the rescue. With the FSSI bridge loan, which amounted to the remaining project funds, we finished the remaining activities. We need not look over our shoulders to make sure there was money in the bank for salaries and remaining subprojects.
When I reflect on the situation in 1996, I realized that the FSSI partnership experience was a prototype of what we now call public-private partnerships. Its loan served to bridge the ties among stakeholders such as BIND, DENR, and people’s organizations so that additional linkages can prevent projects from being stymied for lack of funds.
Over the years, it has provided BIND with funding small projects and one big microfinance loan. FSSI has been part of BIND’s growth.
One of the midwives in FSSI’s birth was the Swiss NGO, the Hilswerk Evangelischen Kirchen der Schweiz (HEKS), which led the Swiss lobby to convince its government to convert part of the Swiss official development loans to the Philippines as a debt-for-sustainable development swap.
Back then, HEKS on its part supported BIND in the promotion of food security, organic agriculture, and fair trade in Negros Occidental. Very few Negrenses outside the BIND loop knows about HEKS and the late Sämi Andrés. Without them, I doubt that organic agriculture would have attained its current glorious stature in Negros.
Now, HEKS has moved out in the Visayas and is preparing to transfer its support to poorer African countries that are rushing to accomplish their Millennium Development Goals. But its long years of investments have paid as organic agriculture continues to flourish within and outside the BIND loop.
Exciting days are ahead in the province as civil society, business and the national and local governments work together to produce more social enterprises with their TBLs to ease poverty, strengthen our social units and protect the Negrense environment.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 24, 2012.