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EDITORIAL Marshall Islands Journal Majuro, Marshall Islands

December 8, 2000

People in the RMI involved in serious fundraising and development aid projects all agree that finding funding and gaining grants is relatively easy for this country. The challenge is:

1. Maintaining the funding through adequate reporting and accountable project management, and

2. Having the capacity or ability to effectively use the funding offered.

The real issue is what kind of framework do we have into which foreign donor assistance fits, whether it be government or the private sector (i.e. non-governmental organizations).

This why the just-completed national sustainable development plan and the National Economic and Social Summit scheduled for next March are essential exercises in promoting government-community participation in and discussion about development objectives for the RMI.

But they have to become more than ‘exercises.’ Government leaders nowadays talk about ‘sustainability’ all the time, because it is the operative jargon in the donor world. But this talk – for it surely is more talk than action at this point – must begin to be translated from words to deeds. That’s only going to happen when people in all walks of life here take a hand in addressing such questions as:

· What does ‘sustainable development’ mean?

· Where are we now and where do we want to be in 10 years?

· What are the development needs (as distinguished from ‘wants’) of the Marshalls?

· How can we lessen dependence on American funding?

The Marshalls’ record with foreign development assistance is pretty dismal. That’s why just finding new aid sources or donors isn’t the answer to the RMI’s many development needs. One RMI official remarked recently, "We had $100 million for 50,000 people last year, and yet we have to get the Asian Development Bank to bail us out. What happened?"

The key issue is what are we doing with the funding we get? How do we plug it into a system that is accountable, and makes the most out of the funding the RMI receives? That takes a lot of thought and planning, and most of all participation by people, not just government officials. Will it happen? It has to happen if the Marshall Islands are to progress economically and socially. But it won’t until church, women’s and youth groups, business people, outer islanders, teachers, and local fishermen decide that it’s important to help make accountability and sustainability more than just words in government reports.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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