By Harald Eraker
Once again NorWatch can reveal disputes over NORAD support given to a Seawatch project in Asia. This time, the dispute concerns NORAD's 27 million kroner support to Oceanor's Seawatch project in India. The decision on the financial grant to India, which was allocated from the environmental fund, was made in the autumn of 1996.
Like the NORAD support to the Seawatch project in Indonesia which was given the previous year, there was also this time objections within NORAD against spending aid money on Seawatch, which is controversial (see NorWatch 11/1996).
But before NORAD made a final decision on the subject matter, NORAD was, according to internal sources, ordered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) to support the India project at any cost. Nobody in NORAD dares to make this information public, but as far as NorWatch knows, the order was given verbally from the UD.
Attempts to have comments on the UD-order from people within the NORAD system resulted in silence. NorWatch was told that we would have to understand that the contentions could not be commented on.
In the end, NorWatch received a written answer from NORAD's director Tove Strand Gerhardsen, in which she refuses that the UD has given directives in this case. She further refers to the Publicity Act regarding the professional department's "inputs during the preparation of the case".
However, the same letter contents the following quotation of the professional department's representative in the granting committee: "FAG's representative considered the project as worthy of support, on the condition that it could be justified from a professional point of view".
When confronted with this, NORAD claims that the representative from FAG (the professional department) had expressed himself wrongly. According to NORAD, its political leadership, confirmed by the UD, wanted the Seawatch project in India to be supported - on the assumption that the project was good enough from a professional point of view - and this is no deviation from standard procedure.
Among professionals outside the NORAD system, opinions differ on the Seawatch technology and on whether it should receive aid. The reactions from the sceptics are strong:
- I was very much surprised to hear that the Seawatch project was supported, says a source in the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority with knowledge of sea surveillance systems.
- Don't they read their own assessment reports in NORAD? The conclusion of the report "Environment in Norwegian Aid" prepared by ECON and the Nansen Institute on request from the UD, was that it is difficult to find good environmental projects to support, among other things because of lack of competence and capacity in developing countries. The support to Seawatch illustrates that NORAD is about to make the same mistakes as when they supported the export of trawlers to among other countries Tanzania and India. NORAD claims to have learnt a lesson from the mistakes they made in the 1970s and 1980s, but the support to Seawatch shows that they have not learnt anything, says Erik Børset in Norconsult, who previously worked for NORAD and the World Bank.
NORAD on the other hand refers to the assessment of Seawatch-India which was made by an independent consultant who recommended that NORAD should support the project.
There is no doubt that Oceanor's Seawatch technology is controversial in the professional milieus, including within NORAD. But NORAD keeps its internal disagreement hidden from the outside world by reference to the Publicity Act. At the same time they readily give financial support to Seawatch projects in developing countries.
At present NorWatch knows that NORAD is assessing an application for support of continuation of the Seawatch project in Vietnam. However, NORAD is not willing to inform on the amount of money applied for. In 1996 the UD supported the first stage of the project in Vietnam with 10.5 million kroner drawn from the emergency grant. The objective of the project is to use Oceanor's Seawatch buoys for typhoon warning.
- It is ridiculous to spend millions of kroner on advanced typhoon warning equipment. Vietnam could just as well turn on the CNN weather forecast to follow the typhoon warning there. It works just as well, and it is also much cheaper, says former environmental adviser in NORAD, Tor Larsen in NORAGRIC.
Oceanor in India
Oceanor's Seawatch project in India received a financial grant of 27 million kroner from NORAD in 1996. The money was taken from the environmental fund.
Norwatch Newsletter 8/97