Last October, during a meeting in Brazil, the Bridging the Gaps programme was presented as a good practice example of how the Dutch government funds civil society organisations to implement international development work at a large scale. Representatives of the Brazilian government were surprised to hear about this funding structure, because it also funds organisations that oppose government policies. Representatives of the Brazilian and Dutch government, together with civil society organisations explored the opportunities for trilateral cooperation on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) between Brazil, the Netherlands and another country. Among the attendees were Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lourdes Bandeiro, Brazilian Vice-Minister of the Secretariat of Policies for Women, and Lambert Grijns, Dutch SRHR and AIDS Ambassador. Aidsfonds, Promundo Brazil, Rutgers WPF, and Plan were among the civil society organisations that were represented.
Minister Ploumen explained that the Dutch government values the system not only as a measure for check and balances, but also because it allows for flexible adjustments to the changing circumstances and needs of the target groups. Brazil generally funds other governments or implements its own state-run projects.
Within the Bridging the Gaps programme, we see more governments starting to work with civil society organisations to attend to the SRHR of key populations. In Vietnam, for example, a pilot project focusing on health centres for sex workers in three provinces will start in January 2014. The project is funded by the national Vietnamese government and implemented by Bridging the Gaps partner Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI).
No formal decision has been taken yet on the cooperation on SRHR between Brazil and the Netherlands. Nor has there been decided on what other country to include in this new initiative. The initiated cooperation has opened the door for a closer collaboration between governments and civil society organisations in Brazil, to address the SRHR of key populations, harm reduction, and exploitation of young people.