Development Education in Denmark

Development Education

General Introduction

Today the current international trend is to reduce development aid, but this trend is not applicable to Denmark: There are several reasons for this relatively positive trend, hut it does also indicate success for Development Education (DE) in Denmark, including the work done by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Non- Governmental Groups (NGGs).
DE undertaken by NGOs is not exclusively at a grassroots level, but grassroots structures and activities are an integral part of nearly all organisations concerned with DE. (See the note at the end of this section for a definition of `DE' and `grassroots'.) Therefore, a presentation of grassroots DE includes most NGOs/ NGGs working in relation to the South.
More than 200 NGOs/NGGs are active in disaster relief, development cooperation and/or DE. In 1989, they employed about 800 people, involved several thousands of active members or supporters as voluntary workers and were in contact with hundreds of thousands of contributors. The number of inhabitants in Denmark is 5 million.

Who are the DE actors and what are their themes?

These organisations and groups represent quite a large section of Danish society and cover a range of themes/ subjects and types of activities. They differ considerably in size, in the importance they attach to DE and in the number of volunteer. workers they engage in their activities.
A first main category consists of approximately 150 organisations and groups with development issues in general as their primary concern (about 10 in number) or with a specialisation with respect to certain issues/ activities/ geographical areas (more than 120). The other main category consists of normally larger NGOs, with development issues as a secondary concern.
Some of these attach a lot of importance to DE, others less. This group comprises, for example:

NGOs focusing on development issues

A central NGO in this category is Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (MS), the Danish Association for International Cooperation (founded 1944). It has more than 100 employed in the secretariat, 250 Development Workers in 10 different Third World countries, 500-1000 activists, 6000 individual members and more than 100 NGOs/ NGGs as members.
In addition to the large Information and DE departments, there is an International department running the personnel assistance programme with small projects, and a youth exchange programme related to the South. An important aim for returning participants from those two programmes is to take part in DE when back in Denmark. MS 's own DE work is carried out both by the DE staff of 35 and by volunteer workers. It comprises many different themes and types of activities.
MS's central position is not just because of its size and its own activities, but also due to its wider roles in Danish DE - firstly, through its advice, services and small scale funding to institutions and minor NGOs/ NGGs throughout the country, and secondly, through coordination. MS often functions as a secretariat in networks, and plays a major role in campaigns, as well as in lobbying of national and local political structures.

The other large NGO in this category is IBIS, formerly the Danish chapter of World University Service (founded in 1966). It is one of the major development project NGOs in Denmark, but also active in DE and it is characterised by involvement of experienced activists in nearly all its activities.
Then there is a group of medium sized NGOs with less than 5-600 members, up to 100 activists, a few people temporarily employed full time (often paid for by the state as part of unemployment programmes), perhaps one or two permanently employed, a small budget and a few decentralised groups outside headquarters. The main activity of these organisations is DE and only a few are running development projects.
The last group within the first category is a large number of small NGOs/NGGs mostly active in DE.
The last two sub-categories are often specialised with respect tn subjects/ themes, types of activities or geographical areas of interest but together they cover a whole range within DE. KULU, Women and Development (founded 1976) focuses on women's issues and is a typical medium sized NGO, playing an important role in DE. It addresses a broad target group with DE activities and is engaged in lobbying both other NGOs, public institutions and politicians. Examples of other issues are: trade, human rights, environment, cultural activities, etc.
A large number of the medium sized organisations are solidarity and friendship organisations, all of which are involved in DE. Some of them are also running projects and youth exchange in relation to `their' country, district or village. Examples of such organisations are the Nicaragua Committee (founded in I980) and Danish Community Project, Villages in Ghana (also founded in 1980).

NGOs working in part on development issues

Most of these are quite large NGOs with contact with several thousands or hundreds of thousands of members or contributors. The number of activists differ from very few to several thousands. Not all are involved in DE. Many have a decentralised structure covering most of the country.
One group in this category comprises humanitarian organisations such as the Danish Red Cross Society (founded in 1876) and Danchurchaid (founded in 1922).
Danchurchaid is running Denmark's largest programme of development projects, but also engages in other aspects of development work such as DE. It is not a membership organisation, but more than 60,000 people contribute on a regular basis with small and large donations, and a number of volunteers are involved in fundraising, for example by running second hand shops.

Another group of the category are the missions, of which the first was founded in 1822. Their activities comprise a combination of evangelical work, development projects and DE all interwoven, but more emphasis has been given to DE as the `unified man' has increasingly become a key concept in their approach. More than 1,000 grassroots groups throughout Denmark are engaged in the work of the missions besides cooperation with congregations, scouts and youth organisations. In DE, they are concerned with different themes such as mutual respect in the meeting between religions, human rights, environmental issues, trade and debt - all being seen in a religious context.

The Labour Movement is engaged in development issues including information and DE. Landsorganisationen, the National Federation of Trade Unions, is taking art in international trade union cooperation including Third World issues, both at national and branch level. The Labour Movement's Third World Committee (founded in 1981) is a DE institution within the Labour Movement with specialised staff and branches throughout the country.
An organisation working along general humanistic lines is The Danish Peoples Relief Association (formed in 1907), organising about 5,000 individual members and organisations representing 800,000. The organisation is mainly running relief and development projects, but also undertakes some DE activities.
A small but increasing number of NGOs/NGGs are those organising immigrants and refugees. Their DE activities are concerned both with their internal situation in Denmark and with their countries of origin.
Grassroots DE activities also take place inside a large number of scouts, students, youth, and similar organisations, as well as in groups connected with non- formal education.


Networks to coordinate these geographically and organisationally wide-spread DE activities have become established. At a national level, there is no network incorporating all the grassroots organisations. The largest general network is Fagligt Forum om U- landsoplysning (National Forum on DE) with 25 of the most important DE organisations involved. Additionally, there are ad hoc networks related to actual themes, eg. Central America, the UNCED process etc. Local networks are few but increasing in numbers. A common type comprises a number of organisations and groups who share a shop or offices. Another is a network organised to handle certain types of DE eg. a Development Education Centre.

How are they funded?

Grassroots DE is funded from two main sources: the public sector and private foundations.
At national level, the main direct source is DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It has a budget for funding NGO/NGG DE of approximately 16.5 million DKr (2.2 million ECU). Some support also comes from the non- formal education programmes, programmes to support activities for youth, and programmes to combat unemployment.
At local level, the funding possibilities are limited: again, some unemployment programmes, programmes to support cultural events, free use of municipal facilities for educational activities etc.
International funding, especially by the EC, is growing, but because of bureaucratic difficulties this source is not readily available to smaller NGOs/NGGs.
The private funding comprises: membership fees and contributions, collections, profit from shops and other activities such as payment from participants in cultural events, evening classes, study tours etc. A most important source in grassroots DE is the free labour of the volunteers.

Who is doing the work?

At the moment, the next main resource in DE, the labour force, consists of three main groups: The importance of the activists is not just a question of free labour; but that they are committed and highly motivated to do DE. Many have a personal contact to a lot of different groups throughout Danish society; they represent a broad range of knowledge and experience. Through their engagement and commitment, they contribute the the debate and to the development of DE.

Key Trends: Past and Present


The themes and issues covered by DE in Denmark have developed since the 1950s. Some general issues are still on the agenda and others have developed during the years. The overall trend is the constant widening of the range of themes and issues. Before the SOs, when the missions were the only NGOs in DE, the issues on the agenda were health and education. Together with other basic needs such as water, they have been on the agenda ever since, hut most intensely so until the 70s. The focus has changed from issues related to development assistance to meet basic needs, towards more specialised issues such as the new disease: AIDS.
Decolonisation and nation-building had a high priority until the middle of the 70s featuring Mozambique and Angola. It has played a minor role in the 80s, but there are some examples, eg. Eritrea. It is not always a question of supporting a fight for national independence, although such fights have often mobilised support in Denmark. It is also a matter of supporting the building of a new nation which can be seen in the large number of friendship organisations and groups. The first India- DK Society was established in 1948, but most were founded from around 1970 and onwards.

Today, it looks as if the nation-building issue is going to be very much in the forefront in the coming years, but now in the form of how ethnic groups, tribes and different religious groups can live together, along with recognition of the rights ot minorities. This is not just a problem in the South, but in the North as well; eg. USA or the Balkans.
Development strategies have been an issue since the independence of India and the civil war in China. Economically, the questions were the different systems: a socialist/planning system opposed to an open market economy or different types of the Third Way. Politically, the questions related to different types of democracy, one-party states and socialist one-party states. Part of this issue has also been the fight against dictatorships.
These themes have been discussed along broader lines. in DE. Since the 80s, the political agenda has changed to include questions such as people's participation, democracy, human rights and conditionality. Regarding economic and social development, the main stream since the 80s is the acceptance of a more or less regulated open market economy, but the issues differ depending on the situations in the different areas of the South. Africa is at the centre of Danish DE, and the issues here are macroeconomic, such as the structural adjustment programmes advocated by IMF/IBRD, and microeconomic, like management in a market economy.

Since 1975, women's issues have gained still more attention. This has grown into the consideration of gender politics in general. Within that framework, it plays quite an important role in DE in most NGOs/ NGGs.
Support to children has been of concern since the late 40s, but has increased considerably, mostly in relief aid or development support. It is a theme strongly present in DE.
In relation to technology, grassroots DE mostly concentrates on appropriate technology; one of the smaller issues, but permanently present.

Themes relating to international organisations and structures have always been, and are, an important part within DE. In the 60s and 70s, the theories of dependence were on the agenda together with the trade issue and international institutions such as transnational bodies, IBRD, IMF and the UN family, not least UNCTAD.
In the 80s, debt had a large role on the agenda. The UN family of specialised agencies faded compared to the IMF and IBRD. After the fall of most of the communist systems, while the trend is not clear, the UN institutions and local and regional institutions of the South seem to be returning onto today's agenda.
Trade issues are permanently present, but on a small scale. Different kinds of alternative trade are growing slowly. In relation to international trade and industrial restructuring, the Labour Movement is running DE programmes focusing on international contacts between workers in the North and South in industries such as Garments and Textiles.
Themes which have come to play an important role within DE especially, at the grassroots level, are environment and culture. The cultural theme includes several aspects; looking at cultural interfaces from a positive point ofview: entertainment, broadening views and knowledge of life, and new ways of expression.

There is also, however, a conflict between norms, cultures and religions which leads to discrimination and persecution of minorities, for example immigrants and refugees or indigenous peoples. This aspect has been on the agenda for some time as part of the racism and tribalism issue, but is now being expanded and broadened in its content and is undergoing new analysis leading to new strategies. Some of the missions are looking into the issue within themes like mutual respect in the meeting between religions. The main trends in relation to themes are as follows:

Types of activities

A whole range of activities are used in grassroots DE.

The development and expansion of all types of communication has had a major impact, leading to the problem of how to compete with the large professional information flow. While opportunities are greater, the pressure on grassroots groups to produce a professional product is similarly increased.

In recent decades, the possibilities for international travel have increased substantially for the general public, which facilitates youth exchanges and other types of direct personal experience and contacts. Those personal experiences have facilitated meetings, letter writing and contributions from persons from the South to Danish DE (see Case Study 1 ).
The traditional types ofgrassroots DE like speeches, meetings and seminars seem to play a smaller role than before. Other traditional types of DE, like books and other written material, grew considerably from the SOs to 80s, but seem to have decreased in the 90s, while journals and internal NGO Newsletters are still are widely used.
Street activities and demonstrations were widely used from the late 60s to the 80s, but have decreased in importance over recent years.
The use of cultural activities, such as theatre, music, food etc. , has increased considerably in the last 10 -15 years. Sometimes the Danes are only audiences, sometimes they are taking part in the performances or learning. Within the churches a new trend is to present elements of liturgy from churches in Latin America and Southern Africa into Danish church services.
There has also been an increase in the number of shops - run by grassroots groups or on a commercial basis- selling books, music, crafts, staple foods and second hand clothes. Some of these activities have a DE aspect and the shop volunteers and customers are motivated to obtain more information.

A few groups are engaged in research on themes, issues and strategies, although it seems that volunteers are less involved in this type of activity. Exceptions can be found, for example within women's and trade issues.
During the last 5 -10 years, larger multi-activities or events have become more common. One example of this is countrywide campaigns, eg. `The Columbus' presented as a Case Study 3. Such combined events can comprise the whole of the country as, for example, in the Churches' `Third World Week', or it can be local within a town.

Another sort of multi-activity, are the friendship villages. These include different types of development programmes, including DE, in a local area or institution. The development educators inform about the actual situation in the villages in the South and use it as an example of general issues. Almost all types of activities are used, not least the personal contacts and experiences.
In Denmark, the main emphasis for DE is on the informal education sector and the general public, although there are NGOs/NGGs that focus on the formal sector and on political decision-makers.
To summarise, the main trends in activities are that:

Personnel resources

As mentioned previously, there are three groups of personnel working within grassroots DE: unpaid volunteers, short-term employed and long-term (or permanently) employed.
The number of long-term employed in N G Os working with DE has been increasing over the years, and that seems also to be the case with the part of the work that covers the grassroots activities.
These employed on short-term contracts (7-9 months) over the last 8- l 0 years have been mostly on state supported unemployment programmes. The trend, therefore, depends on unemployment policy. This policy will be changed from 1/1/94, but an element might be that unemployed people can work within humanitarian organizations for a longer period.

A problem for DE groups and organisations depending upon short-term employed people is the constant turn- over nf staff. An advantage has been a flow of, usually, well motivated staff with new points of view. This way nf working raises specific demands on management that can he difficult tn fulfil for smaller organisations and groups.
Volunteers working partly because of their beliefs, with or without pay, have existed for years. The exact number of volunteers is hard to estimate, but it is assumed to have increased in the late 60s and to have remained quite high since then. They are of all ages, represent all strata nf society and may be divided into a number of categories:


Over the years, the Danish Government funds for DE have increased and, in the late 80s, it was decided that the amount for DE should be a fixed percentage of the total funds for allocated for overseas development aid. The problem for the smaller groups is the lack of administrative abilities required to provide satisfactory monitoring. This is a problem in relation to DANIDA, and an even larger problem regarding the EC.

Organisational structures and management

The trends are : The trend in management is not so clear, but issues considered in `Personnel resources', above, have led to a move away from the typical flat, grassroots style of management to a style with more specific duties, responsibilities, timetables and monitoring.
For volunteers, there has been the introduction of `work contracts' to help ensure some continuity and to solve the problem of a lack of organisers. Not all organisations are following this trend, however. The Nicaragua Committee in Árhus still runs some activities along a flat grassroots management model with success. The trend is also to adjust the management style to the activity and the personnel so that certain types of activities and personnel `demand' a certain type of management and organisational structure.

NGDO-EC Liaison Committee: Development Education Group