The Swiss foundation Media Action International (MAI), has announced its decision to close down. Its director, Edward Girardet, explains that “At this point, we lack the means to continue on a professional and responsible basis, particularly given the growing insecurity in Afghanistan and West Africa where MAI has projects.”
Girardet says the principal reason for the decision has been the failure to convince donors, including the Swiss government, to provide the necessary support for its core management. Girardet says this is unfortunate, given that MAI has proven to be - according to its partners and beneficiaries - one of the most innovative and ground-breaking media organisations dealing with humanitarian crisis, peace-building and long-term recovery.
Core funding from the Swiss Development Corporation and ABB (a principal corporate sponsor) has been highly welcome but insufficient, says Girardet. Many donors have insisted on only covering operational budget lines and not management support. Girardet continues: “The reality is that governments are increasingly only providing core support for NGOs at home. They expect host donors to do the same for their own NGOs. In fact, several governments - the Swedes, Norwegians, Germans - have specifically asked why the Swiss - given that MAI is a Swiss organisation - have not been more forthcoming with core backing.”
Girardet says it will take several months to close MAI. The organisation needs to deal with its debts and the handover of remaining projects in Afghanistan and West Africa to other organizations. MAI hopes to keep some of the projects, notably the publications, operational but through other entities.
Andy Sennitt comments: This is very sad news. MAI is one of the few NGOs that really understands how the media functions. I fear that bad publicity about some other NGOs is the reason why donors want to ensure that their money goes directly to specific projects in the field. But someone has to coordinate these projects. There’s still a chance that a last-minute solution to the funding shortfall will save MAI but, whatever happens, it has already done a lot of good work that will be of lasting benefit to those who want to harness the media for humanitarian purposes.