U.S. foundations and the Brazilian environmental movement: Supporting or steering a groundswell?
Over the past three decades, U.S. foundations have given tens of millions of dollars to Brazilian environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO). What groups are getting the money, and what is its impact? Data from 378 grants worth $73 million dollars awarded by 45 foundations to 100 Brazilian environmental NGOs are analyzed to answer three research questions. First, do trends or biases exist in the distribution of foundation aid to Brazilian environmental NGOs? Second, is the distribution of aid better explained by a 'donor interest' model that emphasizes global commons issues such as biodiversity conservation or a 'recipient need' model that focuses more on local environmental concerns? Finally, does U.S. foundation aid influence or steer Brazilian environmental NGOs' towards adopting non-confrontational organizational characteristics or programs within specific bioregions? The results suggest that U.S. foundations are strongly influencing the direction of major Brazilian environmental organizations. The analysis tests Robert Brulle's (2000) argument, which suggests that environmental NGOs that utilize non-confrontational discourses, strategies and tactics receive more U.S. foundation aid than those espousing confrontational approaches. The majority of Brazilian NGOs receiving U.S. foundation aid use non-confrontational discourses, strategies, and tactics to pursue their environmental goals. Findings also support Tammy Lewis' (2003) theory that 'donor interest' drives environmental aid giving and that 'recipient need' issues like urban pollution receive a tiny fraction of U.S. foundation aid when compared to protecting 'global public goods' like biodiversity. The majority of aid recipients focus program activities on the Amazon or Atlantic Coastal Forest, which are bioregions traditionally identified with 'global commons' issues. Statistically significant biases were documented for number of grants and total aid awarded to projects reflecting donor interests. Finally, the largest foundation aid donors demonstrate a statistically significant donor interest bias in their grant making Since U.S. foundations direct the majority of their environmental aid towards Brazilian NGOs that adopt non-confrontational discourses, strategies, and tactics, and work primarily on 'global commons' issues in the Amazon, certain groups may be 'crowded out.' The largest aid donors may also use their grant making influence to steer NGOs towards non-confrontational practices and initiatives identified with northern 'global commons' interests