A massive fund with a total allocation of €79.5 billion (RM366 billion) to promote "Global Europe", the European Union's (EU) multilateral agenda around the world, has distributed some RM20 million to several Malaysian NGOs, MalaysiaNow has learnt.
The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) was launched two years ago, consolidating several of the EU's funding arms to give financial assistance to civil society organisations outside Europe with the aim, among others, of promoting "human rights and democracy".
A list sighted by MalaysiaNow shows a total of nine entities including lesser known NGOs involved in campaigning for "gender and sexual rights" as beneficiaries of a total of €4.5 million (RM20.7 million).
The grants were distributed in December 2022, and range between three and five years for various activities and projects.
The recipients include Sisters In Islam (SIS), a group championing Muslim women's rights, who together with another NGO, Kryss Network, were awarded €761,442 (about RM3.5 million), covering a period of three years.
Founded in 1988, SIS says it promotes Muslim women's rights based on "equality, justice and freedom enjoined by the Quran". The group has faced off with local Muslim bodies over the interpretation of Islamic texts, as well as with state Islamic authorities over the jurisdiction of Islamic laws.
Kryss Network meanwhile describes itself as an organisation working for "especially women, young women, and gender non-conforming persons".
According to the NDICI document, the fund is to help the two groups in efforts to strengthen gender equality advocacy "in shrinking civic spaces and conservative environments".
Two other NGOs, the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and Seed Foundation, were allocated €750,000, or about RM3.45 million, for activities to "strengthen capacities towards inclusive development pathways".
The bulk of the EU funding, some €3 million (RM13.8 million), was allocated to three sets of entities.
It includes €1 million for Semporna Islands Project Society and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Malaysia) to carry out "community action for fish-bomb-free Semporna seas" in Sabah.
Another €1 million is for Universiti Kelantan Malaysia and the Perak State Parks Corp (PSPC), for "activities to preserve the Royal Belum forest against the impact of climate change".
PSPC, which is owned by the Perak government, has also been listed as a recipient of a separate grant of about €990,000 (about RM4.5 million), alongside WWF Malaysia and Persatuan Pelindung Harimau, to "support indigenous forest communities as advocates and guardians of biodiversity in the Royal Belum state park".