A lot is being said about participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in some public affairs. How their ‘non-humanitarian’ involvement is not acceptable.
And NGOs are not comfortable with the idea that their activities are about to be under ‘big brother’s’ radar.
Humanitarian work is on the verge of tasting a reality check. The Government is sceptical about the motive of some NGOs and is pointing an accusing finger towards their direction. It thinks some NGOs are doing more than they registered to do.
Like funding and actively engaging in political activities and ‘anti-social’ behaviour among many others. Now it is being forced to do something about it. Pluck some feathers off the wings of NGOs.
Currently something is looming in Parliament. NGO Bill debate. Its intention, to pass a law that gives government powers to get involved in activities of NGOs. And be in position to restrict their ability to support groups that oppose government policies and regulations.
Should the Bill be passed into law, it will come with both good and bad things, depending on how you look at it.
NGOs may be forced to declare their finances. And demonstrate their origin of funding. There is a possibility that NGOs are compelled to share work plans.
And prove to the Government that nothing is particularly sinister about their activity plans. The best undoing this law will create and what CSOs frown about most is the trick of declaring finances. Whereas it is a bright idea, given well documented money losses in government, no NGO is sure to welcome this move.
Exposing finances creates a feeling of possibly losing a lot of it in coordination, as some ‘monitors’ could be tempted to ask for a bite. Also, money meant to support humanitarian cause could lure URA to swing into action.
NGOs get funding from churches, individuals and governments abroad. So when such generous funders see government ‘bullying’ NGOs, they might be discouraged. And will stop funding to vulnerable people. Needy will lose. That said every policy decided by government to benefit citizens should be considered good.
It makes sense to know that government’s intention is to know and plan the things that development agencies give to its people. So that funding doesn’t go to support gay activities.
During my stint with NGOs, there was a requirement to sign up to the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) principles. HAP is a set of principles that set out values which aid organisations abide by.
NGOs should honour humanity’s welfare. They must be impartial and shouldn’t segregate people along: gender, age, race, and ethnic background and nationality, political, cultural or organisational affiliation. Should be neutral and refrain from taking side in hostilities.
Independently act in line with humanitarian work. Participate and solicit consent to ensure that crisis-affected people agree with proposed humanitarian actions. NGOs must exhibit duty of care, meet recognised minimum standards for well-being of vulnerable people.
They must report actions that negatively affect vulnerable people. Redress complaints by vulnerable people. Must be transparent, open and share information. Complement and work as responsible aid agencies.
It is quite clear, the things that are expected of NGOs. And these parameters fit well within the idea of having the NGO law. Re-align what NGOs must do. So that duplication of aid intervention is stopped. Sharing budgets and work plans help fill the gap in service delivery.
Bad thing, humanitarian response will be slow due to long bureaucracies of reporting here and there. Humanitarian activities do not wait. Aid agencies quickly rush to respond to human suffering.
So if funders shy away, needy communities will lose this vital support from NGOs.
The writer is a civil engineer