Govt – Civil Society Ties Fostered

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The relationship between the government and civil society organisations is set to improve with the adoption of a partnership policy for the two parties. Cabinet adopted the Government of the Republic of Namibia-Civic Organisations Partnership Policy towards the end of last year, which is aimed at creating a partnership that works for the whole country, its citizens, the organisations and the government. Previously, the relationship between the government and the civil society was one of suspicion, with the former seeing the civil society as a threat, yet the Second National Development Plan recognised the need to improve upon the current legislative and institutional framework. In 1999, the government undertook a National Capacity Building Assessment to determine the current status and availability of human material and institutional resources for fulfilling the country’s national and socio-economic development objectives, after which it observed that the policy, legislative and institutional frameworks within which Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operate were not adequately defined. The policy notes that government and NGO collaboration has been somewhat ineffective, being limited to just a few organisations, which it attributed to possible lack of clear guidelines on partnership, and because NGOs and civil society in general remain weak and divided, and have seldom been able to present a common front on issues affecting them. The goals of the policy are to create greater commitment for and enhance the environment for civic participation, to bring the government closer to the people, and to enhance the capacity of partners to enter into partnerships and jointly respond to development challenges and opportunities in an effective, efficient and sustainable fashion. Yesterday, the Namibia Non-Governmental Organisation Forum (Nangof) said this showed that civil society was a force to be reckoned with. Daphne de Klerk, Nan-gof’s National Coordinator told New Era yesterday NGOs would now be recog-nised as development partners and not as threats anymore. “There is now a more open relationship between civil society and the government,” said de Klerk. In addition, she said the policy concentrates on building relationships between the two parties. Initially, civil society had problems with some provisions in the earlier drafts of the policy, which stipulated that CSOs should disclose their sources of funding, said she. “There are good things and some that we were not satisfied with such as disclosing our funding partners. We had a problem with it because we don’t report to the government,” she said, adding that this was removed after CSOs expressed displeasure with its inclusion. The cabinet also approved the establishment of an Advisory Committee that will advise the National Planning Commission (NPC) on the implementation of the partnership policy. At the same time, cabinet also gave the NPC a go-ahead to formulate a new bill, which would establish a transparent and voluntary parallel registration process of civic organisations to complement the existing provisions, as well as to nurture the principles of partnership. Neither the policy nor the proposed parallel registration system says the policy “intends to control the activities of CSOs in Namibia. Rather, they seek to provide a comprehensive framework to guide their operations and to harmonise their activities in order to complement the developmental efforts of the Government,” says the policy. Apart from this, it will also allow effective co-ordination of the services provided, more efficient targeting and optimal use of scarce resources, especially by eliminating duplication of functions. Under the current legal and regulatory framework, CSOs have the option to be registered and operate as voluntary associations, Trusts, Section 21 Companies and Welfare Organisations.