Saturday, August 13, 2011

AID NGOs Under Attack

This week Ecuador shut down 16 foreign NGOs because they failed to meet new government disclosure requirements. This is only the latest in a series of clampdowns on civil society groups in Latin American and elsewhere.

In Cambodia, policy makers have created restrictive rules on NGO registration that complicate the work of foreign development groups. Somaliland also has prohibited international donors from partnerning with foreign NGOs.

Countries including Bahrain, Iran, Sudan and Venezuela are among other countries that have tightened their grip on NGOs. Nonprofit workers are being monitored, harassed and even jailed.

According to specialists, this is due to the fact that governments around the globe are facing huge budget constraints. In an effort to improve aid effectiveness, donors are now stressing country ownership and as a result partnering directly with NGOs on the ground.

However, this can be more difficult on the ground than in theory. Often post-conflict or fragile governments view an independent civil society as a threat. This is why countries such as Rwanda and Kenya should be lauded for involving civil society in efforts to revise policies that govern NGOs. Other countries should also be encouraged to do the same.

Governments should be signing treaties like the African Charter on Democracy and Elections and Governance in order to be held accountable for increasing the role of citizens in political decision making. These unfriendly laws that are directed at NGOs need to be changed.

"NGOs need to be kept safe -- both domestic and international -- even in hostile environments."

-Gabrielle Gurian