The NGO Week 2016 under the Theme “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Malawi: What is the role of NGOs?” was centered on Youth empowerment, Education vs Affordability, Breaking the evils of corruption and food security to break the cycle of poverty in Malawi. Going by the motto leaving no one behind the week held discussions around these issues and came up with recommendations that will be further developed into policy briefs.
The guest of honor, Mia Seppo, in her speech alluded to the call of the SDGs to leave no one behind being everybody’s agenda that requires civil society engagement. She also recognized the important role Civil Society has to achieving the SDGs. “Not only does civil society help deliver programmes to the communities, but also you are advocate for the plight of the most marginalized, drawing attention to vulnerable communities that cannot access services and that are left behind” she said.
As a coordinating body CONGOMA urges all NGOs to mainstream both the SDGs of the United Nations and Agenda 2063 of the African Union in their programming. To force streamlining of the SDGs and Agenda 2063, CONGOMA has included them in the 2016/2017 NGO Directory which is a ready tool for reference but also source of information for NGOs, Private Sector, Development Partners but also the general public.
On visibility of Civil Society and their roles and spaces dwindling against a backdrop of mistrust of politicians, weak citizen mobilization and participation and general mistrust among others ; it was noted by the guest of honor that the statement was strong, honest and worrisome, given that trust and confidence of ordinary citizens in leadership; and trust and confidence between government and civil society are indicators of good governance hence an environment of mistrust is not a conducive one for civil society let alone development.
NGO accountability being at the center of media talk, Mia Seppo indicated that one aspect contributing to the perception of mistrust is issues of NGOs not accounting for resources entrusted to them or not consulting communities they claim to serve. She continued to state that with the risk of oversimplifying, it is important to note that the transparency requirements on management of development assistance are the same for the UN, government or civil society. Transparency, accountability and good governance should be the order of the day for public sector institutions, private businesses and NGOs alike. She continued to explain that The Government of Malawi and all Development partners have committed to sharing comprehensive information on aid. This information is available to the public through the Government’s Aid Management Platform (AMP). Transparency on aid flows opens opportunities for greater accountability, better monitoring of results and, greater insights into how, where and who the aid coming to Malawi is benefiting. It is a great tool for MP’s to strengthen oversight, for Government budgetary processes and for planning to ensure minimal overlaps and improve on development effectiveness. If the citizens of Malawi use this data, it is a powerful tool to ensure accountability of resources.
While recognizing corruption as an enormous obstacle to realization of all human rights , Seppo said “upholding the rights to information, freedom of expression and assembly , an independent judiciary, and participation in public affairs, is critical not only for tackling corruption but for a stable democracy. The cycle of poverty which Malawi continues to run in cannot be broken without strong partnerships involving Governments, NGOs, the private sector , developments partners and the UN hence the need for a robust NGO policy that provides an enabling environment for NGOs to operate in the country and contribute to efforts of fighting poverty and promote and protect human rights . “