Sector Network leaders who gathered at the planning meeting of the Sector Technical Forum at Cross Roads Hotel on 11 December 2017, spoke out strongly on the new NGO Policy draft which is yet to be adopted by Cabinet. The event was organized by the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi- (CONGOMA).
This came barely few days after the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare circulated a letter to NGOs inviting them to attend the NGO Policy validation meeting slated for December 12, 2017.
Before attending the NGO policy validation meeting, the NGOs took advantage of the sector network leaders meeting to critique the NGO Draft Policy before being validated. The NGOs highlighted different issues which were deemed not NGO friendly once implemented in the NGO Policy. One notable aspect tackled was the issue of recognizing the loose groupings of NGOs in the Government Policy which according to the NGO community confuses the NGO coordination landscape. The NGOs then agreed to have CONGOMA highlighted as the overall coordinating boy of all NGOs in Malawi that represents the collective interests and concerns of all NGOs. In addition, on the same, the NGOs resolved that other groups should just be called other Coordinating Structures.
Furthermore, NGOs expressed dissatisfaction with the new proposition in the Draft NGO Policy to change Section 20(3)(a)(v) of the NGO Act citing conflict with S32 of the Republican Constitution on freedom of association. Instead, the NGOs agreed to maintain the section in order to preserve sanity in the NGO Sector and enhance self-coordination of NGO sector. The basis of the NGOs on this subject matter also falls in line with what was resolved at CONGOMA Annual General Assembly of 2017 to have all NGOs registered with CONGOMA. In addition, Sector networks observed that the freedoms under S32 of the Constitution are not absolute but limitable and that limiting such in context of NGO landscape is ideal.
During the meeting, the NGOs also proposed to request the Ministry of Gender to create and implement the position of NGO Desk Officer who will be engaging the Ministry and NGOs. The NGOs complained that most of their files get lost at the Ministry because there is no special individual assigned to directly handle the issues of NGOs as a Focal Point.
“Lack of the Desk Officer at the Ministry of Gender contribute to increased rate of missing files for NGOs. We as NGOs need a focal point at the Ministry, we need someone mature enough to attend to our issues”, Emma Kaliya explained.
Other issues that were discussed at length before NGO Policy Validation are; the omission of the fundamental principle of NGO autonomy and independence in the NGO Policy, Regulatory body having a coordination mandate the same as what CONGOMA does which makes it more confusing.
Having raised the concerns, Chairperson for the forum Chris Mwambere communicated that the issues raised be presented with one voice of NGOs at the NGO Policy validation conference.
Before winding up the meeting, Chairperson for Human Rights Consultative Committee of Malawi (HRCC) Robert Mkwezalamba outlined some issues for prioritization in 2018 which among others are; citizen awareness of Human Rights and responsibilities, strategies to fight corruption in line with the African Union declaration of 2018 as a corruption fighting year, popularization and advocacy as well as implementation of agenda 2030 and 2063 of the AU to work for the people.
Malawi Economic Justice Network was also given a platform to make a presentation where its Executive Director Dalitso Kubalasa took the forum through the report of the Auditor General on the Accounts of the Government of the Republic of Malawi for the year ended 30th June 2016.
In his remarks, Kubalasa pointed out that 68% of most Government Ministries audited reports are qualified meaning they have serious problems. Quoting from the Auditor General’s report, the problems are coming because of incorrect spending of funds, no documents supporting payments and no accounting records.
Concluding the meeting, NGOs agreed to come together, coordinate and speak out with one voice for them to carry out their work effectively and efficiently in 2018.
The Sector Technical Forum was established in 2012 after appreciating the need for sector networks to have a structure which could accord them an opportunity to network, collaborate and champion advocacy jointly. Since then, several achievements have been made including joint advocacy, joint planning and amplified voice on issues of national importance.
The issues that were presented by sector leaders will be used for joint advocacy in 2018.