Coalition of Civil Society Organizations has expressed grave concern over a draft NGO policy tabled before Parliament for approval by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
The draft policy is meant to regulate and monitor activities of NGOs operating in Sierra Leone.
At a press briefing held at YMCA Conference Hall Fort Street, Freetown yesterday, they stated that fundamental issues were not taken into consideration in the final draft so they are calling on Parliamentarians not to approve the policy until authentic verification and consultations are made.
The CSO’s revealed that few but crucial issues that can make the process development oriented, inclusive, participatory and transparent have been ignored to the disappointment of most Sierra Leoneans and they are also appalled to note that SLANGO initiated the implementations.
The coalition however expressed their appreciation to government for initiating the process of formulating the NGO Policy but it is not just enough to make laws in a democracy without genuine consultations and verification to authenticate the policy and make it people owned.
Civil Society organizations are demanding that government re-examines the process with the view to consulting with the greater Civil Society in order to generate and build into it the people’s knowledge and that Government sets up a permanent mechanism for proper consultation on the basis of mutual respect, honesty and nationalism.
They are also asking for Civil Society and NGOs representation on the policy steering committee to be chosen by civil society themselves.
The coalition also expressed concern about the unilateral, non inclusive and ill publicized final consultations on the policy document.
They also categorically denounced the unilateral final consultations on the policy document without the presence of major local Civil Society organizations and to make government know that the outcome is not received well by Civil Society.
Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai Director of Society for Democratic Initiative is on quote to have said “the cumbersome registration process required for the formation of an NGO is too complex and coupled with exorbitant fees causes huge financial implications to register with the various arms of government and SLANGO.”
“The other complex issue is the fact that the draft policy document has strict requirements that NGO’s must join SLANGO before they could be registered as NGOs which is a violation of the constitutional and international standards on the rights to freely join and discontinue membership of any group” ,Saffa said.
He also argued that the issue of government’s involvement in liquidation or folding-up of NGOs reduces and no longer at the discretion of what is supposed to be independent institutions and forbids Community Based Organizations to grow into NGO’s and carry out their activities as they like is also another violation of people’s right to development growth.
Saffa noted requirement that NGO’S should provide a list of annual imports to the government at the beginning of each financial year knowing fully well that donations come throughout the year is cumbersome and unrealistic. As such Saffa said small organization will find it very difficult to get duty free and other opportunities for their sponsors.
Festus Minah and Fallah Ensah including a host of Civil Society Organization representatives expressed dismay and frustration for being left out in the consultations and called on parliamentarians not to approve the policy at all because it is not in the interest of the ordinary people but the rich and those with high connections .