Mutharika’s speech during the launch of NGO charter

Today is a great day in the history of relations between civil society and Government. It is a day when we gather to renew our mutual commitments towards serving the people of this beloved country. From the pavilions and displays that CONGOMA has lined up, it is clear to notice that both NGOs and government have a common interest, and that is, to develop this country, and to improve the state of our economy, and also to promote the welfare of our people.

With this common agenda in mind, let me at this momentous occasion reiterate Government’s commitment to strengthen the partnership with the civil society and NGO community. I make this commitment in view of the reforms that my Government has embarked upon. My government has the desire to improve operations at Capital Hill, instill the spirit of hard work, and ensure that the civil service delivers with efficiency. Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, the pursuit towards transformation in our nation cannot be the responsibility of government alone. This is where the NGOs and civil society come in.

President Mutharika

President Mutharika

My government considers civil society as partners in development, and I believe in engagement and dialogue as effective means for achieving our development goals. Time for confrontation between CSOs and government is no longer here. I believe in cooperation and consensus building, and my government will always protect and respect the rights of CSO leaders and also promote and protect the rights of all Malawians. Civil society organizations are important players in promoting policies and practices that are intended to uplift communities from poverty to prosperity. My government will always work hard and guarantee adequate space for civil society work.

Distinguished leaders of NGOs, ladies and gentlemen, my government is aware of some challenges that NGOs are facing. These include funding difficulties, inadequate human resource capacity, and for some NGOs, weak programming capacity. I would like to assure you that while my government will respect the independence and space which NGOs deserve; my government is willing to support fundraising initiatives of civil society organizations through CONGOMA and the NGO Board. This way, we can ensure predictability in our partnership and ensure that NGOs are complementing development efforts with minimum challenges.

Distinguished NGO leaders, ladies and gentlemen, I and my Government are humbled by the pro-activeness of NGOs in organizing this display day to show how the public benefits from services that NGOs provide. We have projects that NGOs are implementing in complementing Government and as we collectively are serving the people of Malawi in rural and urban areas. The displays also reflect the willingness by NGOs to demonstrate accountability to the public.

In this regard, your theme of ‘NGOs: Complementing Government efforts in Development’ befits the occasion. Let me also add that civil society organizations have an important role to partner with my Government as we are fighting cashgate and corruption. My government has committed to get to the bottom of the cashgate and we will not shield anybody. In the same vein, let me also encourage NGOs to be accountable especially in the way you manage results from your various programs, but also in terms of the way you manage funds in your various institutions. We need to root out corruption not only in the public service, but also in the civil society, NGO sector, as well as in the private sector.

Distinguished NGO leaders, ladies and gentlemen, allow me at this juncture, to highlight a few things that are immediate priorities for my Government in relation to the work of NGOs and civil society:

  •  First, you will recall that immediately I assumed Office of the President of the Republic of Malawi after the elections, I appointed Mr. Mavuto Bamusi as Special Assistant and Advisor on NGOs and Civil Society to help me with communication and relationship building so that NGOs and my government have a unity of purpose. I appointed Mr. Bamusi even before the full cabinet was appointed and this shows that my Government takes issues of Government and civil society partnership seriously.
  • Secondly, in my first State of Nation Address to Parliament, I indicated that my Government prioritizes the review of the NGO law as one step towards increasing the space of civil society and also as a step towards ensuring more capacity building for NGOs. The review of the NGO law is also aimed at improving internal NGO governance and make the law more responsive to the needs and realities of NGOs. This review exercise will help to strengthen the compliance monitoring capacity of the NGO Board of Malawi; strengthen the independence of the NGO Board; and strengthen the incentive package to the NGO community among others. To this effect a joint road map among Government, CONGOMA and NGO Board will be developed to facilitate the NGO law review process.
  • Thirdly, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have made a commitment to hold meetings and dialogue sessions with NGO leaders periodically. At my first major meeting with civil society leaders at Kamuzu Palace on 18 July 2014, we agreed that we need a structured engagement between the government and civil society in a quest for inclusive government and to move from confrontational advocacy to an engaging and constructive model. This is in further recognition that Government cannot do everything alone but through partnership with Civil Society and other stakeholders in Malawi. To this effect and under the leadership of Mr. Bamusi, CONGOMA and NGO Board, we are drafting Terms of Reference for the purpose of establishing a framework for engagement between Government and Civil Society.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me talk briefly about national development and why we need NGOs focus their energies on developing this county. As you know, the country has the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II) as an overarching strategy that all development practitioners should embrace. However, we need to go beyond a strategy and start thinking of how we can develop long term development plans that respond to the long term aspirations of Malawians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while still on the issue of strategy, I commend CONGOMA and all such NGOs that have working strategy documents to guide their operations. The strategy of CONGOMA 2013-2015 is at its mid-point of implementation and I will re-launch it today to emphasize the centrality of a strategy in any endeavor and give it more impetus and visibility for the development and growth of the NGO Sector in Malawi.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, linking the issues of strategy, vision and good governance, I am particularly pleased to learn that CONGOMA has developed an NGO Corporate Governance Charter as a self regulatory framework of NGOs in Malawi. I am informed that the Charter was adopted yesterday by the NGO General Assembly which is good news indeed. NGOs should be internally well governed, transparent and accountable. It is my hope that CONGOMA will be supported to implement this very critical piece of framework for the betterment of all Malawians. Let me also call upon international NGOs to support local NGOs and share resources where possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the same vein I take special interest and notice of CONGOMA’s initiative to harness skills and create synergies in the work of NGOs by establishing an NGO Sector Technical Forum for this purpose. These initiative augers very well with the existing model Memorandum of Understanding (Model MOU) between CONGOMA and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which seeks to create a permanent engagement forum between all Civil Society Organizations on one hand and the Local Governments on the other at local Council level.

As Government we commit to work with the forum and move this country forward. My government is committed to strengthen local councils and also ensure that NGOs operating at the district and community levels are also given adequate support.

Distinguished NGO leaders, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my singular honor to re-launch the CONGOMA 2013-2015 Strategic Plan and also to launch the NGO Corporate Governance Charter.
With these words, distinguished ladies and gentlemen I declare the 2014 NGO Open Day officially open.

May God bless you all and bless Malawi.

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