CSO’s demand demand reinstatement of CONGOMA into NGO Policy

Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) in the country wants reinstatement of their mother body ‘Council of Non-Governmental Organisations’ (CONGOMA) into the newly formulated NGO policy.

CHRR’s Fletcher Simwaka

The NGO draft policy which was recently released by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, does not recognise CONGOMA, the country’s mother body for coordinating the operations of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), instead, it only recognise the NGO Board.

Clauses in the proposed policy gives powers of independence of the NGO Board of Malawi to register, deregister, regulate and monitor activities of civil society organizations in the country unlike in the past when CONGOMA had a say in terms of registration, regulating and coordinating NGOs activities.

Removal of CONGOMA in the draft policy was one major key area of concern during the policy consultation meeting recently held in Salima facilitated by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) for CSO networks in the district.

CSO’s expressed worry that absence of CONGOMA in the policy poses threat to the operations of CSO’s in the country.

“All these issues are what Malawians and other civil society organisations elsewhere have been highlighting.” noted Fletcher Simwaka, CHRR Advocacy Coordinator

“So we are satisfied that we have similar concerns and the recommendations are the same that Government should reinstate the role of CONGOMA in the policy.” He said

According to Simwaka, experience has shown that NGO board has been very political in their operations and that has raised a lot of insecurity among NGO’s in the country.

He explained that while CONGOMA in its operations has been part of the NGO’s, however, CSO’s have always been concerned with the work of NGO Board of policing the operation of NGO’s and therefore expressed worry that giving more powers to the board, the policy might stifle the civil space and the conducive working environment for the Civil Society Organisations in Malawi.

“It was only CONGOMA which was always deemed to be representing interests of NGO’s, so, if we remove CONGOMA obviously Government will have all the authority to manipulate the NGO policy and the law to get at the Civil Society or rather the Human Rights Defenders and all critics of Government whom they deemed to be involved in political activities which is yet another ambiguous provision in the policy.” said Simwaka

Among other outcry regarding the policy provisions were on disclosure of information regarding the finances of the NGO’s, multiple registrations process for NGO to operate, handing over of assets to the relevant government ministry upon winding up of projects as well as the ambiguity of the definition of NGO’s which is excluding some key players such as trade unions and other associations.

Views from the meeting regarding the disclosure NGO source funds were that right to privacy of NGOs has to be respected in line with both domestic and international human rights standards. On registration, stakeholders recommended that Government should ensure that registration of NGO’s should not be compulsory and that should not be a condition for an NGO to operate.

CHRR took the draft policy to Salima district CSO networks to allow them to generate their input and recommendations before CHRR presents its position papers to the Ministry later this year.

“Those contentious issues cannot be handled by a single organisation that is why we came here to consult with our fellow civil society in the district who normally lack a voice on issues of policy and legislation in the country.” said Simwaka then disclosed that CHRR will hold similar consultations in three more districts of Balaka, Karonga and Mzimba

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