NGO Board end fears of shrinking Malawi CSOs civic space

The Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Board of Malawi has assured local NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) of availability of a conducive civic space by constantly engaging them especially in the implementation of the NGO Policy which is key in harmonising roles and activities in the NGO sector.

Kondowe: CSO civic space has been shrinking

The NGO Board of Malawi is a state agency which registers and regulates the operations of NGOs in the country.

Its assurance comes after NGOs and CSOs under the banner of National Advocacy Platform (NAP) decried what they describe as shrinking CSO civic space in Malawi.

NAP Board Chairperson, Benedicto Kondowe, expressed the worry Thursday in the Capital Lilongwe when the platform held an inclusive CSO conference on governance and human rights.

According to Kondowe, the conference–which drew together scores of leaders of NGO and CSO networks–was aimed at appreciating the fact that the CSO civic space has been shrinking

Said Kondowe, “And, with the transitional government, there is danger that CSO actors could step back further. We need to consolidate our efforts in order to protect our civic space”.

Kondowe added that, most importantly, NAP is strategizing on how best it would engage with the transitional government in working together for the betterment of all Malawians.

“It is within our mandate as non state actors that we hold government to account for public goods and services that Malawians need to benefit without making regard to where one comes from or political party they support,” he said.

However, in an interview with Nyasa Times after updating delegates on the status of the NGO Amendment Bill and implementation of the NGO Policy, Director of Economic and Monitoring Services at NGO Board of Malawi, Geoffrey Chimwala, brushed aside fears of the shrinking CSO civic space, saying the board and government will ensure that does not happen.

“We will continue providing a conducive environment for the work of NGOs and CSOs in the country. They are free to do anything because we know they are complementing government’s efforts in improving the lives of Malawians. We only ask them to do these things in the rightful manner, to be transparent and accountable,” said Chimwala.

He added that the NGO Policy–launched last year–provides for NGO Board engagement with CSOs and NGOs in the implementation plan of the policy through establishment of technical and steering committees.

“So far, we have in place the technical committee with membership drawn from various NGO and CSO networks. We also have research institutions–one of them is from the University of Malawi. All key stakeholders are involved including traditional leaders.

“These will be providing technical guidance in the implementation of the NGO Policy. They will be updating the steering committee once it is established,” said Chimwala.

He said this arrangement is helpful because it will enable all key stakeholders to play their given roles in a manner that will unlock various opportunities for the NGO sector.

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