Govt urged to consider NGOs as partners for development

ISLAMABAD: It is time for the government to consider civil society organisations (CSOs) as partners for development of the country, and policy measures need to be based on facilitation for the sector rather than over-regulations.

These views were expressed at a webinar on ‘The state of civil society in Pakistan’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP).

Joint Secretary INGOs/NGOs, Economic Affairs Division (EAD), Syeda Adeela Bokhari said EAD regulated only those INGOs which received financial contribution from foreign countries and donors.

She called for a greater accountability and transparency in the sector.

“To ensure the accountability and financial transparency of INGOs/NGOs, the ministry has devised a new draft policy which will be implemented after formal approval by the federal cabinet,” Ms Bokhari. The new policy is expected to respond to various issues and concerns of the sector.

She said the new policy suggested curtailing time to 60 days for completion of the registration process.

Former parliamentarian and PCP’s research committee chairperson Dr Attiya Inayatullah said civil society organisations worked for the development of the country and democracy.

She said CSOs in Pakistan are facing challenges at multiple fronts, adding: “We need unity of purpose among government, private sector and civil society as the third sector.” To bring a social change and achieve the goal of sustainable development, a vibrant role of CSOs is the need of the hour, she added.

SZABIST President Shahnaz Wazir Ali said the government should not be just a regulator but it should be a facilitator to CSOs to make them an equal partner in the development and social uplifting. The challenges such as over-regulation and over-documentation for working of CSOs should be addressed to create an enabling environment for them to serve the society.

Research fellow at SDPI Shafqat Munir said the government and civil society should have a close coordination and work together for sustainable growth and development of the country.

PCP Executive Director Shazia Maqsood Amjad said the government needs to be cognizant of the problems CSOs had been facing in terms of financial and social spheres.

She said the PCP provided CSOs the certification which helped them get non-profit organisation (NPO) status from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Hashoo Foundation Country Director Ayesha Khan said these organisations also provided a platform for people that are less represented. She said CSOs had been having issues in terms of reporting at multiple levels and under multiples laws, including various taxation regimes.

They have to have a no-objection certificate (NOC) for each project through a touch process. She said CSOs welcome monitoring and transparency related measures but there should not be a negative perception of civil society organisations.