Non governmental organizations across the country have called for a national dialogue forum, consisting both civil society and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), in order to discuss the current NGO Policy. The calls were made on Monday 31st August 2009, during the one day dialogue forum held by Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI) at the conference hall of Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) in Freetown.The session had as it theme: "Defending Civil Society Project", and was funded by US Aid International Centre for non-Profit Law.
In his presentation, the Executive Director of SDI, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai revealed that the NGO bill under discuss was first drafted in 1994, by decree under the NPRC government and was re-drafted in 2007. He added that it was followed by the final policy which was drafted and submitted in May 2008.
According to him, the current NGO Policy makes provision for the inclusion of a wide range of work to be undertaken by NGOs, as requirement in selecting their areas of concerns. Mr. Abdulai disclosed that one main reason why the government was coming down hard on NGOs was because the former believes that NGOs earn more money than the government itself, and that the NGOs received more money from donor partners than government.
He pointed out that the NGOs policy defines NGOs as independent, non profit making and non political but charitable organizations with the primary objective of enhancing the social, cultural and economic well being of communities. The SDI Boss went on that there were certain areas in the NGOs policy that contravene the definition given by the same policy which, according to him, needs to be considered. He however, pointed out that the policy insists that before an NGO can commence operations, it must sign an agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone, which according to him, creates room for government to ban controversial NGOs upon re-registering.
Speaking also was Fallah Ensa Ndamah of Civil Society who cited that the purpose of the meeting was to open a forum for dialogue with civil society organizations on the policy as government has spelt out guidelines for NGOs that must be followed before commencing operations.In his contribution, the National Coordinator of Youth Alliance for Peace and Development (YAPAD) Mr. Bockarie Ensah noted that the clause that state in the NGO Policy that: "Organizations should register with Sierra Leone Association of Non Governmental Organization (SLANGO) prior to becoming a full operational NGO was against the constitution of Sierra Leone and other International Instruments that governs everybody’s right to freedom of association". He then called on civil society and NGOs to come together and send a strong message to the policy makers that they cannot accept an NGO Policy that does not serve the interest of all Sierra Leonean.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.