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  • NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis

  • ZIMBABWE: NGOs draw up a code of ethics
    IRIN News
    October 11, 2004

    HARARE - Zimbabwean NGOs have adopted a code of ethics ahead of a controversial new law threatening them with closure for maladministration and political activism.

    The code, which deals with accountability, transparency and good governance, was adopted at a three-day exhibition last week in the capital, Harare, which showcased the work of the NGO sector in health and social service delivery.

    The government's controversial bill, tabled last week, seeks to register and vet NGOs, while outlawing foreign-funded organisations involved in governance and human rights issues. According to the news agency Agence France-Presse, the bill has been amended to include a ban on agencies "furthering and facilitating the interests or activities of a political party."

    The government argues that such NGOs are being used as proxies by Western powers to destabilise the country.

    Bob Muchabaya, advocacy officer for the National Association of NGOs (NANGO) told IRIN: "The public is being subjected to gross misinformation in media reports, which say NGOs are anti-government or profit-making but, with expos of this type, we as NANGO are creating a forum for the public to interface with the NGOs and see how they operate."

    The code will be monitored, evaluated and implemented by NANGO, and is part of the NGO sector's strategy to demonstrate to government that they are capable of self-regulation. At least 400 of an estimated 600 Zimbabwean NGOs are NANGO members.

    NANGO members are bound by the code to set up sound governance structures run by responsible, democratically elected individuals, and urges transparency and accountability through participatory planning programmes with stakeholders, including government, donors and the people it serves.

    NGOs are also called on to "move away from the culture of being donor-dependent" and adopt transparent fund-raising practices. It commits them to training beneficiaries in project management and implementation, so that in the event of an NGO being shut down "the project will be managed and sustained by the beneficiaries".

    NANGO is responsible for creating awareness of the code among NGOs, measuring compliance through a special rating system, and taking "the necessary steps to rehabilitate, realign, correct or otherwise assist an organisation to rectify or stop the alleged violation".

    Official government representatives were absent from the NGO exhibition.

    Civil society groups themselves did not appear to fully appreciate the importance of the code - a meeting called to adopt the rules was marked by poor attendance. "It was a very disappointing meeting. It took us one hour to raise a quorum and, in the end, there were less than 30 people," Reuben Abidrabo of the Zimbabwean chapter of Amnesty International told IRIN.

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