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This article participates on the following special index pages:
NGO Bill - Index of Opinion and Analysis
draft Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, 2004
Center for Civil Society Law (ICCSL)
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In the past 15 years, there has been a growing awareness that basic
human rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression and association,
are directly related to the creation of civil society. In turn, there
is an increasing understanding that an independent and vigorous civil
society is essential to social and economic development and the long-term
success of democracy. Further, laws permitting, encouraging, and protecting
civil society, when combined with other laws facilitating citizen participation—such
as freedom of information and "government in the sunshine" laws—are
essential to the promotion of accountability, transparency, and good governance—of
government and all other institutions that affect the public interest.
The purpose of the
International Center for Civil Society Law (ICCSL) is to promote knowledge
and understanding of legal developments in these areas of law (collectively
"civil society law" or "CSL") and to provide information
and support for the continued development of civil society law throughout
the world. ICCSL accomplishes its purpose through an integrated program
of publications, education, and professional development, international
symposia, and technical assistance. The scope of its mandate indicates
its uniqueness, and it has attracted to its ranks scores of highly committed
civil society practitioners and academics from every region and continent.
Many of them have joined in the preparation of these comments or have
asked to be associated with them; ICCSL extends its particular thanks
to the following individuals: Michel De Wolf (Belgium); Daniela País
Costa (Brazil); Noshir Dadrawala (India); and Richard Rosenthal (South
Africa). The principal drafters of the Report are Paul Bater, an independent
legal consultant working on civil society law issues in the United Kingdom,
Professor Karla W. Simon, of the Catholic University of America School
of Law in the United States, and Leon E. Irish, President of ICCSL and
Visiting Professor of Law at Central European University, Hungary.
This Report includes
Comments, which address provisions of the Draft Non-governmental Organisations
Bill, 2004 (the Draft Bill). ICCSL understands the Draft Bill is to be
tabled in the next session of Parliament. The Draft Bill would replace
the existing Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act (1997).
The NGOs in Zimbabwe
developed draft legislation within the past two years, which would have
provided politically protected space for NGOs, but it appears that their
draft was ignored by the government as it developed the Draft Bill. The
memorandum explaining the Government’s Draft Bill claims that it will
provide "an enabling environment for the operations, monitoring and
regulation of all non-governmental organizations." As this Report
will demonstrate, the opposite is true.
The evident aim of
the government’s move to replace the PVO Act with the Draft Bill is to
control NGOs and other civil society organizations in Zimbabwe, to prevent
them from engaging in criticism of the current government, and to prevent
their access to foreign funds. Specifically under Section 17 of the Draft
Bill, both NGOs and churches will be forbidden by the law to receive foreign
funding "to carry out activities involving or including "issues
of governance," which the Draft Bill states includes "promotion
and protection of human rights and political governance."
The restrictions in
the Draft Bill will apply to both formal and informal associational activities
other than those of a purely private nature, and the law will give essentially
unbridled discretion to the government to regulate and control the activities
of NGOs and the "governance-related" activities of churches.
Specific comments on the various provisions are provided in this Report.
Before looking into
specific issues in the Draft Bill, however, the Report first details the
protections afforded to the internationally recognized freedoms of association
and expression and how these apply to Zimbabwe.
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