June 1, 2017 By Memunatu Bangura
The Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI) has in its 2016 report on Defending civil society, implicated government and Members of Parliament over the implementation of the Sierra Leone NGO Policy Regulation of 2009.
The report themed: Creating a chilling effect on civil society and its operations in Sierra Leone’ was launched on Thursday, 25th May, 2017.
According to the report, the NGO policy regulation of 2009 is a law that was supposed to have further cemented the work of NGOs in the country, while also allowing independence in the civic space.
The report stated that since the revised policy was published, NGOs and CSOs have been on the neck of government to review the said policy regulation, because it ironically propagates shrinking of space with series of draconian laws.
The report further stated that government was using the NGO policy as an excuse to counteract the regulation of CSOs in improving accountability and restrict the ability of CSOs to be formed, operate, and receive funding, transfer ideas and information between members and states.
It also stated that section 2.3&1 of the draft policy lay NGOs at the mercy of Ministry of Finance in the name of monitoring its relationship between government, Donors, NGOs and beneficiary communities.
“The draft policy further in section 2.5 stated that projects formulated by NGOs for implementation in Sierra Leone must be discussed with relevant line ministries for their green light before implementation,” the report stated.
The report observed that if such recommendation was to be followed, it would make NGOs and CSOs arm or extension of government as opposed to an independent non-governmental body complementing the work of government in its operations.
It reiterated that if such policy was to be implemented, it would prevent CBOs from becoming NGOs whatever the justifications might be, adding that the independence, operation and space of civil society would be compromised and shrink, leading to ‘butt licking’ by some NGOs and CBOs to government and its officials in order to see the smooth registration and running of their organisations.
SDI in the report appealed for government to review its NGO policy and amend it to be in line with the constitution of Sierra Leone and its international obligations to promote freedom of association and internationally recognized principles of best practices.