Afghanistan: NGO concern over new regulatory framework

Report
from The New Humanitarian
Published on 19 Mar 2003
KABUL, 19 March (IRIN) - NGOs in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have expressed concern over the government's new regulations governing NGOs, after a two-day consultative group meeting of the Afghanistan Development Fund(ADF). The move has been prompted in part by a perception that aid agencies in Afghanistan are not delivering results rapidly enough. The ADF announced last Friday that from now on, NGOs would operate in accordance with a specific legislative framework put together by the Afghan planning ministry.
"Having examined the latest draft, NGOs are concerned that it is unnecessarily coercive and will essentially render NGOs as governmental organisations," Rafael Robillard, the head of the Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) told IRIN in Kabul.

ACBAR says the current draft legislation limits the activities of NGOs to humanitarian assistance, ignoring the important role that NGOs continue to play in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. "We recognise that in some quarters NGOs have been criticised," Robillard said, adding that the government's contention that all NGOs spent significant proportions of their budgets on administrative costs was incorrect. "ACBAR will continue to provide interested parties with figures regarding the administrative costs of NGOs," the executive coordinator maintained.

"We thought that the new legislation framework will facilitate the work of NGOs, but unfortunately it did not," Mayar, an assistant head of mission for French based organisations, Solidarities, told IRIN in Kabul, adding that the law obliged aid bodies to be part of a new coordination assembly for NGOs. "I think it is impossible to force NGOs into such a loose structure," he said, mentioning that there were already NGO coordinating bodies such as ACBAR, and others.

The new law requires all NGO funding in the country to be channelled via Afghan banks, but aid agencies say such a move could negatively affect their work as delays were likely. "NGOs think the existing banks do not have the capacity to provide all facilities to NGOs to withdraw the money on time and efficiently," the assistant head of mission said. "I hope the government does not rush, and take NGOs comments into consideration before it [the law] is endorsed," he said.

The Afghan planning minister says the new regulations are to ensure more accountability, as well as better coordination in the implementation of NGO programmes. "The new legislation will ensure a feasible and accountable mechanism for NGOs activities," Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq told IRIN, noting that his ministry would try to make it acceptable to both the NGOs and the government.

The thousands of local and international NGOs now active in Afghanistan had made it imperative that the government brought in legislation to differentiate between contractors and NGOs and between those engaged in legitimate assistance work and those who are not. "The new law will assign a commission to evaluate NGO capability, quality and accountability," the minister said, emphasising that a large number of these NGOs would probably have their status changed because they did not conform with the new definition.

However, the government's move has been welcomed by the United Nations in Kabul. "It is very positive that the Afghan administration is becoming more and more capable of taking matters into their own hands," Manoel de Almeida e Silva, the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman, told IRIN in Kabul. "It is good that the Afghans now want to be in the driving seat," he said, noting that UNAMA's main focus was helping to further develop the capacity of Afghan institutions.

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