Decision on NGOs threatens Western aid

A GOVERNMENT decision to police non-governmental organisations working in Zimbabwe threatens future support from Western countries whose funds have been critical in curbing humanitarian disasters, a top diplomat has said.

Regional Integration and International Cooperation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the government last week told donors and ambassadors from donor countries that they should inform government of their activities, total funding into the country and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that they were working with.

But the United States (US), which is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest donors, warned yesterday that such a move would be disastrous, mainly because it was not practical to make such demands when donors were doing their best under the current environment where their options were limited due to restrictions levelled against some people in the inclusive government.

However, Misihairabwi-Mushonga insisted that donors and NGOs should abide by the rules and regulations government has set out for donor funding.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who chairs the recently set up Government Development Forum in which 10 ministers sit with donors and ambassadors to discuss policy and problematic issues regarding donor funding, said government should be the dominant player in aid co-ordination and aid-distribution.
She said she would soon be compiling a database of the total number of donors and the NGOs in the country, programmes that they finance, size and quantity of funding and the criteria they use to select their beneficiaries.

“It is the government that defines where aid should go. We now require everyone in the country to inform us about their aid work, how much they are spending and which areas they are working on. Right now we don’t know and are not sure who is doing what or working with whom and through which NGOs,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

However, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that he did not believe in a government dictating rules on how they should operate, adding that what worked at the moment, because of the restrictions on Zimbabwe, was to channel aid through NGOs or directly to communities.

“We try to put aid where it’s most effective, and I don’t believe having a rule that says everything must be one way or another. As it stands right now the bulk of our aid goes directly to communities and goes through NGOs,” he said.

“The essential philosophy of US aid and the way I influence wherever I work is… I refuse to have someone write a set of rules and tell me that I must follow those rules, I look for what works.”

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said what they are doing is the accepted norm in any country in the world.
“They have to know that they are dealing with a country which has a government and they will have to follow certain rules. They can’t just operate in this country the way they want.

Faith Zaba

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