Local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have petitioned government to, among other measures, stop international NGOs from directly working with communities.
But international NGOs (INGOs) argue that their local counterparts lack capacity and are less transparent and accountable in project implementation; hence, their working directly with communities, because they want “value for money”.
Minister of Population Planning and Social Welfare Clara Makungwa confirmed receiving the petition which is urging her to act within 30 days from May 4 2020.
The minister said she needed to understand the background to the issue before acting.
The petition is attributed to 600 active members of the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma), 97 members of Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and 150 members of the local NGOs forum.
The local NGOs are asking government to stop INGOs from opening offices in communities where they (local NGOSs) are present. Instead, they propose that the INGOs should work through local NGOs.
One of the strategies in the NGO Policy (2019) is to develop and enforce regulations between local NGOs and International NGOs, which the local NGOs say is not happening.
“While, in principle, there is great potential for this kind of arrangement, the current structures and systems through which these partnerships are conducted tend to benefit international NGOs while letting down local ones. They deliberately bring in screws to the processes and continue blaming local NGOs as having little capacity,” reads part of the petition delivered to NGO Board executive director Voice Mhone.
The local NGOs also accuse their international counterparts of negative attitude towards them.
In an interview, Youth Network and Counselling (Yoneco) executive director Macbain Mkandawire, whose organisation is part of the petition, said it is disheartening to note that some INGOs work in isolation, or do not value local partners who are more connected to communities.
When we approached some of the mentioned INGOs on the matter, they declined to comment, but through interviews with some of the officials in these organisations, it was learnt that INGOs also have issues with their local counterparts.
Dominating in our interviews is the issue of lack of capacity, transparency and accountability among local NGOs.
“Most of these local NGOs have little capacity to manage funds and deliberately avoid transparency and accountability. It is not all of them, but some,” said one official working with an INGO that implements some of its projects directly in communities.
But in a telephone interview, HRCC executive director Robert Mkwezelamba disputed suggestions that local NGOs lack capacity, saying that if anything, INGOs should aim at building the capacity of their local partners.