‘NGOs Invading National Sovereignty’

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said that some non-government organizations (NGOs) operating in the country are now going out the way by making themselves super-national bodies that have sought to challenge the sovereignty of the state though they themselves have financial and moral integrity problems.

The Liberian leader said that since the restoration of peace and democratic governance in Liberia, NGOs, both national and international, continue to contribute to the reconstruction process of our country, but that does not give them the right to go beyond their borders. 

NGOs, during and after the civil crisis, some of them prior to the crisis, had traditionally provided services in wide areas of humanitarian assistance and development. But recently, more of the NGOs’ activities have been centered on improving democracy and governance; human rights; environment and natural resources.

Giving her state of the nation’s address on Monday January 27, at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, the President noted that some NGOs in the above-mentioned sector have sought to become super-national bodies challenging national sovereignty even as they themselves lack national and international governance status and rules in transparency and accessibility.

Providing a statistical analysis of NGOs in the country, President Sirleaf said: “To date, Liberia has a total of 997 NGOs – 874 National and 123 International – operating in the 15 counties of Liberia. These NGOs had traditionally provided services in wide areas of humanitarian assistance and development.”

She furthered, “More recentlythe emphasis has been on democracy and governance; human rights; environment and natural resources.  In these latter functions, some NGOs have sought to become super-national bodies challenging national sovereignty even as they themselves lack national and international governance status and rules in transparency and accessibility.”

The Liberian leader said that as government strives to speed up its post-conflict development “we must ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability by NGOs in their delivery of services to our people. We must guarantee a strong inter-sectoral framework and information-sharing mechanisms between the institutions of government and non-governmental organizations.”

She indicated that to ensure this partnership is achieved, Government will require national and international NGOs to submit a report of their annual activities, and register with a relevant government agency every year; that NGOs disclose to the government the details of the funds pledged by donors for project implementation in the country; that funds secured for capacity-building are utilized, in collaboration with the relevant ministries or agencies of government.

She also said that all funds released to NGOs by a donor should be transferred from the donor to the NGOs through an account in a commercial bank in Liberia; that all vehicles owned by NGOs should be registered in the name of the organization   and be   clearly marked   with the name and logo of the organization or face impoundment; and   that all assets owned by international non-governmental organizations—purchased or acquired with donor funds—are the property of the Liberian people who are the direct beneficiaries.

“In an instance where an organization decides to close down its operations, the organization shall surrender such assets to the sector Ministries or Agencies of Government in which such NGO operated,” the Liberian President, noted.

It is not clear to which organizations the president was referring. However, a number of NGOs stand out as having been extremely critial of various GOL policies over the past year.

Global Witness, in partnership with well-established local firms such as Green Advocates and the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), have been particularly critical of the Liberian government on environmental issues such as Private Use Permits and what they describe as land grabbing on the part of multi-national corporations such as Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) was also very vocal during the trial and subsequent incarceration of FrontPage Africa publisher Rodney Sieh. The CPJ brought  pressure to bear on the GOL to release Sieh on human rights and press freedom grounds, whereas the government maintained that the case was a civil case.

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Liberia as the second most corrupt in the world and the Liberia National Police (LNP) as the most corrupt insititution in Liberia, specifically with regard to forced bribery.

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