Vol. 5 Num 1117 Sun. July 22, 2007  

Circular to the NGOs
We fail to see the rationale
Frankly, we are at a loss to understand the logic of the recent circular by the NGO bureau, calling upon the NGOs to spend 50 percent of their funds on tangible development works. This is, to say the least, an application of authority, bordering on the arbitrary on a complex issue made to look simplistic. We are constrained to say that the order is not based on proper appreciation and understanding of the legitimate role of the NGOs. The best comment that one can make is that while the intent might have been good it stems from a very narrow understanding of the term development

We have several reservations about the order.

First, we do not understand how the NGOs, which have been operating in Bangladesh since our independence, and of which there are more than 20,000, should have anything to do with the joint forces, more so when there is an NGO Bureau directly under the chief executive.

How can the joint forces, set up under special circumstances to aid the civil administration and law enforcement agencies under the Emergency, determine the manner of functioning of the NGOs, or determine which of the projects should be shut down, when these projects had been drawn up after due process involving the NGO, the donor and the Bureau? If some projects that are not of benefit to the people, are to be closed down now, then the NGO bureau has a lot to answer for, having allowed such projects to commence in the first place.

Second, how can NGOs, dealing exclusively with health, immunization and infant mortality or education and development of human resources, be obligated to spend half their funds on visible infrastructural works? And what about the TIB whose labour has been complementary to the ACC's anti-corruption drive, or for that matter, Ain-o-Salish Kendro that deals with advocacy and human rights? Just to take an example: Going by the circular, all NGOs promoting education, human rights, technology transfer, etc. seem to have little use!

The notion of accountability is alright, but we can hardly afford to overlook the fact that development is a term that is all inclusive, and not all the activities of all the NGOs are related to building of roads or culverts or digging or re-digging of canals and the like. The circular should be immediately withdrawn before serious damage is done to a sector that has brought global recognition and respect.