NGO Board of Malawi has called for openness and enhanced working relationship between government and the local civil society organisations (CSOs) in order to accelerate the realisation of the country's social, economic and democratic aspirations of the citizens.
Jose Torres: UN remains committed to supporting the local CSOs.-Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times NGO Board chief executive officer, Voice Mhone A cross section of conference participants.-Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times
The NGO Board chief executive officer, Voice Mhone, observed that constructive engagement between government and the civil society has helped a number of countries to achieve their social and economic dreams; hence, the need for Malawi to adopt the same approach.
Mhone made the remarks in Lilongwe on Friday when he presented a discussion paper on the meaningful CSO engagement with Government at the Malawi CSO Conference in Lilongwe.
The conference is held under the theme "Building a Democratic, Prosperous, and Productive Malawi Through Civic Participation" and has draw more than 100 local CSOs, which receive direct financial and technical support from the USAID.
He said it is the considered belief of the government that meaningful engagement with government is through the participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community based organisations (CBOs) in Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) and Technical Working Groups (TWGs).
"There are 16 sectors that were established by the government to facilitate effective implementation of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, which is the country's overarching five-year medium term development strategy that all NGOs and CBOs are expected to align their interventions to, as they participate in the national development processes," he explained.
Mhone further emphasised that a meaningful engagement between government and CSOs can only prevail if there is a common understanding that promotion of alignment of various interventions to the national development strategy that have the aspiration and needs of the common Malawian is not tantamount to stifling the civil society space.
"Meaningful engagement is the one that provides room for dialogue to be at the centre-stage when there are any misunderstandings or issues that need the attention of the other party. This is the type of engagement that the government will always promote," he said.
At this point, Mhone urged the NGOs and CBOs to align their programmes to local plans such as the district development plans, among others.
"All district councils develop development plans, which are informed by social economic profiles that are equally informed by area development plans. In this regard, meaningful engagement, in our view, is full involvement of district councils through the appropriate structures at the council level such as the District Executive Committees, Area Development Committees and Village Development Committees," Mhone narrated.
He also challenged the civil society to be accountable not only to the donors, but also to Malawians they were established to serve.
"This sector has money (K1 trillion annually), which, in most cases, is not accounted for. The NGO Board therefore encourages you to engage technicians in coming up with innovations that government can take on board.
"There are some innovations that the civil society comes up with, but government has challenges to implement them because of financial constraints. Let us bring up structural innovations that can help promote the enjoyment of various rights, including rights of persons with disabilities," stressed Mhone.
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Maria Jose Torres, said her organisation remains committed to supporting the local CSOs in their pursuit for improved social and economic livelihoods of Malawians.