CBF moves in right direction [Archives:2004/795/Viewpoint]

December 2 2004

The initiative taken by the Cultural Bridges Forum (CBF) to bring priority to the issue of civil society is indeed a step in the right direction. Despite the fact that the forum is headed by a former prime minister and may be close to the authorities, such action is highly respected and would help the government realize the need to go along the global direction to involve the civil society in sharing responsibility in nation building and decision making.
The last roundtable discussion at the Taj Sheba Hotel in Sana'a last Monday was an opportunity to listen to the grievances and needs of the civil society at large and the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in particular.
The overall impression that was derived from the meeting is that NGOs still find themselves constrained by a number of factors, of which the most important could be the inability or unwillingness of the government to recognize the vital role of NGOs in grassroots level projects and activities.
This was in fact attributed to historical reasons of isolation and dominance of authorities in every walk of life for decades. The opening up of Yemen and the emergence of democratic transformation in the country continues to move on painfully and slowly.
Part of this transition is the change of mentality of people in charge of the country's affairs in the way they perceive the NGO community and its role in development.
The other hinder that causes obstacles to NGO work is mainly lack of human and financial resources. Those two cause the most dominant threat to the continuation and existence of the organization.
The other important factor behind the poorly-managed situation of the 3,000 plus NGOs is channeling of funds of donors, or the inability of donors to properly evaluate the NGOs that work hard and deserve cooperation and filter them from the rest.
Some NGOs are formed with bad intentions of gaining money and donations or making their founders wealthy. This explains why some of them are briefcase NGOs that don't last for long and are inactive most of the time, and in fact, may have their licenses expired.
Hence, just as we correctly concluded that the civil society is a major player in the democratization and development of the country, one can also not deny that those 'sincere' civil society organizations do deserve attention and care so as they could grow and be more active.
It was a pleasant surprise to know that the chairman of CBF, former Prime Minister Dr. Abdulkareem Al-Iryani, is preparing to hold a large-scale conference in Yemen in the first half of 2005 to further focus on this issue and to hopefully present a strategy for the development of NGOs to make them sustainable, hard working, and trustworthy.
After all, a strong NGO community is not only good for the country and its people, but is also good for the government and Yemen's image as a truly dedicated nation moving towards comprehensive development.
I personally wish the CBF success in its mission to create a solid bridge between the civil society and the government, and I do hope that -once built- both parties would make the best use of it.