Formation of a National NGO Network NGOs Call for Corrective Steps [Archives:1998/25/Front Page]

June 22 1998

The First General Conference of NGOs was concluded successfully on Thursday June 18th. It also ended with a big bang – with the formation of a nation-wide network which will collect, organize and diffuse information on NGOs and their activities.
Exactly 628 NGOs gathered for three days at the Police Officers’ Club to discuss various issues related to their growth and contribution to national development.
The Final communique of 12 articles, called for many corrective steps (Please read the same on Law & Diplomacy Page).
The main achievement, however, was the establishment of an information network, which is formed of the leading 25 NGOs nationwide, and representatives of the ministries of Planning and Development, Social Affairs, Labor, Tourism and Culture, and Foreign Affairs. This group will present a detailed proposal by September, 1998.

What Foreign Participants Said:
1. Mr. Antonio Marro, Project Coordinator, Association For Participation To Development, Italy:

Our NGO has offices in Kenya. I came to Yemen for the conference to study the possibilities of working here and to look for partner NGOs that are willing to work with us in the future. Normally our NGO deals with micro-credit and sustaining micro-enterprises and activities related to micro-management. We also have a big interests in women’s organizations.

The positive part, however, is that local organizations are willing to cooperate with international ones. There is a lot of enthusiasm to do things, which is a very positive point. That is why we hope to find people to work together with and establish projects beneficial to both sides.
We ourselves are not donors, we depend on the European Community or Italian Government. But we are looking for some local partners to plan something for the future.

2. Mr. K. Oliver Lofton-Brook, Executive Director, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Canada:

We are already working in Yemen, we are the only Canadian NGO working in a health project.
This conference has been a very interesting experience, to see the development of democracy and get a lot of ideas. Nobody is afraid to speak.

However, we can never escape politics. But NGOs must not become the tool of politicians, that is the difference. Politics is in every part of our lives and we need to understand that.

3. Ms. Frances Moore, Program Director & Regional Advisor – Middle East – Save The Children Fund, UK:

Save the Children is not a funding organization, it only works for the rights of children and focuses mainly on people under 18. We in the Middle East have programs in Lebanon and Morocco, and look forward to using the experience and linking with the Yemeni NGOs by finding partner organizations .

Hopefully, there will be a community participation working with women and looking at health, education, social services development, human rights for children and much wider aspects than just specific sectors.
It is been extremely interesting to hear the different opinions of different participants and the papers that have been developed. This conference will provide useful information for the development of the NGOs sector in Yemen, but still there is a long way to go.

4. Mr. Anders C. Hougard, Counselor at the Royal Danish Embassy in Riyadh, which covers the whole Gulf region and Yemen:

We have a small grant in the field of human rights and democracy, and if you can find some NGOs to support with small scale projects, we will be happy to do so. Sponsoring this conference is our first project in Yemen for 1998.

We have had several ideas and proposals, which we will look into and decide. We will donate an allowance of $10,000 to $11,000 for each project. My successor will come here in the autumn and find some other projects.
We also support the government. Last year we provided the Yemeni parliament with an allowance of approximately $75,000 for buying computer equipment and for organizing training courses for the parliamentary staff. We want to share our donations between the government organizations and the official Yemeni NGOs.
I am very impressed to see so many NGOs participating in this conference. The idea to invite this large number of NGOs to come to Yemen is a fantastic one. I wish that the democratic process here will continue, and the economic reforms will succeed.

5. Mr. Michel Doucin, Director of NGO Liason Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France:

I have come here to bring French NGOs to Yemen. We are particularly interested in setting up projects with the government and local NGOs. There are already French NGOs working here, particularly in the field of health.

I have come with two NGOs interested in the fields of health, the environment, agriculture and micro credit. We hope to organize a meeting with all the French NGOs who might be interested in working in Yemen. We can easily find a lot of French volunteers and NGOs who would like to come here.
Taking part in this conference is a very interesting experience. The debates between NGOs and the government are really very frank, a thing one could not imagine in a Middle Eastern country. The debates among the NGOs themselves are interesting.

6. Mr. Drew Whitson, General Director of the Yemen Baptist Mission:

We are primarily working in the Jibla Baptist Hospital, but we also work in other parts of the country. Moving in to Yemen as an organization in 1964 then opening the hospital in 1967, we are working mainly in health and health education. This is the only hospital we have, but we would like to see the possibility of having the Ministry of Health and other ministries having us as a partner in the development of Yemen’s health sector.

I think this conference is a very positive step in the development of NGO activity in Yemen. The participants have addressed some very difficult issues. I believe that the Yemeni people are resourceful and can solve the issues facing them and go forward in strides.
The need for primary health care and secondary health care are essential to help the citizens develop, and also to be healthy so that they do their work.

We have worked with at least with one local NGO on a food project. It seems a challenge to do any kind of work here without being accused of political agendas, and this is one of the things that NGOs have to be careful of.
We constructed the building of the hospital in 1967 which we now operate in a cost recovery system. This means that citizens have to pay to help recover the costs of the hospital. We have about 65 internationals there and about 185 Yemenis that are recruited by us, from nurses down to nurse aids and others that support the work of the hospital. It is a 77-bed hospital with a men’s and women’s ward. We have general surgery, so we are not a specialist hospital.
I am proud of Yemen and how it has developed over the past 35 years. It has its future in its grasp and it needs to decide how it is going to proceed to the future. It is going to be a difficult path, but Yemen will have a great future.

7. Dr. Norman Cook, Director of NGOs and Special Projects, the International Development Agency of Canada.

CIDA funds more than 500 Canadian NGOs working in 135 countries on projects for basic human needs, human rights and development in democratic governance.

The purpose of my participation in this conference is to support both the government and the many NGOs in their search for a beneficial dialogue in order to develop a healthy relationship that can support the sustainable development of Yemen. Through that development, Yemen can hopefully eliminate poverty, and provide their future generations with the best possible platform for global citizenship.

From the Canadian perspective, this conference has a very solid agenda. I arrived in Yemen one day before the conference and had an opportunity to watch the organizing committee at work. I was extremely excited by their enthusiasm. Real issues were discussed – principles, technicalities and management.
Times have changed. Global citizens are demanding their rights, and the marginalized are moving the margin to the center. Governments now have to understand that their best strength is their people. The best protection of their culture, traditions and their ways is the empowerment of their own people. They must be partners with their own people in a democratic development.
Yemen needs all its people- men, women, people on the margin, under-privileged minorities, etc. Yemen must release all that energy into the global universe in order to survive as a culture, and advance the best things that Yemenis can offer the world.

8. Mr. Rizah Nayeri of the Imam Khomeini Organization:

We are all participating in this conference to help alleviate some of the suffering incurred by our less fortunate fellow human beings, the deprived and the marginalized. I have presented the Iranian experience so that my colleagues might benefit from it.

I would like to call on all the participants to work on establishing an international umbrella organization for NGOs for different countries to join. This way they can exchange ideas, views and expertise.
The Imam Khomeini Organization is considering the funding of several projects in Yemen, especially in the fields of health care. Contacts between the two sides are now underway to reach a comprehensive assessment of the fields in urgent need of our assistance.
This conference could be the start of a series of similar events in the future to consolidate cooperation between international NGOs. All efforts should be channeled to help NGOs in all parts of world to work alongside governmental bodies to make the world a better place.
But, of course, we can start on a regional level. This conference is the beginning of many good ideas and possibilities.

By: Dr. Salah Haddash
Mohammed Hatim , and
Mohammed Bin Sallam,
Yemen Times.