Future of NGOs in Yemen More NGO accountability needed [Archives:2004/784/Community]

October 25 2004

Mohammed bin Sallam
A recent two-day symposium dealing with NGOs in Yemen continued to send a signal that changes are in store in how their work will be monitored in the future.
The Oct. 18 and 19 symposium was held by the Civil Community Forum (CCF).
A number of researchers and academics reviewed papers relating to updating the legal relationship of the private societies and institutions; and establishing, promoting, and managing them as well as the financial resources of such societies and institutions.
The positive and negative points concerning the relation of these societies and institutions with the government system were discussed along with the sanctions stipulated by the government. The participants also reviewed the rights and duties of the NOGs.
From the government side, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Labor, Ali Saleh Abdullah explained the current situation of the NGOs, the problems and the negative aspects of these organizations. He also talked about the factors having influence on the law and by-laws, which organize their work, in addition to the standards and monitoring practiced by the ministry.
He said: “the ministry neither practices unacceptable monitoring nor wants to act like the role of a policeman upon the non-government organizations. The concept of monitoring means to observe what is going on in these organizations but not to intervene in their domestic affairs. The monitoring on such organizations in the base of a security concept is illegal and unwarranted.”
The Deputy Minister stated that there are 4,576 non-governmental and cooperative organizations registered by the Ministry till the middle of 2004 compared to 4,105 organizations in 2003. Some 2,941 of them work under the NGOs law, 37 of which are qualitative unions, 1,964 charitable societies, 69 charitable institutions, 459 social societies, while 54 societies are cultural, 48 scientific, 19 friendship societies, 5 brotherhood ones, 26 professional syndicates, 220 clubs, and 8 forums.
Dr. Mohammad Ahmad Al-Mekhlafi (who is also an advocate) reviewed sanctions as stated by the NGOs law. He said: “we discovered that the NGOs law resorted to fabricating other tools of dominance over the functions of the NGOs as well as to oblige them to express loyalty to the government so that their agents will not be subjected to criminal observance. We find that some of the statements of the law do not only violate the rules of the Yemeni constitution, but also the criminal legislation.”
In his paper, Dr. Al-Mekhlafi further advocated “the provision of guarantees to enable citizens to pursue their rights in establishing the NGOs and to allow them to play an important role in the development process, and constructing the republican regime and the civil community.
“These organizations have to be considered as a partner of the government in shouldering the responsibility towards the society as well as conducting their activities completely independently, as a partner able to incorporate the capabilities of the community and form one of the contributors to development.”
His paper added that NGOs should participate in the political, social and cultural life, and defend their rights so as to reap the utmost benefit from democracy- the just share of citizens in wealth and authority, and putting an end to the monopoly exerted by a minority of people.