NGOs, GONGOs or NGIs?!! [Archives:2000/08/Focus]

January 21 2000

Mohammed  Hatem Al-Qadhi, 
Managing Editor
There are several yardsticks whereby we can measure the existence and evolution of civil society. One of such yardsticks is  NGOs which stand for Non-Governmental Organization. NGOs refer to voluntary non-profit organizations which belong to neither government nor the private for-profit business sector. This is the basis of the NGOs and the main purpose  for which they are established is that they can be of a vital role in streamlining a sustainable development process in a society.
So far, there are around 2000 NGOs in Yemen.  But are they all functioning properly? 
Well folks, the problem of NGOs in Yemen lies in the fact that the government is openly trying to mushroom the GONGOs ( Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organizations) at the expense of NGOs. The authorities are openly converting any trace of NGOs into GONGOs. In fact, the government tries its best to control  NGOs and direct their work. Sometimes, it tries to trouble them and bring them into a halt. 
What is funny about it is that if one wants to establish an NGO, s/he has to get it registered at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Right now everything is okay. But the permit will not be given unless one or two of the civil servants of the ministry are included in the Board of Trustees of the wanted-to-be-established NGO. Unless you do that, you are not entitled to establish an NGO. This is why we find the honorary presidents of most of the existing  NGOs among the high ranking officials in the society. Therefore, the aim of the government to control NGOs is, in fact, a decision which aims to reduce the pace of evolution and growth of civil society in Yemen. Moreover, it troubles the participation of people in public life for which NGOs have been made.
The other aspect of the problem NGOs are put into is this. To put it straightforward, NGOs in any society can not operate without any financial support. This is normal since they are voluntary and non-profit. The lack  of financial sources have made some NGOs come into a halt. However, the main problem facing NGOs process in Yemen is that they have become self-serving. Some people think that the shortest way to self-enrichment is to establish an NGO. Some foreigners have started mocking at NGOs in Yemen. They rather call them NGIs which stand for Non-Governmental Individuals. In addition, some donor countries are thinking to stop dealing with some NGOs in Yemen because they have found them easy sources for self-enrichment for some individuals. That is, instead of using the donations to improve the conditions and prospects of the less advantaged groups in the society, they use them for their own interest. 
Last week I was in a qat chatting with some friends. We started discussing several topics among which is the problem of NGOs in Yemen. Some put it like this. They argue that some NGOs do not have visible and substantial programs and mechanisms of how to help guide sustainable development of the society. Others add that people in charge of NGOs limit their work to holding seminars or workshops thinking this is the ultimate goal of the work of NGOs. Yes guys, seminars are important but they should be held to highlight the work which has targeted the disadvantaged.
Mind you, there are some NGOs which are doing well having good programs.
Finally, I think there is a need to educate people about the work of NGOs and their role in development. Furthermore, NGOs should have fully-fledged plans and programs to be achieved in the long run. There must be coordination between the NGOs working in the same field and all NGOs at large. Above all, people should comprehend the fact that NGOs are voluntary and non-profitable. Otherwise, NGOs will turn into NGIs. Have you got the message?!