WINDHOEK - The Namibian Civil Society Organisations (CSO) remained mostly dormant during the last two years due to a decrease in donour funding, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) launched on Wednesday stated.
According to the report, which focused mainly on 2017, the sustainability of the Namibian Civil Society declined significantly during 2017. It further said the financial viability of CSOs worsened considerably as foreign donours continued to withdraw.
CSOs’ organisational capacity, service provision, and infrastructure also declined as a result of deepening financial problems,” the reports revealed, continuing that despite these challenges, advocacy by CSOs gained prominence, thanks in part to an increase in lobbying on access to information and whistleblower protection, as well as the emergence of social media movements such as the Landless People’s Movement and the Affirmative Repositioning.
The report, however, indicates that the public image of CSOs did not change much in 2017. According to the report, the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) reported in 2015 that 568 CSOs existed in Namibia – and of these, about 10 percent were strongly established organisations, whereby approximately half of them worked in the fields of healthcare and HIV/AIDS, while at least 10 percent were active in economic and social justice, democracy, governance, and human rights.
The report further stated that since 2015, there has been no formal survey of civil society to establish the overall number of CSOs or identify the sectors in which they work. “However, at the end of 2017, the IPPR identified sixty active CSOs in the Windhoek area, able to contribute consultations involving the African Peer Review Mechanism,” the report stated.
The report further stated that the largest sectors are democracy and human rights sectors, labour sector (including trade unions), as well as healthcare and HIV/AIDS sectors. There appears to be very few CSOs outside the capital, even though there has not been a survey that was conducted to verify this.
The report further said that the legal environment for CSOs deteriorated in 2017, as the government failed to withdraw or amend Namibia’s “draconian” research law, increased restrictions on work visas for foreign experts, and failed to repeal the apartheid era Protection of Information Act.
With regards to the organisational capacity of CSOs, the report said that it deteriorated in 2017, mainly because of the closure of capacity-building organisations and constraints caused by persistent funding problems. “Several leading-capacity building organisations were either defunct or temporarily inactive in 2017,” the report said.
For example, the main umbrella body for CSOs, the Namibian Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (NANGOF) Trust, has been mostly dormant since its funding wound in 2016; thus, it did not offer capacity-building support in 2017, according to the report. Similarly, the training program on CSO management, offered by the Namibia Institute for Democracy, came to a halt when the institute temporarily closed down during the year, it was stated.
“Compounding this difficulty was the tendency of donors and international CSOs to overlook the needs of Namibian CSOs for capacity-building support,” the report stated. For example, some international organisations competed for funds with domestic organisations and organised activities in the areas in which established Namibian CSOs already operated, effectively undermining their work. Since these international organisations receive technical support and funding for overhead costs from their head offices, they are better resourced than local CSOs – and thus, more credible to donors.
As a result, the report added, Namibian CSOs must increasingly rely on funding for short-term projects, which does not usually include allowances for operating expenses such as rent and utilities. The net result for Namibian CSOs, the report said, is unreliable incomes, staffing uncertainties, and management and oversight problems.