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MS Zambia Newsletter June 2009

The Zambian NGO Bill: What’s happening?

The Zambian Government intends to revive the much criticized NGO Bill during the next sitting of parliament on July 14th. As a reaction to this, representatives of NGO’s based in Lusaka met in April to agree on a joint advocacy strategy and CSO position.

A couple of hundred people protested against the NGO bill in Lusaka Saturday the 28th of July 2007.
A couple of hundred people protested against the NGO bill in Lusaka Saturday the 28th of July 2007.
By Ditte Egelund Jensen

30. June 2009

The idea of an NGO Bill was first introduced in 1996, when the multi party system was instated in Zambia, at a time when the number of NGOs in the country was increasing. The NGO Bill is an instrument that enables the Government to regulate and control NGO activities and has therefore been much criticized by the NGO’s. However, to this day the bill has not yet been passed by parliament. When it was last presented in parliament in 2007, it was decided that it needed to be revised, and was therefore referred back to the government, who were advised to make consultations with all the stakeholders.

A joint advocacy strategy and CSO position
Since 2007 the government has been quiet about the NGO bill. However, recently it has been announced that the government intends to revive the NGO Bill during the next sitting of parliament on July 14th. Whether or how it has been changed has so far not been revealed. As a reaction to the preceding rumours of the bill's revival, Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) called an emergency consultative meeting in April 2009 with Lusaka based NGOs to come up with an agreed advocacy strategy on their position.

The aim of the meeting was not to come up with ideas to avoid an NGO Bill; according to Reverend Matyola from ZCSD there is good sense in having an NGO Bill. As he says, “The NGO sector is not perfect; it has to grow and still needs some sort of regulation. However we do not agree with the government on the type of regulation”.

But according to the reverend there is no need for the Government to control NGO activities, as the NGO sector is capable of regulating itself.

On the meeting, the NGO representatives discussed how they might demonstrate to government that they are able and willing to regulate themselves.

Reverend Matyola from ZCSD
Reverend Matyola from ZCSD

NGO code of conduct

In December 2006 representatives of the NGO sector made a draft NGO code of conduct, which was meant as a tool for the NGOs to regulate themselves. On the April 2009 meeting it was decided that this code should be finalized as part of the strategy to demonstrate to Government that the NGOs in Zambia are ready to regulate themselves. Also it was decided that the NGOs based outside of Lusaka should be brought on board.

In a follow up meeting in June to finalize the Code of Conduct, it will also be discussed, what position the NGOs will take, should the NGO Bill be passed in the parliament in the next sitting. “So far we do not know the exact content of the revised NGO Bill, and therefore it is not certain how we will react, should the Bill be passed”, says reverend Matyola, “for now we will be proactive and aim to demonstrate to the government that we, in the NGO sector, are ready to regulate ourselves”.

Read previous articles on the NGO bill about the demonstrations in 2007 that led to the eventual postponement of the bill.

11th of June 2007: Zambian NGO's don't need government intervention
1st of August 2007: Zambian NGO’s are struggling against time
28th of August 2007: NGO bill postponed



Read more
Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) is a national umbrella organization for NGOs and community based organizations (CBOs) in Zambia. Presently it has around 100 member organizations. While it has existed since 1975, its current objective is to advocate for an enabling and independent environment for the operation of civil society in the country in order to promote a sustainable socio-economic development through collaboration and networking among NGOs, CBOs and other stakeholders.

More articles about the fight for the NGO bill: