The Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Policy is now to be transformed to the Development Cooperation Framework (DCF). The document has gone through cabinet and it is now awaiting the approval of parliament. This framework is set to coordinate and regulate NGOs in the country.
According to Ibrahim Tommy, Executive Director, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, they are seriously concerned that the Development Cooperation Framework (DCF) will impose severe restrictions to NGO’s and impinge on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, which are guaranteed under international human rights law, in particular under Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Articles 9 (2), 10 (1), and 10 (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
These same rights are enshrined in Chapter III Articles 15 (b) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, he referenced.
He (Tommy) made reference to the promise that was made by President Bio during his maiden address to the people of Sierra Leone as he (President Bio) did state that civil society is the ‘bedrock of modern governance.’
It is the conviction of CARL and other likeminded CSOs that if the statement above as was made by the president is something to go by, this latest move by government in relation to provisions as captured by the Development Cooperation Framework (DCF) is a lip service and a move to muzzle NGOs.
“We feel that the Development Cooperation Framework has the great potential to constrain and contract civil society space in Sierra Leone which will compromise and weaken the pivotal work of both national and international NGOs,” he stated.
Tommy asserted that their views were not reflected in the document (DCF) as is not inclusive neither transparent; citing that their responsibility as civil society organizations is to hold government accountable as oppose to being a collaborator to government development priority.
“Not everyone should work for or by what government wants; they cannot be an extension of government activities,” he added.
In her statement, Marcella Samba Sesay, executive director Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) stated that the Development Cooperation Framework (DCF) undermines their rights as Non-governmental organizations to stand up for what they believed in as an organization.
She described the framework as a blanket prescription to civil society which they are not in favor of, hence calling on government to look into their concerns.
She expressed that their call is not aimed at confronting government, but for government to open up the space so that they can dialogue on the issue.
“It will be impossible for them to work the way they should work if they are to go by this Development Cooperation Framework,” said Tommy.
Saffea Senessie, country director of International Rescue Committee vowed that as CSO’s they are not against being cooperative nor being accountable but that government should not be the one to instruct them on their mandates as CSOs.
He called on government to create the platform so that the document can be given the scrutiny it deserves so that the views of a wider majority of NGOs in the country could be captured to promote true development cooperation.