Monday, October 31, 2005

Concerns over NGOs

Shirin Ebadi, Rooz Online:
NGOs and their activities are a matter of concern in Iran these days. There are accusations against some of their activists, and there are also official talks in passing their work to the mosques. On a smaller scale, there is also some talk of renewing their operating licenses.

The ultimate objective of these reports is to curtain the activities of the NGO’s and to bring them under official control. Those advocating this goal believe that if that takes place, the activities of these groups will be in line with that of the government’s. READ MORE

But such a move would require a transformation of the NGOs. The nature of NGOs in today’s world is to promote people’s issues through the civil society. So their most important feature is their independence from governments, not affiliations. This is because there are many times when the two institutions are at conflict, each moving in a direction different from the other.

This is when NGOs come in to help citizens acquire their right from the state bureaucracy, which can only happen if they are independent from the government. It is clear that in many cases the problems that NGOs try to solve are the problems of the government as well. In this respect, they compliment the work of a government. NGOs achieve their goals at times by negotiating with government agencies. It is clear that at times government policies and acts harm certain groups in society who then need some organized response to protect their rights.

So if the news reports regarding killing the independence of NGOs in Iran is true, then this destroys their raison d’etre. This is something that Iranian officials and authorities need to pay attention to as NGOs can help rather than hinder their ultimate goals in protecting and enhancing the rights of citizens.