WANGO Conference in Tanzania
Tanzania Relief Friendship Foundation (TRFF) has been working together -- under the auspices of International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF) -- with the World Association of NGOs (WANGO) for quite a number of years now. IRFF is a member of WANGO. On the other hand, Tanzania Association of NGOs (TANGO) has been collaborating with WANGO though it is not officially a member of the world body.
In October 2002, WANGO held its annual conference in Washington, United States of America. The theme of the conference was ‘the culture of responsibility and the role of NGOs in the 21st century’. Participants to the Washington conference recommended for, among other things, WANGO to challenge these noble institutions (i.e. the NGOs) worldwide to live up to the theme and expectations of society.
It was against this background that after consultations with TANGO and TRFF, WANGO held and supported a historic conference on 23rd January 2003 at the Karimjee Hall, Dar Es Salaam, that drew together around 126 representatives from 80 organizations to gauge themselves against the conference theme, share experiences and chart out strategies for the future.
While opening the conference, Mr. Arnold Kashembe the Executive Director of TRFF scored the importance of information sharing between NGOs to enhance collaboration and become more responsible to society. He stressed that collaboration is also aimed at networking and coalition building, to manage our organizations and relate to the media including cooperation with academic institutions. Mr. Kashembe ended with a strong note that responsibility on the part of NGOs will give the sector credibility in acquiring funds from donors and partner organizations.
The objectives for which WANGO in partnership with TRFF and TANGO organized this conference are: To enable participants to get the necessary information from the Government, International and financial institutions / donors that challenge them as NGOs to promote a culture of responsibility in their work. To enable participants to understand the importance of efficient and effective NGO management, networking and coalition building and the role of the media and how they can collaborate to enhance a culture of responsibility. To enable participants recognize the need to collaborate with various professional and academic institutions. To highlight the participants on the technicalities of acquiring funds from various sources. To come up with follow-up activities / program from the conference recommendations.
Opening Plenary -- presentations by Government and International Representative of NGOs: The first plenary was dedicated at giving the conference the possible direction it should take. There were only two panelists for the session.
The first panelist Mr. Kasongwa, an Economist -- Vice President’s Office talked mainly on relationships between government and NGOs in his paper entitled "Culture of responsibility and role of NGOs -- Overview". He also outlined the importance of NGOs as being close to the grassroots and more likely, if responsible, to implement their plans/activities according to set objectives.
He offered that the Government sees NGOs’ role as that of providing social services and offering the platform for advocacy to which end the government recognizes the importance of umbrella organizations and other networks nationally, regional and at district level -- where the Regional Administrative Secretaries, District Executive Directors or sector ministries play a vital part.
He warned however that the Government expects transparency, mutual trust and information flow to be the building blocks towards mutual fulfillment of our responsibilities. It was observed that if these qualities are not adhered to or are eroded it creates suspicion and misunderstanding between NGOs and government. Mr. Kasongwa said that the Government is aware of the existence of dubious (briefcase)
NGOs that do not deliver they exist on paper only but do not perform for the betterment of their target group(s) but for self-enriching. These organizations are therefore not accountable to the communities they support to serve.
The government would therefore like to monitor these as well as those that perform well for future development planning and ensuring equitable resource utilization for the well being of Tanzanians.
Dr. Massimo Trombin, IRFF International Field Director and President of WANGO Europe gave a background paper outlining NGO evolution, various existing scenario and looked at the impact, challenges and opportunities in relation to the "Culture of Responsibility and our role as NGOs in the 21st century" the theme of this conference. In his paper entitled "Role of NGOs in the 21st century". The paper gave to the conference the following salient points:
• What are NGOs, how they started and performed / acted all through the transition to the current setting of NGOs worldwide.
• There’s a rising trend of NGOs being formed e.g. in neighboring Kenya, 120 new organizations are being formed every year. The organizations formed are of various types depending on purpose and target group.
• Support: NGOs in Africa largely depend on Western governments / donors to fund their programs as opposed to Europe and America where governments chip in a large chunk of funds to finance NGO activities.
• UN and western governments see NGOs as indispensable partners to work with since they are cheap and effective as opposed to governments.
• A smaller amount of support to NGOs worldwide comes from the private sector, corporations, foundations, religious bodies and rich individuals.
• The challenge of evolution and work of NGO is to keep the original positive motivation and to disband once the objective has been fulfilled. Transitory measures to be taken may include avoiding competition and duplication of services / efforts.
• Benefits: Millions of people worldwide are being helped through NGOs by building schools, hospitals or protecting the rights of women, children, other disadvantaged groups in society and provision of relief services in times of crisis / conflicts. They also provide an incredible source of employment / jobs (e.g. in the USA, NGOs employ more people than the federal government).
• Impact: NGOs have a motivation to serve and help people (the poor), bring hope to millions of refugees, employ local people and think of long term goals that will create impact. They thus represent and raise the people’s consciousness. Moreover, NGOs give opportunity for anyone to make their contribution for the betterment of society.
• Voluntary work shall be hailed by government and other development actors -- since through this work the society prospers and that may even attract investors.
• NGOs can also make some or large impact through promoting / supporting democratic processes in accordance with cultural practices, level of consciousness and social factors.
Dr. Massimo summed up his presentation by pointing out that responsibility will set Tanzanian NGOs free. By finding solutions to a problem(s) and act in earnest and pre-conceived deliverables. Tanzania needs to build this culture as it has intelligent and courageous people, resources and purity of heart to attain set goals.
Workshops -- Networking and Media
There were two workshops organized to stimulate debate namely; networking and coalition building workshop and media / NGO collaboration in the face of new roles for NGOs in the 21st century. Mr. Zaa Twalangeti of TANGO led and guided participants in the networking workshop while Mrs. Ananilea Nkya of TAMWA managed to invigorate a hot debate on the media workshop.
The most important points that emerged from the networking workshop were:
• What are networks and networking -- the latter being a gathering, relationship between people or organizations to cooperate in achieving certain objectives.
• Benefits of networking include exchange of information, avoiding duplication and competition of service or funds, effective use of resources, building capacities and having a joint -- voice.
• Challenges include lack of transparency and accountability, funds mismanagement, poor structures, poor involvement of stakeholders, lack of financial support from government, poorly skilled organization and management workforce.
There were only two recommendations that came out of the networking and coalition building workshop. They are request to the government to provide donations / subsidy to NGOs, and that the role of networks should further be explained among NGOs themselves in follow up meetings / conferences (participants held the view that future networks role should include offering finance to small / member organizations / groups).
The only recommendation from this workshop was that media houses shall come up with a special policy to help NGOs publicize their work and access them. It was informed and argued that currently, many NGOs don’t have the resources to engage the media and this made it difficult for work / impact made by NGOs to be seen by society.
The 2nd Plenary provided a space and forum to share success stories and challenges ahead of NGOs at the three different levels.
From the grassroots we had Mr. Paul Titus, of the Shinyanga Foundation Fund who informed on a lot of issues but these emerged most:
• Mostly achievements have been recorded in the fight against HIV/AIDs and environmental protection.
• Challenges include communication, funds management and cooperation from local government and questions of mandate to implement certain activities at grassroot level.
At the national level, we Mrs. Mary J. Mwingira, of TANGO -- the umbrella body for NGOs in Tanzania. She had a lot to offer for the session but summed up by saying that the challenges facing organizations which are national in character and in operations include the perception by the central government that they are urban-based.
She also said that it was difficulty to fulfill the needs of stakeholders, linkages with grassroot and media and that the existing culture does not tolerate Lobbying and Advocacy. She also pointed out lack of and sometimes inadequate solidarity and cooperation among NGOs in the country and finally the biggest challenge for all of us is how do we avoid the (donor) dependency syndrome.
Dr. Massimo Trombin, of IRFF and WANGO gave his account of what is required at international level. Since this kind of organizations transcends national boundaries the following salient points shall be considered:
• Use the power of Information and Communication Technology to enhance networking and communication.
• Be ready to share resources -- effective utilization where the organizations should be ready and able to contribute.
• Build credibility of your organization.
Dr. Deodatus Rweyemamu an Economist, of the University of Dar es Salaam gave a presentation that highlighted an academician’s perspective on the role of NGOs in the country. He provided a background information on how NGOs came into being in the country and later on followed up with:
• NGO Potential: Dr. Rweyemamu cited NGOs as local contacts suited to popular participation and able to reach the poor in a cost effective, flexible manner and are creative in nature.
• Challenges/Impacts: Within the NGO sector / sphere there exists little or no knowledge on evaluation practice coupled with the presence of poor data / information collection and project reporting mechanisms.
• What is the way forward?: Dr. Rweyemamu signaled to invite academicians in NGO work, use their intellectual work / acumen for NGOs’ own ends. He also warned that they should only reach out those academicians who have the required information and finally begged NGOs to regard academicians as assets.
The final presentation before the final and 3rd plenary session regarding grants by Dr. Massimo Trombin was the most rewarding and provided lots of clues to fundraising especially at international level.
Dr. Massimo emphasized on the following during his presentation which was well attended and had the attention of most participants to the conference:
• It is time consuming and hard work to fundraise
• Successful funding depends on existing or envisaged management and governance practices of the organizations
• Organizations should research before submitting a proposal
• After research is done they should develop a strategy taking into consideration the interest of funders / donors
• While drafting the document, follow the elements of project proposal
• NGOs should avoid sending scatter funding requests and should investigate the funders’ interest.
• The funding strategy should be developed around program/project purpose, target group and focus.
• NGOs/CBOs need skilled personnel and commitment in fundraising
• Finally NGOs should establish long term relationship with donors.
This final session of the conference dwelt on the various recommendations reached during the two workshops earlier on the day and tried to forge a way forward. It was preceded by submission of the day’s summary by the rapportuer. This session was moderated by Ms. Freda Chale, President HEAA and the discussions were facilitated by Ms. Marie Shaba, of TANGO.
On the recommendation to lobby the government to allocate budget funds for NGOs it was discussed at length and finally the following stages were agreed to be followed. Networks such as TANGO, TACOSODE, TGNP, TEN / MET, and those at district level should meet and discuss on strategies. As a result of the networks’ meeting, a conference should be organized with the government and other stakeholders.
On the role of media in promoting the NGO sector media houses were urged to develop internal policies / guidelines to promote the work of NGOs in the country.
Finally it was resolved that much as NGOs / CBOs demand greater responsibility and accountability from other stakeholders such as the government and donors, they should themselves be transparent and accountable first.