Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Decisions by NGOs in Gambia: February 17

NGO WEEK 2012 DECLARATION 11 – 17 February 2012, TANGO

We the members of The Association of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Gambia (TANGO), having conceived the idea of convening the NGO Week in which we brought together all of our members and non-members including other non-state actors to celebrate the successes and contributions of  NGOs to the socio-economic and political development of the Gambia from 11 – 17 February 2012;

Conscious of the role and function of NGOs in the development of the Gambia for which NGOs, as indispensable development institutions with immense technical capacity and resources, have provided much needed development goods and services to individuals, communities, public and private sector organizations and institutions over the past 40 years;

Aware of the need to popularize the work and the role of NGOs in national development to the general public and stakeholders to better understand and appreciate the value of NGOs in order to forge closer and stronger partnerships;  

Desirable of the need for closer collaboration, better coordination and joint programming, improved information sharing and stronger networking among NGOs, and between NGOs and the Government and development partners including the private sector;

Appreciative of the development gains registered in the Gambia by the Government and development organizations as well as private sector enterprises and indeed by all Gambians of all walks of life;

Encouraged by the cordial working relationship and favourable policy and legal environment that enables unfettered work and operations of NGOs in all parts of the Gambia and on all issues of development;

Recognizing that the right to development is a fundamental human right which all citizens must enjoy because they are the taxpayers and form the basis for the legitimacy and authority of the Government, which executes its functions on behalf of the people;

Concerned by the high levels of poverty, unemployment, inadequate social services and amenities and high cost of living and taxation felt by the vast majority of Gambians in particular women and youth;

Concerned about the challenges to the respect and protection of human rights and adherence to the principles and practices of good governance in the country especially on the infringements on  the separation of powers of principle;

Disturbed by the inadequate level of women’s empowerment particularly manifested in the low level of the political representation and participation of women in national and local representative bodies;

Concerned with the menace of climate change on national development and the plight of farmers and rural communities in the inadequate availability of farming resources, social services and facilities;

Hereby make this Declaration as per the thematic issues emerged during the NGO Week 2012:

A.    Children and Disability
1.    The Gambia Government is hereby urged to take all necessary steps to immediately sign, ratify and domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

2.    The Gambia Government is hereby urged to enforce the implementation of the Integrated National Disability Policy;

3.    All stakeholders in the public, private and civil society sectors are urged to include persons with disability in development programming, as well as ensure the accessibility of people with disabilities to all public facilities;

4.    The Gambia Government and all stakeholders to undertake to increase support for the education of children with disabilities;

5.    All stakeholders to provide necessary support to the Gambia Federation of the Disabled to commemorate the Day of the African Child in June 2012, World Disability Day in December 2012 and key events in the future.

B.    Gender and Poverty

1.    In strengthening the promotion of women’s rights and gender empowerment, NGOs and all stakeholders must engage in evidence-based research on issues affecting women;

2.    There is need to mainstream gender in all development policies and programs;

3.    NGOs and all stakeholders must vigorously pursue skills training and capacity building for women and girls;

4.    NGOs will strengthen collaboration and better coordination among themselves in order to strengthen intervention efforts to bring about tangible and positive changes in the lives of women;

5.    NGOs and all stakeholders will strengthen networking and partnership building, as well as embark on robust awareness creation, education and advocacy particularly to target men and women

6.    Given the dynamics of patriarchy and the deep-seated socio-cultural beliefs and religious misconceptions against women, there is a need for conscientization strategies that seek to change mindsets;

7.    Women are equal members of society hence they must enjoy all rights that men enjoy. In this regard the Government, NGOs and all stakeholders must intensify campaigns for land rights of women as a means to also reduce poverty among women;

8.    Given the role of education as a catalyst for empowerment and development, NGOs and all stakeholders need to strongly advocate for the attainment of education for all;

9.    Development is a long term process. In this regard, and in order to sustain development there is the need for NGOs and development partners to seek and conduct action-oriented programming as opposed to short term projects;

10.    Given the growing number of development actors and issues, there is need for TANGO to improve its efforts in networking and information sharing;

11.    To better track development impact and performance, there is need to ensure proper documentation and communicating experiences through IEC;

12.    The media is an indispensable tool and partner in development, hence partnership with the media must be further strengthened and this includes traditional communicators, particularly for popularizing laws and rights issues;

C.    Human Rights and Governance

1.    Give the significant linkages between development and human rights, it is recommended that NGOs mainstream human rights and governance in their programs as a means to ensure quality development work as well as ensure the empowerment and participation of people in the development process;

2.    In response to incidences of human rights violations in the country, NGOs need to demonstrate proactive-ness in breaking the culture of silence over these violations as well as pursue all cases of missing persons for redress;

3.    In further promoting a culture of human rights to ensure rights protection, there is a need for the Government to development and implement a human rights and governance curriculum in schools. This should be further strengthened by the use of drama targeting young people on human rights;

4.    To further ensure popular participation and the empowerment of the people and bring about good governance and quality development, National Assembly Members must undertake to enlighten constituents about their rights under the constitution;

5.    All national documents must be translated into national languages to ensure easy access and understanding of issues of governance and development by the vast majority of the people;

6.    In further promoting human rights and hold the government accountable, NGOs need to more actively engage and interact with international and regional monitoring bodies as well as seek observer status in these bodies;

7.    In order to ensure effective and relevant governance system and promote popular participation in national affairs, it is required that the use of national languages in the National Assembly by members be allowed by law;

8.    In view of the recommendations stipulated in this Declaration, it is hereby resolved that these resolutions must not be allowed to gather dust rather must be pursued and implemented;

9.    TANGO should attempt to speak out on the issues affecting NGOs including engaging the Government to review such issues as taxation policies and laws.

10.    NGO Week must be made into a national event that also features in the national calendar;

11.    There is a need to constitute a broad-based committee to review the outcomes of the NGO Week and to pursue the implementation of the recommendations of the NGO Week. In this regard, members of TANGO need to financially support TANGO in the conduct of the NGO Week;

12.    While recognizing the good work that NGOs are doing in national development, it is important that NGOs continue to further strengthen collaboration among themselves to avoid duplication and waste of resources;

13.    While seeking to promote good governance and protection of human rights in the country, NGOs must also ensure that they practice the principles and values of good governance within their organizations. In this regard, TANGO needs to establish minimum standards for good governance among NGOs and at the national level;

D.    National Development
1.    Members of the NGO Community welcome the national development blueprint, PAGE, however given its huge financing requirements, it is essential that the Government seeks other funding sources for the implementation of the PAGE;

2.    In order to ensure the ownership and participation of the people in the successful implementation of PAGE, there is the need to translate the document into national languages for easy and widespread access particularly among grassroots communities;

3.    To further strengthen grassroots understanding, ownership and participation in the implementation of the PAGE, the Government needs to continue the consultative processes by using all available means to reaching out to local communities;

4.    Implementation of the PAGE requires robust capacity on the part of the technocrats. In this regard capacity development for  policy makers and those involved in the implementation of PAGE must continue;

5.    In better positioning the Government for effective implementation of the PAGE, there is a need for the following:

a.    Government departments need functional databases, research and documentation units including promoting electronic data exchange;

b.    The Gambia Bureau of Statistics need to be more vigilant and efficient;

6.    In light of the immense opportunity that lies in cross-border trade, there is an urgent need to strengthen transnational linkages between Senegal and the Gambia for entrepreneurial development especially for women;

7.    Given the low level of private sector funding of development work and organizations, it is essential that CSOs embark on advocacy for the creation of a Corporate Social Responsibility law that will create favourable tax regimes to encourage more funding from the private sector to NGOs;

8.    In response to the high taxation and which is affecting private sector development, it is necessary that the Government considers seriously reducing taxes and focus on widening the tax base;

9.    There is need to review monetary and fiscal policy in relation to interest rates to generate local investment and growth;

10.    Development can take place more effectively in an environment of freedom. In this regard the Government bears responsibility to enable an environment for freedom to prevail in all forms, and not just political, as well as broaden the participation of affected and poor people in national development processes;

11.    Due to the low literacy rate among women in contrast to men, it is necessary that strategies and programs be devised that seek to increase the literacy rate of women in order to ensure their effective and quality participation in national development;

12.    There is a recognizable level of local ICT capacity and resources. This opportunity must be tapped effectively in order to spur development as well as enhance science and technology innovations in the country;

13.    There is need to create and support more community radio stations in the country to further intensify public sensitization about national development issues. In this regard it is necessary that public, private and community radio stations allocate more and adequate time to development programming;

Done on 17 February 2012, TANGO, Fajara

Members of TANGO

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