BAGHDAD, 1 April 2009 (IRIN) - A group of Iraqi NGOs are incensed by government moves to monitor and control the funding and operations of NGOs. Activist Basil Abdul-Wahab al-Azawi, who heads the Baghdad-based Commission for Society Enterprises (an umbrella group of more than 1,000 NGOs inside and outside Iraq), said the government should not be allowed to determine how NGOs are run and funded.
The anger has been prompted by a perceived lack of consultation over a new draft law currently going through parliament and seeking to regulate the work of NGOs. “We ask the government and parliament to allow all Iraqi NGOs to take part in the ongoing discussions on the law, to listen, and to study their demands and opinions, and not present a law based on government views,” Azawi told IRIN, adding that Iraqi NGOs would not recognise a law drafted solely by government experts.
He said only selected NGOs had been invited to official discussions with the government. “Those NGOs do not represent all Iraqi NGOs and that gives the impression that the government wants to pass a kind of law with chains and obstacles to hinder NGO work.”
The NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), a network of about 80 international NGOs and 200 Iraqi NGOs, said one of its concerns was that “any donations from inside or outside Iraq must first be approved by the government and all donors need to notify the government prior to making any funds available to NGOs.” Independence of civil society NCCI said in a statement in February that whilst the latest draft contained significant improvements on previous drafts, NCCI was still concerned about the future independence of civil society. There was concern that the government was “seeking to control NGO activities rather than support the development of an autonomous and vibrant civil society,” the statement said. Concerns about the new draft law have been growing since 23 March when the Cabinet gave its consent and sent the draft to parliament for approval. A government statement on the issue made only passing reference to the draft law, which sets out NGO establishment procedures, activities and terms of operation. sm/at/cb