The representatives from development organizations demanded the government to redesign the draft by repealing inconsistent and unclear sections
Expressing grave concern over the draft of the Volunteer Social Welfare Organizations (Registration and Control) Act 2019, local and international development organizations on Sunday called upon the government to change, edit and repeal some of the sections that are unclear and conflicting.
In a statement issued to media, they also demanded the government to consult with stakeholders and experts to redesign the draft before placing it for approval.
What does the draft say?
Section 11, sub-sections 1 and 2 stipulates that this law takes precedence over other existing laws regarding registration, and all NGOs have to register, and renew their registrations every five years. Failure to renew registration or rejection by the authority will result in the dissolution of the NGO.
Section 17 has the provision for dissolving an NGO, if the government authorities have reason to believe they are not in the best interest of the public, or have broken the law. Sub-section 2 says, the government can dissolve the NGO from the date an order is issued. Sub-section 3 says, an NGO will be declared dissolved from the day its registration is revoked.
Section 3 of the draft act, says the law will get preference no matter what is said in other relevant laws, but section 4 (1) says no development organization can continue its activity without following rules of the new act which is conflicting with constitution, Trust Act 1882, Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016, Societies Regulation Act 1860 and Cooperative Societies Law 2001.
What do NGOs say?
It is completely illogical when a foreign funded non government development organization needs to be registered under this law, despite being already registered with NGO Affairs Bureau, the NGOs said.
Also, the draft has proposed that all NGOs will have to register with the Ministry of Social Welfare, even after already having registration with NGO Affairs Bureau.
The controlling system of two different government offices to a development organization will create double rule and create bureaucratic problems which will create risk of significantly curtailing NGO operations, it added.
Section 10 introduces the most restrictive part of the law – all NGOs will be able to work in only one district, when they first register. After registration, NGOs can expand their scope of work, but only to five districts at a time.
“The provision will create obstacles for foreign funded NGOs and other local NGOs currently doping development work in different districts which needs to be reconsidered immediately,” it said.
Expressing utter dissatisfaction, the representatives from development organizations demanded the government to redesign the draft by repealing inconsistent and unclear sections in consultation with stakeholders including local and foreign development organizations before it gets a final nod.
The signatories of the statement are: Brac, Nijera Kori, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Ain O Salish Kendra, Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh, Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh, Association for Land Reform and Development, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Campaign For Popular Education, Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS), Centre for Social Activism, Transparency International Bangladesh, Christian Commission For Development In Bangladesh, Manobadhikar Sanskriti Foundation, Oxfam Bangladesh, Action Aid Bangladesh, Water Aid Bangladesh, Concern Worldwide, Practical Action, Sightsavers, Society for International Ministries, Catholic Relief Services, and Lamb.