THE European Union (EU) has expressed “disappointed” at the duplication of duties and “lack of coordination” by civil society organisations which “see themselves as competitors” for access to donor funding.
Addressing members of the civil society and the media in Harare at a meeting recently organized by MISA–Zimbabwe, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, said duplication of roles by NGOs was a major concern.
“It is a complicated issue because, of course, this economy is in a crisis where everybody is struggling, but one of the key disappointments for me is lack of coordination and partnership between civil society organizations, and they do often position themselves more as competitors than as partners,” he said.
More than 2,000 civil society organisations are presently operating in Zimbabwe, most of them engaged in almost the same tasks.
Many of the organizations were formed at the turn of the millennium as the country lurched into a humanitarian crisis blamed on poor economic policies and human rights outrages committed by President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
Civil society has, since then, played a critical role of not just monitoring but also challenging the Harare administration to respect human rights, address corruption and ensure good governance.
Their activities are financed by the western donors who shifted from directly channelling cash through government to, now, reaching out to the public through development partners and civil society.
But the process encouraged the mushrooming of several organisations which were now duplicating roles and responsibilities.
Ambassador Van Damme said there was need for the many NGOs to complement each other.
“You have so much to learn from each other, but I do not understand why civil society organizations do not use their thematic umbrella organisations to work together and to exchange among themselves the various skills and expertise they have as consortiums,” he said.
Brussels’ man in Harare said in the fresh call for civil society funding announced two weeks ago, the EU wanted to see such organisations proposing to work together.
“What we would like is to see consortiums submitting proposals; people bringing in different competencies from different angles and organisations working together because no single organisation has all the expertise in all the areas,” the diplomat explained.