Enhancing Democratic Governance of NGOs
The Palestinian NGO sector has always played a vital role in Palestinian society. Since its inception, the NGO sector has been an integral part of the Palestinian national movement in its aspiration for a free and sovereign Palestinian state. Its vitality and dynamism are at the root of the evolution of Palestinian civil society.
Taking this into consideration, the NGO Development Center’s (NDC) goal has been the development and empowerment of Palestinian civil society institutions. This has included systematically promoting good governance within the NGO sector.
Acting as the Secretariat for a coalition of four Palestinian NGO networks – the Palestinian NGO Network, the Palestinian National Institute of NGOs, the General Union of Charitable Societies, and the General Union for NGOs in Gaza -- NDC, facilitated the development of the Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct through a broad based consultative process. Being the first of its kind in the Arab world, the Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct sets out priorities and operational instructions for local NGOs to gain confidence and develop appropriate good governance practices. The code is made up of twelve principles and specifies the ground rules to be observed by NGO boards, administrations, and staff while fulfilling their tasks.
This code also reflects international standards of good governance including transparency and accountability. Although adherence to the code is voluntary, more than 530 NGOs, constituting 30 percent of functional NGOs in Palestine, have signed the Code of Conduct as an operational standard that they will uphold.
Another initiative of NDC, which complements the Code of Conduct, is the NGO Resource Kit. The kit consists of a set of learning resources and tools on information management and is designed to broaden the utilization of good governance practices, self-assessment, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic planning. It includes manuals, guidelines, and assessment tools to be used as a reference for compliance with the principles of the Code of Conduct. In addition, a Coaching and Technical Assistance Program has been launched to help NGOs upgrade their systems, procedures, and practices to be in better compliance with the Code principles. In the pilot phase, 65 NGOs benefited from this program: technical assistance was tailored for each NGO based on an assessment using the Code Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool.
Indicators of the program’s success are that 74 percent of the participating NGOs (compared to 14 percent prior to the launch of the program) have made their financial reports public, either by using the NGOs portal or through their own websites.
It is worth mentioning that the civil society initiative of the Arab League adopted the Palestinian NGOs Code of Conduct developed by NDC as the exemplary code for NGOs in the Arab World. NDC’s role remains essential to the collective local and international efforts to build a strong and active NGO community in Palestine. These efforts are consistent with the national goal to promote good governance and a participatory culture in a society that is now standing at a crossroads on its path to statehood.
The article is the courtesy of Ghassan Kasabreh, Director of NGO Development Center.