The NGO or nongovernmental sector is a growing worldwide phenomenon. Concerned with development, these NGOs face a range of challenges worldwide. These challenges are both internal and external, identified by the regional NGOs themselves.
Lack of Funds: NGOs are expressing difficulty in finding sufficient, appropriate and continuous funding for their work. They find accessing donors as challenging as dealing with their funding conditions. They perceive there to be certain lobbies of individuals and NGOs that control access to donor funds. They have limited resource mobilization skills and are often not looking for funds that are available locally, preferring to wait for international donors to approach them. There is a high dependency of donors and a tendency to shift interventions to match donor priorities. There is a lack of financial, project and organizational sustainability.
Poor Governance: Good governance is fundamental to NGO accountability and transparency. But it is difficult to achieve good governance with founders who wished to own their NGOs for their own purposes. Participants with better understanding Many NGOs mismanage their resources, quite often with the involvement and encouragement of their Boards that eat their NGOs resources.
Absence of Strategic Planning: Few NGOs have strategic plans which would enable them to have ownership over their mission, values and activities. This leaves them vulnerable to the whims of donors and makes it difficult to measure their impact over time.
Poor Networking: It was identified as a major challenge. It is the cause of duplication of efforts, conflicting strategies at community level, a lack of learning from experience and an inability of NGOs to address local structural causes of poverty, deprivation and under-development. Negative competition for resources also undermines the reputation of the sector and the effectiveness of NGO activities at community level. As a result there is a great deal of suspicion among NGOs, secrecy and lack of transparency.
NGO politics: Many NGOs, large and small, intervene at community level without any community mapping and implement projects without due regard to ongoing community initiatives. one fights another, one with resources but no community presence, another with community presence but no resources.
Poor Communications: NGOs also recognize that there is very poor communication within the sector. The majority of NGOs have little or no access to reliable email and internet connections; they receive almost no literature on development issues and are generally out of touch with issues of global, regional and national importance.
Limited Capacity: NGOs recognize that many of them have limited technical and organizational capacity. Few NGOs are able or willing to pay for such capacity building. Weak capacity was identified in fundraising, governance, technical areas of development, and leadership and management. Some NGOs felt that the existence of quality standards would assist them to develop the required capacities.
Development Approaches: Many NGOs are still focusing upon what some refer to the ‘hardware’ approach to development, i.e. the building of infrastructure and the provision of services; rather than what some refer to as the ‘software’ approach of empowering people and local institutions to manage their own affairs. Other NGOs seem unaware of changes in the role of government, the changing Aid paradigm, and the effectiveness of a “right’s based” rather than “welfare” approach. Though NGOs are aware of the increasing and enormous needs of poor people and feel at a loss as to how they can respond to all these needs, there is always a lack of sustainability and ownership of development interventions by communities. Some communities have been spoilt by dependency creating interventions and are not inclined to do things for themselves. It is difficult to keep on programmes relevant to changing situations and the culture. There is no accepted code of ethics and conflicting approaches.
Relationships with INGOs: There is considerable concern among local NGOs that the giants, mainly INGOs, occupy so much space that it is very difficult to find room for them. INGOs pay government and community members to participate in their projects while local NGOs have no facility for doing so. INGOs are also perceived to be driven by short-term project approaches that are not locally sustainable. They pay high salaries and attract local NGO personnel. They are also responsible for creating the high cost image that undermines the credibility of the sector. It is difficult and inappropriate for local NGOs to compete with the international and national giants.
Political Interference: In some regions, in particular South Rift and North Eastern, NGO leaders identified the interference of local politicians and civic leaders as a major hindrance to their work. Where NGOs are involved in sensitive issues, such as land disputes, local leaders can threaten NGOs with de-registration. NGOs are not aware that the Board - and potentially the Council - are there to protect them from such intimidation.
NGO Board and NGO Council: Many participants were poorly informed of the difference between these two institutions, NGO Coordination Board and the National Council of NGOs; and unaware of their roles and responsibilities in relation to them. Most participants expressed the opinion that the NGO Code of Conduct is outdated and needed updating soon. This group of participants also complained that the NGO Council is poorly governed and doesn’t provide any services to the NGOs. They were aware that the NGO Board does not respect the Council and that there is mistrust between the Government and NGOs. Participants are well aware that the NGO sector has a very poor public profile which they see as mainly due to the leadership wrangles, politics and infighting at the Council and among NGOs. While most participants appreciated the positive role of the NGO Board in creating an enabling environment for NGOs, a few participants felt there was a lack of political good will towards NGOs in some parts of government. Some branches of government are thought to deliberately frustrate NGOs. A few participants felt that government bureaucracy holds back the NGO sector and its members.