Development agenda hijacked by contractors


Where are the watchers?



Development encompasses whole range of brick and mortar to social development, human development, communication, business development, hard and soft etc.


The purpose of this article is to highlight the side of social development that started in Pakistan back in 1980s with the advent of foreign donor funding to the local NGOs for advocacy and service delivery. Aligned to this, philanthropy has always been a local phenomenon in Pakistan which was never documented hence, could not create a formal legacy other than few examples in health or education sector i.e: Haji Murad Trust Eye Hospital Gujranwala, Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital are few to mention. The spirit of charity, philanthropy and aid for social development never emerged as a business in the past but unfortunately recent shift into companies style profit oriented culture by few foreign donors is an alarming trend.


The notion “social development agenda” pops up names such as UK-DFID, USAID, German funding, AUSAID, Dutch grants, European Union, United Nations and the list goes on. The shift within the development sector by few of the mighty donors spending resources through contractors as a profit oriented model puts a question mark to many of those following human/social development agenda in the country. Is social/human development equal to counting water bottles coming out of a plant? Is social development quantitative and tangible only with number game of head counts? Can we mix up profit making companies to the pro development concept of enabling environment, creating positive opportunities, changing the narrow mind set custodian of inhuman or discriminatory practices into progressive mind set?


Unfortunately power based inequality has become reflection of few of the gigantic donors within the development sector, since they have adopted the model of hiring a contractor as middleman. The contractors are profit oriented and profit making companies and a valuable chunk of financial resources route back to donor country through these contractors. Sometimes selection of contractors is highly politically motivated or military services affiliated companies. They have minimal pro development orientation. Their SOPs are developed on the concept of master and the subject. Their is a clear divide between who is giving money and who is receiving money which is against the spirit of partnership where both the parties are equal entities on the basis of expertise and resources. Arrogance and inequality cannot shape humanity and equality.


On the other hand historical track of development agenda lies in the fact that there are few of constant nature development agenda features as education, health, employment, population, service delivery etc where as parallel to this different global issues are highlighted worldwide by the donors reaching to Pakistan as well. For example Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) lately transformed as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 1990s boom in micro-finance and service delivery emerging Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), Rural Support Programs (RSPs), Microcredit organisations etc, post 2000 global youth development agenda which consequently lead to mushroom growth of youth organisations and groups in Pakistan as well. Now recently much attention is drawn to climate change to save the planet for humans. These factors stress upon the direction and focus of development agenda that keeps changing and varying time to time which, is not harmful. We cannot live in isolation, as a country we are also facing same social issues recognised in other similar countries. The global development agendas are highlighted in the light of research, data and need analysis. Working in line with the world view shall be encouraged rather than calling it a foreign agenda for the sake of stamping a negative portrait of local people working on it.


NGOs have brought job/employment opportunities for youth at grassroots level, supporting the cause of eradicating extremism, strengthening democracy, peacebuilding, voters mobilisation, gender equality, women mobility, youth education and engagement, research and data on social issues, awareness on various human rights issues etc. NGOs must be seen as a valuable model of opportunities and uplifting of marginalised communities that should be given chance to work hand in hand with government sector instead of being hijacked or victimised at the pity of unfriendly bureaucratic procedures.


Currently Federal and Provincial governments have become more vigilant and sceptic than ever towards civil society organisations, which embeds a reason in the recent times of war against terrorism and extremism. There are new procedures to follow in the after math of National Action Plan (NAP). There is a recent notification to the INGOs by Economic Affairs Division (EAD), to get registered with them. NOC is a must requirement for NGOs before every activity at district level from the office of District Coordination Officer (DCO) which has to come through provincial home department and after the clearance report by Social Welfare Department as well as multiple security agencies. All this is a complicated bureaucratic structure with zero expertise on social development agenda to its personnels who gather reports about each and every applicant organisation. They have a certain pre conceived bias and suspicious mindset about NGOs. The process is tedious, time taking and a lot of energy consuming that it has become next to impossible for NGOs to carry forward their role as change catalyst in the society.


There is no harm in checking the legality or spirit of NGOs but the procedures should be friendly and speedy. Government is suppose to facilitate its people who want to get rid of extremism, unemployment, inequality, marginalisation and inhuman practices. NGOs are largely registered through Societies Act 1860 and Social Welfare Trust. They ask for annual renewal but the process is again so complicated that mostly NGOs are reluctant to renew their registration.


Lets make the registration process online, NOC process friendly and one time rather than asking before every activity. Social Welfare or EAD should improve their professional, technical and human resource capacity to check the NGOs for their legal process and agendas through maximum automation, digital facilities and lesser undue hassle. NGOs should also learn from the troubles the are facing and being hijacked again and again. They should consolidate themselves as united pro-development agents, prepared to face the problems attacking them instead of working in pockets. They should enable them to raise a collective voice against jeopardising of development agenda either at the hands of contractors or suffering of undue bureaucratic processes.