New law drafted to regulate NGOs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 22, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 22, 2012

New law drafted to regulate NGOs

NGO Affairs Bureau recently drafted a new law stating that its director general could penalise foreign funded non-government organisations (NGO) if it occurs to him or her that they are engaged in activities which are illegal or harmful for the country.
The proposed “The Foreign Donations (voluntary activities) Regulation Ordinance 2011” focuses on monitoring NGO activities and ensuring transparency and accountability, said the bureau Director (project 1) SM Ashrafuzzaman.
The punitive measures, as per the draft's Act-24, include cancellation of the NGO's registration, a bar on its activities for a period, imposition of a fine equaling to or three times the foreign donation the NGO received and punitive measures against those responsible as per the country's laws.
However, the NGO could appeal against the DG's decision to the secretary of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). The hearing of the appeal must be done in the next 30 days and the consequent judgement would be considered final.
The draft also states that NGOs wishing to operate in the three hill tracts districts must get a “Non-Objection Certificate” from Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs before applying for the bureau's clearance, said the DG, Md Nurun Nabi Talukder.
The bureau had posted the proposed law on its website on January 24 and asked the development organisations to place their recommendations.
Nurun said they had finished taking the recommendations and the finalised draft would be placed on the website within a short time.
“The PMO is dealing with the draft and it will be placed before the cabinet and the national parliament after a discussion with the law minister,” he added.
The bureau monitors NGO activities under a 2001 circular made by the PMO based on “The Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance 1978” and “The Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance 1982”. Presently, foreign funded NGOs operate under the circular.
Nurun said the draft merges these three and introduces some new provisions to ensure accountability and transparency in the NGO sector.
“New provisions include taking action against those who misuse foreign funds,” he said.
He claimed that the government had no motive to control NGOs through this new law but rather aimed at bringing clarity in NGO operations and stop malpractice.
The NGO community welcomed the new law and carried out discussions on it. They had some confusions and objections and requested their leaders to draw the government's attention in solving those.
In February, the NGOs gave their set of recommendations to the government.
Association of Development Agencies of Bangladesh (ADAB) objected to a provision which allows suspension of an NGO's activities upon suspicion and without verification.
It also objected to the provisions giving unilateral power to the DG over the cancellation of registrations and restricting an NGO official's personal freedom by barring him from getting involved with political organisations.
“The government is actually trying to control the NGOs in the name of providing assistance through the law,” said ADAB Vice Chairperson Rafiqul Alam.
“Our board observed that the government is formulating the law based on past findings about some NGOs being involved in militancy and other malpractices,” he said.
NGO Federation of Bangladesh Chairperson Tajul Islam welcomed the law but stated that the government must ensure freedom to NGOs in carrying out their activities for the welfare of the country's people.
“We have gone through the law and recommended some provisions. Now, we expect the bureau to consider our recommendations,” he said.

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