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Civil Society Organizations and Government. An Illustration of Practical Evolution Kenya 2008-12. Introduction. Key: Creation of a relationship of trust Government-CSO collaboration is a process , not a “given.”

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Civil society organizations and government

Civil Society Organizations and Government

An Illustration of Practical Evolution




  • Key: Creation of a relationship of trust

  • Government-CSO collaboration is a process, nota “given.”

  • Governments frequently view civil society as a nuisance, even a threat, and not a partner.

  • Freedom of Association includes the freedom of people to work together to achieve self-selected goals, which may or may not be compatible with Government plans.

Kenya ngo act background
Kenya NGO Act - Background

  • Key “ACTORS”:

    • GOK – NGO Coordinating Board, Ministries, Parliamentary Committees

    • CSOs – NGO Council, PEN, CSO Reference Group

    • Consulting Partners: Charity Commission, ICNL, WMD


  • 2006 – Gov’t study of operation of NGO Act of 1990 …. “Sessional Paper”

    • Found many problems with current regulation … e.g., confusing and duplicative regulatory authority, Council representing CSOs failed, costly reg. process, laxity and discretion….

    • Recommended thorough review and change

  • 2008 – Board undertook mandated review

    • GOK (NGO Coordinating Board) requested technical assistance from Charity Commission (CC), and ICNL asked to participate.

    • Partnership established betew Board and CSOs for establishing ground rules for review process.

      • CC and Board selected PEN to gather CSO reps to participate in review – Council seen as ineffective

  • 2009-10 Review process agreed to, but funders did not make this process a priority.

    • CSO Reference Group - coordinate CSOs’ engagement

    • Lawyers for GOK and CSOs (w/ CC and ICNL TA) undertook legal review

    • Regional Conversations with stakeholders, but (for insufficient funding), handled separately .. Board held 3, CSOs held more.

    • ICNL hosted GOK and CSO lawyers as “fellows”: drafted papers on key issues and on to process forward to develop legislative process.

    • General regulatory principles agreed to.

  • Major emphasis in 2010 –


  • CSOs and GOK focused on const’l reform

  • Successful collaboration betw. Elements of GOK and CSO in terms of drafting and ultimate adoption of liberal constitution

    • Reinforcement and strengthening of individual and collective Freedoms and Rights, and limitations on powers of gov.

  • Required Parliament to adopt measures to implement Const. within 2 years

  • Draft NGO Laws prepared by both Board and by CSO Reference Group during 2010

    • Contrasting approaches

  • Little direct contact between Board and CSO Ref. Group

  • A second CSO-sponsored Bill drafted and circulated among stakeholders – The Public Benefit Organization Bill, providing for much less GOK regulatory oversight and eliminating the Council.

  • 2011-12– Legislative Process

    • CSO Reference Group expands mandate to include broad range of CSOs

    • Contacts made with key Parliamentarians (esp. relevant Committees) and Law Reform Comm.

    • Continued improvements in draft PBO Bill – vetted across country.

    • Board uncommunicative, but ministries engaged.

    • Bill introduced in Parliament as Member’s Bill, but under sponsorship of Chair of Comm. on Labor and Soc. Welfare.

Final collaboration
Final Collaboration

  • After PBO Bill introduced, before Board draft was, contacts resumed betw. Board and CSO Reference Group.

  • Joint working group has completed amendments to enable a single Bill, acceptable to Board and CSO community to proceed on fast track… as an Bill to implement Constitution, and before 2013 elections.


  • Process toward collaboration between government and CSOs rarely easy “straight line.”

  • Early engagement among stakeholders essential, even if it cannot be maintained throughout. Working knowledge of one another can lead to trust, even without agreement.

  • Door always left open to re-engage, and keeping other side informed as much as possible can be helpful, even w/o continuing response.

  • Essential to hold support among constituency, through vetting, asking for opinions, meetings, etc… and this can be expensive.

  • Care taken in process, up to and including well-constructed leg. effort, can have lasting impact on all stakeholders.

Civil society organizations and government1

Civil Society Organizations and Government informed as much as possible can be helpful, even w/o continuing response.

An Illustration of Practical Evolution