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Role of NGOs in Pakistan

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.
Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens’ concerns to Governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information.

 Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, environment, health, energy, natural resources, peace etc. They provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Their relationships with offices and agencies of the United Nations system differ depending on the goals, venue and mandate of a particular institution.

 The given shred of writing is the summary of ADB’s (Asian Development Bank) report on NGOs of Pakistan.

 “The history of Pakistani NGOs has its roots back in time of partition. Although not directed to as NGOs at that time, many voluntary organizations were contrived to provide humanitarian aids to refugees pouring into the country and to help victims of communal riots. During the first few years of Pakistan, many of these NGOs concentrated on rehabilitation and basic services such as health and education. Some of these voluntary organizations remain active today, although their roles may have changed today. Many continue to be led by Begums, the wives of influential bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen.

 The next upsurge in the formation of NGOs took place in 1970s, when Martial Law government explicated its philosophy of social work welfare. During 1980s, many new NGOs emerged to avail the funding set aside for development through local bodies. In the party-free polls of 1985, many legislators encouraged the growth of new NGOs to absorb the special funds available to them for development of their constituencies. A number of women NGOs were also instituted during this period.

 In the early 1990s, there was another rapid increase in NGOs, when new organization were formed to take advantage of new available funding under the People Work Program, particularly in rural Sindh and Punjab.

 It is difficult to estimate the number of NGOs in Pakistan. Only rough estimates are possible. In a publication of UNDP in 2001, number was suggested to be between 8,000 and 16,000. Some studies suggest that the number of both registered and non-registered NGOs in Pakistan could be anywhere between 25,000 and 35,000.

 NGOs in Pakistan can be divided into several broad categories:

 • Those involved in advocacy and lobbying
• Those involved in policy issues and debates
• Emergency, rehabilitation and relief organizations
• Those involved in implementation of development project and programs including service delivery organizations and CBOs (community based organization)”[1]

Role of NGOs in the floods in Pakistan – “Current losses by floods are just the tip of the iceberg. These floods had severe impacts on the country’s economy, food security and political stability and have resulted in the losses of many precious human lives. Providing clean drinking water and food to the flood survivors is a daunting task, but an even greater challenge is controlling the spread of infectious diseases, especially cholera, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, skin diseases and many other diseases caused mainly due to the lack of medicines, clean water and sanitation. In floods many people lose their livestock and many die because of starvation and lack of veterinary care.” [2]

 “In another report that SDPI produced for UNDP Pakistan, Dr. Suleri explored the global picture of Food Security with insights into the issue of the global rise in food prices. He discussed the issues of sustainability and availability of food and suggested a way forward with short and medium term solutions”. [3]

 “Women’s rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies. In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behavior, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed. They differ from broader notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise of rights by women and girls in favour of men and boys. Issues commonly associated with notions of women’s rights include (but are not limited to): integrity and autonomy of women, to vote, to held public office, to work, the right to have fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to gain education; to serve in the military or be conscripted; to enter into legal contracts; and to have marital, parental and religious rights.”[4]

 “In Pakistan several small, autonomous NGOs work locally and provincially, often centered on particular schools or service units. Some practical collaboration take but the NGOs are often in mutual competition for resources and fame. As the number of NGOs increased, repeated efforts were made to achieve a Pakistan-wide platform and coordination, but geographical factors and friction between various participating groups and viewpoints prevented any lasting success.” [5]

 My own opinion – According to my knowledge, all NGOs work for the basic needs and rights of people. NGOs in the developed countries have more or less similar roles and objectives in the fields of education, health, women welfare, rehabilitation etc. The range of activities varies from one country to the other. In Pakistan, nearly half of the NGOs are committed to programs for women development while some NGOs have played an important role in creating awareness about human rights issues. Some have worked in health care, water & sanitation, education and other useful projects. NGOs in Pakistan can be divided into several broad categories. Some of the most popular are:

 • Advocacy and lobbying
• Policy issues and debates
• Emergency, rehabilitation and relief organizations
• Implementation of development projects and programs

NGOs are playing very important roles for the overall development of the backward segments of different societies. They achieve this by the collection of data, its proper analysis and through providing right base approach and service delivery. NGOs are working in the fields of education, health, women development, economic development and capacity building of civil society organizations. More over NGOs are playing pivotal role to create awareness among community about their rights and responsibilities. Pakistani NGOs are very vibrant to watch the progress of overall development and had played very active role in the restoration of judiciary. Unfortunately there are some NGOs which misuse the funds and resources available to them for the welfare of public.

[1] Articles by Saira Tufail on Pakistan Politics, current affairs, business and lifestyle
[2] Dr. Suleri’s article in daily The Express Tribune, Pakistan August 27, 2010
[3] Food Security: Where we are, where we want to go? is available on UNDP’s webpage
[4] Women’s Rights, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[5] M. Miles, Birmingham, UK

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