New NGO Act in Pursuit of Public Benefit

Scales-of-justice

Non Governmental Organisations in Kenya will in the long run be complying with a new set of rules. Among other rules, they will  now be referred to as “Public Benefit Organisations”.

  • Part III, article 27 (1) (Ethical principles and aspirations) sets out principles that will guide public benefit organisations (NGOs). The most interesting point for me are:

In the pursuit of its aims, objectives and activities,  every public benefit organization shall be guided by the following principles and aspirations:

  • Commitment to the sanctity of human life and to a peaceful and non-violent orientation in all its activities;
  • Promotion of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance as well as justice for all the people of Kenya; 
  • Respect for the equality, rights and dignity of all people; 
  • Promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic development; 
  • Rejection of partisan political, ethnic, cultural, racial or religious intolerance and all other forms of discrimination; 
  • Commitment to the promotion of gender equality and social inclusion at all levels;
  • Rejection of research efforts, programmes projects and other activities which are directly or indirectly aimed at developing methods of torture, or other forms of techniques that violate and subvert people’s human rights;
  • Identifying and reporting any breach or violation of the provisions of this Act to the Authority

It is certainly worth celebrating the fact that NGOs will have to be committed to the sanctity of human life as well as the respect for the equality, rights and dignity of all people. The Public Benefits Organisation Act also rejects research efforts that are designed to violate and subvert people’s human rights. Further, the public is obligated to report violations of the above.

While population and reproductive health is listed as category of operation, it certainly doesn’t include abortion. Organisations promoting abortion and its related services are not included. Certainly, some organisations do perform illegal abortions as part of ‘family planning services’ and hopefully this legislation will crack the whip on them.

Population and reproductive health activities should respect the sanctity of human life. Population and reproductive health could include: treatment of infertility, diseases like fibroids, dysmenorrhoea, cancers of the reproductive tract and safe and ethical methods of spacing children. A good understanding of fertility care and reproductive medicine can be found here.

NGOs in Kenya and in many African countries have not been well regulated in the past. Some have been operating in violation of national constitutions. Certainly, this law will serve to uphold the Kenyan constitution .

Another positive development is the fact that NGOs or rather Public Benefit Organisations will be allowed to engage in income generating activities to support their work as well as to own real estate. This is good in the sense that organisations will be less dependent on foreign donors who sometimes have foreign policy objectives that are not in our national interests.

Organisations running programmes that do not attract a lot of funding will be able to support their activities somehow. Nonetheless, the government needs to come up with a framework on how to provide funding for PBOs especially in neglected areas that are entrenched in the constitution and are of national importance.

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