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Self Regulation of Non-Governmental Organizations

Did you know that the Non-Governmental Organizations Act no. 16 of 2009 (the “NGO Act”) provides for self-regulation of non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”). The NGO Act establishes the Zambia Congress of NGOs (“Congress”) and empowers it to establish its own structure, rules and procedures. The NGO Act further establishes the council of NGOs (the “Council”) which is mandated to manage the affairs of the Congress.

The functions of the Council are to facilitate the self-regulation of NGOs by developing, adopting and administering a code of conduct for NGOs. The Council is also mandated to coordinate the activities of NGOs. Such coordination is necessary to ensure the harmonization of activities of NGOs to prevent duplication of efforts. In terms of the NGO Act, the code of conduct is binding on all NGOs.

The Council published standards and guidelines for NGOs in June 2022 (“Guidelines”) which all NGOs should be aware of. The Council facilitates self-regulation through the following thematic areas:

a. Advocacy;

b. Health;

c. Social Welfare;

d. Environment;

e. Empowerment;

f. Education; and

g. Water and Sanitation

The code of conduct of NGOs has however, not yet been published. Nevertheless, the purpose of the Guidelines is to ensure harmonization and predictability of NGOs. The Guidelines provide the following standards and guidelines amongst others:

a. Formation of NGOs

b. Registration of NGOs;

c. Constitution of NGOs;

d. Renewal of certificate of registration;

e. Administration and governance;

f. Resource mobilization;

g. Monitoring and evaluation;

h. Financial management standards;

i. Record management;

j. Asset management; and

k. Standards and guidelines for protection of NGOs against terrorism finance abuse.

In 2018 the government of Zambia published the national NGO policy (“Policy”) which is also aimed at coordinating the NGO sector. The new dawn government is working towards ensuring that the national Policy is implemented and creating an enabling environment for the Council to facilitate the self regulation of NGOs. The Policy however, also includes the repeal and replacement of the NGO Act.

The Policy takes note of the fact that NGOs play a key role in advancing the government’s development agenda. The purpose of the Policy is to create an enabling environment for sustainable operations of NGOs. It has been noted that the NGO Act may not be adequate in providing such an enabling environment and as such there are steps currently being taken for the repeal and amendment of the NGO Act. The Policy suggests to put in place a well harmonized legal framework that provides for primary registration of NGOs and render exclusive legal personality to NGOs. Therefore, the new legislation that may be enacted may provide for such primary registration.

Currently, NGOs are incorporated under various pieces of legislation such as the Companies Act no.10 of 2017, the Societies Act Chapter 119 of the Laws of Zambia and the NGO Act itself. Each of these Acts is governed by different regulatory bodies which NGOs have to comply with. The proposed amendment will be aimed at creating a harmonized regulation of NGOs. As part of the implementation of the Policy, all the laws that currently regulate NGOs are being reviewed in order to harmonize the regulation.

It should be noted that the Policy still maintains the existence of the Council which is still mandated to develop a code of conduct which all NGOs have to adhere to. Until the enactment of the new legislation, NGOs are encouraged to take note of the Guidelines.

Bellmac Consulting provides specialized advisory and compliance services to non-governmental organizations to ensure they are compliant with the law.

Contact: Muchimwa Mbulo – zambia@bellmacconsulting.com, +260955195454