The operational environment and contraints for NGOs in Kenya :strategy for good policy and practice
The qualitative and quantitative growth of NGOs in Kenya over the last quarter of the 20th century has been enormous. For instance, NGOs registered a cumulative growth of over 100% between 1977 and 1987. 1 By 1995 there were at least 23,000 women’s organizations in the country. 2 Most of these organizations are registered under the Ministry of Culture and Social Services. Those NGOs that are registered by the NGO Coordination Bureau (under the Offi ce of the President) are at least 1441 compared to only 250 in 1993 . 3 Vibrant and secure civic organizations often play a vital role in society. It is not surprising therefore that the move to liberalize laws with a view to permitting and encouraging civic organizations has resulted in a trend described as the “new scramble in Africa” and Kenya exemplifies this trend. 4 The main proponents of the move towards greater participation of these organisations base their arguments on the need to protect associational rights. There have been however, on the other hand, a school of thought that postulates the essential need to protect the public from the real and perceived abuses and frauds by unscrupulous organizations. Thus the universal problem of regulation of civic organisations arises. This paper considers the regulatory concerns confronted by the various stakeholders (NGOs, governments, funders, international agencies for instance) seeking to encourage the growth and development of independent legitimate civic organizations in Kenya. Given the compelling reasons for encouraging the activities of NGOs in Kenya, we argue in this paper that it is necessary to promulgate sensible laws, regulations and administrative systems in Kenya. We trace the evolution of civic organizations, the evolution of legal systems to support the sector and identify practical difficulties that these organisations have encountered in their operations. By drawing on various experiences on legal fiscal and regulatory structures around the world we develop and propose a set of recommendations and policy options that will permit, encourage and regulate the existence of civic organizations in Kenya and their meaningful participation in the development process.