Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maiden 'NGO Week': Coalition Celebrates Success

The Association of Non- Governmental Organizations in The Gambia  better known as TANGO, a consortium of Non-governmental Organizations in The Gambia, celebrated what they described ‘NGO Week’.
The celebration started with a parade led by the Scouts  from Africell Junction to TANGO headquarters  in  Fajara ‘M’ Section.
The Marchers were NGO workers, members of staff and officials from development partners, government officials, and the private sector executives as well as students and members of the community.
The series of events marking the maiden celebration kicked off on the 11th and ended on 17, 2012, with the theme,“CelebratingNGO Contribution to Gambia’s  Socio- Economic and Political Development”. 
Funded by the European Commission (EC) and the Africa Capacity Building Foundation(ACBF), the NGO Week 2012  served as the maiden national platform for development workers in the country. And according to officials, the celebration “shall be institutionalised” henceforth.
“Indeed, I am delighted that Tango and the NGO community have extended invitation to me {President Jammeh} and my government to grace and officially open the first NGO week in The Gambia,” President Yahya Jammeh stated in his opening statement, relayed to the occasion’s audience, on his behalf by the  Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ms. Fatim Badjie.
According to the Gambia’s Number One, the invitation indicated a gesture of friendship, partnership, confidence and strong cordial working relationship that exist between the his government and the NGO community in the country.
“My government is commitment to cultivating and nurturing an environment of peace and stability, backed by appropriate legal framework and policy environment to enable the  NGOs do their work in all parts of The Gambia,”  Jammeh added.
He pointed to the NGOs that the government recognizes that ultimately the development of the Gambia  rests with Gambians, noting that no one government could single-handedly carry out the development of a nation on its shoulder alone.
This, he went on, is precisely why the role and contribution of individuals, communities and groups especially professional and technically competent development organizations like NGOs are extremely crucial.
At this point, President Jammeh reaffirmed his government support, saying his  government is always willing to work in partnership with NGOs for the development of this country.
He attributed this to the work of NGOs that have reached out to individuals and communities, often remote areas, who really need their help. He put on record that his government is aware of all the cases of their operations in the remote areas.
Jammeh also dwelled a bit on the issues of legal and policy environment.
“My government always maintains open door policy vis-a-vis participation of  Community Based Organisations-CBOs and NGOs in national development.
“Nevertheless, sometimes it is rather unfortunate that some organisations including CBOs and NGOs often take advantage of this by abusing the conducive environment that my government created, by engaging in dubious activities that are inimical to NGO policy and laws of The Gambia,” he cautioned NGOs.
He went further to state,“It should be pointed out that my government does not and will not accept such activities.”
The  President, while telling the NGO and CBO fraternities that his government welcomes the contribution of NGOs in the development of the country, pointedly reminded them that some NGOs have also become contentious in many other countries where NGOs are perceived as either anti-government or seek to serve the interest of foreign entities.
We also notice that in many countries including The Gambia, certain individuals engages in development work, not for the benefit of the people but for their own self-aggrandizzement,the audience heard from Jammeh’s speech.
Thus, he divulged, “these individuals have been very good at manipulating the law to set up phony organisations with the intention of enriching themselves at the expense of donors and communities.
This kind of attitude, Jammeh said his government will not encourage this kind of relationship in the country noting that the laws are here to guide the operations, management and governance of NGOs and CBOs.
President Jammeh in summing his staement admitted that his government is aware of the development challenges they (government) faced and urged on all NGOs to continue to work with the government and communities to bring about quality development to the Gambian peoples.
In his statement, chairman, Board of Directors of TANGO, Yankuba Dibba, said the event is very significantin the history of development work in The Gambia, in view of the fact that it is the first of its kind since Independence.
 He said that celebrating NGO Week as a platform where they (NGOs) first and foremost appreciate the good work that they are doing, as well as share with Gambians and their esteemed partners, primarily the government, development organizations, the private sector and indeed all other stakeholders, the contribution that NGOs have made to the development of this country over the years.
 Board chairman TANGO stated that NGOs contribute in helping many children, most of whom he said have been able to go to school, with some becoming professionals in various fields and contributing towards national development.
The NGOs, seek to also influence public policy, including legislation, in order to ensure that there exists favorable legal and policy environment that will engender individual, institutional, organizational and national development in all aspects, he pointed out.
Mr. Ousman Yabo executive director TANGO spoke at length on the background information of TANGO saying that TANGO was formed in 1983 and since then it has been the premier NGO coalition in the country.
According to him, TANGO was formed to serve as a platform for better coordination, information sharing as well as serve as the voice of NGOs in the Gambia.
The Association, he said has been growing in number and value, indicating that the umbrella body boasts of 73 international, national and smaller community-based organizations that are practically involved in the development process of The Gambia in all sectors and regions of the country.
He stated that the founders of TANGO were also interested in ensuring maximum use of resources mobilization by NGOs for relief and social development ourposes through collaboration, networking, and mutual reinforcement of each other’s activities.
 NGOs, he pointed out, have contributed immensely to the successes and gains that The Gambia is registering in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the national development blueprint such as the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper). He envisaged that these interventions will be further scaled up in the wake of the new programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE).
Executive director Yabo stated that TANGO considers the Gambia government, development organizations, foreign missions and Gambian communities as its key and invaluable partners.
Adding that the Association is committed to engaging all these institutions and organizations in support of national development.
The objectives of the “NGO Week” in The Gambia, Yabo said is to raise the profile and celebrate the successes of TANGO by showing appreciation and recognition of the role and contribution of NGO members in the socio-economic and political development of The Gambia; To foster interactions and information sharing among COs to add value to partnership and collaboration; To enhance government- civil society relations by promoting open dialogue inorder to bring about a common understanding and the creation of a conducive working environment and enhanced partnership and to encourage members to play a more effective role and fullfill their commitments to TANGO, as well as encourage non-members to join the association.
 Making NGO week partner statement was the executive director of Action Aid The Gambia, Dr Kujejatou Manneh who said that the day is a significant moment in the history of NGOs in The Gambia, as it demonstrates the growing capacity and influence of NGOs on the dvelopment of the country.
She said the government and the NGOs need each other and are bound to work together in securing and strengthening the development of the people for the betterment of the country.
Charge d’affaires of the European Union Delegation to The Gambia, Agnes Guillaud also spoke at the occasion and the vote of thanks was delivered by Mr. Albert Cox director of GAFNA/ meber NGO Week Advisory Committe and the crowd was entertained by Humanity Band with TANGO sound track- Ndaga, salsa and reggae beat.

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