|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|7. The legal and institutional frameworks within which NGOs operate|
Where there is law which sets out the various requirements NGOs must satisfy in order to be registered, it typically sets out arrangements for their regulation after they have registered and commenced operations.
Commonly the law vests the task of regulation, including legal registration, in a Registrar, Commissioner(s), Board or other national body, which is either in, or closely related to, a government department. Very often this department is that concerned with social welfare. Sometimes Ministries of Home/Interior/Legal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Labour, or Industry have all or some of the responsibility. Where responsibility is vested in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry's role is often concerned with the registration and monitoring of external NGOs wishing to operate in the country. Where Labour or Industry Ministries are involved this is often because some NGOs register as companies rather than as charities or co-operatives.
In some countries central units, sometimes in Central Planning Units of Prime Ministers' departments, co-ordinate both regulation and other NGO matters, especially when several Ministries are involved with them. As noted above, provincial, regional or state governments may also be involved in regulation.
Typically, regulatory requirements mean that NGOs must submit annual accounts to the regulatory body. Sometimes, though more rarely, annual reports of work done and a list of Board members or staff may also be required. It may also be a requirement that these state who the members and Boards of the NGO are.
Commonly expressed problems concerning regulation include:
NGOs in some countries feel that initial registration and the fulfilment of regulatory requirements are complex and time-consuming, especially where the requirements of several different agencies have to be satisfied. For example, an environmental NGO may relate primarily to the Ministry of Natural Resources, but be registered and regulated by the Ministry of Social Welfare and/or Ministry of Justice/Legal Affairs. It may need the permission of theinistry of Foreign Affairs to secure funding from a foreign source, and to register its youth and women's sections with the Ministries of Youth and Sports and of Women. This is but an example of the complexities of some forms of NGO regulation!
Government officials in a diverse range of countries have expressed the view that the growth in number and diversity of NGOs has outstripped the ability of registration and regulatory arrangements to keep up with them.
Overall, it is clear that to an extent, inadequate or inappropriate regulatory arrangements stem from the inadequacies of the law.
But in addition it is clear that adequate and appropriate regulation will flow from a proper understanding of what information is actually required. The definition and typological components set out earlier suggest, it is hoped, what is needed.