Assessment of the legislative environment for CSOs in Zambia
Freedom of association, as recognized in international, regional and national treaties, provide a legal basis for the protection of civil society organizations (CSOs). However, there are countless ways in which legal frameworks in African nations fail to protect this right and do not provide an enabling environment for CSOs to develop African philanthropy. In December 2020, the Parliament of Zambia enacted the Non-Governmental Organisations (Amendment) Act, No. 13 of 2020, which imposes new and potentially restrictive obligations on NGOs relating to their financial obligations and operations. This affects not only CSOs themselves but everything they stand for, such as respect for human rights, commitment to gender equality, the fight against corruption, or environmental protection.
The assessment of the legal environment for CSOs conducted in Zambia by the Zambian Governance Foundation (ZGF) together with the Africa Philanthropy Network (APN) looked at the legislation that governs registration, taxation, resource mobilization, oversight, and policy engagement.
According to the study, CSOs remain largely unaware of the legal framework which can have negative implications on the operations. CSOs are not always consulted in the policy-making processes. The study provides a number of recommendations for addressing the legislative challenges faced by CSOs to include training of CSOs on relevant legislation and its implications. It urges CSOs to explore new methods of raising funds and mobilize domestic sources in order to counter restrictions that prevent them from accessing foreign funding. In the same vein, CSOs must engage communities so as to address the nexus between human resource and resource mobilization challenges by using existing policies such as the National Volunteer Policy.
The study also cites that it is imperative for government institutions to understand CSO operations. It urged that CSOs should use existing mechanisms and platforms to increase communication and dialogue between regulatory bodies and the institutions which are responsible for the implementation of CSO legislation. The CSO Executive Directors Platform was mentioned as one example of such a mechanism for a collective voice.
Commenting on the study, ZGF CEO, Barbara Nöst remarked, “This study is the first of its kind in Zambia I am aware of. There have been no or limited advocacy efforts by CSOs to discuss the constraints they face in tapping into local resources. Discussing this with donors is of limited value, these issues need to be raised with the government and the local private sector. There is no legislation that incentivizes or obligates the corporate sector to channel corporate social responsibility funds towards local initiatives and CSOs. Equally, efforts are necessary to engage the government to decrease the tax burden on CSOs as entities that try to fix service gaps created by the government and work for the public good. This is a call to all local CSOs to challenge the government and the private sector and convince them that better laws make better investments in public goods.”
Adding on, the APN Executive Director Dr.Stigmata Tenga said, “We need to work collectively to elevate the potential of African philanthropic giving in addressing community challenges and drive the change we want to see. For this to be achieved CSOs must become key players. The legal environment for domestic resource mobilization and community philanthropy as a sustainable development strategy requires attention.” She was speaking at the study validation workshop that was held on 15th September 2022 in Lusaka.Report Assessment of the legislative environment for CSOs in Zambia_final