Mr. Speaker Sir,
149. Global changes in the socio-economic landscape has prompted
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to respond to real life issues
at grassroots level, and NGOs in The Gambia are no exception. They have
contributed significantly in our socio-economic development, and have
positively influenced the lives of many ordinary Gambians. NGO interventions
range from health, education, agriculture, and socio-economic development
in general, including crosscutting issues such as the environment, gender,
and HIV/AIDS, all geared towards poverty reduction. Their small size,
flexible operational procedures, and demand driven approach, make them
a reliable alternative for channelling donor funds for community development.
The Gambia Government also recognises this comparative advantage and
tasked NGOs with the responsibility of implementing some components
of its programmes.
150. This year, I would like to make specific mention of the
timely intervention of the NGO community in helping address some of
the problems associated with the 2002/2003 crop failure. NGOs, either
through the Disaster Relief Committee at the Office of the Vice President,
or directly, helped the worst affected areas with food, clothing, seeds,
farming inputs and other technical services which contributed to the
success of the 2003 farming season. They also help build the capacities
of local communities in disaster preparedness.
151. The Government of the Gambia, through the NGO Affairs Agency
under the Department of State for Local Government and Lands, has established
genuine partnership with NGOs and will continue to nurture and value
this by facilitating the implementation of their programmes within the
framework of the Protocol of Accord. As part of this effort, the Agency
would be made more responsive to the increasing demands of a growing
NGO community. Plans are underway to make this Agency autonomous, and
housed on its own premises. A robust legislative framework will also
be put in place through an NGO Act to replace the NGO Decree 81.