On May 13, South Sudan’s parliament passed a controversial bill regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The bill is now awaiting the president’s signature to become law. The South Sudan NGO Forum, an umbrella organization of 300 national and international NGOs operating in the country, expressed concern that this could be part of a government effort to impede the work of NGOs.
“NGOs are already under mounting administrative pressure and often subject to arbitrary enforcement of rules and regulations. There are increasing incidents of harassment and violence against NGOs,” says the Forum.
One of the most controversial parts of the bill is its requirement that local workers make up at least 80% of NGO staffs, including at senior levels. South Sudan suffers from a shortage of skilled labor and 73% of adults cannot read or write. Many are concerned that NGOs would be unable to find enough qualified workers to meet the high bar.
The law would create a government NGO board to oversee compliance. The board would have the power to impose heavy fines for violations or to revoke a NGO’s registration to operate in South Sudan. Its decisions would not be subject to judicial review.
There is widespread concern about the humanitarian impact of the law. NGOs provide food, water, medical treatment and other services to South Sudanese civilians, who have been heavily impacted by civil war.
South Sudan risks ‘catastrophe’ with new aid agency law, warns NGOs, The Guardian, 14 May 2015.
Will NGO bill restrict aid efforts in South Sudan?, IRIN, 13 May 2015.
Follow the South Sudan NGO Forum for the latest updates on the bill.