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Financial constraints bane of CSOs — Report

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey
Douglas Quartey, Development Consultant and Author of CSO Sustainability Index Report
Douglas Quartey, Development Consultant and Author of CSO Sustainability Index Report

Financial constraints have been identified as the main challenge affecting activities of civil society organisations in the country as a result of a drastic cut in donor support.

This was contained in the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) 2021 CSO Sustainability Index Report which was launched in Accra yesterday.

Additionally, the report found that pandemic-related restrictions also undermined activities of CSOs.

"Staffing remained a significant problem in 2021 as core funding shrank and project-based funding dwindled. The funding crunch has dramatically undercut the attractiveness of CSOs as a career path for well-qualified employees.

"Staff retention is a significant problem for all CSOs. Some organisations sought to resolve the lack of staff by relying on interns and volunteers in 2021," the report further established.

The report was developed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian

Assistance Centre of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.

Overview

Giving an overview of the report, a development consultant, Douglas Quartey, said the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and the changing funding landscape in 2021 prompted most CSOs to review their strategic plans and activities.

He said the CSOs were being supported mostly by bilateral and multilateral donors, but that due to the country's middle-income level status, coupled with a shift in focus from aid to trade in recent years, donor funding of CSOs had declined.

"In 2021, donors diverted funding from CSOs’ normal activities to the pandemic response," Mr Quartey said, adding that "many organisations were unable to obtain new funding for their activities in 2022".

The consultant further said that CSOs were finding it difficult to generate local funding because of the widespread perception that the sector receives generous funding from international donors.

"Although local giving increased significantly at the start of the pandemic in 2020, it reduced drastically in 2021," he said.

Effect

A Senior Research Fellow at IDEG, Kwesi Jonah, also said "the limited funding opportunities have affected the ability of CSOs to help poor communities", and has also "led to laying off of workers or freezing employment".

He, however, said the development had compelled CSOs to become more innovative since “necessity is the mother of invention".

The Head of Non Profit Organisations Secretariat, Dela Ashiagbor, said in the light of the limited funding, the secretariat was putting in place measures to curb incidents of illicit persons using CSOs for money laundering and terrorism financing.

He said the secretariat was also encouraging the practice of volunteerism in the country for which he said a platform would be established by his outfit so that persons who wanted to volunteer could register their expertise and get picked by organisations who needed them.

To encourage accountability, Mr Ashiagbor also said that a draft non profit organisations (NPO) Bill had been designed and was currently with the Attorney-General's Department following nationwide engagements.

"Very soon the bill will go to Cabinet and then to Parliament," he said.