Opportunity or Opposition: NGO working group meets on Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

In December, the GRA team met the Non-Profit Organizations (NPO) Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Working Group to discuss how civil society can redefine its relationships with the government.

On the one hand, from the CSOs' perspective, while some forms of regulation or standard-setting are necessary, there is a persistent feeling that there is shrinking space for CSOs. This is due to some legislation being viewed as repressive, particularly when it comes to procedural and operational issues such as the cumbersome registration process for NGOs and restrictive measures related to foreign funding sources.

On the other hand, in this context, it is easy for CSO to operate out of fear or "fortress mentality," a situation in which a group of people feels they are under attack and therefore refuse to listen to any criticism or views that do not fit their position and aims. But this mentality misses the potential insight that every critique of CSOs is an opportunity to listen, make changes and plug the gaps.

It is why the Non-Profit Organizations (NPO) Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Working Group was established in 2019 and coordinated by the Defenders Protection Initiative (DPI), comprised of ten (10) members. As a member of the NPO FATF working group, Global Rights Alert is at the heart of these conversations. We are working closely with affected civil society organizations to facilitate discussion on the concerns raised and contentious pieces of legislation, including the NGO Act 2016, Public Order Management Act 2013, Uganda Communications Act 2013, the Computer Misuse Act 2011, and the Anti–Money Laundering Act 2013.

In tandem, the NPO FATF working group is engaged in awareness-raising. We are lobbying government stakeholders to help build trust and understanding, develop a shared understanding of how civil society and government have linked roles in delivering rights, and help establish a process and appropriate institutional relationships to get us there. Achieving functioning relationships between the government and civil society will require both sides readjusting.

We will keep you updated on that work in future newsletters.