Sun. Apr 5th, 2020

OPED.Articles

Where Opinion Matters

Pakistan has experienced a mushrooming growth of INGOs and NGOs during the Musharraf era, the Earthquake of 8th October 2008, the super flood of 2010 and the frequent drought in Thar and other desert areas. Many international INGOs helped people in rescue, Relief, Rehabilitation people and reconstruction of damaged houses.

Every INGO came with their own key areas  such as  poverty alleviation , Environment , Peace  , Water and Sanitation ,shelter  , social mobilization and advocacy  ,governance and Democracy , voter education and women representations , Human rights , Child rights  , Old age people  , Alternative Energy such as  Solar , wind and Biogas initiatives , health and education , reproductive health, Honour Killing , religious harmony and other sectors.  So much so that every INGO had own priority to work and even involved local NGOs as implementation partners (IPs). Most of NGOs are funded by Unicef, WHO, European Union ECHO, UK AID, AusAid, USAID, Kingdom of  Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Turkish Government, Bangladesh.

The INGOs benefitted the local youth through employment, vendors and hiring labour for the projects with high wages. I still remember, when I was working with a development organization as Program Manager, I was startled to see youth workers aged between 20 to 30 working in various projects of emergency especially the super floods of 2010. The Average salaries of these youth were equal to grade 16, 17 or even grade 18 government officer thus luring the people to Development sector after shrinking public and private jobs in Pakistan ., They were earning 30 k to 80K per month given their qualification, Skills and experience. The Project Managers, Coordinators, Provincial managers crossed 100K to 300K depending on the INGO and Nature of donor-funding as per approved budget.

A local mason was reported by saying that during 2010  floods he managed to earn 100K in a month by working on shelter projects of an INGO namely Acted. He said prior to flood emergency, he had hardly earned his living and hardly had eaten the two times meals.
He said that INGO contracted him to work on the construction projects and he was under heavy overload that impelled him to hire own workers and even started his own construction company and won contracts.

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Another vendor selling paints and sanitary fittings said that working with INGOs, his sales multiplied to extent that he started two warehouses to meet demand.

One of the development workers said that working with the INGOs, He was able to buy his own house in a year as prior to this; he lived in a rented house.

These were the few examples that became the case studies due to the intervention of these International Development Organizations throughout  Pakistan especially in Baluchistan, KPK and Sindh.

Sindh, KP and Punjab experienced severe damages to roads, properties, infrastructure and livestock during the super floods of 2010. INGOs from major  European and Asian countries pour in Pakistan and started working on flood emergency Projects from Rationing to shelters and tents, Health and hygiene kits, Public Health Promotion, Education and Water tankering.

Several Organizations engaged the people for Cash for Work activities in the villages to rebuild their houses and damaged tracks and roads. This gave great satisfaction to these flood affected segments to earn the respectable living working on their village development Plan. Hundreds of educated and talented youth became part of various INGOs and helped their fellow Pakistanis besides the foreign Aid workers. The relief camps were set up as per the Government plan with help of local district Administration.

The government had to fulfil a  mammoth task to mitigate the disaster as it was beyond the capacity of Government to have dealt with all alone but with the help of development partners, it was fulfilled smoothly and effectively.

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It was reported that people continued receiving aid for food, shelter and nutritional items from INGOs including the UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNDP, WHO, UNOCHA, UNHCR, FAO, UN-HABITAT, WFP etc for a year. UNOCHA was drawing and preparing maps for the affected areas and it played a pivotal role in targeting the population that needed relief and located them properly. WFP provided food items for adults as well as nutritional products for the children including chocolate, biscuits and milk for infants and babies.

UNICEF promoted the healthy-learning activities among the children such as games, play way learning techniques and painting competitions for children in relief camps and brought smiles back on their faces to forget the miseries of the flood.

All the INGOs did their best and helped the Federal and provincial governments to mitigate the natural disaster and helped in rebuilding the infrastructure and creating resilience among the people.

Now the question arises that asking INGOs to pack up owing to their suspicious activities may lead to making these youth jobless again since they cannot get such handsome salaries even in government or public sectors.

The initiative may put jobs of hundreds of aid workers and development professionals on stake since they have been working in these development organizations for the last 18 years and have gained tremendous knowledge, experience and developed their skills and have become professionals in their field. Snatching bread from their hand tantamounts to throwing them in muddy quagmire of unemployment as most of them have become overage and are not eligible to apply for any government job thus their opportunities become limited with the looming sword of the ouster of these INGOs and ever-shrinking job market.

It is recommended that the Government should regulate the activities of INGO either through SECP or Interior Ministry with the help of Ministries of Social welfare and the Ministry of Labour so that the activities of INGOs and their local implementation partners may be monitored to avoid any breach of trust or violation of regulatory framework envisaged by Pakistan.

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The Development partners may help government end the faulty contract system that has plagued the development schemes and incurring the loss of billions through the delivery of substandard structures owing to commissioning and percentage system existing in public sector especially the Government Treasuries and Accounts offices.

The rampant corruption committed by the contractors and the Public works departments call for the government to assign public sector schemes to INGOs/NGOs through competitive bidding and shortlisting on the basis of their previous performance. The Development organizations have deep roots in the masses and may prove beneficial in delivering standard outputs as per the demands of the public.

PTI Government should act sensibly and should come up with INGOs/NGOs governance or regulation policy to curb the suspicious activities of any INGO or local NGO and save thousands of Development professionals specially the Youth from falling prey to the monster of unemployment  as government seems to have no alternate option to engage these professionals elsewhere given  their knowledge in emergency nature projects . Their career will be at stake if the INGOs are forced to close their operations in Pakistan.

Pakistan frequently faces emergencies and natural disasters in terms of food scarcity, drought, malnutrition, stunting and famine in Thar desert of Sindh as well as in the desert areas of Punjab and Baluchistan while these international development organizations may steer the country out of such crises and disasters if their services are availed and valued in the purview of job creation and disaster mitigation instead of forcing them to pack up and leave .