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NGOs and the Local government in partnership for social welfare

Posted on 24 January, 2022 at 12:37

The phenomenon of the NGOs or the Non-Governmental Organizations entering the field of social welfare accelerated in the 1980s, with some focusing on the social, economic, and political development of the Zimbabwean people, particularly in the rural areas.

In earlier decades, though there were several charitable trusts and organizations like the Red Cross, the explosion in the number of NGOs and the concomitant rise in their profile were relatively muted. This aspect of the NGOs taking center stage has been attributed to the need for NGOs to complement local governments and central government efforts to deliver development and actualize the principles of social justice and social welfare. In Zimbabwe, the need for NGOs was exacerbated by the economic crises in recent years, first during the ESAP era in the early 1990s, then the 2006-8 hyperinflationary era, and the current austere environment. This trend also became more noticeable in the first decade of this millennium wherein the NGOs were seen by many as the real votaries of social welfare with the rise in the failed states of Africa and other parts of the world where governance simply collapsed.

Many people often wonder about why NGOs or Non-Governmental Organizations need to work in the realm of social welfare as that is the job of the government. The reasoning behind this is that as much as social welfare is the primary role of the government, the NGO sector is there to cover the gaps that the government leaves behind. it remains a duty and responsibility that a government has towards its citizens to promote social welfare but, it has been concluded that two heads are always better than one. Social welfare has been discovered to be better achieved by both institutions working hand in hand.

Therefore, ever since the 1990s, the government has been following the dictum of “less government is better government” where into some extent, it withdrew from some areas concerning social welfare and instead let private organizations take over health, education, urban amenities, and other infrastructural services. This is where the NGOs stepped in with their objectives of fulfilling the role that the government has to play but which it decided to abstain. In some other words, the NGO sector is a remedy to some government incapabilities towards social welfare.

Another aspect of governmental failure, which the NGOs remedied, was in the realm of implementation of policies. Since policies are made for social welfare, the government has a duty and a responsibility to actualize the noble principles behind such policies. Instead, people realized that the government was taking a lesser and lesser interest in their welfare, and hence, NGOs stepped into this gap as well. The point here is that NGOs quickly filled in the gaps in the roles that the government had to play and these were to do with fulfilling the need for basic services, failure to implement the policies, and third, suggesting, and advocating appropriate policies.

Having said that, it needs to be mentioned that even now the government is still the best bet to actualize social welfare because it has the size and the scale to reach out to large populations. No matter how much the NGOs try, they simply cannot match the power of the governments in actualizing social welfare simply because the governments are the agencies tasked with the purpose of social welfare and because the amount of money that is at the disposal of the government is something that even the biggest NGOs cannot match. Hence, the implications of this are that the government and the NGOs find themselves in a seesaw battle with each of them trying to outdo the other where social justice and social welfare are concerned. This is the reason why the governments and the NGOs then exist in one atmosphere, to develop that one society. As much as there are hitches between the government and the NGOs, the end result is that they are both working together for the same cause.

The ideal model for actualizing social welfare would be one where the government is directly in charge but where the NGOs are tasked with the objective of ensuring smooth delivery of social services and where they are called upon to monitor the delivery mechanisms and provide objective feedback. This means that the external audits of the programs undertaken by the government have to be done by the NGOs no matter how much the governments resist such efforts. Further, this model of development is being practiced in other nations like India. 

Finally, social welfare is best actualized by both the government and NGO, considering the continuous growth and development of the NGO sector, and how much work they have contributed to the welfare of the Zimbabwean society and other countries. There is a need for both the government and the NGOs to realize that each cannot do without the other and hence, a creative partnership wherein each complements and supplements the other would be preferred

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