This island’s Social Justice Committee was held up by Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, as a possible model for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging governments across the region.
This was made clear as Minister Jordan detailed the origins and structure of the committee during a panel discussion that looked at NGOs Engaging Government, at the close of a workshop sponsored by USAID/Research Triangle Institute (RTI) at Courtyard by Marriotts, Hastings, Christ Church, on Wednesday.
The Minister noted that the committee was established in 2019 to engage NGOs, civil society organizations (CSOs) and the traditional Social Partnership as a mechanism to allow for their input on government policy.
“How does this policy impact your constituency, the people you represent, those who you advocate for whether they are people living with disabilities? Whether you are talking about children, young people, whether you are talking about LGBT, whatever the area you are speaking about, the Social Justice Committee is a mechanism to bring those views together,” Mr. Jordan said.
Explaining that government saw the entity as an initial launch point representing political will and a structure to help these organizations, he told delegates Barbados was working on deeper collaboration with civil society through assistance from the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, which had undertaken work on a document entitled A Call For NGO Legislation in Barbados.
He added that this was then used to start the process of preparing a Cabinet Paper on NGO legislation.
Delegates also heard that the framework would see the creation of a unit which would contain a register of Third Sector Organizations.
Stating that there would be emphasis on good governance, demonstrated by an organizational structure, annual financial and audited statements, he noted there would also be a review body and an appeals mechanism to allow for appeals where an organization is to be taken off the register.
“So, what we are doing is building a structure, a framework, that will assist in the process of creating the legitimacy that is necessary because that is one of the areas that we found has presented some difficulty. There is donor funding out there; there are NGOs, CSOs, and community-based organizations here, but making that linkage is necessary. You can write a good proposal, but there needs to be the trust element; there needs to be something that says to a potential donor ‘this is a legitimate organization’.
“This is an organization that is working and that the public understands is working to better some area of need in the country. So, the creation of that legitimacy, that trust, is one of the things that we are going to be doing and focusing on,” he said, adding that the committee was established out of the recognition that government was a facilitator, and not the “doer of everything” and must engage with partners.”
Also on the panel was Programme Director of Sophia Community Development Association, in Guyana, Leroy Adolphus, who congratulated Barbados on the model, and hailed it as an initiative to pursue regionally.
“This model that is being proposed is a wonderful model. Move it towards legislation that basically is going to state for everyone, and in a transparent manner, how our operations with NGOs will actually unfold,” Mr. Adolphus said.