Tanzania civil society held self-reflection to review 30 years of its work

On 13 and 14 of October, 2017 more than 60 civil society representatives from Tanzania gathered in Arusha for a two-day civil society organisations (CSOs) Self Reflection Meeting. During this meeting, CSOs directors, veteran CSOs practitioners, representatives from government, academicians and other stakeholders had a joint self-reflection by setting aside time to quietly and honestly review the civil society sector after 30 years of operation. The workshop addressed urgent and emerging concerns voiced by civil society in Tanzania, in the midst of the national trend of increased restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. Participants discussed relevant laws, policies and practices in Tanzania as well as regional and internal reflection of the sector. They also agreed on national and regional advocacy priorities.

Key issues discussed

Challenges: The CSOs sector is faced with various challenges ranging from coordination, regulations (compliance issues), funding, sustainability of the sector, harmonious working relationship, management, power and succession plan, skewed accountability, reporting, continuous changing of objectives, internal conflicts, lack of transparency and accountability, CSO’s promoting things that contradict the rules and regulations of the government, NGO’s being used as political vessels especially during the election process, insufficient knowledge of the CSOs sector, human resource capacity to mention but a few. As solution, participants were urged to pay attention to details, share experiences, challenges and opportunities in order to have a common way of operating the sector.

Sector evaluation survey: The survey’s findings include the lack of solidarity in conducting various interventions and priorities as to what the sector wants to achieve as well as unhealthy relationships among CSOs and other stakeholders. This results into lack trust towards CSOs leading to the work of CSOs becoming ineffective. There is a need for a whole new and complimenting way of working that encourages cooperation, partnerships and unity among the CSOs.

Freedom and right to operate: There is a need to boldly defend civil society space as serious ingredient of CSOs as partners of development for the government, hence the sector should be demand driven and go with current global dynamics. There should be a mentorship programmes with continued learning efforts from other countries about their best practices, techniques and approaches in order to strengthen the sector here.

Regional experience sharing: Regional wise, it was discussed that in order to firmly locate the role of CSOs/NGOs/CBOs/FBOs in our society, there is a need to adopting innovative approaches that are effective and have impact to communities. More engagement is needed with the governments and our focus should be more consultative and less combative in interventions on the ground. Also CSOs should be more engaged at regional level at EAC, SADC and African Union. Participants also agreed there is need to seek national resource mobilization strategies for enhanced effectiveness.


Regulatory framework and compliance: Participants discussed various issues on laws, regulatory framework and compliance and it was recommended that there is a need to compile a compendium of all laws, policies, regulations and rules that are affect the operations of the sector in Tanzania and make periodic updates and have it shared across the sector.  

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