BY JANE MUNGABWA – The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) this week launched the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Sustainability Index report, an attempt to evaluate the sustainability of CSOs in Namibia according to preset criteria. During the presentation of the results of the study IPPR’s executive director, Graham Hopwood stated that more donors had indicated their funding for Namibian CSOs would either be curtailed or stopped altogether.

The report was aimed at evaluating the sustainability of CSOs in Namibia in 2017 according to seven dimensions, namely: the legal environment, organisational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, sectoral infrastructure and public image. The results of the study showed that overall CSO sustainability in Namibia has worsened in all seven dimensions evaluated, mainly due to financial constraints.

According to Hopwood, Namibian CSOs who depend primarily on foreign donor funding are left with limited alternatives for funding after funding from donors has been cut or stopped completely. In the midst of reduction of funding from donors, IPPR’s Hopwood said that Namibia has limited local funding options as there is little support from philanthropists, government and the private sector. Hopwood advised local CSOs to explore alternative models of funding for example starting commercial sections for as a possible model to acquire funding. However, Hopwood said that feasibility studies on the applicability of such a funding model have not been done in Namibia yet and one of the possible downsides to having commercial sections of CSOs might be that they may start to focus on the commercial aspects of their operations and lose focus on their main causes.

Hopwood alluded that limited funding has resulted in a complete halt or a reduction of capacity building activities carried out by CSOs because they cannot afford to retain full-time staff and cover administrative costs. Advocacy work has been negatively affected as social movements have had limited funding to carry out advocacy campaigns that have a national reach. However, despite financial constraints, many CSOs such as the ACTION Namibia Coalition have been making a noted impact in the policy arena by actively lobbying for comprehensive access to information and whistleblower protection legislation in Namibia.

At present, pooling together resources may be the best survival option for Namibian CSOs. IPPR and the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) are a great example of this collaboration for survival as they have had success in mitigating financial constraints by sharing sectoral infrastructure in order to cut costs.