First General Conference

Beirut – Lebanese Republic

23-25 April 2002

From April 23 to 25 2002, the Arab Network for NGOs hold its First General Conference in Beirut, Lebanon under the presidency of HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz with the participation of 881 among the members of the Network, together with representatives Arab and international donors.

The Conference was inaugurated by HE Mr. Rafiq El Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon.  During the inaugural ceremony speeches were delivered by HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, chairman of the Arab Network for NGOs, HE Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, president of the Islamic Bank for Development, Mr. Abdel Kader Bin Emara, representative of OPEC Fund for Development, and Mr. Taher El Masri, high commissioner for civil society affairs at the League of Arab States.

The Conference reelected unanimously HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz president of the Board and the general assembly adopted the By-Laws of the Arab Network for NGOs that became effective after the introduction of the amendments proposed by the members of the general assembly handed over to a legal committee that submitted them to the Board of Trustees.

Over twelve plenary sessions and ten workshops, the Conference discussed all the issues proposed on the agenda and formulated the following recommendations:

-       The adoption of the Declaration of Transparency for Arab NGOs and the recommendation to activate the use of this document through dissemination, publication and advertising in workshops, studies and trainings.

-       The need to amend laws regulating Arab NGOs in order to render these laws compatible with the rights and freedoms included in international conventions that provide the necessary space for the practice of democracy.

-       The importance to elaborate and disseminate a guidebook of best laws for NGOs in the region.

-       The need to improve the opportunities of establishing interaction and partnership between parliamentarians and Arab NGOs in order to reinforce bridges between the two parties and facilitate the process of amending laws and regulations as to match with the concepts of democracy and freedoms.

-       The Conference encourages the involvement of effective actors of the Civil Society in Arab parliaments and legislative bodies.

-       Real partnership based on mutual respect should be achieved between NGOs and Arab governments with focus on the developmental role played by voluntary organizations as well as the right of these organizations to autonomy.

-       Partnership should also be developed with the private sector; participants in the Conference stressed the need to develop the discourse addressed to this sector as well as preparing booklets highlighting the support it provides to voluntary work; in addition, governments should be encouraged to amend tax regulations as to serve as an incentive leading to enhance the support granted by the private sector to NGOs.

-       The Conference reconfirmed the importance of partnership with the media for the promotion of the voluntary sector through the dissemination of information and data related to the activities conducted by NGOs.  Another type of support would be the training of NGOs cadres on the skills of communication.  On the other hand, training should also be provided to media workers in order to get acquainted with the role played by NGOs in the various Arab countries.

-       Arab NGOs are invited to make profit of the possibilities offered by the developments of technology in the contemporary media as well as the opportunity of reaching out a wide constituency through internet.

-       Means of partnership with global organizations need to be promoted on the base of mutual respect and transparency without any form of hegemony that would threaten the autonomy of NGOs.

-       The Arab Network for NGOs is appealed to play a leading role in building bridges of interaction with research centers and universities with focus on the importance of including the topic of the Civil Society in university curricula.

-       Methodologies and studies related to the Civil Society need to be improved in order to identify more efficiently the obstacles impeding the Arab Civil Society and propose practical solutions to overcome them.

-       Main research and studies about the Arab voluntary sector should be translated to English and other languages in order to add visibility to Arab NGOs.

-       The Conference proposed the establishment of an alliance of Arab researchers concerned with the Civil Society in general and NGOs in particular in order to strengthen the academic community and take advantage of the existing scientific efficiencies.

-       Arab donor agencies and organizations are invited to grant their support to research and studies about the Civil Society and contribute thus in overcoming the difficulties facing this sector.

-       Studies regarding the socio-economic value of the voluntary sector are specifically encouraged, as well as the organization of workshops with the concerned governmental parties in order to provide them with the available data and information about this issue.

-       In its future plans of action, the Arab Network for NGOs will devote important efforts to the training of trainers in order to multiply the effects of training and the numbers of beneficiaries.

-       Training will include new programs and topics directed towards the evaluation of performance, the measurement of effectiveness and the development of data bases besides training on the actual practice of transparency and accountability.

-       Training guidebooks will be prepared enabling a maximal benefit from the Network’s training programs for volunteers and workers in Arab NGOs.

-       The Arab Network for NGOs will deploy additional efforts towards various sectors of youth in order to attract them to the voluntary activities and provide them with the adequate training.

-       The data bases of the Network will be developed and updated in addition to include more Arab countries than those covered by the first phase.

-       A practical plan will be set aiming at promoting the culture of volunteerism in the Arab region with a specific target for children and youth.  This will be accompanied by the creation of systems capable of guiding and building a voluntary movement.

-       The trends of the various sectors towards volunteerism need to be explored in order to identify the obstacles impeding volunteerism and preventing this culture from flourishing.

-       Centers of volunteering should be established and activated in the Arab region.

-       The role of women in Arab NGOs needs to be promoted by securing their access to decision-making position; concerned NGOs will be provided the necessary training to develop their capacities in this regards.

-       The role of Arab donors in supporting NGOs should be enhanced, and the coordination group for Arab funds is invited to open channels of dialogue with Arab NGOs.

-       The Arab Network for NGOs will develop its interaction with other Arab networks.