Civil society is generally understood as the voluntary association of citizens for purposes other than engaging in for-profit business. Some political scientists think about this in terms of broad “social movements” (the women’s movement, the environmental movement, the labour movement, etc.) In Uganda, however, civil society is more commonly taken to refer to non-government organisations (NGOs), professional associations, faith-based organisations and community based organisations. Collectively, these are increasingly often referred to as civil society organisations (CSOs). Their numbers have grown enormously in most parts of the world over the last 20 years, in what a US scholar, Lester Salamon, has termed “a global, associational revolution.”
Uganda is estimated to have around 9,000 registered NGOs, although the exact number of those in active operation is difficult to ascertain. All NGOs are required by law to register with an NGO Board within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Community-based organisations—which, as the name implies, are generally small and local—are expected to register with the district local government Community Development Office (CDO) in the district where they operate.
There are a variety of NGO coalitions and “platforms” drawing together groups with a common interest in a given topic—HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Water and Sanitation, etc. Over the last three years several such coalitions have emerged with a common interest in Uganda’s oil development. These coalitions tend to have significant overlap in their membership with various NGOs belonging to more than one coalition.
This section of the site will profile some of the coalitions and NGOs that are actively engaged in oil-related programmes. This is a work in progress: more profiles will appear as we find time to collect them.
The Uganda National NGO Forum is an umbrella organisation and “sharing and reflection platform” with several hundred NGO members. It has helped to nurture more localised, regional and district-level CSO Forums, and also publishes an on-line directory of NGOs.
Another general umbrella organisation is the Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations. It has both NGO and CBO members and defines its mission as “influencing poverty reduction and good governance processes and strategies through mobilising diverse experiences, knowledge and skills of CSOs in Uganda onto a common platform of action.”