Civil society’s continued contribution to Pakistan’s social and economic development was at the centre of a conference held on 21 and 22 November in Islamabad. This conference, organized by DRI in collaboration with the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP), Tabeer and Islamic Relief, brought together 130 parliamentarians and civil society representatives, including 82 men and 48 women.
Speakers emphasized the crucial role civil society plays in sustaining Pakistan’s democracy and examined how civil society and government can best work together.
“I believe that civil society organizations are working for the betterment of Pakistan and I offer you to come and work with our standing committees on human rights, law, justice, peace, women and child issues and members of other committees of the National Assembly,” Said Asad Qaisar, Speaker of the National Assembly.
The first session focused on parliamentarians’ role in social development and highlighted how they contribute to social development in Pakistan through philanthropic work, NGOs and welfare organizations. The second session focused on responses to natural disasters, models for cooperation and discussed how the government and civil society can better plan to overcome natural disasters. The last session of the first day focused on civil society’s role in delivering the government’s anti-poverty initiatives and highlighted how their work can be better formalised and how accountability can be improved. The session on the second day focused on civil society certification and registration and discussed the operational context for NGOs.
Panellists included representatives from every major political party in Pakistan, as well as leading academics and civil society activists. Participants highlighted the importance of strong and structured collaboration between civil society and government. They emphasized the need for a single point of contact to register NGOs in Pakistan and that the regulations governing NGOs should be streamlined.
This event was part of the “Overcoming shrinking civil society space through effective engagement with parliamentary structures and the media” project, through which DRI helps to strengthen the democratic space and discourse in Pakistan.