US calls for allowing ‘Save the Children’ to work

Published June 13, 2015
We are concerned about Pakistan’s crackdown on international charitable organisations, NGOs: US State Department.—AFP/File
We are concerned about Pakistan’s crackdown on international charitable organisations, NGOs: US State Department.—AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States urged Pakistan on Friday to allow Save the Children and other international charities to work under a legal framework.

“We are concerned about Pakistan’s crackdown on international charitable organisations and other NGOs,” said the US State Department’s spokesperson Jim Kirby.

Know more: INGO Save The Children ordered to close shop

“We urge the government of Pakistan to standardise and streamline a transparent process that will allow international GOs, including Save the Children, to work legally in Pakistan,” he added.

Pakistani authorities ordered Save the Children on Thursday to leave, saying that the charity was “working against the country’s interests.”

Government officials and police arrived at the charity’s office in Islamabad after working hours and sealed its doors.

Recently, India also put 16 international organisations on a watch list and accused them of “direct interference… in the internal affairs of the country and also of abetting communal disharmony in India”.

The State Department had expressed “concern” over the Indian action as well, noting that it “limits a necessary and critical debate within Indian society”.

Commenting on Islam-abad’s decision to expel Save the Children, Mr Kirby said that Pakistan’s international development partners respected the government’s need for full transparency from international NGOs about their activities within the country.

“We also agree that international NGOs must operate within a relevant legal and regulatory framework.”

Mr Kirby noted that Save the Children was one of many such organisations that had long operated with transparency and in close coordination with the government of Pakistan.

Save the Children has worked in Pakistan for more than 35 years, carrying out programmes in health, education, and food security that reach more than four million children and their families.

The State Department official said that the United States shared the Pakistani government’s goal of promoting a secure, economically vibrant, democratic Pakistan.

But he noted that “much of our support for that goal involves channelling financial support through international NGOs, who work as our implementing partners in a variety of sectors”.

Mr Kirby observed that recently, several of these partners had reported difficulty doing business in Pakistan.

“This has had a significant negative impact on international partner efforts to support government of Pakistan priorities,” he said.

Mr Kirby pointed out that NGOs were also an important part of the international development community’s effort to support the government of Pakistan in facilitating effective and meaningful development, governance, and humanitarian assistance to benefit the people.

Published in Dawn June 13th, 2015

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