Will government step up?

David Bonbright

Many thanks for Caroline Hartnell’s concise and issue-oriented thumbnail sketch of the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) in the December issue of Alliance. I share her (implicit) sense of the wider significance of the PCNC experiment, and particularly the two critical questions raised. Given the PCNC is demonstrably effective, how can it be scaled up and sustained?

This points to a conundrum at the heart of many successful civil society development innovations. PCNC cannot be scaled up without subsidy. The right and proper subsidy provider is government. And yet, as Hartnell notes, at the moment there is ‘no prospect of government contributing to its costs’. This leaves two choices: raising the subsidy from international donor agencies, which are unlikely to meet the needs for scaling up let along sustaining it over time, or raising its fees, which raises significant issues of equity and access.

Surely the answer must be for government to step up to its obligations to provide an effective regulatory framework (a point noted by Peter Shiras in his excellent article in the same issue). I suspect that all of us who would like to see the PCNC experiment succeed and become a model for other jurisdictions need to turn our attention to persuading the Philippine government to do its part.

David Bonbright is Director of the Aga Khan Foundation’s Civil Society Programme. He can be contacted at David.bonbright@Akdn.ch

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