Citing a strong civil society sector as essential to democracy, national development and the protection of human rights, European Union Section Head Achim Schaffert has charged civil society and non-governmental organisations to develop their sustainability and lessen their dependency on external funding sources.

"In a world where financial resources are becoming more and more scarce, and where the number of development players is increasing,” Mr. Shaffert said. “Only those organisations that are effective, that coordinate efforts with other partners and that can provide added value will thrive.” 

The Head of Section, Economic, Social Development and Trade, Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica was speaking to leaders and managers from over 50 diverse organisations at the opening of the one-day capacity building seminar presented by the EU funded Rights Awareness Programme (RAP) in Kingston recently. Mr. Shaffert congratulated RAP on the timely seminar themed, “Essential Strategies and Tools for NGO Sustainability in 2015 and Beyond”.

The need for strengthening NGOs and CSOs - developing their sustainability and building their capacity to express citizens’ concerns and engage in participatory democracy was also echoed by other seminar presenters who confirmed the declining availability of grant funding and the current shift in positioning of the international funding agencies.  

“Repositioning our organisations for sustainability is essential to our survival and ability to continue to serve our missions and constituencies,” said Sonita Abrahams, Executive Director of RISE Life Management Services and co-implementing agency of the RAP project.

Mickel Jackson, Organizational Development and Communications Officer at World Learning, tackled the all-important subject of capacity building by giving practical advice on assessing strengths and weaknesses and capacity opportunities. The Jamaica National Foundation presentation led by General Manager, Saffrey Brown and Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI) Project Manager Jennifer Sharrier introduced the social enterprise model now being implemented through SEBI.

Harold Malcolm, human rights consultant for RAP, reiterated the significance of the role of NGOs in promoting a culture of human rights. “Human rights are indivisible and as NGOs, it is important that human rights are incorporated in the work that you do.” He charged leaders and managers to be involved in the process of protecting human rights and aid in advancing democracy.

“The EU considers human rights as indispensable for human dignity and social justice, and for the promotion of international peace, prosperity and stability” Mr. Shaffert said. 

The RAP project, which aims to build awareness of human rights and strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations, is funded by the European Union under the Jamaica EU cooperation agreements for human rights which have existed since 2009. The project is jointly implemented by the British Council and RISE Life Management Services.

“The presentations were very useful and the institutional assessment tools offered will definitely aid our organization in making sustainable developments,” explained an NGO representative.