Maldives civil society ‘weak’, says Vice President

Civil society organisations in the Maldives are weak, according to Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, “and their ability to influence public policy is weak, if not nonexistent.”

Speaking at a seminar organised by the High Commission of Bangladesh in the Maldives titled “Democracy, Enterprise Building, Strengthening of Civil Society and Contributions of Expatriate Bangladeshi Workers in the Maldives”, Dr Waheed noted that NGOs in the Maldives “do not lobby for positions to change legislation or to influence public policy.”

Upholding democracy could not be left only to political and economic interests, he warned, suggesting that the government and international development partners needed to help civil society organisations strive towards independence.

Dr Waheed’s comments echo those of UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in the Maldives, Andrew Cox, in an interview with Minivan News last week.

“The UN can give out a grant of US$20,000 [to an NGO], and what they’ll do is buy a computer, pay for some travel and training and so on, then it’s gone and that’s it. What happens then?” Cox asked.

“This is a very important question that a lot of civil society organisation managers are thinking about – or at least I hope they are. Because in the end, international funding can’t be assured for anybody over time.”

Civil society organisations had “proliferated” in the Maldives in the last few years, “but now they need to move beyond that start up phase and become a bit more secure.”

Outside assistance could only go so far, he suggested, “and in the end civil society will only be strong if Maldivians embrace their own civil society and start paying for it. Some of that is about government funding, but much more of it is local philanthropy and gift giving – and earning the organisation that you’re associated with.”

It was imperative that civil society be healthy and self-sustaining, he noted, “because it gives you way of getting important things done in a manner separate to the politics.”

Ahmed Irfan from the Maldivian Democracy Network acknowledged that Maldivian civil society was weak and struggled for support, but noted that “on the other side, it is growing.”

“Local NGOs on many of the islands are actually supported quite well,” he observed, “but people aren’t used to the idea of funding nationwide NGOs. These groups, particularly those advocating human rights and democracy, are seen as being involved in partisan politics – people don’t understand that they’re not.”

Fathimath Nelfa from the Raajje Foundation, an NGO working to strengthen civil society in the Maldives, agreed that perceptions of partisanship were an issue, “especially for those NGOs promoting democracy and human rights, because these things were strongly promoted by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).”

“Today a lot of civil society organisations are very critical of the government,” she said, adding that mistaken association with NGOs promoting these same values was “human nature” and would take time to fade.

“The more civil society is active, the more people will understand,” she said. “It will take time for some people’s perceptions to change – it took 4-5 years for people to know what democracy and human rights meant.”

Maldivian civil society “as a group” is not weak, Nelfa said, “but it needs resources, funding and especially technical assistance, such as more people trained in how to handle funds, write good proposals and liaise with donors. They don’t lack implementation.”

International organisations were “very important for this funding and technical assistance, particularly since the Maldives lacks the human resources,” she said.

For its part, civil society needs to proactively implement greater monitoring, financial auditing, evaluation of projects and reporting to donors, Nelfa suggested.

“Civil society organisations must become more disciplined,” she said. “If an NGO is disciplined and good at evaluating projects, then they should be able to use past donors as a reference.”

There were thousands of civil society organisations registered in the Maldives, but only a few were active in the media, she noted.

“Something like the bill on disability was very well discussed with civil society, and the media focus really publicised these organisations,” she said.

Correction: The Maldivian Detainee Network is now called the Maldivian Democracy Network. This has been amended.


26 thoughts on “Maldives civil society ‘weak’, says Vice President”

  1. Why is this Raajjee FOundation? I have never heard of it before. what has it ever don in maldives? is it this judes lang thing?

  2. When was the last time the Vice President checked the activities and difficulties of the civil society organisations in maldives? and why is he saying this now? does he need a group of enthusiasts to discredit the government? no, it will not happen.

    mr cox, it might help looking over past reports and documentation to see if the ngos are "just buying a computer" with your money. in fact, try looking for the money undp gave ngos for specific policy reviews, which the government never considered by the way. or the mass awareness projects, or the publications. for goodness sake try doing some homework first.

  3. Dr.Waheed say's nothing orginal and neither he has any sincerity for the general Maldivians! ALL HE WANTS IS PRESIDENCY!! AND REVENAGE FROM ILYAS IBRAHIM!! Can somebody tell me what Waheed has done in his long history at UN to help Maldivians??? Waheed and his wife's family wants Presidency!

  4. Probably Dr.Waheed's intention is to motivate NGOs, and for them to become more active than they are already now.
    Reena, for your information, i work in an NGO based in Male, our organization have been invited and i have participated in about 5 workshops that Raajje Foundation conducted. Raajje Foundation updates a lots of organization with international funding possibilities that are there open, and also would like to stress that they provide tailored workshops specifically for the organization's needs.

  5. Dr Waheed is right on this one.The public doesn't even know what some of these NGO's do. Not that its doing a good job behind the scenes either.
    Just hope these NGO's grow some b---s, and start voicing and tackling critical social issues of Maldives

  6. The Maldives has got very strong civil society organizations and they have been involved in socio-economic development of the country from time immoral. They have build schools, mosques, built and operate power satiations, run pre-schools and carry out so many activities in the Maldives.

    True, some people based in Male’ and alien NGOs like Raajje Foundation (in fact not a Foundation but association) are not aware of the activities carried out by the Civil Society organizations in the Maldives.

    If Rajje Foundation is working to strengthen civil society in the Maldives, they should teach the civil societ organitions the difference between a Foundation, national NGOs, CBOs etc.

  7. All selfish people. I think Maldives need a military coup. We have had enough democracy soup now. Too much butterfly politics !!!

  8. Waheed I'm afraid does not live by example and therefore is not eligible to make statements of this nature. And this is the kind of lectures Maumoon used to give - where he states the obvious in lectures and it makes the news over and over because it came from a special mouth...

  9. DRP Thugs,

    As usual you distort the truth and speak only lies. He is not after the Presidency, and will be satisfied being VP if he was able to actively contribute to societal development.

    This entire speech is about getting people involved in the democratic system, and getting them to actually care. How can you say this is a bad thing?

    As for what he has done for Maldives, he was the one who appointed the UNICEF Representative when he was in charge of UNICEF South Asia. He supported larger more effective UNICEF Programing and gave them greater tools than they'd ever had up to that point. It was because of this that things like the Wake Up Campaign was able to be created in cooperation with the Maldivian Government.

    But the fact was that during his tenure in the United Nations, Maldives was not his priority. It was humanity. And he had an lasting and significant impact in every nation and region in which he worked. Now that his priority is Maldives, why is it that people aren't utilizing his skill? His experience and expertise?

    Why is it that the MDP leadership is dead set on vilifying him when he is only calling for the fulfillment of our pledges and the MDP Itthihaad Manifesto.

    And why in the world are you bringing my mom in to this? That's just low man. So so so low. Tisk tisk. I honestly question sometimes why I waste my breath on you. And then i remember, that if your ridiculous rumor mongering is not addressed, people think its fact. Its not.

  10. yea keeps his mom out of it, coz she is the puppet master behind these two idiots and if she is in the spotlight everything will go poop. And by the way Dr. Waheed is truly truly a 'come and go' kind of guy. Remember he used to say why he did not live in maldives when things were really hot, coz he had a family to care ( actually meaning he got a wife to attend to), What good can come from such a person?. NoN. only suspected terrorist's.

  11. civil society organizations in Maldives are in the state they are in because neither the previous administration nor the current one gives a cats whisker about the civil society's affairs.

    the previous administration was hell bent on discrediting human rights and governance NGOs and the current one is ignoring the same institutions that helped disseminate the values of rights and inclusiveness in the first place.

    it is indeed true that the trajectory of the NGOs is unsustainable. the NGOs should not depend on external funding from embassies, foreign foundations etc. they should come up with a mechanism to raise sustainable funding locally.

    but I guess that would require the society to realize the work that NGOs do, and this will take some time.

  12. I cannot understand Jeffrey Salim Waheed's compulsion to reply to everything silly people say about his father, his father's party and his mom.

    but kudos to you Mr. Waheed Jr, you're doing one hell of a job responding to it 🙂

  13. Salim, you might have gone to the best university, but how can you say that your father appointed the present UNICEF representative to Maldives when he was South Asia representative.

    Do you think nobody knows how the UN system works other than Dr Waheed and his family?

    I think Dr Waheed reeks of hypocricy and he clearly has an attitude problem. He seems to look down on every one else other than himself and his family. it is know that he often refers to his family members in official meetings, as if they are some kind of standard bearers.

    He is a VP today because MDP chose him, naively trusting his sincerety. He brags about civil society and democracy, but in the present context, he is doing more damage than help.

    In short, he is out of context. He looks rather out of place in many official functions. He is out of place, period.

  14. Independant and well intentioned NGOs, pls don't politicise or get polarised by anybody's speech or anyone's comments to that. Just try to concentrate on what you declared to do.

    Human brains are the one thing humans still haven't mastered; and Maldives has more than a few intelligent ones.

    We are bickering, fighting and getting immersed and muddled in a very tiny bit of the universe called Maldivian politics. If anyone likes to work up your brain, why not think about stopping fighting mentally, verbally, physically, etc. After all 1 dhandi is very weak compared to a dhandi bondi.

    We'd live on average to 50 to 70 years(technology today is able to boost it between 20 to 50 yrs), and don't know who of us will reach that old window even. We can do more than infighting and get something more constructive work and brain smashing in that time.

    Even if we look to the rest of the world, there are approximately 17,000 people to 1 Maldivian. If we look beyond, there are billions of stars(suns) and each of them could have some planets; and life in some form too.

    Somebody said the on the comments the other day that man has made own DNAs. That is true and they used a bacteria to to instill life into it and make a live cell. Don't know how the life form will look like.

    My only suggestion is that don't go and lose yourselves in 1 avenue, when each of you have your own unique brain (could be politics, science, business, or any goal which is own goal, etc)

    We can easily Break material things and relationships, etc; but very hard to Mend them and in the process get stuck:-(

    Love you all humans very much in general:-)

  15. Salim Waheed,

    First of all we all know your mom is the real puppet master of GIP (which is simply a vehicle for Presidency!!). Secondly we know how people get selected and gets ease at UN jobs..and they have no real motive to make real changes! But are simply hypo's!
    Thirdly, why do you wannn defend your mom and dad every time? Your dad is in politics as a VP (a position that was granted by MDP and NOT earned by merit!!) Your mom is a council member of so called GIP (she was secretly elected to keep the vehicle move smoothly as recommended by your brother-in-law Ilyas Hussain another thug who climded Majlis seats for the first time in Maldivian history!!) So Salim back off..we would say what ever we want in these forums and you say what you can and TRUTH WILL ALWAYS PREVAIL!! THE TRUTH IS YOUR FATHER IS CRAZY FOR PRESIDENCY..AND HAVE NO SINCERITY FOR ORDINARY MALDIVIANS!! AND IF BY ANY CHANCE HE COMES TO POWER..HE WOULD BE WORSE THAN GAYOOM'S NEPOTISM!! AND YOUR DAD IS A VERY GOOD LIER TOO!

  16. A decade ago, we called them BANGALIS, and treated them worse than in hitlers rein. Today, they are a backborne of our economy, taking out over 15 million dollars annually. Am not surprised the VP has gone for advice and consultation on how to make our society, civil. Its true Bangladesh has succeeded in many ways including the micro finance that Maldives needs to look at. We need to take them as an example and treat them humanly.NGOs in Maldives are just a bunch of names. 90% have done nothing to the society. Look at the kids at Villingili school. They dont even have a treatment room and yet we have NGOs advocating for childrens rights, the public donated over ruffiya 2 million, etc....You dont need fancy offices and trainings to run an NGO...VSO had the lousiest office in Maldives but those English volunteers did alot of good work in Maldives. You just need a laptop, a dedicated heart, a plan and some little knowledge to help others.....

  17. Cute Cuddle,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I said that he appointed the UNICEF Representative when he was in charge of UNICEF South Asia. We have had two UNICEF Representatives since then whom he obviously did not appoint.

    And MDP only chose GIP as much as JP and New Maldives did. We then chose MDP over the other two. But who knows, maybe you're right. Maybe he is out of place - after all, trying to do things in a legitimate way may not have a place in Third World Politics.

  18. HassanK , i agree - "this is the kind of lectures Maumoon used to give – where he states the obvious in lectures ............."
    This is an age old tactic that works with unthinking people. It works with subjugated people who have surrendered. Such people will follow meekly without questioning the authority figure.
    For thirty years Maumoon played the Principal to the nation and the finest minds of Majeedhiyya and Ameeniyya, furhter educated in the best universities in the world meekly followed him as he raped, robbed and destroyed the nation.
    Gayoom bumped up a school headmaster to national headmaster. All the boys & girls dressed and behaved decently....

  19. Maldivian civil society is weak compared to what? The judiciary? the government? our honourable parliament? the independent institutions? our new democratic processes? Where is it that everything is working ideally in this country?

    The civil society is making do with the scarce resources and the limitations on freedom of expression that is available to them. It is up to the executive, legislature and the judiciary to enable an environemnt where they can foster and work without intimidation.

  20. Salim, yes you are right for once. this third world place, third politics is not good enough for first world Dr Waheed and his family. As his signature tactic, most Maldivian are counting the days when he will 'filaa' again and do the disappearing act.

    And again, your father cannot act UNICEF heads. He can only recommend. Please do not try to project wrong impressions... you are deliberately misleading those who may not know that Dr Waheed cannot hire or fire UN employees.

  21. Dr.Waheed is a disgrace to the Maldives and its people! Why?
    Becoz he is crazy for presidency and when he has the opporunity to change things he is absolutely doing nothing other than to gain selfish political support by "unfair" critizism! Why unfair? becox he can change the system..but he choose repeat what DRP thugs says!
    Dr.Waheed is simply a puppet of his wife's family! He lied when asked by VTV program on his wife's family political appointees..while Ilyas Hussain and Ali Rasheed and many others are political appointees who were appointed NOT out of merit but pure nepotism!!
    Waheed has no sincerity..he is simply an opporunitist!!

  22. Fali-- I agree. the state of Maldives wants political society, not a civil society. There is no law to govern the political parties, but each member in a political party gets 75 Rufiyaa, now the political parties in the Majlis is deliberating on a bill on political parties. Wait and see the benefits for political society.

    99% of the civil society organizations do not get state benefits, except SHE, MATI, Maldives Chamber of Commerce, and few business oriented organizations.

    The state of the Maldives wants not a civil society but a political society.

  23. Dr. Waheed your words has really motivated the NGOs and things are going at lightspeed now. NOT!!!!

    What the hell do you know about the civil society of Maldives? It is small and has limited people but the organizations that are out there is infact quite strong. They bring about a lot of change. Sure compared to you and your parties over inflated ego the civil society is weak.

  24. I agree with Hussein, Dr.Waheed has a huge ego thats bigger than anything comprehendable! He is nothing but an ego hot bag!!

  25. i agree with our VP. the civil society of the maldives need to get more organised inorder to contribute more to the country and its people.


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