Omid Memarian

Monday, October 13, 2003

Last day a comment of mine published in shargh newspaper about the relation between UN agencies and Irannian civil society organizations. My friend Nasrin Azadeh Consultant Liaison Officer
in Oxfam (Iran) has translated it to english for her office ....and now I use it in my weblog
so here is the article.Thank you Azadeh!

UN Agencies is/not associated with Iranian Civil Society

By Omid Memarian Shargh newspaper (local reformist paper),
13 October 2003

UN agencies, what do they do in Iran? How do they affect the expenditure of
their budget? What is the status of their relationship with the government
and community institutions? These were the questions raised by 40 civil
institutes that participated in a single-day workshop on "studying
collaborative linkage between UN and Iranian Civil Institutions", out of
which the findings might not please these agencies. All participant
institutions that interlink with the inter-governmental agency highlighted
some issues which concluded to draw a holistic map of the status of UN
agencies in Iran.

A pessimistic presumption toward civil institutions, a corrupted and
complex bureaucracy, biased and selective approach to community
associations, unclear and unfamiliar literature and most important of all
lack of transparency in performing the programs in addition to their
general policy making in Iran were among consentaneous issues.

Rising above issues shed lights on the reasons that these agencies with
relatively huge budget and technical knowledge at their disposal were
unable to maintain meaningful relationships with independent community
institutions. Certain opined that their management overview of Iranian
civil society resulted to such behaviour. An overview stemming out of
government approach to Iranian civil institutes, preventing them to
participate in decision making processes, policy makings, and programs that
are supposed to be for the people. Accordingly their financial resources
and expertise which originally supposed to increase the community
participation in addressing local problems and soothing people's suffering
(refugees, disabled and children's issues), rarely channelled through the
community based institutes.

Agencies pointed to the fact that they have to obtain the approval of the
officials to engage community-based specialized institutes in the projects
and are unable to directly interact. They reminded that few years ago when
the agency initiated a direct contact with one of the institutes, nearly
was put to be closed down by officials. Informed individuals indicate the
conservative nature of the agency in relation to the world which is logical
to the point, but recently that very same behaviour raised serious

Informed parties also point to programs that these multilateral agencies
(information Centre, UNICEF, Drug control, population Fund, agricultural
Org and?) carried out through direct involvement of certain selected and
private related entities.
Such behaviour consequently resulted to the misuse of local staff working
in these agencies to create unofficial relation loops with certain bodies,
which prevents independent community based institutes to have meaningful
relationships. These loops act as a barrier for communities to develop
logical interlinks.

In this respect government bodies use these loops to limit the connections
and preserve the international financial resources within their monopolies.
Antagonism persists resulting to elimination of civil institutions despite
the continuous effort to improve cooperation among governmental and
non-governmental institutions.

There are still other issues to be raised, however in an introspective
analysis, the initiative to examine the interrelation with UN agencies
which led to formation of a study group to develop dialogue among relevant
factors, accounted for a considerably positive act.

Cooperation of civil institutions to shed lights on concealed interactions
and restore dialogue to improve the circumstances, considered an
unprecedented method that worth bearing the consequences. The next session
is planned to be held in Tehran in the presence of the Agency's coordinator
aiming for an Action Plan to produce total transparency. More to our
interest is that UNDP has announced that no civil society colleague should
be named in association with this Agency.