OUTLOOK — By Ali Al Matani — While civil society institutions in the country, both in quantity and quality, contribute outstanding contributions in many areas of national importance in the country, and embraces many of those interested in volunteering in all its aspects and diversity, the government should give these institutions the importance they require in the next phase for many important considerations and aspects that accommodate national movement so as to enhance the experience of civil society in the country, deepen its development and establish its mechanisms commensurate with our values and visions, and crystalise its work in the context of serving the national goals.
This can be accomplished by paying attention to those institutions which are now playing an important role. It also requires the State to find annual financial support for these professional and voluntary institutions to spare them from begging, whether internally or externally and organise its work on a sound footing, so that they do not depend on any of the actors inside or outside the country.
They should have their own resources to help them perform and organise their work and absorb their staff. This issue should receive attention from senior levels in the state machinery. The civil society is an indispensable choice in the light of world developments and one of the foundations of modern societies and the pillar of the community interacting with the world.
There is no doubt that civil society in Oman is still in its infancy trying to find its first steps. It needs time and awareness to promote its aspirations. However, at the same time, it is witnessing an upward movement reflected in the applications for the establishment of charitable, voluntary, professional and syndicate and other forms of civil society organisations.
The accommodation of these institutions in the national framework at this stage is very important so that we do not make these institutions depend on others and neutralise their work. This shall also help these institutions develop as we look forward to in the country as one of the advances by which communities and countries are measured.
Financial resources constitute a stumbling block in the development of civil society in the country and their lack does not lay the foundations for active institutions in the community and this should receive attention largely from the State in dealing responsibly with civil society to benefit from it in the promotion and support of government agencies and support in their various work areas. Unlike what some might think, civil society organisations are not the opposite of governmental ones and the narrow and suspicious look of some should be reconsidered.
Civil society institutions work today with very limited resources and by individual voluntary efforts that are also contested by many concerns, connections, and other daily burdens. The individual who volunteers and devotes himself to the same may get frustrated when he does not find the financial resources that help him to implement his plans and programs that aim to serve the beneficiaries.
As a result, such type of work witnesses successive setbacks which should prompt the State to think of a firm support of these institutions and provide the necessary support that will help them at least in the operation of these associations in proportion to their activities and work programs.
The Council of Ministers ordered the study of providing support to civil society institutions in the country and finding resources that contribute to their efforts. It is quite a good gesture from the government in this regard and we look forward to speeding up such steps in such a way that contributes to strengthening and promoting these institutions.
This support is not exceptional in the Sultanate, but not in most of the world. For example, Kuwait supports civil society institutions and Turkey has civil society organizations that have an annual budget from the State. Other countries support civil society for many goals and objectives that must be considered by the government.
The State support for civil society institutions does not mean a breach of civil society system, interference in their work fields or their role in the community, buying them, as some would say. This is rather strengthening of their role to promote their role and establish an active civil society actor. State support should not be limited to civil society institutions but also extends to sports clubs as being a part of civil society in fact.
The government supports these clubs annually with specific budgets according to their respective activities and role. Recently, women's associations received significant support from the government through the establishment of their headquarters. This is in addition to many types of support provided by the State for certain categories of civil society.
It is difficult for civil society institutions in the Sultanate to depend on themselves in these stages for many things, including that the awareness of civil society and contributing to it is still in its infancy. Civil society has not yet matured in such a way to be self-run. In addition, some segments of the private and corporate sector still do not believe in the so-called civil society, and so they do not allocate budgets to support these aspects.
Moreover, the structure of many companies is still familial and self-enclosed aiming to the creation of wealth they do not pay zakah, charity and taxes. So how can they be expected to donate to civil society institutions? This aspect needs more than a hundred years for the experience to mature and generation to change in these companies. Then the standard service of civil society shall be one of the criteria for evaluating the companies and institutions and their real value in society.
Recent developments in the country have undoubtedly proved the importance of civil society institutions in the country and their national role in many vital areas, how they address public affairs in a responsible and national manner, and their response to the developments positively contributing to the development of solutions, not obstacles, and resolving the complex aspects instead of individual cases of chaos and irresponsible dealing with issues.
Hence, the State, and not just the government, should be aware of the essence of these institutions and their role as one of the important aspects that need to be supported to perform of their role and national and social responsibilities in the country.
Of course, when we promote the support of civil society this does not mean a breach of their work but rather an activation of the role of these institutions as one of the entities that would play a greater role in the future.
We hope that the State would speed up finding frameworks and legislations that support these institutions, redouble their responsibilities and advance their levels to be up to aspirations.