I strongly believe that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are essential partners in identifying, defining and developing policies in terms of driving development in Zanzibar.
I congratulate you and all those who initiated this idea of establishing The Zanzibar Institute for Research on Public Policy (ZIRPP) as a Non-Governmental Organization.
I fully agree with the idea and would like to participate in ZIRPP. It is my understanding that, at the moment, the Central Government in Zanzibar dominates almost all the processes of setting the agendas, designing, formulating, and passing them through legal processes (if needed) or official approvals and eventually implementing those public policies in almost every sector.
The Government of Zanzibar either uses private consultants (local or foreign) usually through the funding of the foreign-funded donor projects. The Government’s own employed professional staff usually works in collaboration with a foreign consultant.
It is also my understanding that since early 1990s, when I used to work in the Commission for Lands and Environment and having responsibility of supervising the formulation of Land Use Planning and Policies for Zanzibar, that the role of Non-Governmental Organizations in the policy formulation was increasingly recognized and we very much assumed that they represented the interests of the citizens and their well-being.
Most of the NGOs were mainly community-based geared towards the implementation of various activities such as tree-planting, neighbour-hood sanitation, gender and disabled issues. There had never been NGOs that are fully engaged in research activities.
In my search into the internet, I found only one Non-Governmental Organization which has a goal of full engagement to research in the Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute (ZIORI) headed by Professor Abdul Sheriff.
In general the ZIORI clearly states its goal is to focus on researches on the history and culture of the East African region on specific projects such as the maritime cultures of the Indian Ocean, migrations across the Indian Ocean, and the Swahili civilization.
This make me clearly see your view that there is definitely a necessity for the establishment of an institution such as ZIRPP to deal with areas of public policy that you mentioned.
I also think that there had never been a better time to establish Non-Governmental research institutions than now. Here are some few reasons:
Several universities have already been established in Zanzibar that will be very helpful to link with in terms of research and education purposes.
The Government has been dealing with many foreign/local donor-funded projects, some of which have produced policies such as forestry, environment, tourism, poverty alleviation, health and etc.
Policies that have already been implemented usually need reviews and evaluation. There are definitely some new policy areas that may need to be formulated and subsequently implemented such as information technology policy and many others that I cannot identify right away due to my lack of full breadth of knowledge of what policies currently do exist and what do not. Globalization, increasing openness and technical ability that allows the easiness of transfer of documents, report back and forth to the Zanzibaris living abroad temporarily or those who decided to live in a diasporas wherever they are but interested to work together with the Zanzibaris working at home in matters of development for our beloved nation.
The non-governmental research institutions are still very few in Africa. In Zanzibar, we have ZIORI as the first one, and only recently established, and now ZIRPP is in the process of being established as the second one.
This is, indeed, a significant step towards a positive direction for the coming together of Zanzibari intellectuals of different fields of interest to share their know-how for the benefits of the people of Zanzibar as whole.
I’m currently living and working in the United States (US). Here, in the US, there are so many NGOs that are research-oriented and have done a lot of good things for the country. Some are operating only on a state-wide basis; while others have the broader mandates to cover the whole nation.
We are all aware that research for the treatment of cancer has been successful to a great extent; but we must also be reminded of the fact that it was the role of research-oriented NGOs that have made it happen.
Without making you think that my thought jumps high to the sky, the research-oriented NGOs in the health sector in many states in the US have continued to play a key role in terms of influencing government decisions and shaping the broader health policies within their respective states as well as in the whole country.
Undoubtedly, it is due to the benefits seen in their positive contributions to the national dialogues on various issues of public policy; and more importantly, in their positive role which they have continued to play in terms of influencing the formulation of new policies that each state has found it increasingly necessary to establish NGOs uniquely for research purposes. For similar reasons, in the South-East Asia region (China – Hong Kong) and (India – good example for research), the NGOs tuned for research purposes have been tremendously growing in number during this century.
Without making you tired any further with my babbling I would like to conclude by emphasizing that Zanzibar, and Zanzibaris in particular, need ZIRPP. I strongly believe that; firstly, if a good confidence-building mechanism is put in place; secondly, if a good framework for co-operative relationship between ZIRPP and the Government of Zanzibar is established; and thirdly, if reliable sources for adequate funding have been well identified; then, there is no doubt in my mind that ZIRPP will be a very successful endeavour.
Indeed, ZIRPP will provide an effective forum for the sharing of knowledge and experiences of Zanzibari experts within Zanzibar and those from abroad for the benefit of the people of Zanzibar and the country as a whole.
One more important final thing: ZIRPP can also act as a catalyst for an effective watch-dog for the Government that will eventually be called upon to implement those policies.