Establishment of National Secretariat for Non-governmental Organizations
The Growth of NGOs
With the liberalization of the economy in the late 1970s and the consequent relaxation of foreign exchange regulations, trade and travel restrictions, there arose a phenomenal increase in the number of foreign NGOs. With the increased flow of foreign assistance and the expansion of community and rural development, a further proliferation of NGOs was observed in the country. Since NGOs were expected to play a complementary role to that of the government, and its selfless nature, the presence and operation of NGOs was welcomed by the Government.Need for Registration of NGOs
There were, however, no specific laws and regulations governing the operation of NGOs in Sri Lanka. In 1980 the Government enacted the Voluntary Social Services Organizations (Registration & Supervision) Act which sought to introduce a system of registration and supervision of activities of NGOs. However, this Act was not strictly implemented and the registration of NGOs was not strictly followed. Consequently, there have been concerns raised by the public and certain NGOs themselves as to the misuse of flexibility and autonomy and the misappropriation of funds. In fact, there have been instances of complaints against certain NGOs by their employees and other agencies.Measures to Introduce a System of Registration
This necessitated the government to give serious consideration to introducing a system of registration of NGOs in the Country. In 1990, H.E. the President appointed a Commission to go into the activities of NGOs and to make recommendations for their proper functioning. Pursuant to the recommendations made by this Commission, regulations were passed under the Public Security Ordinance obligating compulsory registration of NGOs which have a turnover of Rs.50,000 and above. However, with the lapse of the Emergency Regulations, this system too lapsed. In 1995 the Ministry of Health, Highways & Social Services proposed certain amendments to the 1980 Act. The draft legislation provided for the establishment of an NGO advisory Council and the appointment of Interim Boards of Management to administer the affairs of NGOs. There were vehement protests against these provisions. However, in 1998 the draft legislation was approved by the Parliament. (Act No.8 of 1998)
A Secretariat for NGOs was established in 1996 in the Ministry of Health, Highways & Social Services.
The National Secretariat for Non- Governmental Organization is presently functioning under the purview of the Ministry of Public Security since July 2022.