Uganda National NGO Forum was launched in 1997 following two years of concerted work to develop the operational structure, a Constitution and membership recruitment program. Many NGOs had realised the need to engage Government and the donor community on policy issues and poverty concerns. Also, Government found it increasingly important to involve Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the design and implementation of policies and programmes.
The idea to form UNNGOF was to establish an organisation that would wholly represent CSOs while bringing together National NGOs, International NGOs, CBOs, Voluntary Development Organisations (VDOs), Farmers’ Groups, Cooperative Associations and other Citizens’ Organisations and interest groups from all thematic areas.
The first General Assembly of UNNGOF was held in January of 1997 after nationwide sensitization and mass mobilization. About 1,000 NGO representatives participated and it was agreed that the Forum would create a comprehensive membership base that would meet periodically to choose and renew leadership and other governance organs in a democratic manner. Since then, UNNGOF has never wavered in providing a platform and leadership for CSOs on behalf of the poor and through time, created a neutral ground for all NGOs to constructively interact.
By 2001, UNNGOF had established policies and procedures for accountability, established formal registration for members, operationalized a code of conduct, amended the Constitution by re-mobilising members, developed a three year rights-based Strategic Plan, and set up district forums for support at district level and to the Secretariat. After a period of struggling financially, DFID committed to fund UNNGOF’s Plan for three years which resulted into implementing more activities in the areas of advocacy and capacity building for members.
The first Chairperson of UNNGOF Was Ms. Sheila Kawamara Mishambi who was Coordinator of UWONET then. She led for four years and moved on to being a member of the East African Legistlative Assembly. She was succeeded on 08th August 2002 by Mr. Simons Okalebo Eskia who worked for Feed the Children Uganda. The first full-time Coordinator of UNNGOF was Rauxen Zedriga (1997-2000). In April 2001, UNNGOF hired Mr. Warren Nyamugasira as the new National Coordinator.
In the past the Forum engaged different leaders in Government positions during her activities. Examples include Rt. Hon. Edward Ssekandi as Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Rebecca A. Kadaga as Deputy Speaker, Hon. Sarah Kiyingi Minister of Internal Affairs then, and Prof. Mondo Kagonyera while still Minister.
Additionally, by 2003, UNNGOF had successfully held 3 General Assembly meetings with over 600 NGOs participating. A Code of Conduct was developed, produced a Forum Flyer for information sharing, membership database was instituted, financial and human resource policies and procedures were developed, articulated benefits for membership and produced annual reports of the organisation activities. We had also instituted a CSO bulletin known as The Lobbyist which disseminated over 2000 copies.
We also held a weekly radio programme “Monitoring NGOs” on the then Monitor FM from 6-7pm to discuss the relevance of NGO advocacy in the lives of poor people, society and policy process. We also represented NGOs on various Government foras as well as led CSOs in different policy consultative processes.
We have achieved a lot over the past 17 years and we will continue providing the leadership role over CSOs and NGOs in Uganda. We will not stop demanding for better service delivery for the well being of every Ugandan.