DENIVA (Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations) is a Ugandan Network of Non-Governmental and Community Based Organizations (NGOs/CBOs) providing a platform for collective action and a voice to voluntary local associations to strongly advocate for creation of more opportunities for people and Civil Society Organizations participation in the development of Uganda. The overall objective of DENIVA is to influence poverty reduction policies and related decision-making processes in favor of marginalized groups like women, children, internally displaced persons, HIV/AIDS positive population and persons with disabilities.
Purpose and Mission
DENIVA’s purpose is to provide assistance to organizations in forming a civil society that promotes openness, tolerance and responsiveness as basis of a sustainable development in Uganda. According to their website, DENIVA’s mission is “to be a network of indigenous voluntary associations influencing poverty reduction and good governance processes and strategies through mobilizing diverse experiences, knowledge and skills of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Uganda onto a common platform of action”. DENIVA is committed to influence poverty reduction and minority protection policies. Ultimately, DENIVA aims to help build a Ugandan society in there exists equal citizen participation in the national level, decentralizing power from the current semi-authoritarian government. DENIVA’s purpose is to empower member civil society organizations and other groups to achieve democratic growth and sustainable development through networking, advocacy, and capacity building.
DENIVA was founded by representatives of 21 Ugandan NGOs in 1988. Historically, Uganda has suffered in the hands of authoritarian and oppressive governments. Citizen participation and democratic processes have been essentially foreign to Uganda – multiparty elections were not introduced until circa 2003. The network was created in an environment where there was civil discontent with centralized government and a call for decentralization of power was taking place. Scholars have classified Ugandan government as a “semi-authoritarian regime” because within its seemingly free and democratic society underlies a tight control of power – DENIVA can be seen as a large-scale response to governmental activity. Since 1986, organizations oriented in decentralization of power have been gaining space in Uganda – an advance towards a more deliberative society that sees its political power centralized in President Yoweri Museveni for over 24 years.
DENIVA has been fundamental in protecting non-governmental organizations in Uganda from authoritarian practices: NGOs in Uganda are bound by governmental registration processes that interfere with operational autonomy as ministries have easy access to monitor non-governmental activities, and dissolution procedures. Ambiguous rules such as “organizations shall not engage in any act which is prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda” and “organizations are prevented from engaging in any act which is ‘prejudicial to the security of Uganda or any part of it’” are part of the official text of the NGO Regulation Statute and DENIVA’s establishment served an important role in achieving fairness for Ugandan organizations.
As its name suggests, networking is the main activity undertaken by DENIVA: the network aims to assist members to digest and utilize positively the body of resources provided. DENIVA’s resources are set to improve access to information on development and poverty; improve development information research; generate strong resource centers online and through Uganda; identify and campaign for global advocacy issues in a pro-people manner; and foster dialogue with development stakeholders. DENIVA’s spectrum of activities can be broken down, specifically, into the following three areas:
Networking and Information Sharing: DENIVA, through information seminars and regional resource centers, serves as a facilitator, aiding member organizations in identifying and supplying for their own information needs. Communication with donors and members occur in a variety of ways, including email, telephone, national radio, and via the postal office (for members located in remote areas). DENIVA also tries to connect interested parties to help influence policy makers by providing a network ground for activists and analysts.
Self-understanding and capacity building: – DENIVA produces guidelines for NGOs and CSOs in addition to monitoring and conducting research to assist member organizations in developing independence and values in social organization and networking to achieve higher capabilities of collective action and participation in a democratic society. DENIVA’s website contains assorted information on non-governmental organizations to provide knowledge and content for independent groups to develop their own structures. DENIVA authored literature on management of resource centers and also offers training in computer basics and information management. DENIVA offers means to connect organizations so they can build their capacities independently – through the network, organizations can “trade” staff members so they can learn new skills and methods locally. DENIVA is especially concerned in training member organizations in operating within boundaries of gender sensitivity.
Policy Research and Advocacy (PRAP): DENIVA provides a unified venue for deliberation in development issues, targeting coherence, sophistication, intensity, and consistency improvements in the advocacy work of member organizations. Research found on DENIVA’s website offers studies of the relationship of non-governmental organizations and politics, corruption, health, poverty, and information, solidifying knowledge into one easily accessible database which ultimately benefits member organizations to develop thorough comprehension of the diversity of information available.
DENIVA attains funding via donations and membership subscriptions. Some of the key donating organizations include the Ford Foundation, OXFAM, NOVIB, Action Aid International (Uganda), the International Institute for Environment Development (IIED UK), DANIDA (associated donors of the organization), MS Uganda, Logo Link, Aga Khan, CUTS- London, CUTS- India, and the Overseas Development Institute, UK. The variety of donors suggests that DENIVA’s mission appeals not only to Ugandan society but also major international entities.
DENIVA, as a long range networking organization, has many projects working with poverty amongst the rural portions of Uganda. One of the largest efforts of DENIVA lies in coordinating other member organizations and supplying them with necessary information with the objective of building a stronger environment for their collective action and individual NGO pursuits. It can be said that DENIVA’s major project is to aid Uganda into achieving a higher quality of life and a stronger democratic society in the country. DENIVA has a strong commitment to projects regarding decentralization of power: research, workshops and studies in self-governance have been sponsored and organized by DENIVA in attempts to reinforce autonomy for non-governmental organizations of Uganda. DENIVA is also strongly devoted to enhance citizen participation and the empowerment of civil societies.
From 2006 to 2008, DENIVA ran the Poverty Eradication & Livelihoods Improvement Programme(PELIP). The self explanatory goals aimed by the project were radical and aimed at helping the most marginalized portion of the Ugandan population. DENIVA admits to the eerie outcome of PELIP: their website state that “despite the reportedly improved access in social services, such as primary education, primary health care, progress in households’ incomes etc, DENIVA notes that the quality of these services is not yet showing substantial improvement in households’ welfare. Unfortunately, the poor have not benefited equally with the rest of the population.”
Uganda’s historical background also suggests major involvement of DENIVA with assurance of NGO autonomy in the country. Organizations are required by Ugandan law to register and abide by rules of the 1989 NGO Registration Statute (and subsequent amendments); Scholar Aili Mari Tripp points out that “Several hundred NGOs under the auspices of the Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations met in 2001 to resist this focus on security and reject key elements of the bill as threatening NGO autonomy and undermining the constitutional provision of freedom of association.”
Evaluation and Critique
Basing off the analytic process of deliberation, DENIVA is at a respectable position: the website has produced a solid information base comprised of resources, case studies and research that aids the formation enlightened opinions. DENIVA provides an infrastructure that supplies for the articulation of Ugandan society shared and distinct views and values, especially ensuring an understanding of rural minorities. DENIVA’s research offers a broad range of views on issues related to non-governmental organizations, with regards of the positive and negative aspects of issues studies. DENIVA’s approach to decision making itself is well informed: considering the range of research done by DENIVA, the organization is able to make key decisions and act as an influential stakeholder in issues of power decentralization, policy making, and citizen participation, having established itself over the years as a well reputed NGO in Uganda.
The social aspect of deliberation is ensured with DENIVA commitments to local CSO and NGO equal participation – tribal organizations have as much of an opportunity to be heard as do the main board of the network. Education is a key aspect of DENIVA: through its workshops and research, the network aims at ensuring comprehension of key aspects of the network that affect all of its participants (utilizing the website, computer workshops, and understanding case studies). Respect is strongly encouraged by DENIVA as there is special attention to the most fragile social groups of Uganda need to equal participation and representation. The very aspect of national networking ensures the consideration of ideas and experiences from all portions of Ugandan society – an organization interested in decentralizing power and bringing equal opportunity to its citizens would not be expected to do otherwise.
Sustainable Activities Case Study - http://www.sustainableicts.org/DENIVA%20F.pdf
The Changing Face of Authoritarianism in Africa: The Case of Uganda - http://www.jstor.org/stable/4187590
United States International Grantmaking - Uganda - http://www.usig.org/countryinfo/uganda.asp#_ref3
The Communication Initiative Network - http://www.comminit.com/en/node/120940/307
DENIVA's Home Page - http://deniva.or.ug/