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NGOs Want to Work with Gov't
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On Wednesday, representatives of Chinese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) voiced their desire to help and be partners of the government.

Li Xiaolin, vice president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, made the remarks while delivering a keynote speech at the "Chinese NGO Forum" held in Beijing.

"Chinese NGOs have the need and also the responsibility to be helpful to the government and become its partners, in ways like helping it draw up and carry out policies," she said.

According to Sun Gonglin, secretary general of the China Society for Promotion of the Guangcai Program, an NGO composed of private businesspeople to help reduce poverty, Chinese NGOs act under the principle of "supporting and cooperating with the government."

Sun claimed they differed from some NGOs in western countries who "take pride in anti-government practices."

Since 1978, when China initiated the policy of reform and opening-up, it has witnessed an increase in NGOs, termed "civilian organizations."

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, as many as 289,000 civilian organizations had been registered nationwide by the end of last year, involving education, science, technology, health, labor, sports, environmental protection and other areas.

"Civilian organizations have become important social organizations in China and they have exerted positive influence in boosting economic growth and helping maintain social stability," said Li Yong from the ministry.

Ramu Damodaran, chief of the UN Department of Public Information (UNDPI) Outreach Division's Civil Society Service, said the number of Chinese NGOs is "staggering."

"They have a tremendous role to play in working closely with the government, such as helping set up schools and hospitals," he said.

From 1978 to 2004, China's poor population in rural areas decreased from 250 million to 26 million.

Chinese NGOs have been involved in a series of programs to reduce poverty, such as "Project Hope" to help primary school students in poor areas, the "Guangcai Program" to help develop poor rural areas, "Rehabilitation Poverty-Reduction Program" to help poor disabled people, "Project Happiness" to help poor mothers, and the "Chunlei Program" to assist school girl dropouts to return to school.

"NGOs have a good base of broad masses of the people. They may convey the voices of the public to the government to help it enact laws and regulations," said Zhang Ling of China's Association for Wild Animal Protection.

Chinese NGOs at the forum released an open letter to the organizing committee of the UNDPI NGO annual conference in New York this September, expressing their ideas.

"Especially in achieving the goals of environmental protection, safeguarding the public and social environmental rights, mobilizing society to participate in environmental protection, NGOs should cooperate with and supervise the government," they wrote.

(Xinhua News Agency July 7, 2005)

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