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NGOs urged to play larger role
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The country has reiterated its support for local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and urged them to build capacity for a larger role in a harmonious society, even as the number of groups here continues to rise.

Li Yong, deputy director of the State Administration of NGOs, said at a seminar on Monday that in line with the country's rapid economic growth the number of Chinese NGOs had been growing by up to 15 percent a year.

Last year, the country had 354,000 registered NGOs.

However, a large number of organizations also disappeared each year, Li said.

He said that while civil affairs departments approve about 40,000 NGOs every year, some 20,000 cease operations in the same period.

Wang Weili, director of the Council for the Promotion of Cooperation between Chinese and International NGOs, said the bodies were facing many problems such as a lack of resources.

Liu Dongwen, director of the microfinance department of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, a leading NGO based in Beijing, said "a lack of money and talent" has kept NGOs from functioning properly or growing stronger

Heavy dependence on donations means many smaller-sized NGOs die out once their projects are completed and their funds run out, he said.

In addition, he said with average salaries within the department being just 2,000-yuan ($270) a month, it is hard to attract top talent.

When asked how he retains staff, he said: "I cannot ask my staff to sacrifice too much.

"I just ask them to be interested in our mission to help the poor."

Kang Xiaoguang, a professor at the Renmin University of China and an NGO researcher, put forward a more ominous view.

"Some NGOs are duping donors of funds under the guise of training. Some have no real projects," he said.

But he also identified "a larger space for NGOs in the country, engaged in charity and philanthropy".

At the same time, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said this month it will enhance aid to NGOs engaged in civil affairs, charity and philanthropy.

(China Daily November 28, 2007)

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