Kenyans peacefully demonstrate, calling for an end to femicide.

Significance of the PBO Act 2013 in 2024

State of the civil society in Kenya in 2024

Widely recognized as one of the most vibrant civil society sectors in the Eastern Africa region, Kenya has upwards of 50,000 NGOs, foundations, trusts, occupation-based associations, and organisations working at national, county and community levels.

Four years of state-NGO consultations led to the development of the Public Benefit Organizations Act in 2013. The bill sought to replace a thirty-year-old one-party state NGO Coordination Act (1990) and introduce a new enabling legal, regulatory, and institutional environment for the sector. Debated and approved in the 10th National Assembly, President Kibaki assented to the PBO Act (18) 2013 in January 2013.

However, despite several attempts, the Act remains un-operationalized due to non-gazettement and the lack of accompanying rules and regulations to guide its implementation. A policy window opened during the 2022 electoral campaigns with the Kenya Kwanza manifesto that expressly promised to implement the PBO Act should they be elected. Another policy opportunity emerged with the 9-11 May 2024 CSO UN Summit for the Future. With 1,700 CSOs attending the event in Nairobi, gazetting the PBO Act before the meeting offered an opportunity for President William Ruto to demonstrate his administration’s commitment to civil society on an international stage.

Current relevance of the PBO Act (2013) to GOK, PBOs, development partners and citizens

Despite a decade of non-implementation, the PBO Act remains best practice legislation for an enabling legal, regulatory and institutional environment for PBOs. It creates a single identity for a diverse and disparate range of civic organisations doing public benefits work to operate under a single act. It frames the development, capacity building and advocacy services and holds PBOs to higher levels of public disclosure, accountability and transparency standards aligned to Chapter 6 of the Constitution. It promotes a new sense of co-operation and shared responsibilities between the 47+1 governments, development partners and the public and creates space and a code of conduct for an independent regulation and membership agencies that can redress public complaints.