The Ministry of Civil Affairs’ “Top Ten Major Events for Social Organizations in 2013”

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The Ministry of Civil Affairs published its own top ten list for the social organization sector in 2013, with most items focused on policy developments. The top ten were:

(1) The central government’s major policy change of the social organization management system at the 18th Party Congress and the National People’s Congress

The 2nd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress and 12th session of the National People’s Congress committed to major policy reforms in the management of social organizations (SOs). Reforms were set out within the “Blueprint on the Reform of Agencies under the State Council and Transformation of their Functions” which lists key tasks that include: (i) the separation of professional associations and chambers of commerce from government, (ii) the provision of a direct registration mechanism for SOs in the following categories – professional associations, chambers of commerce, scientific and technological organizations, charitable (or public benefit) organizations and urban-rural community service organizations, (iii) the improvement of related laws and regulations; (iv) the strengthening of the management system for SOs and (v) encouraging SOs to improve their internal governance structures. Current work has gone forward smoothly, such as the drafting of comprehensive plans for the reform of SOs, the separation of professional associations (such as chambers of commerce) from government, and the revision of related laws and regulations. The new system of direct registration has in its early stages already helped more than 19,000 SOs to register with the Civil Affairs authorities at all levels.

(2) The 18th Central Committee’s Third Plenum Decision about invigorating social forces and the role of social organizations in 12 areas including economics, politics, culture, education, etc.

The Central Committee’s “Decision on Important Issues Regarding the Comprehensive Deepening of Reform” dedicates an entire chapter to the topic of “Stimulating the Vitality of SOs”, and also set out clear requests on how to fully realize the potential of SOs in 12 areas, including economics, politics, culture, education, public health and party-building etc. In 2013, the State Council issued guidance that emphasized the participation of SOs in the development of the elder care and health care industries. Stimulating the vitality of SOs and reorganizing the system of social governance have already become important drivers for the modernization of governance at the national level.

(3)The State Council Decision on government procurement

At the end of September, the State Council issued “Guiding Opinions Regarding Government Procurement of Services from Non-state Actors.” This document fills a void in the government’s current procurement policy by setting out both systematic arrangements and a comprehensive blueprint for the procurement of services from non-state actors such as SOs, enterprises and institutions. SOs that are legally registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MOCA), or who have been exempted from registration by the State Council, will play an important role in the delivery of procurement services. In the current period, this represents an important step in the strategy to transform government functions by enhancing the environment in which SOs develop and helping to realize the positive role they play in the improvement of public services.

(4)The State Council Decision about social organization registration, streamlining, and decentralization in November of 2013

In November and December 2013, the State Council respectively issued “Decision on Cancelling and Delegating Certain Administratively-approved Projects” and “Decision on Revising Certain Administrative Laws.” These Decisions cancel: (i) filing requirements (bei’an) for social associations (shetuan) and their branches and representative bodies; (ii) registration, modification of registration, and cancellation of registration for branch organizations of national-level social associations (shehui tuanti) and their representative bodies; (iii) pre-approvals for foreign chambers of commerce issued the Ministry of Commerce. They also made related revisions to the “Provisional Regulations Concerning the Management of Chambers of Commerce”. Concurrently, several provinces have delegated management authority over the registration of non-public fundraising foundations [feigongmu jijinhui] and chambers of commerce to lower levels. The reform of the SO registration management system, which takes government streamlining and decentralization as its guiding principal, will be proceed steadily from the central government to local governments.

(5) State Council leaders travel to Shenzhen and Shanghai to investigate the work of social organizations in July of 2013

From the 8th to the 11th of July, State Councilor Wang Yong made a special tour of Shenzhen and Shanghai to inspect the work of SOs. In recent years, members of the State Council have viewed this type of work as being of great importance. State Councilor Wang emphasized that SOs have already made an important contribution to the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics, while also stressing the need to conscientiously implement the spirit of the 18th Party Congress to promote the development and reform of SOs by strengthening top-level design, deepening system reform, improving the development environment, strengthening supervision and management, and strengthening party building. In addition, he emphasized the need to speed up the creation of a modern social organization system which has a clear separation between government and society, clear rights and obligations, and adheres to the law and is self-regulating, in order to promote the healthy and orderly development of social organizations.

(6)Social organizations are gradually incorporated into the state’s social trustworthiness rating system

A separate category for SOs was incorporated into the state’s social trustworthiness rating system in 2013. Local areas took the lead in launching the updated system with Zhejiang and Shanghai respectively issuing notices towards the end of September on “Strengthening the Construction of a Social Trustworthiness Rating System” and “Temporary Measures for Managing the Recording, Sharing and Using Trustworthiness Information from Social Organizations.” Henceforth, information on a given organization’s status in relation to its registration, annual compliance with statutory requirements, performance assessment and compliance with law, will become the basis on which to evaluate trustworthiness. At the same time, social organizations establishing innovative models, trade associations establishing codes of self-discipline and integrity, and civil, non-enterprise units (minban feiqiye) branding and serving society, will be deepened across the whole country. Furthermore, work to assess the performance level of SOs will be comprehensively promoted, with the proportion of national-level CSOs that are compliant with the performance assessment threshold expected to reach 70%, thereby strengthening the integrity of SOs and further improving the trustworthiness environment.

(7)Yunnan and other localities (Anhui, Fujian, Dalian, Ningbo, Xiamen) promote innovative reforms of social organization

On 23rd August, the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee and Yunnan Provincial Government published a paper setting out their “Opinions on Fostering the Development of Social Organizations and Accelerating the Emergence of a Modern Social Organization System” together with a series of other supporting policies. Prior to this, in mid-July, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Yunnan Provincial Government jointly hosted a forum on “Promoting Society to Build Innovative Social Organizations” attended by the Minister of Civil Affairs, Li Liguo, and Yunnan Provincial Party Committee Party Secretary, Qin Guangrong, who both delivered speeches. The Yunnan government has been innovative in adopting a variety of progressive policies including, withdrawing government from public fundraising for charities, local tax breaks and government procurement services. At the same time party committees and governments in Anhui, Fujian, Dalian, Ningbo and Xiamen have all published comprehensive policy documents that promote SO reform innovations, carry out the spirit of the central government, and comprehensively deepen the reform of SOs.

(8) New regulations issued after the Lushan Earthquake relief promote the development of social organizations

On 20th April, in the immediate aftermath of the Lushan earthquake (in Sichuan), MOCA issued a “Circular on Fundraising for Relief and Disaster Preparedness Activities following the Lushan Earthquake.” In order to facilitate the smooth implementation of relief and reconstruction efforts by SOs, the circular urges: (i) that the beneficiaries of donations should not be specified; (ii) that fundraising activities be carried out through SOs that are legally registered and work on disaster relief, and Civil Affairs departments in the affected area; (iiii) to provide open channels for SOs to participate in disaster relief and post-disaster reconstruction; (iv) better information disclosure, stronger management supervision and greater transparency in the use of disaster relief funds. Ya’an became the first city to establish a community organization to help manage disaster relief efforts and volunteers which coordinated 493 NGO projects worth RMB 1.146 billion. This helped put SOs at the forefront of relief and reconstruction efforts and represents a new development in collaboration between government and civil society. Moreover, the integration of resources and broadening of channels to deliver disaster relief efforts represents a new model for interaction between state and society in disaster relief work.

(9) Human resource training for social organizations is included for the first time in the state project to ‘update the knowledge of professional and technical personnel’

On May 17, the General Office of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) issued the “Plan on Advanced Training to Update the Knowledge of Professional and Technical Personnel.” According to this plan, MoCA and MHRSS will co-host China’s first training class targeted at leading personnel from trade associations and chambers of commerce. This will be the first time that SO staff have been involved in such a training program and represents an important step that will strengthen the development of personnel in the SO sector. Subsequently, on July 15, MHRSS and MoCA jointly issued the “Circular on Issues about Efforts to Encourage Social Associations, Civil Non-Enterprise Units and Foundations to Set Up a Pension Fund.” Since the policy was unveiled it has had a significant impact on stabilizing staffing and improving social security benefits in social organizations.

(10) “China Social Organizations” magazine 《中国社会组织》starts publication

January 2013 marked the publication of “China Social Organization Magazine.” The magazine, which is under the auspices of MOCA and is sponsored by the Association for the Promotion of CSOs, is the only professional publication targeted at SOs of all kinds. The publication uses a “two websites, one magazine” distribution system, using the China Social Organizations and China Foundation websites and the China Social Organization Magazine, as its main dissemination channels. It also supplements content with selections from theoretical and policy writings on SOs and special reports on public attitudes toward SOs. In so doing, it has managed to bring together print and online media to establish an information platform that acts as a complement to mainstream media, and as a mechanism for mutual information exchange both with and between SOs, the public, related sectors, the media, professional academics and government departments. This will help increase awareness of the positive work carried out by SOs and enhance the environment which shapes public opinion about the SO sector.

In Brief

The Ministry of Civil Affairs published its own top ten list for the social organization sector in 2013, with most items focused on policy developments.
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