By A. Knott and B. Ozcelik

Masood ul-Mulk, CEO of the Pakistani NGO Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP), was the featured speaker at the Humanitarian Centre’s Annual Lecture on Monday night hosted by Emmanuel College.

Mr. ul-Mulk gave a passionate and inspiring presentation that highlighted the challenges that NGOs face when working in complex and troubled countries and regions. SRSP is quite an impressive organization, not least because it very much operates and exists at the grassroots, local level. Mr. ul-Mulk outlined several key strategies that have helped SRSP succeed, namely: (1) Becoming intimately acquainted with and seeking to work within the complexities of diverse communities, (2) Finding areas of collaboration with the military, where necessary, to secure access to remote areas, speed up relief efforts, or carry-out complex humanitarian projects that would otherwise be beyond the capabilities of a civilian organization, and (3) Focusing on doing what needs to be done…and actually doing it. This last strategy might seem rather obvious, but as Mr. ul-Mulk pointed out, it seems that many NGOs, especially those that operate on the international level, get too bogged down with jargon and procedure often at the expense of tangible action.

Another striking thing this presentation brought to light is just how unfortunate it is that organizations such as SRSP so often operate with little recognition from mainstream media. How different might people’s perceptions of Pakistan be if they had the chance to see more of the country and its people than simply war and natural disaster?