The Maltese language is rich with its vast cache of words, expressions and proverbs, more so as expressed by our national poet, Dun Karm, in his lyrics to the national anthem, L-Innu Malti.

One particularly striking line, “Bl-Oħla Dawl Libbist” (“Thou hast made so fair”), has been gently eased out of the anthem as an apt title to a publication consultation process for the reform of the voluntary sector. It is a process that, while endorsing what has been achieved in the sector, looks ahead with a keener and more optimistic outlook for the benefit of Maltese society.

The Maltese voluntary sector has long grown deep roots thanks to the unstinting efforts of various organisations and individuals, from the Church and religious orders to organised groups of people and individuals whose initiatives and altruism gave to society the support and hands-on interventions it required throughout the decades.

There comes the day, however, when we need to take stock of the prevailing situation necessitated by ongoing social and economic changes that require new ideas and methods. The reform is intended to provide a better and stronger platform for all those involved in the voluntary sector by seeking to meet today’s challenges and those of the foreseeable future.

The reform is based on the conviction that the voluntary sector needs to continue to be recognised as an important socio-economic pillar in society

The reform is based on the conviction that the voluntary sector needs to continue to be recognised as an important socio-economic pillar in society, eliminating, in the process, the narrative of amateurism, and ensuring the sector has all the strength and tools it needs to function as it should. It forms part of a needed change in process that goes beyond legislative change as it looks at the sector in a collective manner.

Preparations for the launching of this reform were already in motion way back in December 2021 when the VO Plus Convention was held at the Presidential Palace, followed up by no fewer than 1,300 meetings with organisations, meetings with various other regulators, two research projects with the University of Malta, an online questionnaire and semi-structured focus-group interviews.

The reform is based on a national strategy that emerges from various important sources: the VO Plus Convention and government electoral measures related to the concepts of one-stop-shop, inter-regulatory liaison with other regulators, a review of all organisations revised in terms of format, scope and their operations and a restructuring of the office.

The reform will bring with it various changes spearheaded by a change in the role of the Office of the Commissioner for the Voluntary and Not For Profit Sector. It will also see changes in the classification and categorisation of organisations under the titles of status, structure, class and category.

This exercise will help identify better the role and character of these organisations, such as their status, which they will be asked to declare whether it is a Public Purpose and Public Benefit Organisation (NP-Org) or Public Purpose Private Benefit Organisation (PR-Org).

As regards their structure, all organisations will be asked to state from this selection:  association, foundation, trust, federation and pl­atform.

Class also will help formulate an appropriate description of the organisations involved and so streamlining the sector’s holistic set-up. Organisations will need to specify whether they are: philanthropic, a professional association, federation or platform or a voluntary NGO/advocacy, service provider and corporate foundation.

As the reform unfolds, categorisation will play an important part. Organisations will declare their particular interest from these labels: social interest; environmental interest; governance and policy interest; faith-based organisations; and sport.

The reform is also intended to establish a national compendium of all organisations, their roles and services being provided to society on a voluntary basis. Every organisation must submit an intent, which is then evaluated in terms of purpose, risk, the socio-economic impact, and, key to this, a coordinated inter-regu­latory framework, guaranteeing more adequate reporting procedures and a more efficient one-stop-shop concept.

The “Bl-Oħla Dawl Libbist” reform is in itself a timely clarion call for the Maltese voluntary sector to reorganise and to undertake the changes required to meet present-day national, European and international norms as society seeks to metamorphose into a more inclusive and diverse human reality.

To it all, there is an implementation plan that involves: a strong legislative framework, a reduction in bureaucracy, greater development of the office and services, a more comprehensive and adequate sector, more adequate criteria and, no less important, more awareness of the sector. Nothing fairer than that.

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