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Govt. not positive toward NGOs: Dr. Karki

Sunday, 04 November 2007

How is the recent situation of NGOs in Nepal?

Until 1990 more or less NGOs were close to royal palace and its supporters. They were the only ones whose application for NGO registration was accepted. Despite such difficult times the NGO movement picked up in Nepal. We do have history of civil society, community based and contemporary organisations. All of us are very young going through a process of understanding. What is NGO about? What is our role? How can we contribute to the nationwide development, poverty eradication, and good governance and respect the human rights in Nepal? NGO community is paying attention to this.

We had to bear the brunt of a ten-year long conflict. Most of the INGO and donor communities pulled out from the conflict-hit zone during the period. At that time NGOs only carried out development activities and held the flag of service delivery, development work in remote districts and villages.

As we know so many NGOs are working in Nepal, what is their main basis of their functioning and how are they operating?

Neplalese NGOs are forced to operate under the Organisations Registration Act enacted by the government in 1997. From the very beginning of the establishment of NGO federation in 1990, we have been demanding for a new Act that would define the role and responsibilities of NGOs. We do not have a democratic environment and the NGOs are compelled to function under the government instructions instead of doing things independently. After the establishment of multiparty democracy, the Social Welfare Council (SWC) was also established. But its role is not very clear in this movement. We have no clear-cut definition of NGOs. Many monasteries, sports club, libraries, temples, transport services are registered as NGO. This has resulted in confusion and all this is due to a bad NGO Act.

Which factors have been impeding the enactment of a new Act?

Yes, we have been demanding for a new NGO Act from the very beginning of the establishment of the Federation after the political change of 1990. But like other sectors, we too have not been able to feel any respite regarding the need of an Act that would help to take ahead the NGO movement in an organised manner. Despite the fact that we got a new Constitution, Acts that would be effective to streamline different sectors were not made. The government is controlling the NGO instead of working as a facilitator.

INGOs and international donors have been giving substantial amount of financial assistance to NGOs, but you are always reluctant to make public the sum that has been received so far, what could be the reason for this?

We don’t have the exact data of the financial assistance from foreign donors that has entered into the country. Most of the NGOs are not funded by INGOs.

As we know so many NGOs are working in Nepal, what is their main basis of their functioning and how are they operating?

Hundreds of community based local NGOs are self-funded. Although there are many INGOs working here, multiple sources of foreign assistance is being received from the UN, DANIDA, FINIDA, CIDA, DFID, SDC. Since the definition of Nepali NGO is not clear we have difficulty to give the exact figure of the foreign assistance that Nepali NGOs have received till date.

Do you agree that the self-financed NGOs are not doing well compared to those receiving foreign assistance?

I do not agree with this. Small NGOs are more competent. They are doing better than large NGOs. But, it depends on the networks they have built. Small NGOs are doing well in mobilising the local communities. The problem is that, there is lack of macro and micro policy.

Despite your statement, so many NGOs are based in the urban settings. Could you suggest ways to make them rural based and rural oriented?

Many people do not still have the basic understanding of the legalities related to NGOs. In fact majority of NGOs are working in the villages, but their offices are urban based, as they need to lobby for their demands and also keep tab of the latest developments. Simply having offices in remote areas does not mean that they have confined their activities in those areas only. For example the organisation that I belong to Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN) has 50 staff working in Kathmandu whereas over five thousand staffs are at Kathmandu.

It is widely perceived that the NGOs often launch their programmes and do not give continuity to them making it a one-time offer. Is this happening in the absence of proper monitoring. Who should be held responsible for such lapses?

The SWC and the Home Ministry is more responsible for monitoring the NGOs. When the involvement of NGOs in development activities comes to an end, it is the local people who should take the initiative to give continuity to the project. The effectiveness of the NGOs depends upon how clearly it has charted out its goals and objectives. The local communities have the larger stake in bringing about meaningful participation, ownership and sustenance.

Local participation is a part of the overall functioning of NGO. But why are the SWC and the Home Ministry and NGO federation not stepped up efforts to ensure effective monitoring?

The government has failed to ensure efficient management and monitoring of different societal sectors, and NGOs are also the victim of the same lackluster attitude of the government. It’s the issue of law and order. The government has more responsibility to carry out the monitoring. The NGO federation of Nepal has been monitoring its member organisations and seeing whether they have been abiding by the prescribed code of conduct or not.

As you are leading NGO federation for a long time, what is remarkable work that was completed in this field?

There is nothing remarkable to really mention at this movement. But what the NGO community and civil community is very important than what I did. Civil society, NGO community and member of NGO federation played important role in movement of for democracy. I was very much involved in mobilizing international opinion.

When history demand the member of NGO federation, civil society and NGO community can play very important for democratic movement. We had shown our capacity, strength and mobilize the grass root people in defending democracy.

Could you throw light on how the international community has been responding to the requests of Nepalese NGOs after the success of the second people’s movement?

After the restoration of democracy, donor and INGOs are very much interested to support the peace process, CA polls and post conflict activities like rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Most donors are involved in adjusting the macro and micro issues. They have well realised the basic needs of the people at the grassroots level. All donors want to fund CA, management of cantonments and macro plan in urban areas. Politicians and donors are not paying attention to rural areas that’s why there seems to be widespread disgruntlement regarding the services of NGOs in the rural areas.

You are in frequent contact with the members of the international community, what are their impressions regarding contemporary Nepalese politics?

The international community is fraustrated on seeing the failure of the political parties to uphold the popular aspirations of the Nepalese people. Political leaders are bargaining for their own power and authority rather than addressing the interest and need of ordinary people. As the leaders have failed to hold timely elections, the international community has been questioning the legitimacy of the parliament and government.

Being one of the leading NGO persons, what will be your role for making new Nepal through the CA polls?

As a pressure group, we have been lobbying in the line of making the government accountable. Political parties should be more responsible. We have been advocating in support of timely and effective policies. We desire that the government focus on the peace process, issues of reconstruction and rehabilitation that would help ward off the frustrations of the general people in the villages.

The NGO people have been drawing flak for confining important roles within the NGO movement among their kith and kin, what are your comments?

I would like to request such critics to go to the villages and see for themselves whether their accusations are really true. After all we cannot change the country, as we are one among the many actors. I have respect for the criticisms that are genuine. We do have some problems because we too are humans and the product of the same culture. Problems related with law and order are there, everywhere. I do not claim that NGO’s are free from inconsistencies. Similar to other sectors like politics and media, NGOs too are facing myriad of problems.

Finally, Are you satisfied with the working style of the government and the SWC?

Parties tend to support the NGOs whenever they are in the opposition. But they change camps no sooner they rise to power. They want to control rather than facilitate. This is the dilemma that NGOs are facing. It’s been long that we have been demanding a new NGO Act to make our activities more accountable but the government does not seem to be very receptive. Similarly, the SWC has been playing a dual role. Sometime it seems to be part of the movement while at other times it tries to exercise its authority in an unjustified manner. The SWC is highly politicised. With every change in the government, the SWC leadership too is changed. Although we do have professional people, they become unprofessional when they are given top posts by the government.


Source: The Rising Nepal [ 2007-11-5 ]