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Pre-consultation Meeting on NGO/CSO Roadmap

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NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN) has accomplished a pre-consultation meeting on NGO/CSO roadmap, to be adopted in the changed political landscape following aftermath of local-level restructuring of the state. The meeting took place on 31 March 2017, at Aryal International Hotel, located in Kathmandu.

 

The purpose of the meeting was to review and discuss on the prevailing legal and operational contexts for NGOs/CSOs in the country; and to identify issues and way-forward strategies towards fostering NGOs/CSOs working environment, taking into account the emergence of powerful local-level governance mechanism. Overall, it aimed at contributing to building NGOs/CSOs enabling environment for promoting and sustaining democratic governance in the country.

 

Accordingly, the agenda(s) discussed in the meeting included:

  • Sharing review of Social Welfare and Development Bill
  • Pre-consultation on NGO/CSO Roadmap
  • Discussion on Advocacy Plan on CSO Enabling Environment

 

Mr. Hari Phuyal, Ex-Attorney General of Nepal, as an independent consultant, facilitated the session on sharing review of Social Welfare and Development Bill from legal standpoints. Similarly, Mr. Gauri Pradhan, Ex-Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission, and Ex-President of NFN, facilitated the succeeding session on NGO/CSO roadmap that encompassed issues pertaining to NGOs/CSOs operation beyond legal context. Prominent NGOs/CSOs leaders (27 persons, male 23, female 4) representing different spectrum of civil society, attended the meeting and discussed on the pertinent issues affecting NGOs/CSOs, and their operation in the country.

 

The proceedings of the meeting followed informal discussion as chaired by NFN's National President Mr. Gopal Lamsal. Mr. President briefly highlighted on the existing contexts – changed scenario of local-level restructuring; restructuring of national ministries; NGOs/CSOs demand for the establishment of Social Development Ministry, and the need to develop a roadmap that would envision guiding NGOs/CSOs to work together for better results.

 

On this backdrop, and following the presentations by the facilitators, the participating NGOs/CSOs leaders put forth their views, in turn, suggesting how NGOs/CSOs movement could be fortified; what needs to be done to expand the NGOs/CSOs space; and how NGOs/CSOs could be more effective in rendering their services through collaborated approach, among others. The key points of discussion throughout the meeting included the following:

 

  • NGOs/CSOs should be categorized according to the nature of works they do. Accordingly, there should be separate laws governing registration, operation, mobilization and facilitation of NGOs/CSOs, giving their distinct identity and affiliation status.
  • An intensive research should be carried out to explore what particular kinds of laws governing NGOs/CSOs exist in Nepal; and how such laws should be reviewed and amended to facilitate the operation of NGOs/CSOs once their distinct categories are identified.
  • Such a research should ground on national needs and priorities; the spirit of the constitution; international standards; and universal norms and values with regards to creating an enabling environment for NGOs/CSOs. Consultation with wider groups of stakeholders is needed in due course of the research.
  • Social Welfare Council should be established as an independent and autonomous body. It should not function as an administrative and semi-judicial entity.
  • There should be separate Budget Act in the country. Otherwise, there are chances for controlling NGOs/CSOs through budget revisions by the government.
  • We need Social Development Act, not Social Welfare Act.
  • The draft Social Welfare and Development Bill is full of lacunas in many ways. These drawbacks should be duly improved. In addition, provisions in line with the international standards and the spirit of the constitution should be incorporated.
  • The existing Social Welfare and Development Bill contradicts with many other existing laws and policies.
  • Social Welfare Council should be completely restructured as it is the legacy of the autocratic Panchayat regime at present.
  • The government can regulate NGOs/INGOs who receive direct foreign funding, by endorsing a separate code of conduct.
  • There should be separate regulatory mechanisms for NGOs and INGOs. The Ministry of Finance should regulate INGOs directly.
  • There should be federal laws introduced for NGOs/CSOs. Otherwise, the provincial and local governments may bring new laws governing NGOs/CSOs that might be even more problematic.
  • There is need of endorsing a separate private bill. The government bills and mere amendment of Social Development Act would not be sufficient enough for building CSOs-friendly environment in the country.
  • It is sarcastically interesting that NGOs are registered under Associations Registration Act, whereas the Federation of NGOs has been registered under National Directive Act.
  • One of the new avenues for sustainability of NGOs/CSOs would be to receive funding from the corporate sector. Unfortunately, the corporate entrepreneurs have opened up their own NGOs.
  • Let's think more on the need to develop a private bill; or alternatively, to develop a bottom-line of the civil society. We may develop and register a private bill, but it is likely to be discarded and may take even years for endorsement.
  • One way of categorization of NGOs/CSOs can be on the basis of funding. The next can be on the basis of thematic criteria.
  • The non-government sector should engage in dialogue and discussion on the foreign aid policy. Without influencing the foreign aid policy, we cannot ensure space for NGOs/CSOs just by reforming SWC's acts.

 

The meeting remained really insightful in the sense that it provided with an opportunity to listen to and record diverse and differing viewpoints of the participants. All these perceptions need to be scrutinized and aligned to build a unanimous voice of NGOs/CSOs, with regards to building an enabling operational environment for the entire civil society.

 

In addition, the meeting has decided to form a high-level professional team of the NGOs/CSOs leaders for the purpose of drafting a concept paper on NGO/CSO roadmap in the changed context. It was agreed to look at both pros and cons of the existing situations and review the role of NGOs/CSOs critically taking into account the geo-political situation of the country. The concept paper, once drafted, will be shared among wider groups of stakeholders, including government officials and political parties, at district and national level as part of the consultation. Once inputs and feedback are received through consultations at layers of the state structure, this NGO/CSO roadmap will be finalized in the lead of NGO Federation, as backed up by CS:MAP coalition partners and other CSOs.

 

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