Following criticism, govt softens approach to I/NGOs

Published On: September 5, 2018 06:49 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Sept 5: Relenting in its ‘harsh approach’ toward I/NGOs, the government is now saying that it wants to work with national and international NGOs so as to more effectively steer its national development campaign under the slogan of ‘Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali’.

As part of the government’s bid to woo NGOs and other civil society organizations (CSOs), the National Planning Commission (NPC) on Tuesday convened a consultative meeting with representatives of Nepal-based national and international organizations and discussed about incorporating their suggestions. 

The representatives were invited at a time when the government has been accused of introducing a new integrity policy to control civil space. 

At the consultative meeting that is said to have been organized with the consent of Prime Minister KP Oli, members of the NPC tried to reassure the leaders of non-governmental organizations that they need not have any doubts over the government’s commitment to democracy, human rights and social justice, and to persuade them to support its endeavors at development of the country.

“People are found to be speculating that the government is deviating from core democratic values. It is nothing more than rumor spread by a section of the public,” said NPC Vice-chairperson Pushpa Raj Kadel. “We are ready to collaborate with national as well as international non-governmental organizations.” 

Stating that the government needs NGO support for achieving its targets and creating awareness at grassroots level, Vice-chairperson Kadel asked the non-governmental sector to maintain transparency.

“The National Planning Commission is mandated to collaborate with various sectors to meet its national targets and the Sustainable Development Goals. We should all join hands to develop the country. The government has no other intention than developing the country.” 

Echoing Kadel, NPC member Min Bahadur Shahi, who oversees social affairs at the NPC, urged the private sector to collaborate with the government and not be swayed by rumors. “The government is fully committed to its international commitments including the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. There are rumors that the government is encroaching on civil society space but that’s not true,” said Shahi. “If there are practical and administrative problems we are ready to resolve such issues, “ he added.

Soon after assuming office, the Oli government had decided to close the Department of Political Affairs unit of the United Nations that had been supporting the ongoing peace process. Further, it introduced a National Integrity Policy aimed at tightening the screws on I/NGOs. The government also rejected a proposal of the United Nations Office for Project Service to establish a regional office. 

Since then, the Oli government has been criticized for taking a harsh approach toward non-governmental organizations. As a result the integrity policy targeting I/NGOs has now been put on hold. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, representatives of various organizations criticized the government for undervaluing their past contributions to political and social changes. “There is tremendous mistrust between NGOs and the government. We civil society leaders are not happy with the ways of regulating bodies like the Social Welfare Council,” said rights activist Prof Kapil Shrestha. 

Participants asked the government to create a conducive environment for CSOs in the changed context so that the non-governmental sector could contribute in strengthening democracy, human rights and social justice.

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