April 17, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
Measures to regulate I/NGOs
Even though only proposed, meaning its nitty-gritty is yet to be finalized and some provisions yet to be deliberated, National Integrity Policy has raised a lot of eyebrows already, mainly from NGO and INGO fraternity and their supporters. Their concern, especially related to freedom of expression, and the fear that government might be trying to undermine people’s rights granted by the constitution are understandable. But at the heart of the contention lies something else: the special mechanism, proposed in the policy, under Ministry of Home Affairs to exercise oversight on activities of NGO, INGOs and foreign donors. The proposed policy allows government to take action against organizations if they are found breaching the laws. It envisages provisions that will not only contribute to making NGOs, INGOs and foreign donors transparent and accountable to the country and the people they are working for but also ensure their credibility and respect.
At a glance, this is what the policy has for NGOs, private sector, INGOs and foreign donors working in Nepal: They will have to abide by the country’s constitution and laws while carrying out their activities. There will be separate legislation to prevent corruption and irregularities in NGOs and INGOs. Members of parliament and government officials should not hold DVs and PRs of foreign countries. Organizations should, before accepting the foreign budget, take approval from Ministry of Finance specifying for which purpose they are taking it. They have to keep the local governments of the respective places informed about their programs. NGOs and INGOs should not be allowed to take up government contract. INGOs should make available the copy of the report to the concerned authorities before they are sent to their host countries. Foreigners working against the national interest or involved in religious conversion will be deported. NGOs and INGOs will be scrapped if they don’t renew their permits timely. People holding public posts should not occupy positions in NGOs. They should get their accounts properly audited and get their budget approved from the finance ministry. They should come under tax net if their nature of work so demands.
If this is what the government is truly up to, it must be supported. As a matter of fact, such measures had been long overdue. This is not to suggest that every activity of every NGO and INGO is a suspect and they all should be put in a single basket. Some of the donors have really contributed in the field of raising awareness against gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices and provided valuable partnership in health and education sectors. But at the same time, it has been revealed that some others are promoting proselytization under the garb of social works. Republica has uncovered a number of such stories from mid and far-western parts of the country over the last few years. Likewise, even humanitarian organizations like Red Cross have been found to misuse billions of rupees that donors provided for the welfare of Nepal and Nepalis. Even responsible heads of foreign missions were found meeting secessionist elements in the past. We have the experience of how Nepal’s constitution was portrayed in exaggeratedly negative light in the reports prepared by even the trusted organizations. In this background, we need to read the merits of proposed policy before blindly supporting or blindly opposing it. The bottom line is: Any efforts made, in line with constitution, to make the NGOs and INGOs more responsible and their works more effective and transparent should be welcomed. Those organizations who have stuck to these norms need not fear. Those who intend to work in dubious manner have no space in Nepal. Like everywhere else, the supremacy of the law of the land must prevail.