Shrinking civic space in Nepal is worrying: US envoy

Published On: August 1, 2018 04:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Urges timely closure for transitional justice, bold action on economy

KATHMANDU, Aug 1: US Ambassador to Nepal Alaina B Teplitz has expressed concern over the shrinking civic space in Nepal in recent days.

Speaking to a select group of editors at her residence at Kamaladi on Tuesday, Ambassador Teplitz shared her views on issues ranging from the economy to transitional justice.

She urged Nepal to go for transformative changes, and not just incremental changes in economic systems, to achieve middle income status by 2030.

Teplitz sees Nepal's opportunity in digital, manufacturing and export-oriented high value products. She also underscored the need for financial frameworks to encourage e-commerce. “Some American companies are interested to set up businesses here but the country needs to have a one-window policy for registration and should implement transparent business practices,” she added.

Teplitz urged Nepal to consider becoming part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which can help develop transparency mechanisms and help set up a conducive business environment in the country.

When asked about transitional justice, Teplitz said, “Nepal also needs to heal the wounds of conflict and the transitional peace process must ensure the voice of the victims. Most importantly, the 60,000 plus cases at the TRC and CIEDP must be thoroughly investigated and the country should own up the process for a proper closure.”

Ambassador Teplitz also expressed concern about some of the rhetoric and proposed legislations being discussed by the government. “Some of the provisions in the online media directory are not very encouraging. The idea of controlling media is problematic and the increasing trend of self-censorship is not helpful in creating a free society,” she said.

“The government needs to be thoughtful about the content of the laws, regulations and policies. There is a danger of closing in on the space for civil society, closing in on space for the media, and I worry about the things in the online media directory. We think that it is something that distracts from media's ability to report freely, especially in new media formats. This proposed law is problematic,” Teplitz said.

She further elaborated that small things can add up to real constraints on civil liberties, and urged the government to differentiate between managing the space and controlling it.

On the economic front, Ambassador Teplitz sees opportunities for greater engagement of women, and said that they need to be given a voice, and not just a seat at the table. She said that the American government is “very pleased with progress on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) works in Nepal and they hope to see projects completed on time once started.”

Asked about the memories she is taking from Nepal, Teplitz says she is “grateful, impressed and hopeful.” She traveled to 40 districts during her tenure as ambassador and interacted with people from various sections of society.

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