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Nepal - Øget regerings-kontrol med NGO-initiativer

NEPAL: New NGO law spells end of autonomy, say activists

IRINnews.org, 17. august 2005

Regeringen har med en ny lovgivning indført udvidede muligheder for kontrol med NGO'ernes arbejde. Formanden for NGO-ernes paraplyorganisation er meget bekymret for den demoralisering, som han føler vil blive konsekvensen af indgrebet.

NGOs undertake vital aid and development work in Nepal - particularly in rebel-controlled areas - now they say they are under threat from a new law that will regulate their activities - ©  IRIN
KATHMANDU, 17 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Some national and international NGOs in Nepal say they are seriously concerned over the introduction of the Social Welfare (First Amendment) Ordinance 2005. The new government ruling was promulgated during the last week of July and gives new powers to the state to enable it to control and regulate programmes run by NGOs and their activities.

Under the ordinance, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, will be given full authority to issue directives and supervise NGO activities instead of just 'extending support' as laid down in the existing Social Welfare Act, introduced in 1992.

"The notion of NGOs working independently and as counterparts to the government development agencies has been seriously undermined with this amendment. The decision has demoralised all of us," said Arjun Karki, president of the NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN).

Karki and several NGO representatives said that the government already has powerful legal instruments like the Social Welfare Act, Societal Registration Act and Project Agreements to both monitor NGOs and take legal action against any organisation violating the Himalayan kingdom's laws.

"We see no rationale about bringing in the new ordinance. We want to know what the government's motives are behind this new change," said Shanta Lal Mulmi, an NFN official.

International NGOs are equally concerned that the new regulation will have a negative impact on their work in Nepal.

"There is so much confusion and frustration among the development community over this new but unnecessary ordinance," said Balaram Thapa, chief of Care Nepal. He added that there had been no consultation with NGOs before the ruling was made.

Observers say the ordinance is already having an impact on organisations that traditionally operate independently of government. 

The semi-autonomous Social Welfare Council (SWC) has already come under the direct control of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare. In the first week after the new ordinance was passed, Minister Durga Shrestha sacked senior members of the SWC and replaced them all with her own handpicked team.

"I came to know of a new team [at the SWC] after it was announced on state television. We were all too shocked with the news," said Prabha Basnet, former secretary of the SWC, who along with five other senior members, were removed from office without prior notice.

"The government has no real cause for our removal but the new ordinance gives it all the authority it needs to do these things," explained Basnet, who had held his post for almost 33 years.

Some government officials who wished to remain anonymous, said the move could also draw hostility from donor governments who currently inject nearly US $100 million into the desperately poor Himalayan nation that has been in the throes of a Maoist rebellion for the past nine years.

"We are based in villages and all the places where the government is absent. This decision only demoralises our workers further," said Karki. "On one hand, we have to work under immense pressure because of the Maoists and now you have the government creating more problems," he added.

In order to pressure both the government and Maoists to keep politics out of development and aid work, nearly 30,000 NGOs from all over Nepal are planning a series of protest campaigns in the near future.

"Our protest has no relevance to party politics. We just want our voices to be heard by both state and rebels," explained Mulmi.

Meanwhile, the ministry is already preparing a new code of conduct for NGOs. Development experts fear the new rules will emphasise the need for NGOs to follow a pro-government and nationalist agenda rather than pursuing impartial development goals. 

Kathmandu has argued the changes were needed to tackle the misuse of funds and lack of transparency that some NGOs have been accused of. Aid and development workers argue the move will defeat the whole object of an NGO sector.

"NGOs can't be told to do what the government wants," explained Shibesh Regmi, chief of Action Aid Nepal.

Others fear that cooperation between the state and non-state actors will now be jeopardised by the new law.

"The spirit of NGOs and the government working together is now over," said Gauri Pradhan from Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN).

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]



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Opdateret d. 3.10.2005