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Nepal needs to monitor international NGOs working there

Hari Bansh Jha | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:43 IST

Necessary institution

  • INGOs have contributed towards Nepal\'s development
  • But there are serious allegations against some of them

More in the story

  • What are the charges against Nepal\'s INGOs?
  • What can the country do?

International non-governmental organisations (INGO) have contributed in several countries to promote democracy, safeguard human rights and improve the socio-economic status of people. However, they have also courted controversies.

A case in point is Nepal. As the Himalayan country made its transition from being a kingdom to a democracy, several NGOs, including many international ones, started working in the country. And a section of them has raised suspicion because of their lack of transparency and their service-delivery mechanism.

Around the world

Nepal is not the only place where INGOs have come under scrutiny:

  • Russia banned many such organisations, which draw funds from abroad. Many were labelled foreign agents and draconian powers were vested on government authorities to ban them. Also, there are provisions to freeze their bank accounts, expel their employees and even imprison them for up to six years.
Read- Modi govt crackdown on NGOs: what is driving the repression?
  • A British Parliamentary Committee criticised some INGOs for unfair practices, especially in corrupt societies.
  • Pakistan last year shut down 'Save the Children' on allegations of anti-social activities.
  • Accordin to Indian intelligence report in 2014, Greenpeace India and several other posed a threat to economic security. The Government of India cancelled the registration of 10,117 NGOs last year. Some, including Ford Foundation, were put on a watch list for violating legal norms.

Focus on Nepal

INGOs have made substantial contribution to the developing country by:

  • generating jobs
  • empowering women
  • protecting the environment
  • controlling AIDS and drug abuse
  • helping children, youth and those who are specially abled
  • making progress in education and health

But despite the presence of so many INGOs, Nepal remains one of the poorest countries, with a per capita income of about $700.

Also read- Harming nat'l interest, harmony, foreign ties: scope for abuse in new NGO rules

The number of NGOs registered with Nepal's Social Welfare Council (SWC), the country's apex body for the promotion, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of NGOs, has rocketed to nearly 4,000 from 253 in 1990. Among them,here are about 190 INGOs. After the April 25, 2015 earthquake, many have entered Nepal.

According to recent media reports, INGOs misuse their mandate due to the lack of adequate rules, regulations and a weak monitoring mechanism.

Many development projects, including the Arun III Project - in which the World Bank was expected to invest - and the 6,000-MW Nepal-India joint venture, Pancheshwar Multi-purpose Project, also had to be stalled due to opposition from the INGOs.

Several of them have faced allegations of not being transparent about their funding and disbursement of those funds, and of utilising money earmarked for a particular sector in other activities.

Some have also been accused of disturbing the harmony between communities and spoiling Nepal's relations with other countries.

The government has, at times, been serious in curbing suspicious activities. But there are also reports of political intervention when authorities try taking actions.

Read more- How to kill a mockingbird: lessons from the Greenpeace crackdown

Perhaps, this has helped INGOs grow deep roots among politicians, senior bureaucrats and other influencers.

The responsible section in Nepal needs keep an eye on orgnisations involved in illegal activities. If they have a nexus with politicians, it needs to be exposed.

All INGOs are not irresponsible. Nepal's policy should be to reward organisations that deliver on the ground and reprimand those that work otherwise. If the problem is not addressed now, there may be serious security repercussion in the future.

(The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.)

Edited by Joyjeet Das

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First published: 19 February 2016, 8:39 IST
Hari Bansh Jha

The writer is a Nepali national currently a Research Fellow at the Indian Council for World Affairs, New Delhi.