With the growing number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Nepal, most Nepali seems to know about it. Some blame them as one of the causes of corruption and have great influence on nation’s internal affairs and their readymade program and projects have a negligible participation of local stakeholders during the plan formulation and its implementation. They are also criticized for their non-transparency. Often, many publications and the World Hindu Federation accuse some International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) of generating controversy by proselytizing.
Not only in Nepal but also in other developing world, many argue that the excess number of NGOs has been accused of damaging the public sector instead of promoting equity and alleviating poverty and they are being designed and used as extensions of the normal foreign-policy instruments of certain countries and groups of the countries. They have great influence and power in global affairs and backing of the powerful organizations and the government.
NGOs in Nepal
There are around 200 INGOs and 4000 NGOs in Nepal, registered with the Social Service National Coordination Council, one of the biggest numbers among developing countries.
The history of social welfare service in Nepal is very mature, as the society itself. The centuries-old social entities such as guthi (trust), parma (labour exchange system), dhikur (saving/credit) are still prevalent as signiﬁcant social institutions. The organization of civil society along modern lines began with the Arya Samaj in 1909 to awaken the Nepalese from blind faith, prejudice, and conservative thinking as well as to abolish child marriage, promote widow remarriage and initiate social reforms.
Once these informal entities were well organized, self-sustained and agent of social change. They had strong root to serve and support the poor and the vulnerable in society. There was people’s huge participation and still some remains of these social service entities prevalent in our society, which has now been replaced by the modern external assisted NGOs.
NGOs, in Nepal, are carrying out many good works into some areas such as community and rural development, empowerment of women, improvement of an environment, delivery of public health, AIDS and drug abuse control, child welfare, educational development, handicapped and disabled service, youth activities, and development of moral values.
Some NGOs engaged in social development have been actively involved in relief package and development along with other activities like resource mobilization, social mobilization, awareness, skill development, and rehabilitation. During the period of the great earthquake of 2015, national and international government and non-government organization’s humanitarian supports were praiseworthy. NGOs related to humanitarians and advocacy is comparatively doing better in Nepal.
According to statistics of the Finance Ministry that around 20 percent of the aid Nepal receives during a year was routed through INGOs. Their annual contribution in development sector is around 7 to 9 percent.
People working in the INGOs agree that there is a possibility of anomalies in some INGOs but it is not true that all of them are bad. In the lack of elected representatives at the local level, Nepal’s INGOs have been making a lot of differences.
Some INGOs say that only a few people understand their positive role and contributions. Most government officials, media, and politicians, in Nepal, interpret the INGOs in a negative manner without understanding the truthfulness.
Opportunities and challenges
The governments’ disappointing situation, worldwide during the 1970s started a faster rise of modern civil society organizations and an increased partnership between public, non-proﬁt and the proﬁt-oriented organizations. The government itself cannot go to all remote and deprived areas proportionally; therefore the involvement and engagement of NGOs are ever increasing.
The developing countries have to follow the guidelines prescribed by the United Nations regarding INGOs. The term “Non-Governmental Organization” was popularized by the United Nations Charter (Chapter 10, Article 71), which gives a consultative role to organizations that are not part of the structure of government. An International NGO was broadly deﬁned by the UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) as “any international organization that is not founded by an international treaty.
INGOs are the source of track two diplomacy consists of experts, scientists, professors, and other figures that are not involved in government affairs, which have more freedom to exchange ideas and come up with compromises on their own. If properly utilized them, the government can receive good supports in respect to nation building.
In order to be accountable to the society, I/NGOs should take the questions raised by the society seriously, and do their own evaluation on a regular basis. Unless the issues of transparency and accountability are implemented sternly, the social prestige cannot be elevated. Many INGOs do not comply with the national laws of the countries; engaged with unseen unwanted activities. Consequently, some countries in Africa have formulated special strong additional laws for INGOs to control their unwanted activities and regulate them properly.
Who is going to investigate and correct the corrupt NGOs, there should be some sort of legal mechanism to control corruptions, unseen unwanted activities and low level of achievements?
Many INGOs are doing good jobs to transform society while some of them, with wrong motives, are creating some sort of controversies in society. One of the reasons may be that INGOs lack publicity about the good practices they generate. Another reason may be their inability to disseminate the information widely in the society by exposing such institutions.
*Author is a former Undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance and was associated with United Nations Development Program at Sierra Leone and South Sudan. He is also writer of a book – Melting Everest and falling Mountains.