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Multi stakeholder dialogue on managing NGO sector in Federalism

NGO Federation of Nepal organized a multistakeholder dialogue workshop titled "Managing Non-Government Sector in the Federal Set Up" on 1st August 2017, in Kathmandu. The workshop facilitated an open discussion on the legal and operational challenges being encountered by NGOs/CSOs since quite earlier and in the changed context as well so that certain consensus could be forged to develop and undertake specific action points towards building an enabling environment for CSOs in the country.

The workshop was conducted as chaired by Mr. Gopal Lamsal, President of NGO Federation of Nepal. Honorable Asha Koirala – Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare attended the event as chief guest. There were altogether 100 participants (male 71, female 28 and LGBTIQ 1) representing wider array of stakeholders at national level such as different CSOs; networks, coalitions, alliances, federations, campaigns, and forums of CSOs; media, international NGOs, lawmakers, bureaucrats, NFN's advisors, NFN's district chapters (Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur), among others, present in the event. A two and half hour long workshop provided with ample opportunities to have serious discussions among the stakeholders on the problems experienced by CSOs and way-forward strategies for protecting and expanding civic space in the changed context of restructuring of the state. This includes an exhaustive list of concerns, issues, challenges, problems, complaints, comments, suggestions and feedback of CSOs, including other stakeholders, on the key agenda of the workshop that NFN has taken notes of and recorded for the purpose of incorporating in the national advocacy instruments such as position papers, advocacy plan, and CSOs related bills etc. The discussion has led CSOs to build common understanding and consensus on how to plan and strategize CSOs movement immediately ahead and in the long run for carrying out advocacy interventions towards ensuring citizenry rights to freedom of association, opinions and expressions in the country.

Some of the action points suggested in the workshop were:

·To form a small task force (core group) to draft an alternate social development bill or else

· To generate collective resources for initiating joint campaigns of CSOs

· To have immediate dialogue with senior media persons (for e.g. editors, news room chiefs, journalists/columnists, and media entrepreneurs), and continue to have series of such dialogues ahead

· To influence parliamentarians to raise the issue of civic space favoring CSOs in different thematic committees and in the parliament as well.

· To develop a national paper (call for action) towards building common position of CSOs on the issues and way-forward strategies

· To review key laws and acts being drafted by different ministries, and Nepal Law Commission, particularly in relation to the operation of local level governments, and consolidate the findings for further advocacy purposes

· To have dialogue with the Finance Ministry and Office of the Prime Minister on the agenda of foreign aid and its mobilization seeking specific role of CSOs in the finance and development policy of the Government of Nepal

· To release a rejection statement against the Kantipur's editorial news, including other media offenses to NGOs/CSOs

· To organize concerted efforts of lobby, advocacy, campaigns, and non-confrontational activities for protecting CSOs space in democracy

In the mean time, Ms. Minister opined that she was aware of the conflicting relationships between CSOs and Government of Nepal. CSOs, in one hand, are appreciated for their roles in empowering communities and raising mass awareness; at the same time, they are charged of being reckless, and ignoring national development priorities envisaged by the governments. So, time has come to forge effective functional relationships between CSOs and bureaucracies – she opined. Furthermore, she assured that she would succeed to sort out the issues of conflicts and interests and address the demands of CSOs during her tenure.

At the end of the programme, Mr. Chair – President of NFN reiterated the operational, policy-related as well as practical issues, challenges, and problems faced by CSOs/NGOs – all through, as discussed in the workshop; and appealed to the Minister to act towards addressing CSOs concerns during her tenure.