Declaration Endorsed by the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the NGO Federation of Nepal and National Civil Society Conference 2017
7-8 November, 2017
NGO Federation of Nepal, a common platform of civil society organizations actively working in the forefront towards promoting advocacy, social mobilization, citizens' empowerment and civic participation for socio-economic transformation, development and national unity, has accomplished its 23rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) alongside the National Civil Society Conference 2017 on 7-8 November 2017, in Kathmandu. We, more than 700 delegates representing over 6,000 CSOs from across the country, including prominent leaders of civil society movements and human rights campaigns in Nepal, attending the AGM and Conference hereby endorse this DECLARATION to call for and reaffirm our commitments and concerns to the full-fledged implementation of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal as well as to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by means of active and strong civic engagement, as hereunder:
1. We, the representatives of CSOs, would like to express our happiness about the happening of local level polls in peaceful, impartial and exhilarating manners as anticipated prior. We hereby affirm that the CSOs of Nepal are fully committed to collaborating, coordinating and working in partnerships with the local governments towards enabling their functional effectiveness; facilitating in the processes of development; and attaining and enduring transformative, just, uniform and sustainable kind of development and prosperity. NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN) feels revered to witness some of its social championers being elected as the people's representatives at local levels, who in the past, served into various kinds of leadership roles at different layers of the organization. This convention congratulates to all of them – the former activists associated with the NFN; now elected as local level representatives, and wishes them a very successful tenure ahead.
2. NFN has been persistently advocating for the formulation of Social Development Act for a decade at least. However, it's a pity to state that the successive Governments formed in the aftermath of the entire restructuring of the state have not paid adequate attention to the voices of CSOs and have even not prioritized the 'Act'. In the absence of Social Development Act that envisions a clear, CSOs-friendly, and pro-partnerships modality for development; CSOs have been experiencing practical difficulties in terms of participation, pro-activeness, and involvement in the development activities. On the whole, it is felt that the activities triggering off deterrent and shrinking roles of CSOs are being embarked on by the state and other actors. The policies and practices, in whatever forms, that contradict to the spirit of fundamental rights of the Constitution; envision restricting the space and participation of CSOs; and create hurdles through state-imposed tax regimes and administrative regulations are not acceptable to CSOs at all. We call for the immediate action to endorse Social Development Act at federal level that envisages effective decentralized restructuring of the Social Welfare Council, in adequate consultations with the NGO Federation of Nepal.
3. The prevailing policy, as of yet, demands CSOs to get registered into the VAT system for initiating partnerships with the government funded development projects. We urge the government to nullify the policy of mandatory VAT registration for CSOs without any delay which is principally against the spirit of not-for-profit and voluntary kind of engagement of CSOs in development efforts and interventions.
4. Given the current circumstances – that the Government of Nepal has failed to set aside adequate budget for the development sector, and there is wider complaints of stakeholders that the development efforts undertaken by the government mechanisms are not being efficacious; we appeal to the federal government, including the provincial and local governments to be formed ahead, to embrace CSOs as the development partners and facilitate them to engage in development, social mobilization and citizens empowerment programs.
5. Time and again, NFN has been raising voices emphasizing on the need – to foster partnerships with the grassroots CSOs; to support and enable them evolve as autonomous and powerful institutions; and to promote the practice of facilitative roles of the international non-government organizations for the effective implementation of development budget and foreign grants to Nepal. However, we have yet not experienced any such improvements in this regards. It is evident that the practices of awarding grants to the international NGOs from the development financing allocated for Nepal; allowing INGOs to operate projects directly at the local levels; and encroaching upon the freedom, independence and autonomy of domestic CSOs, prevail rampantly. International NGOs are the essential partners of development campaign worldwide. We appeal to the International NGOs and donor agencies to instigate and foster partnerships with the national CSOs; and to instill a culture of independent, shared, healthy and transparent partnership for the development of Nepal.
6. We call for the establishment of a special parliamentary committee which would help to create an enabling environment for facilitating dialogues and discourses on national and provincial-level development issues with the people's representatives in the federal and provincial assemblies. We hope such a committee would serve as a platform where CSOs perceptions, experiences, concerns and demands are put forth and discussed face-to face with the elected representatives.
7. Albeit political transformations and peace processes in Nepal have reached nearly at the end phases; the conflict victims and families of the disappeared still have not been able to realize justice to them. We urge the Government of Nepal to foster environment for justice and reconciliation within this year by helping to boost up the functional pro-activeness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
8. As the Government has moved ahead with the processes of holding parliamentary and provincial elections as part of the implementation the Constitution, we appeal to all the concerned actors and stakeholders not to act or incite others to act towards creating room for doubts or disrupting the upcoming elections. At the same time, we urge the political parties, election commission and Government of Nepal to be responsible for holding the elections in fair, free, peaceful, just, and frugal manners. We proclaim for the effective citizens monitoring of the electoral processes towards advocating for the fair, free and inclusive polls.
9. It's a matter of indignity that the Political Parties, contrary to the spirit and mandate of the Constitution, have failed to nominate candidates from women, Dalit, Janajati, and other historically left out social groups in inclusive ways for the first-past-the-post elections of the upcoming federal and provincial houses of representatives. We urge the Political Parties of Nepal to augment the active, meaningful and leading participation of women, Dalit, Janajati and Madhesi communities in civic and political campaigns in the country. NFN hopes that the union and provincial parliaments and governments to be elected and formed through the forthcoming elections would be able to foster national unity and prosperity by addressing the contractions, discriminations and dissatisfactions that are the entrenched challenges of national politics in Nepal.
10. Alarming price hikes of the commodities and rampant and intensified use of small arms has threatened to the entire civil society. We urge the government to take active and effective initiatives to adequately monitor the market activities; regulate price hikes; and control illicit trade and use of small arms so that social harmony, peace, security, and civic safety and wellbeing would be guaranteed in the country.
11. NFN regrets that the Government of Nepal has been too slow and dawdling in offering help to the communities affected by the massive earthquake, flood and landslide, and other kinds of natural disasters that occurred in the past; and that the victims of these calamities as yet have not been able to get relief, reconstruction and other supports on timely manner. We call for the immediate action by the government towards ensuring accomplishment of the reconstruction processes within a year to come and distribute relief packages, including other services to all those affected by the devastating earthquake, flood, and landslide on time. We also appeal to the local governments and Nepal Reconstruction Authority to facilitate and simplify the processes of participation and partnerships for CSOs in reconstruction activities.
12. Despite the advancement and expansion of road networks and transportation system in the country, we have been witnessing severe incidences of road accidents almost every day. In order to make sure that people have their journeys in safer, easier and descent ways; we urge the Government of Nepal to take immediate actions towards endorsing Road Safety Act; regulating transport entrepreneurship; and managing for the operation of public transport system in safer way.
13. It is inevitable to ensure active participation, mobilization and partnerships of CSOs for managing statistics and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the sake of water and sanitation management; enhanced international partnerships and collaborations; promoting social cohesion; protecting women, children and disabled persons to help them live dignified lives; and more so for creating an unrestricted and active space for CSOs; we call for ensuring the representation of NFN and CSOs in the mechanisms of development and public service delivery erected at all layers of the state.
14. Rampant corruption, commission-cracy and monopolistic control of the market have instigated hardships in daily lives of people. We therefore cordially appeal to the concerned mechanisms of the Government of Nepal to take apt steps towards ending corruption, controlling commission-cracy, and promoting governance by advancing the state of right to information, development justice and collective and balanced control of the market.
15. NFN is the organization actively working for the global and regional development campaign. Regional development and cooperation can only contribute to establishing the SDGs and sustained peace across the globe. We suggest the SAARC member nations to concentrate and deliberate on fostering mutual cooperation and regional development through dialogues for convening the SAARC SUMMIT, which was postponed previously, at the earliest.
16. NFN works for promoting citizens' empowerment, civic space, partnerships, coordination and collaborations among diverse groups of actors and stakeholders. As it envisages, NFN will launch a nation-wide campaign for the promotion of absolute human rights, sustainable development, justice, national unity, and prosperity in the country in a year to come. We will extend collaborations and go hand-in-hand with other civic and professional organizations, including private sector organizations, in this campaign. We appeal to all our district chapters and member organizations to join hands and cooperate with us in this mission; to accomplish the campaign successfully towards reinforcing civic space and roles and stimulate for people's participation in the national development processes.