NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN) held the national civil society conference in Kathmandu on 30 January 2020. Hon. Ganesh Prasad Timilsina, Chair of National Assembly, was the chief guest while Minister of Women, Children and Senior Citizens Hon. Parbat Gurung, and member of National Planning Commission (NPC) Hon. Min Bahadur Shahi were the special guests of the conference. Likewise, Nepali Congress central committee member Jeevan Pariyar, leaders of difference civil society networks and alliances, human rights and development activists, representatives of various development partners, and UN agencies were the guests. About 500 civil society activists and CSO representatives from all the seven provinces and 77 districts participated in the Conference.
Guests and CSO representatives expressed their views and concerns in various areas of development, human rights, civil society, and governance among others in the inaugural session which was followed by three parallel thematic sessions on 1) CSO enabling environment: Policy, rights and operational concerns, 2) Disaster risk management and climate change, and 3) SDG 16 Plus Forum: Localization and VNR.
Nepali Congress leader Jeevan Pariyar duly acknowledged that civil society leaders also represent the people. Referring to the potentially restrictive measures in the upcoming CSO legal act, he emphasized that CSOs/NGOs should not be restricted to any specific area and sector for their actions. He also highlighted the need of further effectiveness and governance improvement of NGOs.
NPC member Min Bahadur Shahi attempted to assure that Government and NPC are holding a lot of consultations and participatory meetings with NGOs and CSOs in order to address their concerns and increase their participation in social and economic development. He appreciated the role of CSOs/NGOs in development and social transformation as well as their role and need in localization of SDGs and Voluntary National Review (VNR) process.
Minister Parbat Gurung also assured of making the policy and program development process more inclusive and participatory. Acknowledging the role of CSOs, he said that the Government welcomes the constructive criticism of civil society and CSOs. He also advised CSOs for improving their own institutional governance and enhancing their effectiveness so that they can cleanse negative impression towards them. Referring to the ongoing CSO law drafting process and the draft of this by Ministry of Home, he assured that Government will adequately consult and discuss with CSOs and incorporate the principles of democracy, fundamental rights, and civic space. He appreciated and welcomed the role of CSOs.
The chief guest Hon. Ganesh Prasad Timilsina mainly focused on the important role of CSOs in democratic change, safeguarding human rights and socio-economic development. He requested the government to undertake the policy formulation and implementation process in participation of CSOs. When the CSO bill is sent to the National Assembly, he assured that CSOs will be consulted and discussed with.
The Civil Society Conference concluded with a declaration. It was an interface among the local CSO leaders and the concerned stakeholders at the central level.
The conference was chaired by NFN President Jit Ram Lama and was emceed by Secretary General Ram Prasad Subedi.