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National Civil Society Conference 2017 Concluded in Nepal

Daya Sagar Shrestha – Executive Director NGO Federation of Nepal

NGO Federation of Nepal, the national NGOs platform and IFP member, convened a National Civil Society Conference 2017 on 7-8 November 2017 in Kathmandu, Nepal to: deliberate on political, economic and social issues of the country in the context of new political development; discuss on the role of civil society/NGOs on SDGs and expanding civic space in the country. 526 representatives from across the country attended 3 sessions: “Ensuring Access to WASH for Sustainable Development”, the “Challenges on effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institution) with solutions” and a third thematic “Dialogue on Enabling CSOs in Changing Political Context”. The conference came up with concrete conclusions like the 16 points DECLARATION (download ngo-federation-nepal_declaration) to guide the entire CSOs to move ahead. And above all, the conference appealed 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.

In a continuation to its active engagement in various aspects of sustainable development, NGO Federation of Nepal, the national NGOs platform, convened a National Civil Society Conference 2017 on 7-8 November 2017 in Kathmandu, Nepal to deliberate on political, economic and social issues of the country in the context of new political development; discuss on the role of civil society/NGOs on SDGs and expanding civic space in the country. The slogan of the conference was “Full fledge implementation of constitution for political stability, good governance and accountability: Citizens’ Campaign for Development, Prosperity and Social Transformation”. The broader objective of this conference was to bring together all the CSO leaders and activists from all over the country to interact among different actors on the key issues for CSOs and national development.

The conference started with the inauguration opening ceremony. Mr. Kalyan Shrestha, former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Nepal presided as a chief guest of the conference. Mr. Shrestha opined that belittling NGOs’ role in democratic campaign in Nepal amounts injustice to overall democratic activism. NGOs must act as tripod for citizens and lobby on behalf of citizens, he added. Representatives of NFN’ local chapters, NFN advisors, central board members, CSO federations, alliances, networks, INGOs, NGOs, government officers and prominent leaders of civil society movements and human rights campaigns in Nepal attended the conference. Altogether there were 526 representatives from across the country.

After the inauguration of the programme, three parallel thematic sessions were organized. First session was entitled “Ensuring Access to WASH for Sustainable Development”. Several dimensions of the current situation, policy status and future needs were assessed in the session. The session emphasized on “capacity building” and “collectivity” on working modalities and suggested the issue of climate change and natural hazards must be tackled, exploitation of water resources and wetlands must be checked and natural environment should be preserved, evil market forces needs to be scrutinized by state and coordination of CSOs with local government is a must in dealing with the issue.

The second thematic session was entitled “Challenges on effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institution) with solutions”. The main focus of this session was peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on rule of law which is important conduits for sustainable development. The current challenges of Nepal are political instability and the structural changes in the province level. The session discussed on reduction of all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. The session come up with the point on strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights, reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the institutions of global (global and local) governance.

The third thematic session was entitled “Dialogue on Enabling CSOs in Changing Political Context”. The issues addressed in this session revolved around the new role, responsibility and authority of NGOs in changing political environment in Nepal. The key issues included in the session were, structure and role of Social Welfare Council (SWC) in coming future, need for clear policies, legal frameworks for NGOs at national to local levels in Constitution, importance of coordination between SWC, various ministries, NGOs, INGOs and other stakeholders, effective collaboration and management of NGOs and INGOs to achieve SDGs, importance and benefits of information management at various levels and targeted at different stakeholders and awareness campaigns.

The second day of the conference started with the rally from New Baneshwor Chowk to Babarmahal where the rally members raised annotations written “Able and Progressive Civil Society for democracy and prosperity”, “Unite for Civil Organizations’ friendly environment”, and many more.

A closed session followed after rally and the representatives echoed that the Organization Registration Act 1978 has been unfavorable to them, and NGOs to be re-structured as in federal system and central committee to coordinate in building federation offices. Many representatives stated that central committee should aid to local governments in coordinating with NGOs. Similarly, the question of registering NGOs under PAN or VAT came into much focus. Representatives suggested that the perception towards NGOs must be brought positive and some change is indeed necessary. Some suggested that conference to be held for dialogue between political groups and civil society and their distinctive roles.

At the end of the National Civil Society Conference NFN endorsed the 16 points DECLARATION. The declaration expressed its gratitude for overwhelming success of local polls and expressed that the Federation and the organizations associated with the Federation are looking forward to work with local governments. The conference came up with concrete conclusions for taking actions by key actors and they will guide the entire CSOs to move ahead. The conference expressed concerned that 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. The conference called 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. The conference urged 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. Further the conference appealed 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.