Some people have been raising questions about the role of INGOs in Nepal and are saying that INGOs have done nothing. What do you say?
Such remarks are the result of misinformation about the role played by INGOs in Nepal. As the Chair of AIN, what I can say is that 88 INGOs associated with us have been actively working throughout the country.Â In fact, INGOs reach all 75 districts of Nepal and often extend into remote areas. They have been supporting development activities carried out by more than 1000 local and community based non-governmental organizations. And as our partner NGOs, they have been implementing programs, even in the areas where government mechanisms are virtually non-existent, with a clear mission and as a strong pro-active and accountable forum for mutual learning in the interest of poor and marginalized groups.
What is the annual budget of the 88 INGOs?
Their combined annual budget is about Rs. 9 billion, with which they have been supporting different development sectors including education, health, sanitation, drinking water, environment, peace and development, capacity building, climate change etc. Their presence and efforts are feltÂ in the villages where they work through various local and community based partner organizations.
Some people even accuse INGOs as working in various districts as parallel governments. They argue that INGOs have set up district offices which are against the rule and regulation of the government? How do you respond to these comments?
I donâ€™t understand how such questions are raised. As you know, INGOs and NGOs are functioning not as parallel institutions. We are working under a mandate given by the government and we provide complimentary and supplementary support to the governmentâ€™s development programs. INGOs do not have branch offices in the districts. Some big INGOs have regional offices. The main purpose is to facilitate operations and provide technical assistance to partner NGOs
There is also the accusation that INGOs have been exploiting the budget given to Nepal through the local bilateral aid agencies? Is it true?
We donâ€™t exploit budgets given to Nepal. The money committed by donors is spent through the government channels. However, they allocate some money to run activities through INGOs and NGOs. Bilateral donors have separate titles for this and this is done in accordance with international conventions as well as with the willingness of local government. INGOs normally raise funds from/through their home countries. They also bid for resources that are available internationally. What must not be forgotten is that many INGOs also have to provide matching funds on resources they raise for Nepal and these are usually done through global competitive processes.
It is often said that some INGOs have been working in Nepal against the law of the land. Donâ€™t INGOs need to be registered in Nepal?
Any INGO, which wants to work in Nepal, must show valid reasons before the government. The first thing an INGO has to do is to show their willingness to work and that they have access to the resources to do so. Secondly, they sign a general agreement with the Social Welfare Council. This involves approval of many ministries including Finance, Women, Children and Social Welfare and sectorally concerned ministries such as education, health etc. This is mandatory to work in Nepal.
Are there any other requirements?
Thirdly, an important requirement is the technical capability. Even if one has such permission, they have to demonstrate their capability to support Nepalâ€™s development priorities. Fourthly, what is required is the demand by the community for the services offered by the INGO . Only after fulfilling, these requirements, INGOs can work in Nepal.
It is also said that there is overlap in the activities of INGOs with Ministry of Finance and National Planning Commission?
The documents submitted to Social Welfare Council by INGOs for their registration are also sent to Ministry of Finance and National Planning Commission. These documents are also sent to concerned ministries. There is also a Project Assessment and Facilitation Committee (PAFC) under the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare with the representation of several ministries. This committee has the final say on the registration of INGOs in Nepal. Only after clearance from the committee does the Social Welfare Council sign general and project agreements with a particular INGO. Without the permission and recommendation of the Ministry of Finance and National Planning Commission through the PAFC, INGOs are not permitted to launch a project.
Since INGOs have been offering generous support in areas like climate change, health, sanitation, education and other sectors, helping to achieve MDG, why is there so much negative publicity?
One of the reasons may be that INGOs donâ€™t readily publicize the good practices they generate.Â Another reason may be our inability to disseminate the information widely.
Do other institutions not have such a responsibility?
The responsibility also lies with Social Welfare Council-- to defend INGOs. We have been working under the one window policy or Social Welfare Council. It is the council which will do mid-term evaluation, monitoring and other such work. It may be the failure of Social Welfare Council not to share such report.Â INGOs have been spending a lot of resources to improve the life of poor people and there is little appreciation for their contribution. It is strange to see largely negative publicity all the time.
Out of about reportedly 200 plus registered INGOs in Nepal, only 88 INGOs have secured membership of AIN. Donâ€™t you see the possibility of other INGOs functioning outside of AIN doing bad things and AIN members sharing blame for this?
I cannot speak for those INGOs which are not AIN members. This is the reason I often request media persons not to generalize issues. If any particular institution does not conduct itself well, media must write about that. We donâ€™t keep any information about those organizations which are not affiliated to us.Â I think the Social Welfare Council has to take responsibility for all the INGOs which are registered with them. It is the duty of Social Welfare Council to conduct monitoring and evaluation.
AIN has AIN Strategic Plan 2008-2010 and Code of Conduct. You have also said that AIN follows the international conventions on Foreign Aid. Why are people still critical about INGOs?
To avoid this kind of debate, we held a series of internal consultations and, based on these, developed a code of conduct. By adhering to the rule that no INGO can implement programs directly, we have developed a code of conduct under which AIN members have to implement the projects and programs in partnership with local non-governmental organizations, civil society and local bodies.Â We have also developed a Partnership Guideline. As well as these, there are the Basic Operating Guidelines (BOGs) developed by the donor community, the multilateral and bilateral agencies. We are a signatory of BOGs. All these documents give priority to accountability and transparency. We closely monitor our member organizationâ€™s activities.
It is often reported that resources are misused more in the activities run by the right-based INGOs than the development project-based INGOs. What do you say on this?
In the present democratic set up, everyone has the right to work as per the law of the country. All the INGOs have to abide by this. We need to satisfy the stakeholders. Our code of conduct clearly states our commitment to our accountability to stakeholders for the effectiveness and efficiency with which we use the resources we mobilize, and in turn they are able to openly express their rights, choices and concerns.
What changes have you made during your tenure?
It has been a great challenge to give continuity to the good things that my predecessors have initiated at AIN. Nevertheless, in my little over a year's tenure, working closely with my colleagues at AIN, we have been able to further develop and improve coordination with concerned departments. Now, we have eight working groups in AIN and each working group consults with their concerned department. The number of AIN members is increasing gradually. A year ago, there were just 70 INGO members; now we have 88. We have yet to attract the significant number of INGOs that are not under AIN.Â AIN is now better understood and recognized by different government line agencies, and donors. We have been supporting the programs of government including the Three Year Interim plan and MDGs and we have maintained very good relations with the National Planning Commission.