A new proposed policy by the government of Nepal would further curtail the work of international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the country by tightening the state’s control over them.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has expressed its grave concern over proposed policy that would, among other things, require local NGOs to obtain permission from the government to receive donations. Further, NGOs that fail to renew their registration for three months would be shut down.
The proposed policy under the Ministry of Home Affairs, titled the “National Integrity Policy”, was first revealed in April and is expected to be approved by the Cabinet soon.
In terms of the measure, International NGOs (INGOs) would no longer be allowed to engage in projects that influence the drafting of laws and policies in Nepal. It also stipulates that INGOs must obtain government approval before sending reports to their headquarters in their home countries and have their budgets and programs approved by the finance ministry. They would be banned if they make any attempts to spread religion.
Said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS civic space research officer: “The Nepali government must immediately drop this restrictive policy that would impose onerous reporting requirements for civil society, restrict freedom of expression and which will stifle the vital work of civil society in Nepal.”
Nepali NGOs have criticised the policy, arguing that it is impractical and would create unnecessary barriers for civil society.
Freedom of association is a fundamental human right that is crucial to the functioning of a democracy. The right to freedom of association is reaffirmed by international law such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nepali is a state party.
The state has a duty to respect, protect and facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of association. This includes simplifying regulatory requirements, ensuring that those requirements are not unduly burdensome and facilitating access to resources. NGOs should also be free in the determination of the objectives and activities of their associations, within the limits provided for by laws that comply with international standards.
“Instead of introducing such restrictive policies, the Nepali government should introduce measures to foster a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity, in accordance with their international human rights obligations,” said Benedict.
In a positive move, the Federal Ministry of Home Affairs temporarily backed down on a separate requirement for the details of property owned by office bearers and staff of both national and international NGOs to be disclosed, as part of the registration and renewal process. However, there is uncertainty if this requirement will be imposed at a later date.
Civic space – the space in which civil society operates – in Nepal is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries.
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