Consultation on CSO Registration Draft Bill between Government and CSO/Media Leaders

A half day consultation workshop on CSO Registration Draft Bill between government, CSO and media representatives was organized by GoGo Foundation on November 21, 2019 at Lalitpur with the financial support from the HI360.

Executive Director Kedar Khadka reflected in his presentation about the enabling environment of CSO's in 9 South/East Asian countries. He described how our CSO's position has been declining over the years and what should be done to improve its existing position. In terms of ranking, Nepal currently ranks fourth based on several indicators such as sustainability, legal environment, organizational capacity, infrastructure and public image inter alia. While presenting his slides, he admits that there are weaknesses on the part of some CSOs. However, it should not be sole basis to undermine CSOs contribution in the overall development process of the country.

Dilip Chapagain, former Chief District Officer/Local Development Officer who presented a paper on 'Role of CSO to Strengthen Democracy', opined that it would be deplorable to undermine the role played by CSO over the decades in localizing democracy. CSO has always been there as a watchdog which is important in the process of democratization. From service provider to advocacy role, income generation and social evils abolition, the CSOs in Nepal have always been at the frontrunner

His presentation set the tone for intense dialogue among the participants. In this context, the first question was 'if the situation of Kathmandu based CSO is pathetic let alone the Karnali based CSO's situation, asked Govinda B. Shahi who attended the event representing KIRDARC.

Likewise, Thakur Bhandari representing FECUFON argued that why CSO bill was drafted without our participation and consultation. This is against the fundamental rights of democratic principle, this is unjustifiable. Why Government do not seek our inputs and meaningful participation and consultation, he questioned in the event.

Many participants spoke about innumerable challenges they had to undergo while registering, renewing and project approval process of the CSOs. Why government seeks bulk of documents including program implementation approval letter from multiple government and VAT exemption certificate which are needless and irrelevant, they questioned strongly. As the country is in the dawn of prosperity, the government should, like in the past, acknowledge CSO's contribution- from ousting autocratic regime to democratization process; the participants suggested in common voice.

In response to queries put forth by civil society and media leaders, the government officials provided their respective opinions and views. The Assistant Chief District Officer, Krishna Katuwal, Kathmandu also echoed the similar voice saying that it would be really unfaithful if say that CSOs has not been involved in the process of nation building. They have extended their support when and where deemed necessary. However, addressing the counter question regarding the uniformity of renewal process, government authorities said that we have to comply with existing laws relating to the CSO.

Further, Basista Ghimire, Under Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs said that CSO related bill was drafted as per the constitution 2072. At the drafting stage of the CSO law prepared by the Nepal Law Commission had consulted with the relevant stakeholders and their suggestions were duly acknowledged.

In the same occasion, Indira Dahal, Joint Secretary, Nepal Law Commission said that law commission formulates the law when government instructs us to do so. In the context of CSO bill, we drafted as per the recommendation and in the true spirit of Constitution 2072. Now, the bill has been tabled in the cabinet for its endorsement and I hope it will not include any restrictive provision related to CSOs.

As a closing remark, the President of NFN, Jeet Ram Lama, said government seems has not taken international standard, Nepal's constitution 2072 and other international treaties into account while drafting the CSO related bill. The present bill contradicts the constitution and it is not acceptable to us. There are growing concerns regarding the registration and renewal process which should be addressed amicably. On the part of COSs, self-regulation is also important to counter the allegation. Finally he said that the categorization of CSO is not acceptable at all as it would create rift among the CSOs across the county.