‘So­cial Ser­vice’ & INGOs

People's Review - - LEADER - BY P. KHAREL

UML's se­nior leader Bam Dev Gau­tam re­cently stood against the right to “re­ject” be­cause “NGOs could play” against Nepalis. What is to be ac­knowl­edged is the grow­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion over the way rich West­ern na­tions fund and field agen­cies in the garb of non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions mo­bilised to fo­ment their covert ac­tiv­ity in devel­op­ing coun­tries. Cam­bo­dia in Au­gust or­dered the United States NGOs to close shop, and their for­eign staff were given a week to leave the coun­try. Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment sus­pected the or­gan­i­sa­tion to have been en­gaged in ac­tiv­ity that con­tra­vened the lo­cal reg­u­la­tions and tried push­ing forth agen­das that went against the host coun­try's in­ter­ests. CON­CERN GROWS: In­creas­ing num­ber of gov­ern­ments have be­gun to voice con­cern over the man­ner in which for­eign-funded NGOs are used as fronts for serv­ing for­eign agen­das that serve the in­ter­ests of for­eign agen­cies than lo­cal peo­ple. Wash­ing­ton, also in Au­gust, told Egypt that $290 mil­lion would be with­held un­til its hu­man rights record im­proved. The di­rec­tive came in the wake of Egypt in­tro­duc­ing le­gal mea­sures aimed at check­ing NGO ac­tiv­ity. Wash­ing­ton did not sound much both­ered when Gen. Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi staged a coup to seize power in 2013 and ousted the coun­try's first ever demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent, Mohamed Morsi, and banned the lat­ter's Mus­lim Brother­hood terming it a ter­ror­ist group. There is ap­par­ently more to the protest against reg­u­lat­ing NGOs than meets the eye. INGOs are covertly and overtly for ac­tion and change in ac­cor­dance with the val­ues cham­pi­oned by the ori­gin of the fund­ing sources. In Nepal, INGOs are spend­ing an es­ti­mated Rs. 89 bil­lion on 18 min­istries and con­sti­tu­tional bod­ies since the last fis­cal year and this is ex­pected to be com­pleted by next year. This amount is above and over the amounts for spend­ing through var­i­ous NGOs. On an av­er­age, Rs. 1 bil­lion each was spent in 23 districts in the Terai. The agen­das in­cluded “aware­ness gen­er­a­tion”, re­li­gion-con­ver­sion and the re­lated health and ed­u­ca­tion. Like­wise, the In­dian em­bassy in Kathmandu di­rectly funded ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing a to­tal of Rs. 10.85 bil­lion in var­i­ous districts over a pe­riod of nearly a decade and a half. The ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions un­der the fed­eral struc­ture of the state would make such spend­ing with­out the mon­i­tor­ing by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment not pos­si­ble, un­less the par­ties in power con­nive to flout the law to suit their own con­cep­tion of party in­ter­ests. Here, cap­i­tal cor­rup­tion is cel­e­brated as mu­nif­i­cence and con­tri­bu­tions to party cof­fers, for­eign funds flow through lo­cal fronts (civil so­ci­ety lead­ers, NGOs, hu­man rights groups etc). This is no off the cuff re­mark but time and again put on writ­ten records by var­i­ous au­thor­i­ta­tive writ­ers who hail from the very coun­tries that the NGO-funds orig­i­nate. The­o­ret­i­cally, con­stant con­sul­ta­tion and co­or­di­na­tion by elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives with their vot­ers is an im­por­tant fac­tor in a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy that ac­cords top slot to peo­ple's voices. In re­al­ity, INGO sin Nepal script for al­most ev­ery­thing Nepalis do! Lit­tle won­der then that Nepal has ex­pe­ri­enced a dys­func­tional sys­tem through­out the 11 and a half years of “lok­tantra”. INGOs stepped in to “train” law­mak­ers to learn English, use com­put­ers and learn from the “ex­pe­ri­ences of suc­cess­ful democ­ra­cies”. Lawyers and the ju­di­ciary were also af­fected in sim­i­lar man­ner. Ram­pant cor­rupt­ing of NGOs through easy money for any bum that at­tracted the fund­ing agen­cies' at­ten­tion in ex­change of com­pli­ance with the task of play­ing the tune that suited the pay­mas­ter led to laws, con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments be­ing changed with speed and with­out much de­bate thanks to po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists tapped by the agen­cies. ADUL­TER­ATED KIND­NESS: These are dark, dis­mal times. Funds are not in­spired by unadul­ter­ated kind­ness. For that mat­ter even the “United Na­tions” ban­ner turns sus­pect at times. Nepalis can't for­get how the United Mis­sion in Nepal that su­per­vised the in­mates at can­ton­ments that housed for­mer armed mil­i­tants fielded by the Maoists dur­ing the decade-long in­sur­gency had over­looked the in­flated fig­ure of the in­mates they were guard­ing. Not a dozen or a hun­dred but as many 3,000 in­mates listed for sev­eral years turned out to be non-ex­is­tent. Yet the State had been pay­ing for the sus­te­nance of these non-ex­ist­ing “in­mates” all along. In the course of the Maoist in­sur­gency, INGOs pur­sued mem­bers of the “peace talks” process and man­aged to at­tract with fat fees some of them in ex­change for “anal­y­sis” on the back­ground and the “road ahead”. They also reached civil so­ci­ety lead­ers, jour­nal­ists, hu­man rights ac­tivists and politi­cians who were thought to be close to the ne­go­tia­tors. Most INGOs do not abide by lo­cal laws. Some of them are reg­is­tered at the For­eign Min­istry, which serves as a back­door to the INGOs that wish to avoid the “rig­ma­role” in­volved when reg­is­ter­ing at the so­cial ser­vices na­tional co­or­di­na­tion coun­cil. In short, these INGOs should be ef­fec­tively warned not to play lo­cal pol­i­tics and re­frain from “gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion”. If they fail, they should be packed them off, and have ex­posed lo­cal NGOs that cry the loud­est over their de­par­ture.

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