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‘Social Service’ & INGOs

By P. Kharel
pkharel1UML’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 recordimproved. 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, INGOsin 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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