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A program organized to discuss and reflect on issues concerning regulation on civil society organizations and develop concrete suggestions on the draft Social Welfare and Development bill. Photo: JuRI/IM

IM’s partner Justice and Rights Institute- Nepal (JuRI) reviews Social Welfare and Development bill and forwards recommendation to the government

Published 29 June 2017

In the ever-changing context of Nepal, there needs to be a favorable environment for civil societies to play an active role.

In Nepal, civil societies played an instrumental role in transitioning into peace after the end of 10-year armed conflict. Their role was also fundamental in filling the governance vacuum during the 20 years period when Nepal government continuously failed to hold local level elections. Civil societies will continue to play an important role under the new federal structure in deepening democratic norms and values in the governance structures at all level by acting as a watchdog and informing the public. As the country moves from one political phase to another, undermining the role of civil society and restricting their space for civic engagement can adversely affect the country's development.

The Government of Nepal has formulated initial draft Social Welfare and Development bill aiming to replace existing Social Welfare Act, 2049. This bill will determine the space for civic engagement and future of civil societies. To ensure that voices and concerns of civil societies were also taken into account before finalization of the bill, IM's national advocacy partner JuRI-Nepal reviewed the draft in view of fundamental freedoms (e.g. freedom of association) guaranteed under the Constitution and International human rights treaties to which Nepal is a party. A discussion program was jointly organized by JuRI-Nepal, Good Governance Foundation, and Institute for Governance and Development. The program was intended to offer an interactive platform for civil society stakeholders to reflect on the issues concerning the regulation of civil society organizations and develop concrete suggestions on the draft bill. Some of the suggestions include, adopting a consultative process for formulating law governing civil societies, creating an independent institutional mechanism to oversee civil societies, easing the process for institution registration and affiliation as well as authorization for funding support, consulting with the public while identifying development focus areas, abide by the definition of development declared by United Nation’s Right to Development and so on. The team compiled over 30 issues and recommendations put forward by the members of civil societies and legal experts, which was submitted to the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare on 5 May 2017.

In the ever-changing context of Nepal, there needs to be a favorable environment for civil societies to play an active role. Civil society stakeholders have raised serious concerns over the shrinking space and role for civil societies. The team hopes that this initiative will be received positively and appeals to prepare a bill that will promote enabling environment where the civil societies will be able to collaborate with the government.