ACHYUT LUITEL, chair of the Association of International NGOs in Nepal, is close to completing his tenure after leading the organization during a very crucial and fragile period. As a chair, Luitel saw many many ups and downs within and outside the AIN. Before leaving the office, Luitel spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues and challenges ahead. Excerpts:
You are close completing your tenure as the chair of AIN. How do you view the organization’s challenges now?
I saw a lot of external problems for the AIN during my tenure. The general and project agreements of many non-governmental organizations were kept in pending files at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare Council for months. This created problems for our member organizations. We felt that the development space for INGOs shrunk. We met the prime minister, the concerned officials, including chief secretary, and the donors to resolve the crisis.
Recently, volley of complaints have been thrown against NGOs and INGOs regarding their role, particularly on the issue of federalism. How do you look at this?
I too read so many complaints coming out against NGOs and INGOs, particularly on the issue of ethnic based federalism. Political players are blaming us for supporting the ethnic-based agenda. But, I don’t see AIN’s member organizations as involved in such agenda.
Then, why is there this accusation?
As you know, the approach of INGOs is to take up the development agenda with an inclusive approach. Even during the period of violent conflict, INGOs played a very important role by carrying out development activities in the rural and interior parts of Nepal. During the conflict period when the government was constrained within the fences of the district headquarters, INGOs and NGOs continued development works in the remote parts of Nepal, championing the development agenda on an equal footing. However, I can say that no INGO has any intention to destroy the social harmony existing in the country. I think this is a very unfair blame against INGOs. Our positive approach is misinterpreted. We need to clarify this. We also need to put our work in a transparent manner, so that we can challenge those who are involved in the blame game.
How do you assess the present situation?
In the modern history of Nepal, we have been passing through a very critical moment. The country is in a major transition as we failed to produce the new constitution by the deadline. In this context, each and every element might look at this as the right time to push their own agenda. This may be the reason one tries to blame the other for the failure. Thus, what is required for us is to walk very cautiously in reaching to the marginalized, poor and most vulnerable population. Our aim is to bring the marginalized and poor community in the mainstream of development. We need to clarify if there is misreporting or misinterpretation.
What is the status of AIN now?
There are hundred and one INGOs associated with AIN as members. According to an estimate, AIN members contribute approximately not less than NRs. 10 billion annually. This is approximately 6% of the development budget, 12% of foreign aid, 15% of foreign grants, 45% of foreign loans of the current fiscal year (2010 figures). INGOs contribution is not a pledge but a true commitment.
Politicians, policy makers and government officials are stressing that Nepal needs more hardware programs. How do you look at this?
At our recent meeting, prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai advised us to focus more on hardware based programs. The prime minister also said that people are expecting immediate fruits of development and INGOs should work to implement the programs which can create employment opportunities. We understand the guidelines of the prime minister. For instance, my institution, the Practical Action, focuses on hardware projects. There are many other INGOs, which also focus on hardware for carrying development agenda. Some INGOs are, of course, working in the software side, which is also equally important for development works in Nepal.