Where Is Civil Society?

The civil society in Nepal has been vital in the political transformation, and the promotion of peace and social harmony.

Sept. 10, 2017, 4:01 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL.11, No. 04, September 08, 2017 (Bhadra 23, 2074)

Nepal is in a process of profound changes, and the current post-conflict and post-new constitution process is an opportunity to build an inclusive state by reforming past systems and structures that have contributed to violent conflict and inequalities in the country.

The civil society in Nepal has been vital in the political transformation, and the promotion of peace and social harmony. Civil society organizations have made significant contributions in short-term humanitarian assistance and poverty relief to long-term poverty reduction. Their roles have been critical during the violent conflict and disasters in the country.

This article is questioning whether the civil society is asking the right question to the government and major political parties - on the issues of building democratic institutions and practices, deepening democratic values in society, and exercising of power by various levels of government.

Democratization and good governance are critical pillars to address the root causes and structural factors of poverty. Today, the country is facing serious challenges on these fronts. The civil society chooses to be quiet at many instances when there are attempts to irregularities in the government and wrongdoings by the political parties. However, media has played an important role generating mass awareness through news and views. Appreciation also goes to independent professionals for voicing people’s concerns at different times.

Let me raise here a couple of issues:

Where is civil society when lawmakers of various parties have proposed that the law does not bar convicts of corruption and other criminal cases from contesting elections? There have been reportedly serious irregularities in recent government purchase of land, medical college affiliation and tax settlement. Why is civil society laid back on politico-corruption nexus?

Where is civil society on political appointments when the right person was not appointed to the right job to various state bodies? There are good people, but many of the positions have been filled with political affiliations and corrupt practices. Why is civil society silent on abuse of power and wrong appointments?

Where is civil society on a tendency of political parties and Kathmandu bureaucracy to curb the power of local government? The local government should now be providing 60% of development services to local people on health, education, water supply, sanitation, roads, agriculture and disaster management. There are lacks of staffing and slow delivery of services despite additional resources. Why is civil society silent on the interference of politico-trade unions pushing Nepal sliding down to centralized federalism?

Well these are some of the key concerns of general public. There are devils in the details.

It’s our common responsibility to voice for democratization and good governance. The civil society should not become a victim of politico-propaganda that has forced it into silence. The basic condition is that the civil society has to be apolitical.

Dr.Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is the Convener of ACT Alliance Nepal Forum and the former Chair of Association of International NGOs in Nepal (AIN). He is also a visiting faculty at the Kathmandu University. He can be reached at prabin.manandhar11@gmail.com

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