The government should recognize I/NGOs as a development partner: Neupane

govinda-neupaneKathmandu: Govinda Neupane is a well-known name in the field of I/NGOs as he has worked in it for many years in the senior level. Currently, he is serving as the Country Director of IM Swedish Development Partner. He has witnessed the scenario of the development sector for a long time and contributed towards positive development in the lives of poor and oppressed people of Nepal. In a chat with Nepalekhabar, he shared his experiences and general environment of this sector. Here are excerpts:

Can you share with us about the activities your organization is doing at the moment?

Our organization is Swedish Organization. This is a well-known Swedish civil society organization which has been working with support from the Swedish government and 47 thousand individual donors. The fund is being spent in 12 countries including Nepal. In Asia, we have been working in India and Nepal.

The organization was established with the objective of supporting refugees in the wake of World War II. The organization started its operation by providing humanitarian support to refugees and has been continuing it. It started its operation in Nepal in 2007 and in 2010 it signed agreement with Social Welfare Council and started working formally in Nepal.

Our major areas of focus are Education, Economic Empowerment, Earthquake recovery and strengthening of Civil Society organizations. Currently we have been working in five districts including Kathmandu.

Many organizations (INGOs) are also working in these areas, so how do you collaborate with them and avoid duplication?

Currently I am also serving as a member of AIN steering committee and our organization has been its member for a long time. We have been coordinating with AIN members in all the districts for implementing programmes. Before implementation, we do mapping on what other organizations have been doing in these areas and collaborate from the very beginning from beneficiary selection to project implementation.

AIN has developed a guideline for coordination which helps avoid duplication. We (all member organizations) need to follow the guideline. Apart from the AIN guideline, we also have our own guideline and working procedure for collaboration with other organizations. In our case, we work for collaboration and aid effectiveness, so we don’t have any problems. At the district level, we have been coordinating with different organizations working on different thematic areas to avoid duplication and create synergy. We give priority to coordination.

Your organization might be coordinating, but there is a general perception that I/NGOs lack effective coordination and there is duplication of work. What is your take on it?

Coordination is an issue for AIN, which is the umbrella organization of the over 140 organizations. AIN has developed different mechanisms for effective coordination but these mechanisms are not always followed. In the case of earthquake recovery, there was some repetition in the activities of different organizations but there is not much duplication in regular programmes. In the case of earthquake recovery, different organizations worked in same areas but while working in the same area they worked on different thematic areas. For example, some organizations provided supported for shelter construction while some provided NFIs and other support, so, although it seemed there was duplication while observing from far, there was no duplication at the activity level. The situation is not as severe as reported in the media. There might have been some issues which we need to improve in the future.

However, there is a strong need of strengthening the coordination mechanism. Some I/NGOs have been bypassing the system and not doing proper coordination, rather they are competing with other organizations, which we need to improve. In regular development programmes the duplication is negligible as most of the organizations know who is doing what and plan accordingly – as these development programs are long term programmes. At the national level, AIN is coordinating, while at the district level we also have some coordination mechanism, which needs to be strengthened in the future.

It is said that administrative cost of most of the I/NGOs is very high as compared to the support provided to the communities. What is your reaction on it?

Yes there is blame about it but there is no clear definition of administrative cost. While getting approval from SWC we promise to maintain the ratio of admin cost and program cost at 20 and 80 percent and we are managing it in general. However sometimes we need to spend more money for coaching partners, for their capacity building and fundraising, which will help to sustain local initiatives. So, if we take this as administrative cost it will be high but it is actually not, as it is for the project and community. The definition of administrative cost is not clear. However, the admin cost could be high for small projects, which I/NGOs should avoid.

Similarly, there is blame for not maintaining balance between software and hardware component, what is your take on this?

Hardware and software is also an issue. We through AIN have been talking with the ministries on how to maintain balance on it. I/NGOs are civil society organizations and the government also has a responsibility, so I/NGOs can’t do all hardware related works like big construction. We focus on awareness raising and civic education among others and also support some small development projects. The government should understand that software component is essential for sustaining hardware. For example if we construct schools we also need to raise awareness about its proper use and sustainability. In livelihoods project we can’t see the hardware part but people are earning money and sustaining themselves, so the government needs to be clear on what it actually means by hardware. The state also has the responsibility and it is upon them to construct big hardware projects with I/NGOs complimenting via the software part and also with some hardware. We need to balance the contribution of government and I/NGOs.

As you have been working in the field of I/NGOs for a long time, are you satisfied from the work you have been doing and the other I/NGOs in general? What could be done to make the work more effective?

We (my current organization and the organizations I worked in the past) have been doing well so I am satisfied with my work. However, it is not that we have done enough and there is no need for further intervention. We have been changing the lives of people like raising awareness and contributing in the sector of health, education, awareness raising and livelihoods. The main thing is that the government should recognize I/NGOs as a development partner not only as dollar kheti (producing dollars or dollar factory). The government has been regulating I/NGOs which is good but they should not generalize and put all I/NGOs in one basket. While some organizations may not have done well, the majority of them have been doing well and the government should do regular monitoring on them. The government should differentiate between good I/NGOs and bad I/NGOs. On the part of I/NGOs, they should be more transparent, do good coordination at the local level and work on rights based approach for sustainability. Similarly, they should focus on more long term activities.

Do you feel that the government is supportive of I/NGOs or what are the challenges in dealing with them?

Generally, the government is supportive but there are some bureaucratic hurdles including new SWC directives. Government officials get impressed during field visits and also produce very good reports but they have not been incorporating it to their mechanisms. They are supportive as they are helping I/NGOs for fundraising and implementation of its activities. However, they are not doing timely monitoring and are grouping all I/NGOs in one basket rather than treating different I/NGOs differently.

Regarding the relation between I/NGOs and NGOs, generally the environment is good but we need to be transparent and work together for bringing positive results. We need to further strengthen the relation in the days to come, so, we are working at AIN and NGO Federation level to improve it.

Do you have any message to the readers?

As the role of I/NGOs is important in our country, all stakeholders like the government, media and civil society organizations should acknowledge the contribution of I/NGOs. Additionally, if a more positive environment is provided for I/NGOs, it will help further strengthen democracy. The media should also make field visits and bring factual stories rather than just speculating. The civil society is part of democracy and it should be promoted.

(Editor’s Note: How do you find this interview? Please send your comments to editor@nepalekhabar.com or editor.nepalekhabar@gmail.com. We believe that I/NGOs have greatly contributed for the positive change in the lives of Nepali people, so we want to give good coverage to their work. If you have your views on it, please share it with us.)

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