NEPAL: Proposed code of conduct an attempt to suppress civil society

A code of conduct for non-governmental organizations is currently being discussed in Nepal. Such a code, if put in place, will serve to drastically curtail the freedom of civil groups to engage in independent activities. It will add further to the repressive practices already imposed in all areas of life, particularly detrimental to the freedoms of expression and association.

Under the pretext of transparency, the provisions of the conduct restrict the receiving of international aid. Furthermore, organizations are now required to publish their financial reports in the newspapers, including the expenses of participating in international meetings. All financial transactions must be done only through commercial banks. The organisations’ executive committee members should work voluntarily without receiving any salaries or allowances, as should any international specialists.

According to the proposed rules of conduct, the staff of civil society organisations cannot be members of any political party. All staff and volunteers of such groups are expected to be courteous towards authority and are prohibited from participating in any activity that is against the government. In fact, all their activities must be conducted in coordination with the National Planning Commission. Furthermore, the proposal suggests that all civil society groups be brought under the supervision of the relevant village and district development committees.

It is clear that the purpose of this code is to exercise complete control over all activities of civil society organisations in Nepal, particularly those funded by international agencies. Far from resulting in the elimination of corruption, more foreign aid will now be available for the use of state and military officers, for whom the displacement of democracy will have made significant personal gains. The message given to civil society as well as international organisations is thus that they should either work with the government or not at all.

An important reason for the social and political crisis in Nepal is the enormous poverty prevalent throughout the country. In particular, it is the Dalits, indigenous groups and the rural and urban poor who live in the most appalling conditions. The restriction of foreign aid as well as the restrictive provisions of the suggested code will undoubtedly affect the assistance provided to these groups. The Asian Human Rights Commission urges for all concerned groups and individuals to speak against the passing of such a code. In fact, if the Nepalese authorities are concerned with the streamlining of civil society groups and international aid, a public discussion should be initiated.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-113-2005
Countries : Japan,