There are around 35,000 registered NGOs in Nepal – a dramatic growth from merely a few hundred back in the early 1990s – and they carry out activities in all thinkable sectors. The large amount of donor funds made available to “civil society” over the last two decades is part of what has triggered this growth.
You’ll find the comment here and there in many articles and reports: NGOs in Nepal are not located outside but inside the political sector. Many are linked with political parties. Just consider the following quote from a recent article on the web: “NGOs in Nepal are directly or indirectly affiliated with political parties. Even to date, CPN-UML is accused [of being] a NGO led political party.” UML has been especially known to link with NGOs, but most parties do.
It’s also a widespread observation that many NGOs are in fact family fiefs – closed circles – affiliated with the parties of the individuals who lead them. Just consider another comment in the debate from a blog: “Syndicated membership, non-transparent working culture, weak internal control system, nepotism and family hegemony are some traits that best characterize the composition of most NGOs in Nepal.”
It’s not a new tendency either. Already back in the 1990s, observers cautioned about the politicised nature of many NGOs. One study found – in a sample of districts – that most of the NGOs: “have linkages with the political parties and get project fund on the basis of their party being in power at the Centre and/or in the district.” On a more general note, the study concluded that: “Budget approval by the Ministry of Local Development shows some bias in favour of the ruling political parties by helping the NGOs registered by the suporters or workers of the party.” (CEDA, 1999, executive summary).
Over at nepaldemocracy.org is more background on the political role of NGOs in Nepal, such as “Is civil society a balancer of public power in Nepal?“, or at nepalresearch.com, such as: Long overdue: NGO sector reform.
Book reference above:
Kansakar, Vidya Bir Singh et al, 1999, NGOs’ Participation in Local Development in Nepal, Centre for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA), Kathmandu (book funded by Asia Foundation).