[From AIN Press Release on Jan 11, 2912]
With regard to widespread ignorance about the role of INGOs in Nepal, AIN, the Association of International NGOs, would like to share this notice with all the stakeholders: media, civil society, general public and the political parties.
Media has not been of help to explain what INGOs do because it tends to start with the assumption that 'INGOs must be bad' and then, without digging into facts and figures, selects and highlights examples and stories to support that assumption, further making a bad situation worse.
According to Social Welfare Council (SWC), there are 270 registered INGOs in Nepal. Of these, as of January 2013, only 109 INGOs or about 40 % are AIN's members. AIN accepts new members if they meet all the 10 membership criteria, which include subscription to the principles of AIN. These principles are: transparency, accountability and diversity.
Bilateral agencies and multilateral organizations are often mistakenly called INGOs by the media and the general public. In 2010, according to OECD (2012), multilateral and bilateral aid made up 99 % of the total global aid flow, while I/NGO aid made up only 1 % of total aid. That gives one an idea that in terms of the total aid volume, how relatively small I/NGO aid is.
In Nepal, it has been estimated that of the total aid volume, I/NGO aid makes up no more than 8 or 9 %.The government of Nepal is far the largest beneficiary of aid.
Unlike what is portrayed by media and in the public, INGOs do relatively small-scale development work: literacy, rights awareness, water and sanitation, livelihood interventions, health, disaster management etc. INGOs do not invest their funds on building large-scale infrastructure such as highways and hydropower plants and factories. Through needed small-scale work, INGOs focus on enhancing the capabilities of local communities that are often made up of poor, marginalized and vulnerable people. The aim of INGOs' work is to enable the poor people to better take part in the development process. INGOs work where the market mechanism is absent and where the government can do more with assistance.
As such, INGOs do relief work, humanitarian work, community-level service delivery and advocacy work. Because the number of INGOs is big (270 registered INGOs), people mistakenly think that all development is done only by INGOs -- when the truth is different.
In general, given that INGOs face extensive reporting requirements from the SWC, from their donors and from their headquarters, they have no choice but to be like fish in an aquarium and be as transparent as possible. This is to say that far as INGOs' accountability and transparency are concerned, INGOS are accountable to their donors as well as to the Nepal government through their regulator, which is SWC.
As per the laws of Nepal, the INGO sector is governed by the Social Welfare Act 2049.
As per the laws, it is mandatory for all INGOs to submit their annual financial audit reports to the SWC. All AIN members are registered with SWC and they abide by SWC's rules and regulations.
INGOs do not work directly in the field. They work with NGO partners, which are Nepali-run NGOs. INGOs advise, fund and monitor the work of local NGOs.
INGOs are in Nepal to support the government's effort at community development. INGOs report their work's results to SWC, and all stages of their development work are first approved by the Project Advisory Facilitation Committee (PAFC) at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
AIN wants to re-emphasize that donors, like the SWC, demand accountability. Headquarters of INGOs want accountability. The local and national government institutions and local beneficiaries want accountability. Well-respected INGOs with offices in many countries do not find it in their interest to hide from and dodge various and regular accountability checks, and that should be and is the norm. Donors evaluate the output, outcome and the impact of INGOs' work, which is done through Nepali NGOs. Donors are not fools who like being cheated and manipulated with nice reports.
INGOs provide a level of assurance to donors that their funds are being used well. INGOs compete globally for funds to bring into Nepal, and to win such grants, an INGO's reputation matters. No serious mainstream INGO wants to take risk with its reputation.
Above all, donors want value for their money, and the reporting and the auditing standards they have set are very high. Donors have their own policies and protocols, which their grantees such as INGOs adhere to. Globally, there are Paris, Accra and Busan declarations with regard to what aid communities can do and cannot. Given all these checks and balances, it is hard to accept that, without solid evidence on the contrary, INGOs routinely misuse funds at will.