Robust civic space is crucial for good governance and accountability, say experts

Academicians, political leaders, youth activists,  and civil society representatives express concerns over the erosion of democratic principles and values and shrinking civic space.

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Representatives from political parties, civil society organizations, and the media sector have said that Nepal’s civic space has shrunk over the years due to excessive partisanship and fear among intellectuals to raise questions against powerful politicians.

In an interactive discussion on “Accountability, Governance, and Protection of Civic Space in Nepal” held in Kathmandu, participants highlighted the need for a vibrant and functional civic space to ensure a functioning democracy and to hold public officeholders accountable.

In the program, the leader of Nepal Samajbadi Party, Manushi Yami Bhattarai, said  that the erosion of civic spaces in the country is the result of excessive political partisanship, leading to the degradation of the value of neutrality and hindering civic engagement. She further mentioned that the lack of credible institutions has contributed to the rising level of public frustrations. Bhattarai emphasized that a vibrant civic space is essential to enhance public trust in the political system and to consolidate democracy.

Ramesh Adhikari, a federalism and governance expert, remarked, “In comparison to other South Asian countries, our civic spaces are more open and vibrant. However, the overall situation cannot be deemed satisfactory.” He further added that the civil society must remain vigilant, committed, and proactive to hold political leaders accountable and make them answerable.

Siromani Dhungana, editor of Nepal Live Today, a comprehensive English-language news portal, pointed out that civil society resources have been significantly constrained due to economic slowdown and other reasons, thereby limiting independent civic activities. “As a result, the ability of civil society to engage in meaningful public discourse has drastically shrunk,” he said, adding that Nepal’s core institutions, responsible for delivering public service and ensuring justice, have been compromised. 

“Powerful politicians, government representatives, and bureaucrats have remained indifferent even to genuine grievances of the public. In any functional democracy, public grievances should be redressed on a priority basis.”

Pranav Bhattarai, a governance expert, said: “Nepal’s civic spaces have evolved over time. Post-federalism, however, has witnessed diminished the functionalities of our civic organizations.” This may be because of the transition process to a federal system and structures.”

The event was organized by Nepal Center for Integrated Development (NCID), a research and advocacy organization based in Kathmandu.