Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we’re highlighting Pratigya Neupane, program coordinator for the National Association of Rural Municipalities of Nepal (NARMIN).
What inspired you to get involved in advocacy work?
From early childhood, I was quite concerned about the poor people I saw, and people with disabilities. At the time I didn’t understand the dynamics of our country, the difference between rich and poor and what real interventions were needed to address (the inequities).
Your passion for these issues led you to become a teacher at universities in Kathmandu and then an activist. Tell me about your career.
I spent 13 years teaching at 5 different universities in Kathmandu. I taught rural development and social work, local economics and planning, civic rights, local governance and many other topics. I still teach in the mornings.
I also spent two years working as a gender development officer in SOLVE-Nepal, an NGO, and as a program coordinator promoting local level governance.
Nepal has a big portion of the population (living) below the poverty line and struggling hand to mouth. While I was teaching, I made up my mind to apply the knowledge and skills I learnt in the classrooms in the surrounding community to bring change to the lives of people in my community, especially people below the poverty line and most importantly women and the marginalized groups. I realized that if we really want to see positive and qualitative changes in the lives of marginalized people, we must support strengthening the governance system of the country especially at sub-national level from which people receive most goods and services.
In 2015, Nepal transformed its government to a system of federalism, which decentralized power, and tapped NARMIN to become an umbrella organization for 460 rural municipalities which now form the local government. Tell me about that.
The Constitution of Nepal, 2015 envisions the country as a federal republic having three tiers – federal, provincial, and local level. It defines constitutionally guaranteed exclusive and concurrent power and functions for all three tiers; and each tier is authorized to exercise legislative, executive, and judicial power. The provincial and local laws must be coherent with the federal laws, policies, and standards. As of now, the local governments are working to clarify ambiguities in the roles of institutions at each level, develop internal capacities, enact framework legislations on a variety of sectoral functions, and promote inclusive growth.
It’s a very new system which is why we need to develop the capacity of local government, especially leadership and local legislators. Local governments manage public finance at the local level. Their primary responsibility is local level programming, budget planning and implementation and to harmonize with federal and provincial plans. At NARMIN, we help bolster intergovernmental coordination in line with the intergovernmental coordination and relations (IGR) Act. We are also trying to increase the representation and participation of women and marginalized in committees related to budget cycle at the local level.
As program coordinator, I am responsible for developing programs and implementing trainings, training of trainers, orientation sessions and consulting work between governments.
How has IBP helped NARMIN with budget advocacy?
IBP organized a training with Freedom Forum that I attended. The main thing I learned there was how important budget analysis is – it’s a prime need in Nepal. And to promote open government partnerships at the local level, stakeholders need to be engaged from the very beginning of planning, designing, monitoring, evaluation and oversight (of the budget).
At the local level, we need to raise the people’s awareness that the programs and budget allocations are not a gift from the government – they are allocated from your taxes! So that’s why you have the right to ask about allocations and expenditures.