Orientation to government officials on RTI

Background:

MAG in support of UN Women has been implementing the project entitled ‘ “Leveraging Right to Information against Trafficking and Unsafe Migration in the Post- Disaster Reconstruction” in the three earthquake-affected districts Sindhupalchowk, Dhading, and Kathmandu.
As a part of this project, MAG organized ‘Orientation to Government Officials on RTI (with information officers and local representatives) on 8th February 2018 at Yak Palace, Pulchowk, Lalitpur. The orientation was targeted to the information officers of government offices and local representatives with the aim of strengthening their knowledge and understanding on the RTI.

Objective:
• To raise awareness of duty bearers, raise their accountability towards right holders and contribute to the sustainability of this project by building ownership.
• To build the capacity of government officials so that they can support and impart complete and correct information to those seeking information.

Methodology:
• Presentations by experts on issues relating to Human Trafficking, Unsafe Migration and the nexus between these two
• Open Floor Discussion
• Feedback and suggestions collection from participants

Participants:
The program witnessed a total of 33 participants excluding MAG members. The participants included information officers from related ministries and metropolitan city, local representatives, chairperson and members of the administrative court and media persons among others. The chief guest of the programme was Hon. Yashoda Timsina, Information Commissioner, NIC.
Segregated data of participants:
Dalit    Janajati    Chhetri    Brahmin     Female      Male       Total
2              9                 10             12                  12              21             33

Programme proceedings:
Ms. Babita Basnet, President of MAG facilitated the overall program. She gave a brief presentation on the objective of the program, updates and future plans of MAG. Then she requested Mr. Nabin Kumar Shrestha, representative of FWLD to share his presentation on Nexus between Human Trafficking and Foreign Employment.

i) Presentation on Nexus between Human Trafficking and Foreign Employment-
Nabin Kumar Shrestha, Program Manager, FWLD
Mr. Shrestha explained how their organization is reviewing laws and policies related to trafficking and migration and also informed that they have already developed the first draft of the findings. Then, he presented in summary, the findings of their study. For instance, Human Trafficking and Transportation Act, 2007 and Foreign Employment Act, 2007 are not able to interlink the concept of trafficking for labor exploitation. According to him, the definition of exploitation in that Act does not include labor exploitation. He further added that the Act has defined human trafficking and human transportation separately and Acts such as voluntary prostitution and visiting prostitution have been defined as trafficking despite clear differences between them in terms of intent and harm. Thus, he asserted that FWLD is making their study of the laws and policies related to migration and trafficking such that it will be helpful to lobby for amendment in the existing laws and policies to make it more clear and inclusive.

ii) Presentation on RTI in relation to Labour Migration, Trafficking and Post Disaster Relief Recovery-
Hon. Kashi Raj Dahal, Constitutional expert, and Chairperson, Administrative Court
Mr. Dahal shared that the problems of human trafficking and exploitation in migration are prevalent in the World, not only Nepal. So, the World’s attention should be to control this issue. He suggested that we should learn and take examples from those countries that have been following the best practices. He linked RTI with 3P’s. The first ‘P’ is Prosecution where justice can only be given to the prosecution of the culprit. The second ‘P’ is Protection of the victims and the third ‘P’ is Prevention. But in order to implement all these 3P’s we need information. Information as to why, how, where, who, when. He said that he has added a fourth ‘P’ as Partnership and elaborated its importance in today’s world. Where everything is interlinked, partnership and networking are a must. He suggested that partnership should be made between different ministries while reviewing and amending the acts and policies. The changes in the laws and policies should be brought into knowledge of all the concerned stakeholders. He suggested that the Citizens should utilize their Right to Information to make the government transparent and accountable. However, to achieve this demand and supply of information should be at equilibrium, he added.

iii) Inputs from-
Mr. Dorendra Niraula, Information Officer, MoWCSW
Mr. Niraula highlighted that the rate of internal trafficking is increasing in comparison to external trafficking. He informed that to combat this issue the Children Welfare Committee has been making sure that the rescued children are only sent to those institutions which have been marked safe by the committee and this is being executed in all the 75 districts. MoWCSW has also joined hands with the Nepal Police and increased the number of check posts especially in the border areas, he mentioned. He told that the victims when cheated during foreign employment, get confused as to where should they go for reporting. This confusion is created by the unclear acts and policies. Nepal Police shift their responsibility to the Foreign Employment Board to give justice to the victims and vice versa, he added. From this, it can be seen that the weakness is sighted at the policy level itself and needs improvement and changes, he suggested.

iv) Inputs from-
Mr. Mohan Adhikari, Information Officer, Department of Foreign Employment
Mr. Adhikari discussed that an Act should be formed interlinking Trafficking, Employment, and RTI altogether. He also shared that despite welfare fund is set for the victims of foreign employment; it can only be applicable to those victims who went to foreign employment through the legal process. He also asserted that the major challenge to apply this fund for the welfare of the victims of foreign employment is that majority of Nepalese go through illegal channels. He informed that their department is now conducting surveillance of the manpower companies in Nepal. He also shared his personal experience as an information officer and proclaimed that during his tenure only one person had come to file an application on RTI. He further added that the applicant though filed the application never came to take the information.

Feedback from Participants:
• Coordination should be established between the Ministry of Employment and Labour and Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in order to address the nexus between foreign employment and trafficking and enact laws and policies accordingly.
• The government should make a separate budget for violence-related matters.
• Campaigns should be conducted to raise awareness on RTI so that citizens will start demanding their right.
• Victims of trafficking have to go through the lengthy bureaucratic procedure to find justice and compensation which discourages the victims to report the cases. Thus, the simple and clear process should be instituted.

Conclusion:
Hon. Yashoda Timsina concluded the orientation program by giving her valuable insights on RTI. She shared that everyone present in the program must be feeling that they are information givers as they are information officers but they are equally eligible to receive information as well. As a Nepalese citizen, each and every Nepali has the right to seek information and in doing so it creates a well-informed society. She said that the government is liable to disclose information every three months and being a responsible citizen, it is our duty to demand information that is important to us. She ended her discussion by giving an example of Bill Gates and explained how he became rich not because of money but because of information. She concluded her remarks declaring ‘Information’ as ‘Power’.

News Coverage:

विपदपछि बैदेशिक रोजगार तथा मानव वेचविखनमा महिला हिंसा र यौन शोषण बढ्यो : MAG