Many natural resource management (NRM) groups have been formed and are functioning to manage the local forest and water resources in Nepal after the promulgation of community-based natural resource management policies, acts, regulations and plans. Despite significant achievements in participatory resource management, the NRM groups have limited technical, organizational and advocacy capabilities to follow and influence the policies and guidelines and to manage the resources in an equitable and sustainable manner. The NRM groups tend to have low participation of women, poor and disadvantaged group; poor accountability of responsibility bearers towards the right holders, the general users. The financial transactions and major decisions are not much transparent to general users, resulting in poor predictability of NRM groups and their internal governance.
The weak institutional capacity of NRM groups is further limited by inadequate services of government extension bodies and other service providers due to bureaucratic hurdles, deteriorating security situation and limited knowledge and skills on current development concepts and approaches. The civil society organizations (CSOs), federations and association of NRM groups are the bodies to raise the voice of NRM groups for securing their rights to access and control over the local resources. However, they have limited capacity and linkage to advocate the issues at local, district, regional and national levels.
In this context, the Strengthened Actions for Governance in Utilization of Natural Resources (SAGUN) and Strengthening the Role of Civil Society and Women in Democracy and Governance (SAMARPAN) Programs have been under implementation since 2002. These are designed to address a specific objective, which envisages Strengthened Governance of Natural Resources and Selected Institutions.
SAGUN Program primarily focuses on enhancing the technical capacity and awareness on good governance practices in NRM groups, service providers, federations and associations. Complementarily, the SAMARPAN Program has focused on strengthening the advocacy capacity of NRM groups through various training, workshops, campaigns and awareness programs. CARE Nepal is the prime recipient of both programs.
In the course of conducting training, workshop and awareness programs on Good Governance, Rights Based Approach (RBA) and advocacy for different level of stakeholders many issues are raised, which have policy implications at micro (intra-group), meso (district) and macro (national) levels. These issues have implications to either 1) formulation of new policy, 2) amendment in the existing policy or 3) effective implementation of the existing policy.
The NRM groups, with the support from SAMARPAN and SAGUN Programs, are resolving the micro level issues to some extent through identification of issues and preparation and implementation of the action plans. Increased representation of women, poor and disadvantaged groups in the executive committee of NRM groups and their active participation in the decision-making processes, increased availability of natural resources to poor, women and marginalized people are some of the achievements among many.
From the experience of SAMARPAN, SAGUN and their implementing partners, policy advocacy has been an important instrument to deliberately influence the policy makers for change in policies and their effective implementation to improve the livelihood of people, including women, poor and disadvantaged groups.
Specialized training and workshops, formation and effective functioning of constituencies and advocacy forums as a part of establishing policy advocacy system are some of the avenues that complement and build on SAGUN and SAMARPAN Programs for their sustainability and replication. In this context, the Policy Advocacy Campaign (PAC) program is being conducted by FECOFUN since September 2005.