To orient their future engagement in Nepal, donors now need a medium term 'peace and development plan' based on the existing Poverty Reduction Strategy and on the Medium Term Expenditures Framework adjusted as necessary to take into account the economic and fiscal impact of the recent events.
The transitional plan should include:
. Programs targeted at victims of the conflicts, political prisoners and their families
. Promotion of human rights, combined with inititiatives of reconciliation and transitional justice
. The return or the definitive relocation of internally displaced persons
. Demobilisation and reintegration in the society of soldiers, policemen, Maoist combatants and political cadres
. Investment in physical and institutional rehabilitation representing a new era in the relations between the state and its citizens as well as between Katmandu Valley and the rest of the country. The diverse movements that constitute the civil society, women organisations and associations of discriminated minorities as well as organisations close to the Maoists should be actively associated to the definition of this medium term strategy.
At the end of the process, possibly by the end of this year, the program resulting from this large consultation could be submitted for support to the international community in a formal Nepal Peace and Development Forum. The armed conflict has a strong local character and is rooted in local development deficit. It is conducted among people that have known each other and effective development work can substantially contribute to the peace process. The first responsibility of development agencies therefore will be to ensure that development continues and whenever and wherever possible expands, while respecting the conflict sensitive principles defined in the basic operating guidelines.
During the peace talks, activities supported by donors should continue to reach remote areas including those solidly controlled by the Maoists. The implementation modalities should be carefully adapted to the ground situation, avoiding the creation of new tensions and ensuring full transparency through public auditing and review of results and actual allocation of expenditures. Activities should benefit the poor and discriminated groups to a substantial extent and ensure a balanced mix of short term measures during the transition period and medium/long term benefits.
Civil servants presently barred from rural areas by the Maoists should progressively find their way back to villages. The planning and the monitoring of development activities will also be an opportunity to engage the Maoists in a development dialogue that recognises the reality of their political and administrative strength in many partS of the country.
Ideally, development work and intermediation by foreign agencies will ensure that civil servants are once more accepted in rural areas and will establish working relationships with whomever the Maoists designate to follow and coordinate development work. Donor agencies should help establish or consolidate intermediaries that ensure people participation in deciding, planning and executing development initiatives.
Even in autocratic times, rural Nepal and districts municipalities have maintained a solid network of user group committees. In this phase of political transition these organisations offer opportunities to practice inclusion and diversity, while allowing all political forces present at the local level to follow and orient the allocation of budgetary and donors resources and to get acquainted with the practical and the policy aspects of development work.
It should be a central concern of donors agencies to strengthen these intermediary institutions and to try to make them more inclusive by giving voice to women and men that represent discriminated groups. At the same time, donors should try their best to defend and support the autonomy of community based groups (community forestry user groups, mothers groups etc) against the ideologically motivated interference of the Maoists, the electoral manipulation of the democratic parties and the paternalistic intrusion of the administration.
Donors should also be conscious of their responsibility in fostering good governance in districts, municipalities and village administrations as well as in local non-governmental organisations. Based on experiences so far, the practice of public auditing is likely to constitute an important tool in this effort to improve transparency and avoid misuse of funds.
Democratically legitimated DDCs, municipalities and VDCs should be reactivated urgently. In particular, VDCs could constitute an essential instrument in ensuring social and political integration of hundreds of Maoist cadres that have assumed de facto administrative responsibilities in the years of the armed struggle. Inclusive democracy and peaceful political competition will have to be established starting from the villages up.
J?rg Frieden is the Nepal director of Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) in Kathmandu.