New Zealand's ambassador to Nepal, Jan Henderson, spoke to Nepali Times about her country's relations with Nepal and her visit next week for the opening of a new consulate office in Kathmandu.
Jan Henderson: Indeed, New Zealand has had a consulate in Kathmandu since 1980, reflecting the warm, positive and long standing relations between New Zealand and Nepal. The event on 12 June is to mark the shift of the New Zealand consulate to its new premises in Kathmandu, which should enable easier access and functionality. I am delighted to participate in the celebration of the move to the new office.
Which areas do you see the most potential to build on cooperation given the goodwill in New Zealand towards Nepal?
The 1953 ascent of Mt Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Mr Tenzing Norgay was a tremendously proud moment in our history. Sir Edmund Hillary was appointed as the New Zealand High Commissioner to Nepal from 1985-1989. The development work of his Himalayan Trust organisation forms an enduring legacy. And 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of Khumjung School which was the first school built by the Himalayan Trust in 1961. I was delighted to visit Nepal last year to participate in the Trust's anniversary celebrations.
The New Zealand government established the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship in 2008 to facilitate visits to New Zealand by young leaders from India and Nepal. We also have some valuable education connections: currently we have about a dozen postgraduate students from Nepal studying in New Zealand under the New Zealand Development Scholarship Scheme. There is potential for still closer cooperation, and some of the priority areas we are interested to develop include:
• Earthquake preparedness. Our countries share a vulnerability to earthquakes. This is an area where we could share experiences and expertise around building technology and disaster response.
• Eco-tourism. Our two countries are both welcoming to visitors. We share a strong interest in sustainable and environmentally sound development and in promoting and protecting our great natural scenery. We could explore what more we can do together to learn from each other on making our natural beauty easily accessible for visitors in a eco-friendly way.
Are there any other areas of development in Nepal that the New Zealand government would like to focus more on in the future?
The New Zealand government also supports activities run by New Zealand organisations with their partners in Nepal. Priority is given to sustainable economic development activities, but we also consider applications that focus on basic human needs, human development and disaster risk reduction activities.
What is your assessment of the on-going constitution process in Nepal?
The New Zealand government welcomes the process of reconciliation in Nepal and we encourage continued progress towards agreement on a new constitution.
What are some of New Zealand's own experiences with Maori rights that you think would be relevant for Nepal?
The Treaty of Waitangi [in 1840] is New Zealand's founding document and provides Maori with a particular status as co-partners with the Crown. The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa (meaning 'the land of the long white cloud'). We are proud of our bicultural heritage in New Zealand. Maori language schools and innovative community-based business initiatives are two areas which may be of interest to Nepal. We place a great deal of importance on inclusion: for Maori but also for other ethnic groups. Our parliament overall is increasingly diverse with growing representation by New Zealanders of Maori, Asian and Pacific Island origin.
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