Nepali Times
Life Times
Nepal's UN mission has its work cut out  


Here in Geneva, surrounded by news of Europe's falling economy and rising unemployment, a woman with a baby holds out a cup in the train near the Nepal mission to the UN, and an elderly man begs for spare change on the sidewalk.

The United Nations in Geneva which is supposed to raise living standards of developing countries is increasingly finding itself in the midst of joblessness and poverty in its own vicinity.

In a recent Gallup Poll on countries where residents rated their lives as 'highest in suffering', Nepal topped the list, beating Afghanistan. But Shanker Das Bairagi, Nepal's newly-appointed ambassador to the UN in Geneva (pic, above), is optimistic, and says we must look at the positives.

"There will always be problems, no matter how developed a nation is. The difference will be the nature and depth of the problem," he says.

Given the many problems Nepal has, including the constitutional deadlock, what is the mission's priority now?
"Things aren't as bleak as people make it out to be," says Bairagi, "yes, we face some difficulty in having a new constitution within the prescribed time frame, but we have an interim constitution in place and it looks like Nepal might possibly achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015."

Indeed, Nepal's progress in basic health and primary education has been recognised by the Untied Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as showing the sharpest improvement among low-income countries. But Bairagi has his work cut out for him here in Geneva: to ensure that Nepal remains committed to human rights instruments that it has ratified, and to promote development through trade.

The Permanent Mission represents Nepal at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, one of four major offices of the UN around the world that houses the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It maintains bilateral diplomatic relations with Switzerland, Italy, and Croatia and also seeks to serve diaspora Nepalis in the area, and promote Nepal as a tourist destination.

Bairagi says while political awareness runs high in Nepal with the media and civil society actively engaging in public debate, there isn't enough done to promote economic development, and prioritise agriculture.

Last year, Nepal coordinated the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Nations in Istanbul with Bairagi in the expert-level committee. There are still 48 countries on the 'least developed' list, and the goal is to halve the number by 2020. Maldives has already graduated, and a few others are close to meeting the requirements.

"Nepal's performance has not been bad," Bairagi says carefully, "but we need national commitment and efficient implementation of policies. The planning and strategies are down on paper, the question is of action and partnership."

Bairagi finds a lot of work has to do with trade-led growth, and joining other developing nations in the negotiations at multilateral trade fora for duty-free, quota-free, non-restrictive access to markets in developed nations. The career diplomat has served at the UN in New York and at the EU in Brussels. He helped set up the Nepali embassy in Canberra.

Bairagi adds: "It is important to have a national target with the goal of being self-sufficient. And this can only be achieved with a right mix of policies, institutions and resources."

Without that, Nepal seems fated to remain one of the few countries from Asia in the list of 'least developed' countries for some time yet.

1. Carl
I like Mr. or Ms. PHOBOO's article about FUBR country.

2. R.S.T
At the present growth rate that Nepal is achieving, will take more than 28 Years to graduate from LDC according to the UN document itself where as it is almost sure that Bangladesh will graduate within this decade. Bhutan will probably be graduating in 2013.  So, as long as  political situation does not improve, there will be no breakthrough in other domains of the country and we will be bound to live as a 'Least Developed people" of a world.. If this situation persist there is a better chance for Nepal to lead LDC in another decade also.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)