Nepali Times
Here And There
Attention all aid-o-crats


I\'m told that development types have been feeling complacent lately. They can open their Nepali Times each Friday morning without fear of attack on page four.

Inside sources in various developmental agencies tell me that a great sigh of relief was heaved when I left the Himalayan kingdom.

And since then, my ranting and raving has been confined to various international issues that leave the aid-o-crats of Nepal free to confuse and obfuscate as they see fit.

Ha, no longer. For this week, a challenge goes out. The same agencies-bilateral, charitable, UN, World Bank, IMF and so on-that cheered the king's takeover in late 2002 have had a plethora of excuses since then for sitting on their behinds in Kathmandu, blithely sending Nepalis off to the field to do what work they have outside the capital.

They've commissioned study after study and avoided political reality-that there can be no development without democracy. This should be self evident, even to aid officials and diplomats who blindly and mistakenly saw opportunity in King Gyanendra's October surprise. Two incompetent governments run by royal fiat have come and gone. Civil war continues to rage. Civil society either feels too powerless to intervene or meanders leaderless in the political ether of present-day Nepal. Poverty intensified. Inequalities are addressed increasingly through violence. Human rights are an abstract notion at best, widely ignored.

But changes have begun. A broad-based government of political parties, women, castes and regions sits in Singha Darbar, allegedly with executive authority from an evidently chastened king. There's talk of constituent assemblies, ceasefires and peace negotiations resumed.

Aid agencies must rise to the challenge. They must throw every effort into assuring that this very real opportunity to stop the entropy and reverse Nepal's long decline is not wasted. Real field work must now resume. Projects have to reach the needy and jobs need to be created from one end of Nepal to the other. Build roads, open health clinics, teach people political rights, do anything to spread the word that this could be the country's last chance.

If I had my way, it would be the last chance for the expensive consultants, privatisers, conflict resolution types, civil society specialists, inclusionists and all the other wealthy tinkerers who flock to the international teat in this country. They've presided over disaster after disaster. The country has become poorer on their watch, and they continue to blame Nepal and Nepalis for that. Oh for the day when an aid person actually sees a decline in income and career status when he or she leaves a country poorer or less developed than it was on arrival.

Let's have no more taking credit for the gains of democracy in the 1990s-media freedoms, indigenous human rights groups, legal reform courtesy of Sapana Pradhan Malla, Mandira Sharma and other courageous lawyers. Let the foreigners prove themselves by backing civil society and peace and widespread, inclusive development throughout this land on an intense and sustained basis.

Let's see some well manicured international hands covered with the dirt of effort, and some honest appraisals of the results. And in this I know I speak for millions of Nepalis. You've lived here and profited during Nepal's agony. Now put something back. Or go home.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)