If one carried out a survey among all women and men of Nepal asking them the question, "What are the two highest priorities for you personally and for the nation," the vast majority would probably say "peace and development". Peace and development are two sides of the same coin. Without peace there can be no development and without development no peace.
Apart from the undeniable political and ideological causes of the current conflict, there are legitimate grievances of the poor and excluded. They feel that they have hardly tasted the fruits of development and have lost hope and confidence in the capacity of the existing system to deliver services and provide them with the basic elements of a dignified life.
UNDP's Human Development Report 2001 draws attention to governance as the "missing link" in the current development situation of Nepal. Unless management of the development process becomes truly participatory at all levels, until those who are to deliver services are held accountable by those who are to be served, little progress will be made.
A democratic state with all its checks and balances enshrined in the constitution needs the support of civil society institutions to promote the value of transparency and accountability-and development-and individual rights. Civil society can and should play the role of an educator and watchdog at all levels of the country and also the role of social mobiliser and service deliverer all the way down to the level of communities and households where the state cannot reach.
We in the United Nations believe that our Millenium Development Goals have the potential to transform the world. It's an idea whose time has come. They can also in a very direct way change the social, economic and political face of Nepal including addressing the root causes of conflict.
The goals were adopted by 189 nations at the Millennium Development Assembly in New York in September 2000 based on the realisation that an unequal and divided world as we have it now can simply not survive. The continuous denial of a dignified life free from fear and want to the majority of people on this earth will continue to breed tension and conflicts that do not stop at the borders of industrialised nations.
Millenium Development Goals for Nepal
.Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
.Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education
.Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
.Goal 4 Reduce child mortality
.Goal 5 Improve maternal health
.Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
.Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
Out of the Millennium Development Summit and the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development a new global consensus has emerged demanding mutual commitments are matched by mutual accountability: a political bargain has been built around a partnership of self-interest between the countries of North and South. Sustained political and economic reform by developing countries will be matched direct support from the rich world in the form of the trade, aid and investment. The goals are in fact the UN's effort to set the terms of a globalisation driven not by the interest of the strong but managed in the interest of the poor.
The Millenium Development Goals campaign in Nepal has at its core eight simple targets that are of direct relevance to the lives of every Nepali. These represent the ultimate bottom-up grassroots pocket-book development agenda, they are firmly focussed on the bread and butter issues everywhere and one certainly does not need a PhD in economics to participate in the debate. From a sheepherder in Humla to a shopkeeper in Hetauda, the idea of cutting poverty, putting children to schools, building a cleaner environment and providing better health care for mothers and infants is something that everyone can relate to in a very tangible way.
Already, the National Planning Commission has decided to reflect these goals in the government's planning process and annual budgets. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) will in its final form contain specific measurable targets and indicators in line with the goals. Even more important is the translation of these goals into concrete tangible sub-goals targets and indicators at the local level. Workshops have been held with the Local Development Offices of all 75 districts informing them of these goals and encouraging them to reflect them in their respective district development plans and budgets. Let me emphasise here that we are not advocating a one-size-fits-all approach. What matters is the setting of specific targets in line with the specific circumstances that prevail locally and commitments by all concerned to keep these targets high on the agenda, until they are fully realised.
The benchmark of whether policies are working will be:
. Are more children in school?
. Is maternal mortality declining?
. Is poverty dropping?
. Are we making progress on HIV/ AIDS?
If in the final report the answer is "no" to all these questions then it clearly points to the need of change in policies. If it is "yes" then it provides a powerful vindication of current strategies. The Millenium reports are a real time accountability framework tracking year by year what is working and what isn't. In Nepal, ultimately, the future of the political system will be determined at the ballot box both at central and decentralised levels.
All over the world, the Millenium Development Goals have electrified the development community by connecting them to real public opinion. Donors are realigning their support around the reports, development agencies are doing the same and so is much of civil society. Rather than using the language and subject matter of academic seminars the report seeks to take the issues to classrooms and teashops, fields and factories showing everyone from the Head of State down to school children where their country is lagging behind its neighbours and where it is leading. Where more attention needs to be paid and where things are on track, where more resources are essential and where they are not being effectively used.
Monitoring the performance of politicians and bureaucrats in the realisation of development is of vital importance to the nation. Decentralisation and social mobilisation are critical elements in a workable management and monitoring system. Ultimately, these will only yield results if citizens of all caste and creed, women, men and children stand up and hold elected and appointed leaders responsible for the realisation of agreed targets.
(Henning Karcher is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kathmandu and this comment is adapted from his statement at the National Convention of the NGO Federation of Nepal in Pokhara on Wednesday).