Nepali Times
"The government must urgently improve governance"

Canada is Nepal's tenth largest donor with annual aid of Rs 350 million. Canadian ambassador to Nepal, Peter Sutherland, speaks to Nepali Times of aid priorities, and Nepal's capacity to use assistance effectively.

Nepali Times: What is the Canadian position on future development assistance to Nepal in view of the current insurgency?
Peter Sutherland: Canada remains committed to assisting the government and the people of Nepal in their efforts to reduce poverty. We have been development partners for over 30 years and intend to continue to support Nepali efforts towards equitable and sustainable development. In this difficult environment, where the security of the women and men working with Canadian projects is our primary concern, we are actively adjusting our programming and approaches so that they remain effective. We are finding that the programs which have been able to strengthen communities are the most resilient in the current insecure environment.

Have your priorities for aid changed over the years?
During the 1970s and 80s, Canadian development assistance successfully supported the opening up of Nepal's remote areas by sharing Canadian technology and approaches to rural access-particularly in the aviation sector. We then moved into a period when CIDA's aid program focused on water and energy resource management through central government institutional development. In the 1990s Canada's aid program focused more on community-based development. The current CIDA program aims to reduce poverty and promote peace by facilitating effective implementation of Nepal's devolution process.

There have been failures like the K-BIRD project, but there have also been successes like your technical assistance for the development of civil aviation and hydropower. Have these lessons been incorporated into future plans?
Like some other integrated rural development projects in Nepal, the K-BIRD project suffered from poor co-ordination between line agencies at the district level and a lack of genuine participation in planning and implementation of the project by the people affected. Learning lessons from this and other more successful community-based initiatives in Nepal, CIDA has been supporting the institutional strengthening of civil society organisations as well as partnerships between civil society, government and the private sector to improve access to basic services and increase productive capacities. We are happy with the results, but more importantly, we see around us strengthened Nepali institutions within local and central government as well as civil society. It is with these partners that we will continue to support poverty reduction and efforts towards equitable and sustainable development.

What is your assessment of the government's present ability to use foreign assistance effectively?
There is scope for the government to increase its ability to effectively and efficiently use foreign assistance. It needs to address urgently issues of governance such as corruption, civil service reform and broad based participation at the grass roots level. The present political instability and insurgency have further constrained the government's ability to expedite development in a balanced manner. In my view, the government has to devolve more authority and resources to local bodies and communities and foster partnerships with civil society and the private sector in order to improve service delivery and better handle conflict at the local level.

What is your government's views on the current conflict in Nepal?
Canadians are deeply saddened by this conflict which has claimed the lives of so many Nepalis. We condemn the methods that the insurgents have resorted to, particularly the destruction of vital infrastructure, extortion, torture and executions. Innocent civilians have been caught in the middle of this conflict. In addition to the many who have been killed or injured, hundreds of others have been displaced by the conflict. We urge the Maoists to renounce violence, lay down their arms and return to the negotiating table. Canada supports the democratically-elected government of Nepal in its efforts to protect its citizens and to bring about a return to peace and order in the country. However, we are also concerned about the increasing number of human rights abuse allegations directed at members of the Nepali security forces in connection with such anti-insurgent activities.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)