Nepali Times
The politics of foreign aid


Leaks to the media earlier this month of the government's objections to a World Bank-DFID report on social inclusion and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) document have been indicative of Nepal's new assertiveness about aid.

Government officials suspect donors involved deliberately leaked the documents to the media, and this has further strained relations and hardened positions. Donor officials, on the other hand, say the Foreign Ministry and the National Planning Commission (NPC) are trying to take out all mention of exclusion, discrimination and impunity from the documents.

The government's approval of an ordinance this week on setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission by watering down its mandate with provisions of amnesty for wartime atrocities and combining it with a Commission on Disappearances is sure to anger other donor groups which support human rights in Nepal. The Foreign Ministry has lately increased its scrutiny of international NGOs operating from Nepal, and has been telling donors that they should help Nepal in infrastructure and development, and get away from constitution, governance, and social justice sectors.
The NPC had objected to the use of words like 'statelessness' and 'impunity' in the UNDAF document, among others, stating that use of such words were not well-founded and did not reflect well on the government which was part of the joint document.

The NPC's Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri told Nepali Times this week, "Accusations that the NPC is against federalism and social inclusion are baseless, as are the allegations of hill-elitism." Chhetri denied that Prime Minister Bhattarai did not agree with the Planning Commission's stance on the document, clarifying that the PMO had never told him to lift the objections.

The UNDAF document's reference to 'statelessness' draws attention to 2.3 million Nepalis who do not have citizenship certificates because if a Nepali man marries a foreigner, his wife instantly gets citizenship but if a Nepali woman marries a foreigner, her children are not entitled to citizenship. The problem is more acute in the Tarai where women often marry across the border, and when divorced come back to their parents with children, who then become stateless.

Chhetri insists that as long as aid falls in line with national policy, the NPC will not object. Most countries try to channel bilateral and multilateral assistance to their priority areas, but what surprises many is why the NPC and the Foreign Ministry are getting so assertive and whether or not they have a wink from the Prime Minister to do so.

Donor influence in prioritising and managing aid in Nepal gets stronger at times when governments are weaker. And past governments have rarely questioned the donor agenda, making the approval and signing of joint documents with line ministries a mere formality. In the past, donors have got what they wanted while the government looked the other way.

The change in the government's approach seems to have been partly caused by a turf battle between the Ministry of Finance, which used to be the final arbiter on aid, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which now also wants a say. In fact, the Cabinet recently decided that henceforth it will be the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that will decide on aid policy and donor relations.

"Since foreign aid comes from outside, it is only natural that we should be involved," argues the Ministry of Foreign Affair's Arjun Bahadur Thapa.

The controversy earlier this year surrounding Rupantaran Nepal, an NGO which was awarded a large forestry project grant from DFID, the government of Finland and the Swiss SDC, spotlighted aid policy and execution. Critics say donors are in violation of the Paris Declaration 2005, the Accra Agenda for Action 2008 and the Fifth High Level Meet on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in 2011.

More than 60 per cent of Nepal's development budget comes from bilateral and multilateral donors, of which 70 per cent goes through the Finance Ministry. The rest is channeled through the Social Welfare Council to NGOs and civil society groups.

The UN is understood to have sent a new text for UNDAF with some of the words changed. But given Nepal's dependence on foreign aid and the government's new assertiveness on its priorities, the politics of foreign aid is bound to generate more heat in the future.

See also:
Trickle up, DAVID SOGGE
Trying to achieve the MDGs is like trying to walk up an escalator going down

Bogged down, CK LAL
Parliament and civil society must monitor donor activities

Develop this, DANIEL LAK
Implicit in development is the notion of superiority.

1. lokedra
The government is right to curtail the free range activities of INGOs in the country. INGOs in Nepal are engaged in promoting  hidden agenda of some power centers which are actively seeking to destabilize and hold the northern Nepal and then to Tibet through the elites of Nepal who are flooded  with dollar.No outsider has the rights to dictate on issues like constitution, governance, and social justice sectors. These are the matters which must be addressed internally by national stakeholders. 

2. Buddhi Prasad Sapkota
Hidden interest in the name of  inclusion (for creating huge conflict and affecting the social harmony and creating disorder) should be stopped. The donor focus only on Empowerment not in support is not good. People of Nepal are in good position regarding the level of awareness. Community infrastructural and other support that goes directly to community should be done. 
We as a Civil Society organization have been watching the activities of INGOs on social inclusion and their result. The main reason of present situation is due to the over support and hidden interest of INGOs. Huge money has been spent for Janajatis and Other Ethnic communities. 
There are some sits like which is worst type of campaign for right. Only Bhramin are the cause of  present situation (Poverty, Hunger and underdevelopment )? 
Kakas of Parliyament created Sakas. It is mainly due to weak Govt, No proper chanalizing the fund and weak civil society. 

We can See What UNMIN did in rural areas . Only creating conflict, asking people to fight for their right and so on........................

Donors also should be aware in time and divert their fund for nation building, infrastructure support , creating social harmony, unity and integrity. Recent Events created in India are some of the examples of misuse of the donor support. 

Govt should be further carefull on such issue. 

Foreigners need Merit, they make selection on quality and performance. Can a candidate having less skill be sent in a river to swim? 
Or we need to focus on capacity building and support for empowerment. 
Most of donors have only program on Human Right, Constitution, Ethnic Right and ..............................But very less achievement can be seen compared to the input. 

3. Sita Manandhar
Funny to see how little European states with a dirty history of colonialism and racism are all involved in trying to dictate terms to a developing Asian country.  Maybe they should be more focused on rescuing their own moribund economies and in curbing racism against their Muslim and gypsy minorities instead of assuming the "white man's burden."  Europe is in decline and it is funny to see them trying to act all high and mighty in this day and age.

4. Arun Adhikary
Donor communities can not get away blaming GON for all the ills such as "statelessness", "impunity" and "exclusion". Have not the donors been  dominant and imposing over the last 10 years in setting development agenda and pushing their priority projects. Have not the donors been designing and implementing programs directly. Community Support Program of DFID, fund-doling programs like the RDIF (of DFID), Rural Access Program (DFID) and SUNAG (GIZ) are some examples. Donors must take half the blame for creating the current state of development anarchism. Aid operators (including their Nepali staff and counterpart agencies) have been seen to be thriving on this anarchism by projecting themselves as the messiah and arguing for the need to delink with the government agencies and to, therefore, implement aid programs directly.  It is no secret that the donor communities resort to "mul-mantra", i.e. sending off a few government staff for overseas trips to secure an environment for unhindered advancement of their agenda. When MLD recently expressed its displeasure over SUNAG's independent way of working and lack of consultation with the ministry, an offer was advanced to a senior officer to visit Germany for a training. As seldom happens, the senior officer to whom this offer was granted refused the invitation, and thereby demonstrated a high-moral standing. Nepal will take the other half of the blame for giving the donors free hand to dictate development policy regimes, to formulate programs and for letting them implement programs directly without any anchor to government agencies. It takes an honest effort on the part of both the donors and the government to "right" the historical "wrongs". Recent stand taken by NPC (over the UNDAF document) and the high-moral standing demonstrated by MLD senior officer need to be appreciated. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)