Nepali Times
"The political will not to politicise everything"


More than a quarter of Nepal's annual budget is bankrolled by bilateral donors, but three Nordic countries that together make up 18 per cent of aid to Nepal seem to have less clout here than more high-profile countries. Norway, Denmark, and Finland, whose total combined population is less than that of Nepal, contributed more than $450 million in 2010-11, making them the second-largest billateral donor grouping after Britain.

However, because Nordic aid is confined to 'soft' sectors such as human rights, gender, and social justice the three countries are often in the background compared to geopolitically important players such as the United States, India and China. In pre-holiday interviews, the three Nordic ambassadors in Kathmandu showed impatience with the lack of progress on issues like transitional justice, impunity, constitution and government formation. (See box)

"Nepal is right between two of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and it should be able to do much better than it is doing now. So why doesn't it happen?" Danish ambassador to Nepal, Morten Jespersen, asks rhetorically.
To be sure, despite a decade-long conflict, Nepal has seen remarkable progress in poverty reduction, and is close to achieving its Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015, especially in health and education. Much of this was possible because of sustained behind-the-scenes support from Nordic donors.

However, the emphasis of European and other donors to reach the disenfranchised and marginalised, and their advocacy in favour of federalism has provoked a backlash in Kathmandu with the government putting unprecedented pressure on them to channel aid to approved sectors.

The Foreign Ministry and the National Planning Commission are more assertive and want roles in vetting projects. Foreign Minister Naryan Kaji Shrestha has told donor representatives that they should concentrate on infrastructure, agriculture and energy. A landmark report on exclusion supported by the World Bank and DFID has not been released because of government pressure, and a five-year UN Development Assistance Framework report was finally approved after references to discrimination and citizenship were excised.

Norway, Finland and Denmark have surprisingly put special emphasis on the structural roots of poverty and discrimination by supporting projects on inclusion, constitution, human rights and the rule of law. And despite the government's new emphasis, they say they are going to stay on track.

Nordic representatives say they will continue to work with the government on structural areas that have a bearing on poverty and inequality. However, there will be a transition from social sectors to infrastructure in the coming years with Finland dropping human rights as a key area, and Denmark moving from education to growth and employment in 2014.

The Finnish ambassador to Nepal, Asko Luukkainen, believes a well-functioning democracy is essential for the future development of Nepal and efficiency of donor programs. "When we don't have locally elected bodies in rural areas, we don't have a counterpart to discuss with. Local elections would be very important," he told Nepali Times.

Alf Arne Ramslien, Norwegian ambasador to Nepal agrees. "If this political stalemate continues, it will be disastrous for development. In the present situation there is no willingness to invest in this country," he says. "There is great interest from Norway, but why invest in an unpredictable situation when there are other countries wide open for investment?"

The three ambassadors interviewed for this article agreed that Nepal has great potential if it can implement elections in 2013 to pave the way for a new constitution. They also feel that sustainable growth, equity and inclusion can only be achieved through true political decentralisation and inclusion which is why Nordic development assistance is also being channeled to these areas.

However, Nepal wants to see more emphasis now on aid and investment on transportation and energy in order to ensure growth and create jobs. Madhu Marasini at the Finance Ministry's Foreign Aid Division told Nepali Times this week: "The Europeans and the Nordic countries are more concerned about democracy and institution-building, but we wish to broaden the scope of cooperation in hydropower, infrastructure as well as sanitation." Marasini admits, however, that besides political instability, transparency needs serious attention.

International donors, including the Nordics, have often been criticized for relying too much on government channels for implementation which makes them inefficient and prone to corruption. Yadab Bastola from National Alliance for Human Rights and Social Justice, a nation-wide network of grassroots rights groups, says donor resources would be best used by channeling it directly to the community level.

"Most international aid has been handled by bureaucrats or NGOs due to the lack of local elected bodies at the community level," explains Bastola. "Even aid to the districts is divided up by the all-party mechanism and doesn't go to communities. It is a huge problem."

The three Nordic envoys are aware of this, but can barely hide their impatience with the political disarray. They want to balance the social sector with alternative energy, forestry and agriculture. They say Nepal's problems have to be dealt with in a country-specific fashion, and a timeframe that will work for a post-conflict Nepal.

"Nepal has one of the largest energy potential in the world. If these things can come together, and the politicians can pull in one direction to facilitate development in the energy sector, you will have investment coming. Jobs will be created. But it takes political will to not politicise everything. The politicians now understand that it has to go beyond words, so I'm fairly optimistic. We are encouraging Nepal to do what it has committed to do in upholding and improving the human rights situation. There is a strong connection between rights and peace. There is no hidden agenda here from our side. We strongly support local governance so there is accountability."

Alf Arne Ramslien,
Norwegian ambassador

"We are quite heavily involved in human rights, supporting the National Human Rights Commission and also the Nepal Peace Trust Fund. But unfortunately, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Bill, in the form it is now, is not according to international standards, and that is probably why the President has not passed it. I don't see much interest from Finland to invest here."

Asko Luukkainen,
Finnish ambassador

The solution is to build up national capacity. It's very much about transitional justice so society can move on after a conflict period. It's never easy if you have to make sure that all the rules are followed and at the same time not rock the boat too much. The international consensus is that you need to go through that difficult phase of persecuting the perpetrators on all sides. This is a Nepali problem and Nepal needs a Nepali solution. Nepali politicians, political leaders, the president, will have to come up with some model, some compromise, where they agree on terms and conditions for having elections and writing a constitution. This stalemate cannot go on for very long time. It's urgent now.

Morten Jespersen,
Danish ambassador

Where is Sweden?

Norway, Finland, and Denmark together contribute the second largest assistance to Nepal. But conspicuous by its absence is Sweden.

In 2007, the Swedish government decided to focus foreign aid to fewer countries in order to increase the quality and efficiency of aid. Nepal was not among the countries identified. However, Swedish aid reaches Nepal through multilateral donor projects, such as the UN and the Nordic Development Fund. Sweden was involved in supporting the Melamchi project but pulled out 10 years ago, and the country doesn't even have an embassy in Kathmandu. However, the Stockholm-based group, International IDEA, is present in Kathmandu.

Explains Norwegian ambassador to Nepal, Alf Arne Ramslien: "There is space for Sweden also, every country has its own lose some of the effect if you spread your resources too thin."

1. Flexible 1
I am not surprised at this reaction from the 3 Nordics, but I am surprised at how long it has taken them to loose patience. I want my own government to do the same (UK). What the Nepali politicians dont realise is that behind these large bilateral donors are many national charities such as my own working tirelessly to improve various sectors in Nepal. Did I say tirelessly? We are exhausted!! As a payer of UK taxes it is MY money being spent on useless, worthless, unsustainable, politically driven projects that achieve "sod all". Get real Nepal, time to go to China and India for aid, we have almost had enough!

2. Dev Batsya
Is there any accounting of the 73 million dollars spent in 2010-2011 by the Nordic countries? If so they should put it on a website so people can see it. How much of it actually benefited the people of Nepal,and how much of it was  spent trying to propagate their own views and to cover their own over-head costs? 
They probably would have seen  better results if the money had been spent on infrastructure development and job creation for the people.
The Nepali government( and the donors) should try to move away from this needy aid-mentality,which usually comes with a catch. To put in perspective,Nepalis themselves sent an estimated 3.5 billion dollars as remittance in 2011,and the total foreign aid is just a fraction of that amount.

3. Doug Douglas
Ah, talk of donor gripes again. Unfortunately, if the donation stops, so does the job of many white people living here and sucking their own country's money in Nepali's name. The corrupt Nepali politicians don't have to do the convincing, the westerners themselves will convince their country's govt that aid is needed here.

4. Flexible 1
Dev Batsya: Remittance is not aid, and we are sick of hearing about how "donors spend money propagating their own views instead of on infrastructure". 
Maybe all the remittance money should be spent on infrastructure then? Maybe no aid money should be spent helping women who have been raped, abused, outcast? Let's also get it all back from the " retired Maoist heroes" who came into the cantonments. 

5. who cares
Flexible 1

so you are a british mombo jumbo.

do you know, one of the main reasons we are poor is cause your so called great britian blocked us for centuries while ruling india. that is the same time when countires like yours, US built railways, giant buildings, army, other infrastructures, hydros etc etc.

and missed the opportunity.

i wonder what would happen if we sue your govt. at yr court (which i know is nothing but a theater) for lets say 5 trillion pound.

at least it will drag international attention and we may get respect from those countries who have not heard about us.

and other british citizens will too find out about your country's past.

just a week ago i found out about belgium, wow, they turned out to be the worst evil dark side of your continent. i cant believe they used to cut hands and legs of the children and wife of slaves men who did not word hard enough.

this is the mother of all ironies, the same belgium hosts the international court.

and there is another enlightenment, NATO turned out to be nothing more than the gang formed by the evils from the past....

before that, i was wondering why hitler attacked belgium.. i thought he took arm to defend his country from evils like britian and france... .now i got the answer.... there is another country poland remains.

do you know the history of poland. can you share it? and before the second world war, does germany too had any such kind of history?

6. Flexible 1
@who cares:
I wondered where you had gone!

Lets blame everybody but ourselves?

The Brits are to blame for all the rapes in Nepal.
The Brits are to blame for the impunity in Nepal!
The Brits are to blame for all the corruption in Nepal!
The Brits are to blame for all of Hisila's excesses!
The Brits are to blame for the Maoist war!
The Brits are to blame for Prachanda's megalomania!
The Brits are to blame for negligent, uncaring education in Nepal!

No, Nepali (who cares) cowardice is to blame!

Grow up, get real, come home, act!

7. Flexible 1
Everyone: Just read the acidic bile that pours from the mouth of this "who cares" person. He never has anything positive to say about anything. He never gives credit to a writer. He never finds fault in his own back yard.
Always it is the fault of the donor, the aid worker, the charity, India, China, never himself.
He writes about Poland, Belgium, Germany ......... what the hell has this got to do with the price of fish.

Have a look at the history of the Iceni, the Saxons, the pillage of Britain by the Romans, the French, the Vikings. Are we blaming them for destroying our Saxon culture? No!
So, deal with the present, come back to Nepal and help. Become a politician. Help victimised women. Build a hospital. Work as a teacher with Dalits.

Some of us are already doing it!

8. Carl
Sorry to pop in, but I have an urgent request. I remember that For sale ad at the Summit Hotel and I believe also Uttam in the second half of the 90s.

Back then the GTZ/DED country chief offered his 'Electrical piano for sale' as his tenure was ending. He said it was the only one in Nepal! The asking price, if I recall correctly, was USD 3,000. Yes, three zeros.

Is anyone of the aid professionals able to assure me about the well-being of this vital instrument to foster development?

9. We care
Enough of your verbal diarrhea, who cares. We care.

10. Dev Batsya
#4 Flexible1

There are organizations that are doing charitable work purely for altruistic reason,(not for political or evangelical reasons)but these are not the ones complaining about lack of clout. For them the reward is self evident eg Maiti Nepal, ECDC headed by Pushpa Basnet,Gates foundation etc.

But organization established by foreign governments (and many evangelical groups) do not fall under that category. The basic purpose of establishing such organisations  is with a clear goal of fulfilling their own interest. And their interest may not always be the same as that of the people that they are purportedly trying to help. This is not to say that among all individuals working for such organisations, there may not some who are doing it for altruistic reasons.

It is clear that the Nordic countries as well as others want enough clout to determine the future course of Nepal and its 27 million citizens. The writer is lamenting that 75 million dollars has not been enough to do this. The writer misses the fact that Nepalis who send in 3.5 billion annually to the country have virtually no clout at all.

 It is the Nepali people who should have clout over their government,and not foreign governments. The fact the government and many officials are corrupt does not alter this fact.

11. Dev Batsya
#1 Flexible

It is for sure the British have suffered at the hands of Romans,Vikings(like most people those days).But the systematic pillaging and plundering of other countries caused by East India Company and the British Empire and other European colonists in Asia,Americas and displacement and enslavement of an entire people because of their race has no parallel in the world. Just to point out one fact,it is estimated that just in one year 1803 the income from India(net transfer of wealth from India to England) of East India Company is estimated to be  between 20 to 48 billion in today's British pounds.

You are right we cannot live in the past.The people born today should not be blamed for the ills of yesterday. The past is gone and dead and it should not come in the way of people living in harmony today .  But it would serve us all well to learn from history and show a little bit of humility ,rather than displaying a holier-than-thou attitude as your comment #1 suggests.

12. who cares
11. Dev Batsya

i too dont agree that the crimes committed by forefathers should not be used as to punish present generations. 

but there has got to be some kind of redemption + present generation should change the way they think.

but that is not happening.. in the past they killed, enslaved people in the name of religion (including)- blacks are inferior, animals etc .... and today their children are killing in the name of humanity, democracy, tagging them enemy, national interest etc etc....

and look at NATO, they are the same gang of old evils ganged up to continue their killing, enslavement, looting....

and the view of their citizens is the example like flexible, and there are some why replies with like we won so we do whatever we want. ..

13. Dev Batsya
Sorry the link above did not come out correctly,has one more 3 at the end.

14. K. K. Sharma

Nordic countries, as well as, other westen countries have naturally to be frustrated. They had enabled the present set of incompetents to power, and naturally things did not go the way as ther brains had perceived. Effecting regeime change, promoting the incompetents and the corrupt to power has had the result that is natural. And so, naturally, is the frustrations of the West. When one makes the first wrong truning, all subsequent trunings will ipso facto be wrong. The Westerners voicing their frustrations now is, it seems to me, to be nothing more than an advertisement of their earlier stupidity..... thinking unrealistically what they wrongly perceived, would turn out to be reality.

15. Mexx Nepali
I don't have deep knowledge concerning History neither am i sooo learned to vouch my opinion to be ultimate fact but it is just an opinion while generalize matters through my simple mind!!! Resources needs to be shared for the betterment of the human beings!! In fact we have deep respect and facination for the western culture, fashion tradition and values. Our present generation are completely in love with the western life style we feel pride to live their life style!!! Probably It wouldn't be exaggeration to say that today Nepalis are more into Hollyhood actors and actresss and english musics. I think if we only analyse the bitter part of the  History than probably there would be no denying of confrontation again!! We have learned and gained a lot from the west and infact all the mordanization and development we c in our societiy today is the gift of the western civilization. What was east before the west came without Railway, infractures, technologies and science!!! Nothing !!! Nothing!! Nothing!! We were just nomades living in the jungle before they arrived. Their arrival brought knowledge, technologies and visions to live better life. We should be grateful for everything what we have learned from them. Specially Nepal and Nepalis have termendously benefited from them. They have welcomed us to their country and society with open arms and hospitality and our children today dream of western life . They are sharing their resources and knowledge with us so why can't we show  the same generosity!!!! Generally Human being are  the slaves of the system  and are governed by the laws of the land imposed by the government of the region therefore it would be unwise to pitt people against people basically for being part of the system.  Therefore  sansatization, enlightnmetn and  education is only the best ways of getting rid of radicalized and extremist views concerning religion , tradation and values in the society!!!

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)