As Nepal conflict flares a new, programme supports peace and development

Tuesday, 14 October 2003: With Nepal again beset by conflict after the failure in late August of peace talks between the Government and Maoist insurgents, a UNDP programme is supporting efforts for peace and development and helping victims of the violence.

Rupa Singh is one of those benefitting from such assistance. Four years ago, her husband, a farmer, was killed in the conflict. She left her village in Jajarkot district with her young children to seek a better life in Khalanga, the district headquarters.

Ms. Singh took any available job to survive, working as a construction and farm labourer, porter, dish washer and wood chopper for two and a half years. Members of Danfe Youth Clubs, an organization that works with the UNDP Support for Peace and Development Initiatives programme, told her about women's rights and human rights and invited her to join a support group for victims of the conflict.

Through the club, Ms. Singh received a US$140 loan at low interest to set up a village grocery store. In one year she has paid back the loan and is building a better life for her daughters. "I am planning to expand my shop with a second loan, which I have applied for through our group," she said. "I am doing all these to raise my two daughters and give them a good education."

Danfe Youth Clubs manages a revolving $17,000 fund for victims of the conflict that has helped 100 people so far.

Operating in 25 districts, the UNDP programme works with civil society organizations, the media and community groups and assists those affected by violence, particularly disadvantaged groups, women and youth. It organizes information, education and communication campaigns against conflict and supports human rights through street drama, peace songs, documentaries, media mobilization and peace education.

Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom joined together to set up the Peace and Development Trust Fund last year, providing $3 million to support the programme.

The programme recently organized a workshop called "The Quest for Peace" in cooperation with Nepal Fine Arts Campus in Kathmandu, the capital, that brought together 65 artists ages six to 60 in the foyers of historic Patan Palace to express their opinions on large canvases. Thousands of visitors had the opportunity to add their own visions of peace to the canvases.

The event took place as bells rang throughout the country to mark the International Day of Peace on 21 September, with the UN country team joining hands to call for those involved in conflict to treat children as a "zone of peace."

UNDP Resident Representative Matthew Kahane, citing the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, noted that the UN is always ready to support efforts to establish peace where conflicts rage. Mr. Kahane urged everyone to work together to restore peace, emphasizing that development would be impossible without it.