Civil society groups in Nepal endorse the Millennium Development Goals

Monday, 31 March 2003: Nepalese civil society organizations meeting in Kathmandu recently pledged to support efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to monitor both their own and the Government's activities in doing so.

The national convention of the NGO Federation of Nepal, which drew 1,500 participants, came as a three-month ceasefire between the Government and Maoist insurgents still holds, with formal peace talks to end the country's seven-year conflict scheduled to start this week.

The postponement of local elections and the dissolution of Parliament last year are other dimensions of the national crisis. This has slowed development activities and drawn appeals for solutions from national and international human rights organizations.

Participants expressed the desire for peace and development and agreed to incorporate the MDGs, which include the goal of halving the rate of severe poverty by 2015, into their organizations' activities. More than a third of Nepalis survive on less than a dollar a day.

"Civil society organizations can and should play the role of an educator and watchdog at all levels of society," said UNDP Resident Representative Henning Karcher. They should be social mobilizers and deliver services "all the way down to the community and household levels where the state cannot reach," he said.

"It will be the task of the civil society organizations to create awareness of the MDGs throughout the nation, empowering women and men to hold elected and appointed officials accountable for steady progress towards realization of the agreed targets," he added.

Gauri Pradhan, Chairperson of the federation, said that the commitment to the MDGs made by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 "cannot be achieved by the Government alone. This has to be a joint venture of the government, civil society and the UN."

To support the MDG campaign, the UN inter-agency theme group on poverty monitoring organized two regional briefing workshops at district level last year. Senior government officials, National Planning Commission officials, district infrastructure development officers, local development officers and municipal officials have all received orientation on the MDGs.

Nepal's first progress report on the MDGs, launched last June, has been translated into Nepali and disseminated at local level. Since the Nepal Human Development Report 2001 on poverty and governance deals with issues relevant to the MDGs, four regional workshops have been held to discuss how the human development approach can help meet the challenges of development in Nepal and ways to carry out activities supporting the MDGs at the district level.