Viewing Nepal’s progress towards peace: UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board members in Nepal
Eight members of the joint Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) from donor and programme countries visited Nepal from 18-25 April. The participating member states were Angola, Azerbaijan, Haiti,Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sweden and the United Republic of Tanzania.
During their field visit to Nepal, the Board members saw first hand some of the challenges and opportunities for Nepal, UNDP and UNFPA during this critical period of transition in Nepal’s process of development, as it moves from conflict to peace, from monarchy to republic, from a unitary to a federal state.
Meeting with the Government and non-Government stakeholders
The UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board members interacted with key Government and representatives from NGO communities, donors, UN Youth Advisory Panel, local communities and UN partners.
Ministry of Finance
The Ministry of Finance organised a briefing meeting of the Executive Board with some Line Ministries, the implementing partners of UNDP and UNFPA. The meeting was chaired by the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Rameshwar Khanal. All the Line Ministries expressed their thanks for the support provided by UNDP and UNFPA in their respective sectors. The secretary expressed that the UN should execute its programmes more through Government’s treasury than direct implementation in order to encourage national ownership in real sense.
Chair of Constituent Assembly
The Board members met with Subash Nembang, Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly. He emphasized the need for consensus building and keeping a timeline for a successful constitution making process.
Visit to the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue
At the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue (CCD), the team met with Ms. Sapana Pradhan Malla, member of the Constituent Assembly representing the Communist Party Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) party, Mr. Mrigendra Kumar Singh Yadav, Chair of the Committee on Capacity Building and Resource Management representing Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF) and Ms. Ang Dawa Sherpa, Constituent Assembly member representing the Community Party of Nepal (Maoists). The members talked to the Executive Board members about the domestic violence bill recently passed by the Constituent Assembly, aspirations of the people from the new constitution and concerns on environment and climate change. They also appreciated the support provided from UNDP in establishing the CCD. (The CCD was established with the assistance of UNDP/Support to Participatory Constitution Building Project (SPCBN) and a consortium of donors (Denmark, Norway, DFID, Switzerland, USAID/OTI) in close collaboration with the CA Secretariat and civil society.)
UN Youth Advisory Panel
Besides, the team also met with the UN Youth Advisory Panel (UNYAP) composed of 10 young women and men aged 15-29. The UNYAP was established in 2008 to open dialogue and advise the UN Country Team on the strategic opportunities and necessary actions for addressing adolescent and youth issues. During the meeting with the Executive Board members, some of the important issues raised by the UNYAP was youth unemployment, need for more value based education in schools, youth being more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, increasing migration in search of work, lack of fund for students to pursue higher studies abroad and the need for improved data for implementation of the law for disabled people.
The NGO representatives, during the meeting with the Executive Board expressed that the peace process would be incomplete without the involvement of civil society and that the peace process was still very Kathmandu centric.
The Board members were also briefed by the Nepal army on UN Peace Keeping missions from Nepal army to different countries at the Nepal Army School in Nagarkot. Nepal became a member of the United Nations in 1955 and since then, has been an active participant in most UN peace keeping missions. The participation of the Nepalese Army in the UN peacekeeping operations spans a period of 50 years covering 33 UN missions, in which over 68,000 personnel have participated. Nepal ranks fifth in the world as a troop contributing nation. Currently the Nepalese Army has some 3121 soldiers serving in 16 different Missions around the World. The Board members expressed that the visit has provided them an opportunity to understand a wide-range of issues in the current context of Nepal’s transition.
Field visit to UNDP and UNFPA sites
The Executive Board members travelled to the field to observe how districts are recovering from the conflict and how support to enterprise development and rebuilding of local infrastructure is improving the quality of the lives of people and bringing communities together to build peace. The members also observed how UNFPA's integrated range of activities on reproductive health, population and gender is supporting national efforts to reduce maternal mortality, to empower young girls and women, and to ensure that population dynamics are included in the national plans and budgets.
Cantonment: In Nawalparasi, the Main Cantonment Site (MCS), Division IV, the team interacted with the Maoist Commander, Yam Bahadur Adhikari. The commander expressed his thanks for the support of UN agencies to improve the condition of the cantonment. He further added that the war had been fought to bring peace but the peace process will not be complete without the completion of reintegration process.
The Executive Board members were briefed on the role of UNMIN in the peace process of Nepal and the support provided by UNDP and UNFPA during the registration and verification process. The team also inspected the health post in the cantonment where UNFPA has been assisting with health service provision. Some 20 per cent of Maoist combatants residing in the cantonments are female and a large number of these women are pregnant or breastfeeding. The Maoist army has specifically expressed the need for gynaecologists who can provide referral services, and for appropriate medical supplies and facilities to care for these women. Recognising the need for health services in the divisions as well as during discharge and reintegration and acknowledging the need to include the larger community in these support activities for reconciliatory and peaceful transition, UNFPA has developed a strategy to support the Government in the delivery of health services, particularly reproductive health, in the cantonment and during discharge and reintegration process.
UNDP and UNFPA Programmes
In Dang district, the members travelled to Tulsipur municipality and Pawannagar village where they attended a product fair organised by UNDP Micro-enterprise Development Programme and
discussed with the micro-entrepreneurs as how the technical and management skills they had learned helped them improve their livelihoods. The Micro-enterprise Enterprise Development Programme has been providing skill development trainings and marketing support to the entrepreneurs who have been producing honey, fabrics, candles, soaps, incense, bamboo furniture, spices, juice etc. Most of the entrepreneurs are women and they have been able to increase their income by 275%.
The Board members also visited two schools which have received support from the UNDP Quick Impact programme. The support has enabled the schools to add more classrooms and have a proper roof thereby allowing more children to go to school and to finish their high school close to home.
At the UNFPA programme site in Pawannagar, the team interacted with the Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) who explained about how the young girls and mothers have become more aware about safer reproductive health. The delegates interacted with the girls from socially excluded groups who were given an opportunity to be empowered to plan their life through the support of Women Development Office and UNFPA’s Choose your Future Programme. Through the support of the programme, the mothers were able to talk confidently about the importance of their daughters leading a healthy life by having a better knowledge about reproductive health. Some of the former uterine prolapse patients, who later became advocates in spreading knowledge on how to prevent this ailment, also shared their experience with the Board members.
The Board members gained an insight in two innovative community initiatives supported by UNFPA, UNICEF and Women Development Office such as the Emergency Obstetric Care (EOC) established to support complicated pregnancies and provide money without delay for transport and necessary arrangements; Paralegal Committees established and trained in every village development committee in Dang for mediation in gender and sexual violence cases and protection of child rights.
Team Leader of the visiting members, Mr. Aldo Aldama Breton from Mexico, Director of Economic and Social Issues, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “I am highly impressed by the dedication of these communities. It is wonderful to see so much of enthusiasm among these men and women. They are aware that their children need good education. I am equally overwhelmed to see that these women and young girls have so much of enthusiasm to learn about health issues and are now doing a wonderful job of educating the others also. It is impressive to see how both UNDP and UNFPA are working in synergy for a common cause.”