Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, Resident Representative, UNDP at the Ninth Rural Urban Linkage Network (RUNET) Meeting Pokhara

12 May 2002

Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, Resident Representative, UNDP at the Ninth Rural Urban Linkage Network (RUNET) Meeting Pokhara, 12 May 2002

Hon’ble Member of the National Planning Commission Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, Distinguished Mayors and guests, friends and colleagues,

It is a great privilege and pleasure for me to address you today on the occasion of the Ninth Rural Urban Linkage Network (RUNET) meeting. At the outset I would like to express my appreciation for your active participation in the RUNET meetings in the past. UNDP’s success is built on partnerships to fight poverty and RUNET represents such a partnership. The important milestones the Rural-Urban Partnership Programme has reached since its launch in 1996 can be attributed to a large extent to your active engagement and involvement in its implementation.

Let me also convey my appreciation to the chairpersons and members of the Tole/Lane Organisations present here today. You are the true achievers of development. By successfully taking on UNDP’s approach to Social Mobilization as a means to empowerment you have effectively demonstrated that poverty alleviation is best achieved through active participation at the grassroots. With the assistance from RUPP many entrepreneurial TLO members have increased their average income level by more than 50 percent using social mobilization as a vehicle for enterprise development. However, their success has not only been financially. The members of the TLOs have become active participants in the development of the municipalities and VDCs through the bottom-up planning process instituted by RUPP, i.e. the Participatory Municipal Development Planning. The Tole Development Plans, which are produced by TLOs now serve as an integral part of the municipal annual and periodic plans ensuring that the voice of the people are heard all the way up to the Municipal Councils and Village Development Committees. The social mobilization process has thus effectively led to both poverty reduction and empowerment.

When I visited Butwal and Bharatpur municipality recently I was encouraged by the profound impact the enterprise development activities had on the poor and marginalized. I had the opportunity to meet Farsa Bahadur Bika who had upgraded his profession from daily wage earner to black smith. From having an insecure income of around 500 rupees monthly he was able to increase his earnings 10 times to 5000 rupees. This allowed him to greatly improve the living conditions of his entire family. His success and the success of thousands of others can be directly linked to the successful implementation of RUPP.

RUPP is now covering 98 percent of the population of the 12 participating municipalities through social mobilization. By using a holistic all-inclusive approach these organisations effectively serve as one of the most important links in the decentralized structure of Nepal.
 
Through the active involvement of all citizens in the municipalities RUPP has helped ensure good local governance by facilitating transparency, accountability and participation.


These successful achievements should however, be no reason for any complacency in the fight against poverty. We are constantly faced with new challenges and potentials that need to be addressed:

1. In the last five years HIV/AIDS has become an increasingly pressing problem in Nepal.Every day 14 people are infected with the virus in making it the potential leading cause of death within the next decade. UNDP has committed itself to address this dramatically increasing problem by mainstreaming HIV/AIDS into its programmes as we have done with gender in the past. RUPP was the first governance programme to meet this challenge and we intend to use the TLOs to increase the level of awareness among the citizens and to build capacity in the municipalities to help stall the rapid spread of the disease.

2. On a more positive note the latest technological developments have given us much needed tools in the fight against poverty. Through the use of Information and Communication Technology RUPP is able to expand its focus on rural-urban market linkages by a wider distribution of information on market prices and quantities of commodities available in different markets in the country. This enables producers of agricultural products to compare prices thus prevent exploitation and monopolies. A small-scale farmer will be able to choose between different markets in his/her quest for obtaining the most favorable price for his/her produce.

But it is not only as a mechanism for free trade that ICT is proving its usefulness for the urban and rural areas of Nepal. RUPP is currently supporting the establishment of homepages for municipalities as a means of improving good governance. These websites will ease the access to the municipalities’ services. By going to the newly created Tele Community Centres at the Ward level in Bharatpur for instance the citizens will be able to access the website and download application forms, read about the latest developments in the municipality and at the Municipal Council and forward requests directly to the municipality. In this way ICT will become yet another means for RUPP to reduce poverty and increase empowerment in urban and adjoining rural areas.

When RUPP’s first phase ended in December 2001 it was apparent for all stakeholders that this approach is one of the most effective means of addressing poverty in urban areas. In recognition of this fact the Ministry of Local Development decided to expand the RUPP mechanism to all other municipalities in Nepal. This is, of course, a wonderful recognition and encouragement for RUPP as well as UNDP.

I should also mention that a group of donors including UNDP are currently discussing the formulation of the Local Governance Support Programme (LGSP) that is intended to support capacity building and social mobilization in rural as well as urban areas. We are certain that the RUPP experience will play a critically important role in the implementation of this programme.

In closing I would like to express my appreciation to the Mayors and Council Members present here for having initiated and maintained the momentum of the Rural Urban Linkage Network. We congratulate you on your achievements and look forward to also working with you in the future in the pursuit of our joint ambition to eradicate poverty from the face of Nepal.

Thank you.