Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative, at the National Forum on Sustainable Development Agenda for Nepal (SDAN)

21 May 2002

Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative, at the National Forum on Sustainable Development Agenda for Nepal (SDAN)
Kathmandu, 21 May 2002

Honorable Minister for Population and Environment, Mr. P. L. Singh, Honorable
Members of the National Planning Commission, Dr Jagadish Chandra Pokharel and Dr MinendraRijal, Dr. Bimal Koirala, Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Dr. Mukti Narayan Shrestha, Secretary, Ministry of Population and Environment, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to address you on the occasion of the National Forum on Sustainable Development Agenda for Nepal (SDAN). Today’s event represents the culmination of a long and highly participatory process over an extended period of time. I am sure it will be remembered as a critically important milestone in a process that will ultimately result in a future for Nepal that is characterized by sustainable development and freedom from poverty for all.

Agenda 21 adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 states that countries should adoptnational strategies for sustainable development, which "should build upon and harmonize the various sectoral, social, and environmental policies and plans that are operating in the country".The principles of Agenda 21 were to a certain extent incorporated into various policies and plans in Nepal in the past. In an effort to further institutionalize the national sustainable development agenda, the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Population and Environment have been jointly engaged in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Agenda for Nepal (SDAN) since early 2000. The final draft of the Sustainable Development Agenda for Nepal is now before us. It includes an analytic section of both past and current development programmes determining how these contribute towards sustainable development and how successful their implementation has been. The purpose of the exercise was to learn from the past to formulate a new comprehensive vision for the sustainable development of the country.

The SDAN itself and the process of formulation are unique in several ways. The SDAN should be studied in conjunction with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper as these two strategies put together provide a long-term vision on how Nepal will pursue sustainable development at all levels and sectors. The most urgent programmes and needs will be addressed in the forthcoming 10th 5-year Plan.

The SDAN strives towards reversing the current trend of depleting natural resources and declining standards of environment, in support of the Millennium Development Goals. Completion of the SDAN, of course, is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a long process.

During the years to come the principles of sustainable development will guide HMGN, civil society, local government units and all development partners in reviewing and revising sectoral policies and in planning and implementing programmes. SDAN, together with a wealth of other documentation and reports that has been produced in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, will also provide a useful baseline against which Nepal’s achievements in socially, economically and environmentally sustainable development can be measured.

Partnerships became the trademark of the SDAN formulation process. The National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Population and Environment realised early on that combining the preparatory activities for the National Sustainable Development Agenda with Nepal’s preparations for the WSSD would be beneficial. Therefore, a joint Steering Committee was set up to manage both streams of activities. Inputs and interest from various government line agencies have been encouraging and augur well for the SDAN implementation. Resources from a number of donors and INGOs have been managed in a coordinated function to achieve better synergy and greater impact. UNDP’s initial funding has been more than matched with financial and technical support from DFID, IUCN, WWF, the Earth Council, the Global Capacity 21 programme and the World Bank.

Wide stakeholder participation is another unique feature of the process. In Nepal, two rounds of regional consultations were organised, first one by IUCN’s nssd dialogue team in 2000 to learn what the principles of sustainable development would entail in Nepal, and another one recently organized by the SDAN team to discuss and obtain feedback on the contents and recommendations of SDAN. Today’s forum is the fourth interaction meeting at the national level. Nepal’s SDAN process has generated international interest ever since the initial nssd dialogue workshop was held in Godavari in July 2000. Lessons learned in Nepal have fed into the latest thinking on global development paradigms. A large number of sustainable development practitioners in Nepal, representing both HMGN and civil society have gained significant insights from the WSSD preparatory committee meetings and other related international seminars.

Recommendations of SDAN build on proven, successful programmes at grassroots level. The Community Forestry Programme is a case in point: the programme demonstrated in a large area the potential of participatory management as a means to promote sustainable development. Efforts by various actors are beginning to bear fruit in the tourism sector too: carefully designed ecotourism programmes show tremendous potential to reduce poverty.

Nepal’s Capacity 21 programme, the socalled Sustainable Community Development Programme (SCDP) has in the past six years gained a wealth of experience in participatory approaches to development that promote environmental protection. Some community-level initiatives under SCDP lead directly to resource conservation: biogas for domestic cooking, smokeless improved stoves, forest nurseries, eco-tourism projects and environmental literacy classes. The experience in six districts is also beginning to show that once villagers reach a certain economic and social stability, once they don’t have to worry about survival from day to day, once their children get proper education and health care - that is when they seriously start thinking about conserving natural resources for tomorrow.

The rural Energy Development Programme has proven that in remote areas access to electricity can in turn enhance economic activities targeted to poverty reduction. The rural energy technologies, micro-hydro, solar energy and biogas, are viable alternatives for ensuring accessibility of energy to remote, rural and poor sectors of the community in a reasonably cost effective manner. The REDP approach begins with social capital building through community mobilization that instills the sense of ownership of the local people and local authorities for its early stage. Promotion of cottage industries is considered an integral part of rural energy systems development. Since its inception in 1996, the programme has supported communities in 15 districts -- this has resulted in providing more than 10,000 new rural households with access to electricity. A recent evaluation of the Global Capacity 21 programme highlights Nepal’s Capacity 21 programme as one model successful in resource leveraging through strategic institutional and financial frameworks. Eighty percent of the funds provided by the pilot programme have been converted into district based revolving funds. The communities have access to the revolving fund through CBOs to undertake social, economic or environmental projects.

This National Forum is also part of the global efforts to prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. About two months ago, world leaders gathered in Monterrey, Mexico for the International Conference on Financing for Development, which is closely linked to the WSSD. They worked together to forge a new Global Compact, built around a partnership of mutual self-interest aimed at creating a safer, more prosperous, and more equitable world for all.

Under the agreement developing countries commit themselves to sustained political and economic reform to allow higher growth, more social spending, more private investment and better governance. This is matched by direct support from the developed world in the form of trade, aid and investment that is needed if they are to succeed. The benchmark for that deal are the Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goals are not just idealistic aspirations. They are something new and different: clear, time-bound targets for achieving rapid, measurable improvements in the lives of the world's poorest citizens from putting children into schools, to tackling killer diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, to promoting women's rights to eradicating hunger. Just as important, they have unprecedented political support: the MDGs were  agreed to by 189 countries at the Millennium Summit in New York, making the battle against poverty a collective responsibility to be undertaken by the entire world.

The goals do not stand in isolation. They are part of the historic Millennium Declaration which states very clearly how they should be achieved -- on the one hand through a clear commitment by all countries to democracy, human rights and good governance, on the other by constructing a more inclusive globalization that provides developing countries with the support they need to compete on a level playing field.

The Millennium Declaration laid the foundation for this Global Compact, the Monterrey meeting focussed on financial resources and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg later this year discussions will centre on just what needs to be done to help countries implement the MDGs and sustainable development in practice.

A recent book by UNDP, ‘Capacity for Development - New Solutions to Old Problems” proposes six new paradigms, all in line with Nepal’s Sustainable Development Agenda. They are:
• the nature of development will entail societal transformation, including building of “right capacities”;
• Good policies that have to be home-grown are an essential condition for effective development cooperation;
• Asymmetric donor-recipient relationship should be specifically addressed as a problem and countervailing measures taken;
• Capacity development has to address three cross-linked layers of capacity: individual, institutional and societal;
• Knowledge has to be acquired, it cannot be transferred; and
• Local knowledge combined with knowledge acquired from other countries - in the South or in the North - is the most important form of knowledge.

In closing I would like to acknowledge the critically important roles played by both NPC and MOPE in preparing the SDAN and WSSD country assessment.

Partnership has been the hallmark of the process. I am sure that today’s Forum will be another important milestone in our joint journey to a Nepal, as I said earlier, characterized by sustainable development and freedom from poverty for all.

Thank you!