Statement Delivered by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative on the Occasion of International Day on the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP)

10 Oct 2002

Statement Delivered by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative on the Occasion of International Day on the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP)
Kathmandu, October 10, 2002

Honourable Vice-Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Honourable Members, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends,

It is most timely that the environment has been chosen as theme for the celebration of this year’s day for the eradication of poverty. Only last month the World Summit on Sustainable Development was concluded in Johannesburg and we are privileged to have with us Senior Government Officials including the Honourable Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission and members who attended the Summit. In a short while they will share with us their experiences from the Summit and give us their views on how the decisions taken at the Summit can be translated into action at the national level in Nepal. The discussion in Johannesburg has once again enhanced our awareness of the stark reality that the bounty of the earth is not inexhaustible.

It is not an option but an imperative that we “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”, as the Brundtland Report put it in 1987. The Stockholm Conference, the Rio de Janeiro Conference, the Millennium Summit and the Johannesburg Summit have all confirmed that the battle for a sustainable future of mankind has to be fought at three levels, the global, the national and the local. Work at all three levels are directly relevant to Nepal. Let me, therefore touch upon all three of them.

As the world develops rapidly global public goods cannot be monopolized by a few. No matter how large a country is, it is still small in view of the challenge before us. Sustainability and growth are terms of the same equation, since there can be no sustainability without a financial basis, no financial basis without market access and no market access unaccompanied by a perspective of solidarity, which will give rise to a type of growth that benefits all.

It is this issue, the link between financial resources, sustainability and poverty reduction that lies at the heart of the Millennium Goal compact. For the first time in human history leaders of all nations agreed to join hands in a global commitment to eradicate poverty and lead the world to a new path of sustainable development. Developed countries will spearhead reforms, improve their systems of governance and fight corruption. Industrialized countries as their part of the bargain will provide the resources to realize the Millennium Development Goals.

Nepal on her part has embarked on a major programme of reform and I have no doubt that donors will do their part if only the reform process can be accelerated. Global action is required in areas such as biodiversity conservation, climate change, ozone layer depletion and wetland preservation. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge in this context that Nepal has not only ratified 16 environment related international treaties, agreements and conventions but has also translated these into national strategies and action plans such as the National Biodiversity Strategy and the National Action Programme on Land Degradations and Dessertification.

Ninety percent of Nepalese reside in rural areas engaging mainly in subsistence farming. More than half of them live in absolute poverty and must depend largely on the natural environment to exist. As a result, Nepal’s rural areas are confronted with serious forms of land degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and scarcity of firewood and drinking water. In Nepal, continued degradation of the environment constitutes a real threat to one of the greatest assets for the poor.

Other environmental problems are related to the pollution of air and water in urban centres. The adulteration of fuel has been well researched and documented and requires urgent Government attention.

UNDP has been privileged to work closely with His Majesty’s Government on the formulation of the draft Sustainable Development Agenda for Nepal (SDAN). This remarkable document has integrated and articulated critically important economic, social and environmental issues in a manner that will foster improvements in the quality of life of Nepali people together with the ecosystem within which they dwell. SDAN provides practical guidance toward improving and expanding existing policies and strategies so that their impact may be more sustainable.

The Sustainable Development Agenda strongly calls for effective integration of sustainable development approaches in the planning process with people’s participation. The features that SDAN encompasses are: participation; building on existing plans and processes; paying clear attention to environmental and development priorities; and approaching the process from a cyclical rather than a linear perspective.

The national strategies will:
- Promote environmental governance at the local level,
- Raise awareness on sustainable development issues,
- Enhance wide-ranging participation from government bodies, private sector,academia, media and grassroots organizations, including indigenous people,and
- Integrate the Local Agenda 21 at the local level in collaboration with local elected bodies to ensure maximum participation of concerned stakeholders.

The 10th Five-Year of His Majesty’s Government which is almost complete builds very much on the SDAN and has adopted environment as a crosscutting subject.

One of the areas of great strength and innovation is the work carried out by civil society group in Nepal to meet sustainable development goals. Recognizing this reality HMGN has decentralized the responsibility over natural resources to user groups especially in soil and water conservation, buffer zone management, and forests. Nepal has institutionalized users’ participation in natural resource management and has continued to build local capacity in developing and implementing operational plans for community and leasehold forests, buffer zones in protected areas, soil and water conservation, as well as irrigation management. Government institutions and NGOs have continued to build the capacity of the local people and local institutions. Many NGOs and CBOs have focussed their activities on community-based biodiversity conservation.

UNDP’s current portfolio of projects and programmes includes a range of innovative activities at the grassroots such as our Sustainable Community Development Programme (SCDP), Parks and People Programme (PPP), the Rural Energy Development Programme (REDP), GEF Small Grants Programme and Biodivertsity Landscape Conservation Programme. Some of our programmes, such as the REDP, have obtained international prices and attached international cofinancing. In all of these harmonious and productive relationships have been fostered between the population and the environment. With the livelihood of over 80% of the population directly depending on management of natural resources the battle for sustainable development has to be fought first and foremost at the level of local communities. Later this morning you will have an opportunity to catch a few glimpses of these activities.

Once again a warm welcome and let me salute you as we start together a new era of international cooperation and global solidarity in our common endeavour to eradicate poverty from the surface of the earth.

Thank you.