The Department for International Development (DFID), a British development agency, has outlined its new assistance policy for Nepal for the next four years. While the assistance figures until 2008 is yet to be disclosed, it has a 35 million pound sterling aid package for the year 2004-05. The DFID intends to spend the resources on Dalits and ethnic minorities by training the target groups and seeks their participation in designing programmes for the latter’s own welfare. The organisation’s representative to Nepal, David Wood, has said that the aid will focus on key areas with a view to addressing the immediate underlying causes of the armed conflict. In other words, the policy has been framed keeping in mind the complexities the target groups in Nepal have been facing in the wake of worsening security situation in the countryside. Besides, readjustment, should such a need arise, has also not been ruled out at a short notice. All in all, the agency has been careful, and rightly so, in tuning its aid programme with the socio-political realities on the ground. The agency spent 30 million pound sterling last fiscal year with 65 per cent of it going to projects in the rural areas. It aims to direct the next aid package through various agencies to similar areas, which in fact is laudable. In doing so, the aid agency, among others, intends to use 25 per cent of the fund through the NGOs. It is encouraging that despite the less than reassuring political and security climate in the country, the organisation has decided to go ahead with its development programmes.
But if experience is any guide, not all NGOs have always come out clean on matters pertaining to the use of funds. And there is nothing to indicate that all of the NGOs this aid agency intends to collaborate with carry impeccable credentials. This is not to belittle the immense good work done by several NGOs. While the discretion to make public the list of such domestic agencies rests entirely with the DFID, the public, however, would be very much obliged if their identities are revealed. It is in the interest of the DFID also. Undeniable as it is, aid has been one of the key factors of development in Nepal. The volume of foreign assistance received by Nepal has been as much, perhaps even more, since the historic transition to multiparty democracy. Sadly, however, not all of it percolated down to the poor as the donors and aid agencies would have liked. There is no question the foreign aid has been instrumental in effecting some change in the lives of the poor Nepalis. Organisations like the DFID have contributed significantly to this process. Right kind of assistance with right kind of priorities is always welcome.