Making a distinction

A number of important donors have developed basic guidelines for their operations in Nepal. These agencies include JICA, DANIDA, GTZ, DFID and those from the European Union, Canada, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The donor agencies and the UN have also published their operating guidelines for Nepal more than once over the past year, particularly to make clear the conditions under which they can and cannot work. These guidelines are necessary to keep the agencies away from controversy and to set certain norms for themselves with expectation of cooperation from their Nepali partners and other domestic forces. Improving the life of the Nepalis being the donors’ basic goal, the guidelines seek to take into account the local aspirations, cultural and religious values and customs while implementing their aid programmes.

This is all very good as no development projects and programmes can address the needs of the local people and win their support unless these are tailored to their needs and values. According to the 14-point guidelines, the local people’s sense of dignity will be respected and the agencies will provide their services irrespective of people’s political and religious creeds, caste or race. Stressing transparency of their operations, the guidelines aim to involve local people while drawing up, implementing and managing development programmes and to ensure that aid is not used for military, political or sectarian purposes. The need, however, still is to ensure their strict implemenation.

Much of foreign aid comes with certain conditionalities. But all conditionalities are not necessarily detrimental to Nepal’s interests. For example, tying aid to democracy, human rights, proper aid utilisation and good governance seeks to protect the general people’s interests. But it will be a quite different matter if donors, often the multilateral ones like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, put pressure on the government to hike the prices of its services, such as electricity, in a big way to make up for the losses, thus putting on the poor Nepalis the whole burden of graft, corruption, and inefficiency on the part of the government as well as of the vested interests in the donor agencies which have pushed up costs unnecessarily. A good government makes a distinction between the two kinds of

conditionality. Besides, some of the NGOs, INGOs and donor agencies have earned the dubious distinction of having a secret agenda, for example, religous conversion, of mainly poor Nepalis through financial and other inducements. The government must have the courage, utterly lacking so far, to come down heavily on them no matter the financial implications of such an action.