NDF, durable peace and development Time to show solidarity

The Nepal Development Forum (NDF) meeting is taking place at a time when Nepal is still at the crossroads despite the creation of history on many fronts. Needless to point that in addition to abolishing monarchy and making the most inclusive Constituent Assembly, we are embarking on the path of federal governance structure and inclusive democratic system.

There is the determination to bring about new socio-economic transformation for fulfilling the cherished goals of prosperity with justice or equity. This demands, among others, some sort of political consensus on the development approach that we need to pursue and enhance, unlike in the past. Understandably, this will pave the way to address genuine grievances of various suppressed voices in a conflict prone society and brighten the prospect of durable peace.

In this transition, what is needed, among others, is massive program support backed by huge external resources which are far beyond our internal capacity at the moment. It is a matter of satisfaction that the development partners are eager to support our initiatives or endeavors if their observations in the pre-consultative meetings are any guide. This is a time when many countries like ours are facing aid problems due to recession in the advanced countries.

However, at a time when a very enabling environment for the NDF is being created, some dissident voices even cautioning development partners are being heard which could have been internally discussed at the political level.

There were certain standard procedures followed during the period of elected governments in the past. First the papers prepared by the concerned government authorities are presented to the NDF pre-consultation meetings. In these meetings, the experts associated with different political parties and representatives of the various stakeholders are requested to give their views and suggestions on the papers. Large participants also give their comments and suggestions. The final papers to be presented to the NDF meeting accommodate many valuable suggestions received during the consultation processes. For the present in the NDF also, it seems, similar procedures have been followed as the deliberations indicate. Therefore, the question at this critical juncture of transition is not expressing anguish to the extent of threat to boycotting the NDF meeting.

From the same standpoint, it was expected that the papers in general and development strategy paper in particular have concentrated on proposing strategies that could contribute to create suitable grounds for durable peace and prosperity within a short span of time. Contrarily, the development strategy paper lacked desired vision and direction in the form of strategies. More importantly, a new development paradigm shift could have been suggested in the light of rethinking even in the west about the need to rebalance the role of the state and the market. This means, the role of various actors would have been forwarded more convincingly with predominant emphasis on public-private partnership and active role of the community and the civil society. This could have been accompanied by the strategies separating those areas that could enhance higher growth and those that could promote equity with albeit less growth in which the role of the private sector could have been clearly stated.

The comprehensive social security system treating employment including benefits as important ingredient could have been proposed. How the imbalances in terms of income and consumption among various socio-economic groups as well as rural and urban areas including accessible and remote areas will be minimized could have been stated more candidly with some reference on the upcoming role of the federal governance structure and the local government. In the whole process, what is expected from the development partners could have been added. The cross cutting issues like security, enabling business and investment environment, governance including structural and institutional constraints could have been adequately dealt with in the strategy. The main problem with the paper is that it was structured as a loose three year interim plan rather than a comprehensive strategy paper.

Based on the responses on the part of the government during the deliberations, one can, however, sense that the government is engaged in revising or overhauling papers taking various suggestions into account. It is but quite natural to expect a path breaking development strategy paper in such a changed political context in which rising expectations of the people are adequately addressed in a more credible way. In such a juncture, positive contribution through constructive suggestions could be a better approach from the political spectrum as well. We have passed through a phase in which, among others, even funds allocated to the villages were discarded simply on the political grounds with so many ups and downs. This is a phase of transition with many challenges needing political reconciliation. Let us not miss at least peace dividend led development opportunities through political wrangling by exposing ourselves before the development partners.