TOPICS : Conflict resolution through service delivery

Siddha Raj Pant

Nepal thrives on charity from developed countries since half a century ago. Billions of rupees received in aid keeps the economy afloat but does little to benefit the poor farmers that comprise over two-third of the population. In early years of planned development, state establishments delivered go-ods and services deliberately. Policy makers did not approve the private delivery of goods and services then. This was an inference drawn from India’s experiences with East India Company that led to its colonising. Open border, cultural and economic similarities of Nepal with neighbouring states of India made it easier to adopt their practices. Different sets of regimes take their own courses to reach the people. During the Panchayat regime Nepal focused in people’s contributions as a means to serve people with their participation. Modest financial assistance coupled with contributions of the locals resulted in building basic infrastructure like mule tracks, water supply schemes and schools. Local philanthropists led those initiatives that continue to serve us even after decades of their establishment. However, such interventions could go only that far.

As state intervention increased with more funds from the state coffer usually received in aid, people’s contributions shrunk and the mindsets changed significantly. The government became the owner, manager and the provider of almost all public services leading to shift in attitudes to depend on government for everything. This is fuelled by the state policy of imposing as much control to wield power. While the scale and scope of services has become unmanageable through traditional approach, the inheritance of the management and delivery system of the past remains intact.

Historically, dissatisfaction arising out of marginalisation of the majority has given rise to conflict, containing which by the use of force is only a temporary measure. Only when the trust is gained through effective service delivery would it be possible to eliminate conflict without force. At present, ordinary people are under virtual incarceration limiting their mobility vis-à-vis economic opportunities. Outbursts of accumulated strengths that build up during the confinement usually have far reaching effects. While both the problems and solutions are known these appear to be moving nowhere because of the missing links. Establishing links between delivery of services and economic opportunities would accelerate the process of conflict resolution.

In order to maximise effectiveness of service delivery, an organisation needs to focus its energy on its most important activities. Third party engagement can be judiciously chosen to manage and provide auxiliary activities. The supply chain involving a local third party in providing services opens opportunities for disadvantaged populations to play a role to capture value and be a part of mainstream development. While economic opportunities at home provide the highest level of empowerment and dignity to the people, these act as cushion for aid withdrawals.