UK bounty to tide over Nepal's poverty

KATHMANDU: Yesterday, the British government announced that it would increase the financial aid to Nepal to assist the fledgling democracy to eradicate poverty.

The move aims to create 1.5 lakh jobs over the next five years.

Douglas Alexander, secretary, Department for International Development (DFID), UK, unveiled the programme that will help sustain forest cover and weed out poverty in least developed nations.

At least 20 fragile countries — home to about one-third of the poorest people in the world — come under the ambit of this ambitious global initiative.

The White Paper underlines the DFID’s lofty goals.

“Helping to ensure that security and justice are treated as a basic service — alongside health, education, water and sanitation — in the developing world with funding tripled to £120 million by 2014.”

This includes training police officers, setting up law courts and protecting women from all forms of violence.

Nepal is among the five most vulnerable countries — Yemen, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Afghanistan complete the list — where 7.5 people stand to benefit from various economic opportunities.

DFID will help the Nepali government formulate a national climate change strategy.

According to the White Paper, the UK government will pump in £100 million for climate change research across the globe for the next five years.

Nepali government had entrusted the communities with the responsibility to manage and use forests for the past 20 years.

“Livelihoods and Forestry Programme (LFP), Nepal, has been helping 527,000 households to eke out a forest-based living. More than 90 per cent of the villagers maintain that forests are in a better condition than what they were 20 years ago. There has been less depravation of the flora and fauna. These forests store about 70,000 tonnes of carbon annually,” explained Bijaya Shrestha, project manager LFP, Nepal.

In this backdrop, the Paper stated that every 100 euro spent by the UK government to support the forestry programme in Nepal has shored an individual’s income to 230 euro in the past five years.

The UK support comes at a time when the Himalayan nation is in the midst of a major political transition. The decade-long armed conflict, waged by the Maoists, is over and sustained efforts are on to restore lasting peace through integration of the Nepali Army and the People’s Liberation Army, which owes its allegiance to the ex-rebels.

DFID will support Nepal by strengthening core functions, like policing, drafting of the new statute, generating one lakh short-term jobs and building 800 km of rural road network.

As for the long term, an estimated 50,000 jobs will be created in agro and tourism sectors, by creating a conducive environment for investment.

Over the last five years, the UK has doubled its aid to fragile and conflict-hit nations, including Nepal, to 1.2 billion euro a year.

The UK government has announced that it would adopt a novel approach to usher in a peaceful Nepal. It enlists four objectives for alleviation of poverty in the long term:

Support inclusive political settlements; directly address the underlying causes of conflict and fragility; support state to carry out core functions essential for its survival and help the country meet the popular expectations.

DFID, Nepal, country business plan 2009-2012 stated that the organisation would focus on key issues like peace process and help improve the public security; governance and an enabling environment for the private sector, growth and jobs; basic services (health and education among others); and climate change. The annual allocations are £46, £56

and £60 million, respectively. As per the White Paper, politics will be at the heart of its new-found strategy.

It also calls for respect for human rights and attendant international obligations like strengthening financial management and accountability.

In a bid to fulfil its global initiatives, the UK government has pledged 0.7 per cent of its Gross National Income (GNI), which translates to utilisation of 9 billion euro annually by 2013.

UKaid will play a decisive role as its international development arm. It has pledged

800 million euros to support climate adaptation, low carbon growth and protection of forest cover.

While unveiling the White Paper, Alexander said that security and justice had been accorded the status of basic service — alongside health, education, water and sanitation —

for the first time.

It also underlined the dire need to drastically reduce the maternal mortality rates, which can save the lives of six million mothers and babies by 2015.

The funds will help eight million more children in Africa to attend schools. Africa will get £1 billion to strengthen its infrastructure, including transport, energy and trade in the region. The UK will donate generously to the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund for humanitarian aid as well.