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Agenda 2030 in Nepal: Delivering Development to People’s Doorsteps

Within its development cohort, Nepal is one of the star performers with regards to achieving some of the key objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) defined and adopted in 2000 to support countries make critical social progress for their people. As a result and despite a complex and challenging political situation during the first 15 years of the new millennium, Nepal’s social indicators have shown positive improvements on significant issues such as education, family health, maternal mortality, and child health.  

Building on the success of the MDGs, the global community has adopted in September 2015 a new series of development targets known as the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) as part of the new Development Agenda 2030. And once again Nepal is taking the lead being one of the first countries in the world to come up with its own position paper with regards to the SDGs. If the SDGs are broader and more challenging, Nepal’s commitment to them is a first essential step in the right direction to achieving them. Strong interdependence and deep inter linkage between the new goals and targets are the hallmark of the SDGs, and therefore, Nepal should be well-positioned to build on its MDG experience in localizing the SDGs in a way consistent with its sovereign development vision; partly articulated by the “Vision 2030” and also the 14th periodic plan.

Need For Inclusive Development

Employment oriented high and inclusive economic growth is central to achieving nearly all other dimensions of development. To this end, the current development plan documents the Government of Nepal’s focus on realizing the full potential of a modernized agricultural sector; to be facilitated by the development of energy, road, air transport, information/communication, rural-urban and multi-lateral linkages – all to be supported by good governance in the form of effective and accountable public finance and clean, transparent and people friendly public service. This national vision is also critically important to achieving the SDGs which addresses all these dimensions of development.

One can hardly over-emphasize the need for inclusive development which is important in and of itself; and also as the foundation of a peaceful society. This is where the essence of “localization” of development targets lies: we know that the MDG targets were measured at the national level, masking wide disparities when disaggregated by region and socio-economic groups. This is not specific to Nepal, and was also observed in several other countries. Therefore and rightly so, the SDG Agenda 2030 places special emphasis on “leaving no one behind”, urging national governments to take the SDGs as close to the people as possible by ensuring everybody knows about the SDGs and incorporating them in sub-national plans. The federal model adopted for Nepal by its new constitution should support this and UNDP as a close development partner to the country working with all its national and development partners will fully support the government and other stakeholders implement the constitution, drawing on our rich knowledge base and global expertise built over the past 50 years.

Nepal’s vulnerabilities are a reality that cannot be changed, but it can certainly manage the risks to a significant extent with smart planning, including; through the activities of the National Reconstruction Authority, to rebuild in earthquake affected districts following a “Build Back Better” approach. Climate change, global economic and political crises are added sources of risk that can derail Nepal from its development path. Therefore, a resilient approach towards planning is essential: UNDP continues to strongly advocate for this approach across all our sectors and modalities of intervention. In addition to adopting scientific building standards (e.g., earthquake-proofing), resilience also hinges on the functioning of a sound state-owned social protection system, complemented by the provision of market-based instruments for risk mitigation including insurance for the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the population. There is a strong scope for public-private partnership here, with the UN system well-placed to facilitate the same.

Gender Equality

While Nepal has achieved most of the gender related goals under the MDGs, the bar has been raised considerably by SDG 5 and also its linkages with the goals related to health, education and inequality. It should be noted that globally- and Nepal is no exception, the “social” dimensions of gender equality; e.g., decline in maternal mortality rates, parity in school enrollment, have improved significantly. But, women’s economic empowerment still remains unattained. This is unambiguously confirmed by evidence in Nepal, showing women working more hours but earning less, unable to come out of vulnerable and informal occupations, and also unable to bring their small enterprises up to scale. One of the obstacles has been women’s persistent lack of or limited access to certain key infrastructures such as energy, transport, technology and financial services. In part, this may be caused by the portion of overseas development assistance earmarked for gender equality in these sub-sectors within productive sectors. More research is needed on aid effectiveness to help achieve the last mile in women’s economic empowerment. The political empowerment of women also requires additional attention. Nepal having elected a woman President, Speaker of Parliament and Chief Justice, are powerful elements of progress that need to translate anti conducive policies and results that allow more women at all levels across the whole country reach decision-making positions and make long lasting changes.

Role Of The Private Sector

Achieving the SDGs requires huge resources, and they have to come from a combination of sources, both domestic and foreign. The role of the private sector is being emphasized in various policy discourses. It will be useful to bear in mind that the private sector requires “incentives” to be a full financial partner in human development. For investors to come, Nepal needs political stability and predictability, as well as a stronger and improved legal environment for private investments and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Much of this has to do with the signaling of intent: timely local elections and the implementation of the Constitution can constitute such signals. Nepal can also consider trade-related incentives to attract FDI especially with a view to find a place in the exorable advent of global supply chains. Goods are no longer produced in a country – they are produced in the world. Almost every country including Nepal can create its own niche in these supply chains.

As UNDP, we also reiterate that the SDGs are firmly embedded in, or linked to, a number of human rights related conventions dating as far back as the 1940s, to which all countries are a signatory. The SDGs bring the development agenda to people’s doorsteps, urging them to embrace Agenda 2030 as a basic human right and no less. Therefore, an SDG-based economic growth model will guarantee its sustainability, be risk-informed, and ensure that its dividends are equally shared, thereby strengthening social cohesion, from where Nepal can set in motion a positive and virtuous cycle for human development.

Last but not the least, partnership between the state, civil society, the business sector, youth, academia, donors and other development partners will be the key to success. It is UNDP’s promise to the people of Nepal that it will expend every effort in supporting and forging partnerships in all these spheres in new and innovative ways to make sustainable development a tangible reality. 

Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis
Senior Economist at UNDP Nepal
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Renaud Meyer
Country Director of UNDP Nepal
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