A recurrent question that arises in the discourse on development in Nepal is whether we are at the stage of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, wherein we lack much needed leadership, vision and strategy to achieve the desired outcomes. The best way to find answers to such a question will be to evaluate the current state of affairs in this field, going by the proverb that ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’.
At present, there are many individuals and communities proclaiming that they have experienced development – a condition of sustained form of positive change permeating beyond the individual and affecting the functioning of his/her family and community at large. Development spawns societal level change – a transformation of socio-cultural, political, and economical structures and the power relations therein for marginalized and excluded groups to equally engage and decide the course of actions and redistribute the resources.
There are multiple and often conflicting views when it comes to operationalizing development. Questions like what kind of development is to be considered as real development, for whom are development plans drawn up, who decides and how long are such plans often arise creating rifts which become difficult to narrow down. Amid these challenges, can a perspective of ‘universalism in development’ evolve in Nepal?
Reflections on Development by 2030
What would the development situation of Nepal look like in 2030? Will it reflect a just society, instilled with non-discriminatory and equity based values that views diversity of people as a rich asset for nation building? Or is envisioning an “inclusive development” even farfetched? To realize the vision of a socially just Nepal requires unwavering and sustained commitment from both; the state as well as non-state actors, to create an enabling environment that would foster such development.
To demystify the complexity associated with the vision of redefined development by 2030 requires thorough reflection on part of all actors. The focus has to continue way beyond the development of traditional sectors; such as infrastructure development, towards creating enabling environment to reduce structural and systemic inequalities in our social, cultural, economic, and political systems in order to create a just and constructive society.
Development is a holistic process. In reality the benevolence and welfare perspective has to change. Marginalization and disparity – be it economic, social, cultural, political or geographical access has to be addressed holistically. Similarly, there has to be a departure from “pilot program or project based” focus; notwithstanding the scale of the development intervention, as simplifying the complexities involved in development to such aspects would directly undermine its true essence. Broadly, development goals should be aligned with the vision of a society supported by a state structure that respects and reflects the human rights principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, transparency, human dignity, empowerment, and rule of law in a progressive manner.
It is also important to ensure that the principles of “Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation”, BUSAN 2011 are practiced at all levels of state apparatus, and set as an important guiding factor for development. Non-state actors’ contribution to development, notwithstanding the scale, has to be recognized and mainstreamed within concerned development goals and programs of state agencies. Community led partnerships for local development need to be taken to the next level – making effective use of different community level social structures ensuring ownership and accountability of the development activities and their results. Constant dialogue is central to ensuring desired development results gets charted out and agreed, with effective coordination and implementation mechanisms between the different development actors, state and non-state actors, and marginalized sections of population. It is due time to critically reflect on the role and support of external development partners, being part and parcel of the present development state in Nepal and employ alternative strategies to promote inclusive development in its true essence.
Evolution of a relationship characterized by trust between the general public and responsible people in the government system and structures that run the state machinery, at all different levels will be an essential ingredient to facilitate inclusive development. All organs of the governments, be it the legislative, executive or judiciary, need to be permeated by the principles and practices of accountability and non-discrimination in their functioning. A system of effective monitoring that holds the corrupt accountable has to be firmly set in place. The space for political insipidness, their narrow mindedness, interference with party politics and urge to gain control are all checked and balanced with strict accountability measures. A major overhaul in the bureaucracy – lean, effective, and sensitive to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in its functioning will be an important aspect of governance reforms by 2030.
- By 2030, the state apparatus’ functioning should be competency and results oriented – led by visionary, action oriented and competent people at all levels. This will be integral in bringing about systemic, structural, and attitudinal change in the entire state machinery, which values and practices the provision of quality services to its citizens.
- By 2030 there has to be a drastic increase in investments by state on competency development of youth, broadening their scope to effectively engage in different processes of nation building, and to assume constructive roles – be it at local or national levels and through state agencies or non-state actors.
- Development situation in 2030 needs to reflect increased self-sufficiency and self-reliance across major productive sectors in Nepal. Equitable access and effective use of productive and natural resources, with concurrent investments in rural and urban producers and subsequent benefit sharing is a must.
- Creating economic opportunities, options and effective means that engages the low income and low resource based sections of population to directly improve their livelihood situations and contribute to reduce socio-economic disparity has to be a key priority.
- Development situation of 2030 needs to reflect that the country clearly is embarking on the journey of social transformation and inclusive development.
Developing and Harnessing Capabilities
Ideating on the vision for redefining development in Nepal by 2030, the country should be clear about the capacities that need to be developed, essentially human development for all and employ multiple means for it. Referring to the OECD DAC 2005, capacity development constitutes of a complex interplay between capacities at individual, organizational, institutional and society level, the latter in terms of enabling environment. The country has to be equipped with an array of capacities to deal with the complexity of development, making best use of the ‘people’s potentials’ and engage in solutions driven actions for inclusive development and to strive towards the goal of a socially just Nepal, by and beyond 2030.
As Nepal hopes to graduate beyond ‘developmental tourism’ to the realm of sustained positive changes, adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015, creating a prosperous and socially just society, these are some of the key issues, agendas, and goals that will need reflection and action by 2030.