Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program in 2009 as the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group. Clark, the former prime minister of New Zeeland, was the first UNDP administrator to visit Nepal in twenty five years. Excerpts of her interaction with the media.
This is twenty-five years after the visit of UNDP’s director to Nepal.
I visited Nepal in a very important moment coincided with a seven-point peace plan signed in November 1. I think it is very important and a road block has been removed from the completion of constitution writing and peace process. This is critical because Nepal has been in very difficult period as it faced the civil war and conflict.
How can UN support Nepal?
Nepal is into a comprehensive peace process and UN has supported it in its difficult time. Along with UN Country team, UN political mission has also supported Nepal. We supported the reintegration of first group of former combatants, particularly minors. The recent agreement signed by political parties is very important to move the steps. After successfully completing the constitution writing and peace process, Nepal will focus on economic and social development.
How do you see the future of Nepal?
This country, which is located between two of the world’s greatest economies, China and India, and young population, has huge potential to move forward. The process which has been underway for five years needs to complete to tap the greater economic opportunity that lies ahead.
What is your impression about the visit?
This is my first visit to Nepal and I personally got the opportunity to meet every one, from prime minister, members of constituent assembly and all the way to the person who has been able to make benefits from micro-enterprise programs and the one in the process of combatants’ reintegration. I found the ethnic members of CA are very interesting and some of the issues linked to my political career was to accommodate diversity of the people in one nation. Nepal is a diverse country in terms of language, culture and ethnicity. With a history of reconciliation among different communities, Nepal is a strong nation.
What is your observation about Nepal’s peace process?
Nepal’s peace process is home grown process and no one steals what Nepal wants to do. We can bring various processes and rounds and Nepal can choose its destiny. There is a huge opportunity for Nepal to make economic progress. There are huge opportunities for Nepal to adapt to climate change. Nepal will have opportunity to move with renewable energy and renewable technology.
How about your meeting with political leaders?
I was very impressed that the prime minister invited senior leaders of political parties to come and meet with me. They all came to the meeting. I am not sure whether opposition leaders will come or not when my country’s prime minister invite them. I was impressed about the political leaders who came to discuss on some of the strange issues. Second thing, I was impressed by the civility of discourse and seriousness that the later was approaching the issue. I sensed that there was a very sincere and genuine interest getting into some insights into how complex the multi-party system might work.
What do you say about electoral system?
The best example where Nepal worked forward in an elections system where there was an element of proportional representation system which my own country and Norway too have been following. This system always tends to deliver a parliament where no party secures the majority. Our last ten years of experience has been that this is a different system than the majority system. A big party should have to make a coalition with three or four smaller parties to form the majority government. Here one has to reach across and they have to rely on others. Sometimes a smaller party did not back the bigger party and end up the government dealing with the main opposition party.
As Nepal has made a lot of progress in MDGs, recently released UNDP’s report revealed that there is a big gap in resources to maintain the success. How do you look at it?
In a lot of countries, Nepal’s progress on the MDGs makes a story. Some have gone better than others. Maternal child health has gone incredibly well. There are things that go faster with purposeful support. What UN team not only UNDP would be doing is applying MDG escalation frame work with National Planning Commission. This is the specific approach which was developed in September last year. We worked with stakeholders and donor partners to push some of the MDGs that are moving slowly. What is being proposed for this approach is work on the goal having recharge completely primary education as a lot of children drop out.
How do you see Nepal’s preparedness to cope with major disaster?
As Nepal lies in the active seismic zone, disaster management is a big priority for Kathmandu. Looking at the program, earthquakes will have devastating impact in the country. I was aware that there is vulnerabilities assessment .There need to be strong enforcement for building code. There is sense of awareness. They are good.