Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon Magnus was in Nepal this past week on a four-day visit as UNDP’s Goodwill Ambassador with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. With a degree in development studies, the heir to the Norwegian throne is involved in promoting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). During his stay in Nepal, he interacted with various groups including members of Blue Diamond Society, an organization of sexual minorities, Indigenous People’s Caucus. He also visited a maternity clinic in Kamdhi, Banke, and met former Maoist combatants. Along with visiting development projects, he also held discussions with the President. He praised Nepal for making remarkable progress in MDGs and singled out female health volunteers repeatedly for their contribution. Crown Prince Haakon shared his experiences with media. Excerpts:
How about your visit to Nepal?
It has been a kind of good experiences to come to Nepal for the first time. I visited several programs and met the people. I have found UN’s vigorous involvement in constitution making, peace process and MDGs. The climate change is going to be a major problem for Nepal and Nepal’s efforts to make achievement in inclusive growth are important.
How do you see UNDP’s programs?
I found that UNDP’s program is moving in a very positive way. I visited maternity ward of the hospital and met the third gender people in Blue Diamond Society. We also met the local women health workers who have been advising the local people in the matter related to their health. Nepal is able to move forward in health sector. I was very impressed by the success Nepal has made in reducing the maternal mortality rate. It took a long time even for Norway to achieve what Nepal did in 30 years. I am very impressed that the local health workers worked really hard. That was very positive. Norway and Nepal have many similarities as both the countries are rich in hydropower. Because of exploitation of hydropower, Norway has been able to achieve high economic growth. Norway can help Nepal to harness Nepal’s hydropower.
How about your stay in Nepal?
I really enjoyed Kathmandu with beautiful architecture but there are vulnerabilities of the earthquake as well. There are possibilities as well as challenges. I was informed that some measures have already been taken to face the vulnerabilities, including the construction of ware houses. School buildings are redesigned, making them earthquake resistant.
Which program impressed you much?
We need a broad based approach in Nepal and many projects to reduce the level of poverty in Nepal. I found that the micro-credit program has very positive implications in reducing the poverty in Nepal. Similarly, rural health program was also impressive. This also helps to improve the health as well as education and upliftment of livelihood of women. I must say that it is quite impressive to see how that has been done and I think the best example of it may be is when we met the local health volunteers in Kamdhi [Banke] where we went to the maternity centre there. When I met them I could clearly see that they were proud of what they were doing and they thought their job was important. And more than 50,000 such volunteers across the country have been doing the job. Facilities are important.
It is said that Nepal is vulnerable to climate change. How do you look at this issue?
The climate change has already affected Norway and it will have long term implications for it. Similarly, I see implications to Nepal’s Himalayas. Norway wants to help Nepal in harnessing hydro power and saving Himalayas. Norway very much focused on collaborating with hydropower development in Nepal. Hydropower is one of the main areas for renewable energy and Norway can help Nepal.