DENMARK, one of the leading development partners of Nepal, has taken charge of the EU presidency since 1 January 2012. In that context, Danish ambassador to Nepal MORETN JESPERSEN spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues, including Denmark-Nepal relations and development cooperation. Excerpts:
How do you see Nepal-Denmark relations at present?
Nepal has been a partner country to Denmark since 1989 where a long-term partnership was established. Denmark seeks to assist Nepal in this important time and our relationship is based on mutual respect, close cooperation and dialogue. Denmark provides bilateral development assistance to Nepal, we have visa- and consular services for Nepali citizens going to Denmark and for the first half of 2012 we continue to be responsible for the local EU Presidency in Nepal on behalf of the EU-delegation and the present EU-missions.
Since Denmark is one of the largest development partners of Nepal, what are the areas Denmark has been providing assistance to Nepal?
The Danish development assistance in Nepal is based on Nepal’s own priorities and development strategies. In 2012, Denmark expects to grant app. USD 35 million in development assistance to Nepal through which the objectives of poverty reduction, political stability and economic growth are pursued. The main focus areas in Denmark’s engagement are education, renewable energy, human rights and good governance, the peace process, and growth and employment. We also promote partnerships between Nepalese and Danish companies and support culture initiatives in Nepal.
As Nepal has been passing through a crucial phase of constitution writing and peacemaking, how do you observe it?
Denmark welcomes the progress made so far in the peace process on the categorisation of the former Maoist combatants. We trust that all parties will now show commitment to complete the integration and rehabilitation process. We also continue to encourage the Government and the opposition parties to give high priority to issuing a draft of a new Constitution – a Constitution which commits Nepal to democracy and upholding its citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms in line with Nepal’s international obligations.
As Nepal is facing a severe power crisis, how do you see the alternative energy program supported by DANIDA?
Despite Nepal’s great potential of hydro-power, the country is facing a severe power crisis. The electricity generated so far meets less than 40% of its demand and the electricity networks are mostly located in the major urban areas. Nepal has many remote areas with low density of households and difficult terrain to extend the grid system. Therefore an exploration of renewable, sustainable, alternative energy sources, which can be operated at a decentralized level and affordable to meet the demands of the poor and deprived people, is urgently needed. For more than 20 years, Denmark has supported Government efforts to provide electricity and sustainable, renewable energy solutions to millions of the rural poor. Denmark’s current programme aims at improving rural access to renewable energy in the form of improved cooking stoves, solar panels to households and micro-hydro installations in areas where there is no access to the national electric power network.
What will be the focus areas for Denmark during its local EU presidency in Nepal the coming sixth months?
EU’s main objective in Nepal is to support Nepal’s own, positive development. During the Danish Presidency, the EU-missions will continue to focus its efforts on a range of political- and development-oriented areas: We will continue to encourage progress on issues related to the peace- and constitution drafting process; we will continue to maintain dialogue with the Government, civil society and national human rights institutions on human rights, impunity and transitional justice; and we will continue to contribute to a sustainable social and economic development in Nepal.
There is debate going on recently in Nepal regarding to give blanket amnesty to those involved in heinous crime during the conflict by brining the Truth and Reconciliation Bill and Disappearance Bill. How does EU look at it?
The bills on the Truth and Reconciliation- and Disappearance Commissions are still being discussed in Parliament. Denmark continuously stresses the need for Nepal to live up to fundamental human rights, and the need for the two commissions to meet the standards of international law. Should the bills enable blanket amnesty, it would risk putting Nepal in breach of its obligations under the international human rights treaties it has signed. There is not one model of transitional justice but there are minimum standards. The provisions for broad amnesties for serious crimes will frustrate Nepal’s efforts to end impunity and heal the Nepali society.