Rio+20 is going to be a landmark event, not only for Nepal but around the world. The summit will remind the world about the commitment of world leaders twenty years ago on promotion of sustainable development. Like all least developed countries around the world, Nepal too has many expectations from Rio+20. Nepal expects that the conference will renew its commitment preserving the Rio principle and fostering consensus on various issues of sustainable development. During my tenure as the vice chairperson of the National Planning Commission (NPC), I constituted a Steering Committee chaired by the NPC Vice Chair with 11 secretaries from various ministries and representatives from the high level committee in it. Under this committee, Nepal has already prepared a Status Paper with broad consultations with various groups.
The country paper has made it clear that Nepal’s main expectation from Rio+20 is a renewed commitment of member states for preserving the Rio Principles and fostering an implementable consensus for narrowing down the implementation gaps in the Rio declaration and other associated commitments and addressing new emerging challenges fairly and equitably based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Nepal holds the view that Rio+20 summit should articulate the commitment to ensure balanced and integrated approach for addressing all three pillars of sustainable development with poverty alleviation and international human wellbeing at the center stage.
For the last two decades, all the countries around the world have been talking about the need of sustainable development. However, this is yet to materialize. Thus, the time has now come to agree on a framework for action during Rio+20. Nepal even has a timeline proposal for implementing sustainable development commitments with a set of actionable goals. Despite very nominal contributions to the global warming by mountainous countries like Nepal, we are vulnerable to change of weather patterns. It is very unfortunate that our capacity to address the problem is very limited. This is the reason countries like Nepal have been persistently demanding global support to effectively address the adverse impacts of climate change.
Nepal focused on economic development and poverty reduction in the past 20 years. It has also made many progresses in the areas of poverty reduction. However, the country’s environment is deteriorating further and Nepal’s development achievement is now under a severe challenge in the context of changing global environment, particularly resulting from climate change. Thus, mountainous countries like Nepal, which are very much vulnerable to climate, need more programs and projects directed to green economy. I have been stressing the need to have a green economy as an instrument for sustainable development, poverty reduction and equitable economic growth. Our experiences have already shown that Nepal has immense potential to achieve a sustainable economic growth. By linking the hills and plains, we can make a lot of differences in the livelihood of people. For instance, Itahari in eastern part of Nepal and Kohalpur in far west can be transformed into the linkages between hills and terai. We can link the markets of geographical regions by promoting sustainable development practices. By preserving the forest in hills and opening processing centers in the plains, we can make a lot of difference in both the areas. As Nepal has a very successful model of preservation and conservation of the forest areas, we can maximize the benefits by promoting the economy. There is the need to have a greater partnership between civil society, community and private sector to bring the change.
However, change cannot be brought about alone. Countries like Nepal need support for adopting and customizing policies and strategies and making special provisions for meeting additional financial, technical and capacity building requirements.
As Rio+20 is approaching, the whole world is eagerly waiting to see a message for the coming decades to guarantee a model for sustainable as well as equitable development for countries like Nepal. These countries also need to improve the ability to address the impacts of climate change. I expect that the Rio+20 will look for a mechanism to help countries like Nepal to overcome crisis and improve resilience. Hydropower generation and biodiversity conservation are two most important resources for economic gains in Nepal. However, one must take care to ensure fair and equitable benefit-sharing with local communities and indigenous people, whose life and livelihoods directly or indirectly depend on the resources or eco-system services.
Rio+20 is a great opportunity for countries like Nepal. As Nepal has already prepared Nepal Status Paper setting its own priorities and strategies, it is time now for all of us to move ahead. With such a huge diversity and riches in water resources, Nepal has immense possibility to bring positive changes in the livelihoods of the people.
(Devkota is former vice-chairperson of National Planning Commission. This is what he told New Spotlight)