This is the first time, I am celebrating the UN Day in Nepal. I have been very heartened by the warm welcome I have received from all sides, fellow UN colleagues, Government officials, civil society and all I have met on my way. UN Day is the day where we celebrate the work of the UN as well thank the Government and our partners who make our work possible and also make it much better. I speak today on behalf of the UN family in Nepal and all the UN agencies. I am grateful for the confidence they are showing in me allowing me to choose the words on their behalf.
Nepal’s contribution to the UN is considerable. Currently Nepal has 815 police and 3,712 soldiers contributing to peace keeping missions in 12 countries. Nepal is the 7th largest peace keeping contributor to the United Nations. Nepal and its peace keepers are invaluable in maintaining world peace efforts. We salute their contributions and courage and greet the presence of the senior representatives of the Nepal Army and Police present today.I want the highlight the efforts, which has been made by Nepal on behalf of the Least Developed Countries.
The United Nations is here in Nepal to assist in the longer term. To help the country see the change, which it aspires to. One of the ambitious goals, which the Government of Nepal has set itself, is the graduation to a Middle Income Country by 2020. We will of course do all in our power to assist Nepal in this process. I am glad to note that Nepal is likely to achieve many of its MDG targets. Nepal has performed well on poverty, education and health targets, whereas targets on hunger, employment and environment sustainability are challenging and require extra effort. While we celebrate these achievements, we should be mindful that sustaining them will require continuous effort. Focus should not only be placed on advancing achievements, but also on consolidating what has already been achieved. More attention is needed to ensure that achievements are fairly distributed to minimize the disparities that continue to exist between social groups and geographical areas. Government and development partners have to work together to identify and reach out to the poor and excluded, which is often difficult. We are approaching the 2015 deadline and the discussions on the agenda beyond 2015 have already begun, both at the global and national level. Once we know the shape and form of the post-2015 agenda, the UN – of course – stands ready to work with the Government and people of Nepal.
Over the past year, the United Nations Agencies have worked together with the Government, Civil Society, NGOs and communities to achieve a wide range of results, some of which include:
WFP has reached more than 500,000 food insecure beneficiaries monthly, mainly in the Mid- and Far-Western Hill and Mountains. With their School Meals Programme WFP aims to improve and increase children’s access to education and strengthen their ability to learn. More than one third of Nepal’s population can neither read nor write. UNESCO has stepped up its efforts to help Nepal to carry out more - and more efficient - literacy programmes. With support from UNICEF and UNFPA, the Nepali Government launched an Adolescents and Youth Charter as part of the post-2015 agenda. UNICEF supported the Government to launch the first ever national campaign to End Violence Against Children, urging ordinary citizens, lawmakers and the government to speak out more forcefully on this terrible but virtually hidden issue.
UNDP supported the Ministry of Finance to launch the Aid Management Platform as an effort to build the Ministry’s capacity to effectively coordinate mobilization of foreign aid. The platform also gives the public access to information on how foreign aid is spent both by programme and by geographic areas. UNFPA has supported the strengthening of service sites in provision of surgeries for women with obstetric fistula. WHO assisted the Ministry of Health and Population to develop a country accountability roadmap based on the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. UNAIDS has supported the Government in developing Nepal’s HIV response, which is a visionary new approach towards strategically costing and implementing a 3-year national HIV programme. UN Habitat has launched the Green Homes Project for the promotion of sustainable housing in the cities through policy intervention and implementation in three pilot cities. FAO has been engaged with the Government of Nepal in formulation of Pro-poor policies to address the Risk and Vulnerability of Rural Poor of Nepal.
The third country settlement program for the refugees from Bhutan is continuing successfully with strong cooperation between the Government of Nepal, resettlement countries, the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR. Since the start of the resettlement program in late 2007, nearly 84,000 refugees have departed for their new homes in 8 countries.
UN Women has helped strengthen the voices on women migrant workers by uniting 18,000 returnee women migrant workers in 15 districts under an umbrella network. ILO launched two new projects to enhance migration governance and prevent the trafficking of women and girls in sending and receiving countries in South Asia and the Middle East. More than 100,000 women and men Nepali migrant workers are expected to benefit from the projects.
Though Nepal has made great strides, it is in a transitional phase. In my experience transition often takes longer than anticipated and never follows any cleverly planned road map. However, we must not get too impatient with the process for every day, which goes by the likelihood of a return to violence becomes less likely. And progress has been made, which we must not lose sight of. I was lucky enough to witness the graduation ceremony for the completion of the integration of former Maoist Army Combatants into the Nepal Army. It is an historic achievement. It marks the successful conclusion of a central part of the peace process and is a model for other peace processes around the world.
Preparations for the elections are taking place across the country for the elections. Candidates are being decided upon, manifestos are being written and campaigns are picking up pace. It is my hope that the new Constituent Assembly will set the same excellent example for gender equality and inclusion in general as the 2008 Constituent Assembly. I have been told that the women’s representation in 2008 Constituent Assembly was the highest in South Asia – something rightly to be proud of.
To the political parties and other stakeholders, I can only strongly encourage everybody to respect the election code of conduct and re-emphasize that violence and intimidation has no place in a democratic election process. I would also like to emphasize the importance of political parties and other stakeholders respecting Schools as Zones of Peace. Schools must remain a safe haven for children, where teaching and learning can continue unhindered in an atmosphere free of violence and interference.
However, elections are only but one step on the way – the real issue is for the elected representatives to complete the constitution. The politicians who will be successful in the upcoming elections need to honour the mandate and shoulder the responsibilities, which people vest in them through their vote.
For some people, an end to the suffering of war will never come. Lost loved ones will never return. But the families of victims deserve justice. Cases of grave human rights abuses committed by all sides during the conflict should be promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated. Perpetrators from all sides should be held accountable, in full compliance with both Nepali and international law. Not only will this help heal the wounds, it will also play an important role in establishing the rule of law and making all citizens equal before the law in Nepal.
Jamie McGoldrick is UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal. Excerpts of the his statement delivered during UN Day ceremony in Kathmandu.