Though I have been here in Nepal for just over three months as the new Head of DFID Office, I was lucky enough to be able to visit some of the activities funded by ESP and meet their beneficiaries both in Kathmandu and on the ground.
Only last week, on a field visit to a few central Terai districts, I saw how the Enabling States Programme has supported local citizens to participate in the constitution making processes, improved access to public information and helped to reduce incidences of gender-based violence.
I met the dedicated staff and the beneficiaries, who told me how the programme has made a difference to their lives. For example, I met a female college student in Hetauda who told me how ESP training on combatting gender-based violence had helped her to take a case to the police of a woman severely beaten by her husband, which resulted in the woman receiving justice. It is such powerful stories that are a testament to the programme’s success.
First of all, I find it remarkable that this programme has directly benefitted over 2 million people- predominantly the poor and marginalised from rural areas - to have better access to justice, to enjoy improved public services, and to develop their skills to hold their government accountable.
As well as benefitting the poor and marginalized, ESP has also worked very closely with Government over the years. ESP has also worked closely with the Government to develop strategies to combat gender based violence, to improve implementation of right to information law, to end caste based discrimination, and to build institutional capacity of the National Women Commission and other key institutions. The programme helped the National Planning Commission to roll out a better monitoring and evaluation system with gender and social inclusion disaggregated data and with the Nepal Administrative Staff College to address issue of inclusion in their curriculum. The programme also worked with the Ministry of Finance to pilot the creation of single treasury accounts in few selected district, which was later scaled up after successful results by the Ministry in all 75 districts.
ESP has also been a very flexible programme, able to support emerging governance priorities. For example, it helped the Election Commission to improve its voters roll and supported the holding of elections in 2008 and 2013. At the same time, the programme supported civil society oversight of the elections, by deploying over 8,000 domestic and international observers; and helping conduct a nation-wide voter education campaign to improve women’s participation.
The closure of ESP has also offered me a unique moment to reflect on how important it is to use the wealth of learning that has been generated by this programme to inform our future programmes in governance in Nepal and elsewhere.
I am also struck by ESP’s ability to take challenge and support innovative ideas. Its support to reach out to thousands of youths through the national football and cricket associations to help raise awareness amongst men on the need to combat gender based violence was something of a new approach in Nepal. One of the key lessons from ESP is the importance of trying new things and piloting new approaches which can then be scaled up if they work, or dropped if they don’t.
So, with all these remarkable results, obviously, you might want to ask: why are we ending the programme?
My simple answer to this question is that whilst the programme is ending, the important work that has been started by ESP will not end, but will be carried forward by new programmes.
So, for example building on the important work on mediation and gender-based violence, we have developed a large justice programme that will improve access to justice for 1.5m women over five years. And on public financial management, as a result of the piloting work through ESP, 2 large multi-donor programmes have been launched. Much of the work to support to civil society on inclusion and to promote accountability has now been integrated into our sector programmes.
DFID and other donors will also continue to support small grants to civil society through a new multi-donor governance programme.
So DFID remains fully committed to support the continuing efforts of Government of Nepal and civil society to improve governance in Nepal.
To conclude, I think it is most important to stress that the results from ESP have only been possible due to strong partnerships between Government, civil society and Nepali citizens. It is only through such a collaborative approach that many of Nepal’s governance challenges will be addressed.
At this point, I would like to give a special thank you to the staff of ESP who have worked so hard over the years to support a well-managed programme.
And finally I would like to thank all of ESP’s many partners – government, NGOs, women’s groups, youth and citizens who have participated in the programme over the years – you are the reason for ESP’s success which is to be celebrated today.