"Constitution Has A Lot Of Meaning For Stability” Matthias Meyer

MATTHIAS MEYER, ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, came to Nepal just one and a half months ago, to take up his sixth assignment as an ambassador. While gearing up for work, Meyer spoke to KESHAB POUDEL at his office on Monday afternoon o

Oct. 16, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -9 October. 18- 2014 (Kartik 01, 2071)

Since Nepal has been in the process of writing the new constitution, amidst many ups and downs, how do you observe the overall scenario?

I have to admit that I have arrived in Katmandu only recently. To be frank, I have the feeling that constitution building is a very difficult process here. People and parties are struggling towards the aim to reach consensus on crucial points. We have to respect the decision making process of Nepalese people and its leaders. Problems in the past had to do with marginalized people and disadvantaged communities. The aim of the process seems to better secure the rights of underprivileged people and safeguard a better status for them in the new constitution. I have to admit that I have sympathy with this aim. The constitution is something which is not directly affecting the daily lives of the people but at the end the constitution should give an umbrella for protection to these issues. We have to respect that the process of constitution building is slow. At the same time we need to say that it should not be too slow to avoid the risk of ending with nothing. This is what happened to the first CA another failure would be a great disappointment for the people

Given the current political scenario, how difficult will it be for Nepal to achieve political stability through the promulgation of the new constitution?

Constitution has a lot of meaning for stability. If it is agreed and consensus is reached among all relevant parties, including the smaller ones, the constitution will last long. It will then be of importance for the development of the country. As a foreigner, I can say that Nepal had some problems in the past with insurgency and political instability. Our business communities always ask the embassy when this kind of scenario will end. Germany all along, with neighboring states, have a strong interest in the stability of Nepal. As I have talked to many colleagues, they are all concerned about the need to improve the living standards of the people. For this, Nepal needs a constitution which guarantees political stability and creating an atmosphere for a better business climate than before. We wish the people of Nepal and address to political parties to come to finalize the process of constitution building within a self-determined time frame.

With the technical support of Germany, Nepal’s municipalities have established sound institutional mechanisms for fiscal decentralization. How do you see their role in Nepal’s state restructuring in future?

In its true meaning, federalism promotes development. As you may know, we have federal system in Germany. This might not be emulated in total by other countries as we have historically different backgrounds. Our system was developed with the help and support of our allies at the time. It is a system where direct control of the central government in all daily processes is excluded. Before, between 1933 and 1945, there was few or no decision making power at local and provincial level. Thus, our fathers decided not to accept this system in our future political live. There was a belief that Germany would achieve better development if autonomy was granted at various levels. This principle could also be adopted by Nepal. More autonomy supports democracy in general and increases the power of local authorities. Decision makers at the local level are closer to the people. I hope Nepal would examine constituitional models that give more power to the people in decision making.

Nepalhas been unable to hold the election to local bodies for almost 13 years since the expiry of their tenure.  How do you see the importance of elections of local bodies in the present context?

As I mentioned, if you want to empower people, there is the need to hold local elections. Holding local elections is an important fact as it gives a feeling to the people that they are part of the political processes and the development of the country.

There is a growing international concern about the delay to deliver justice to the victims of conflict. How does your government view Nepal’s current state of human rights and transitional justice system?

This whole question is very important. At the same time we have to see the connection to the peace process as a whole. Now here I can see some encouraging steps. The problem is tackled by the authorities. From our side, there could be done more with regard to the improvement of the human rights situation. But, I must say we need patience as well. We are here with partners to help those who want support. The whole process needs time and we must respect that. We want to work together with authorities and people to improve the situation.

Despite prolonged political instability, Nepal’s top priority is to achieve higher economic growth to eradicate the poverty? Can Nepal make economic progress?

I am fully convinced that Nepal will achieve higher growth and make progress. Nepal has achieved the progress even under difficult circumstances. There is a need for clearer policy guidelines regarding the future way of the country. All in all I have a good feeling. Nepal can not reverse progress and achievement.

Germanyhas provided financial and technical support to construct two major hydropower projects in Marsyangdi River with the capacity of almost 150 MW. As Nepal has been facing severe power shortage, how do you see the possibility of such cooperation in future?

We all know that hydropower is the strength of Nepal and it has not been exploited enough. We welcome the signing of the PTA with India. That could be a very important step towards better exploitation of this sector. Germany sees this as favorable condition for future cooperation. On the other hand I have to say that for the time being, Germany is concentrating its focus on three main areas: health, renewable energy / better efficiency of the energy sector and better trade relations with our country. Germany is unable to earmark means in the bigger hydropower projects by now. There might be more opportunities in future as soon as the whole development is clearer. Our cooperation is finalized in bilateral agreements an annual negotiation that will take place in December this year. That is the place where the Nepalese Government should make proposals for financing requirements. If you ask me, I have the feeling that our bilateral cooperation by now will concentrate exclusively in the three sectors I mentioned earlier.

Is there any possibility to attract Germany’s private sector in energy development?

Yes, the private sector is likely to have interest in the energy development. A potential commitment will be assessed by companies themselves depending on a favorable business climate in general. I am sure companies will decide to come to Nepal if this is guaranteed. In fact, Nepal is a country to which Germany could offer its newest technology with regard to hydropower.

Due to lack of technical education, Nepal has been facing the crunch of skilled labor in the country. Germany supported Nepal in early days to establish technical education institutes to offer skill training.  Does your country have any plan to support Nepal in this sector again?

I think the most important point is Nepal needs to create an environment where people do not need to go outside for work. In fact Germany is well known globally for its expertise in professional training. As a precondition the country has to define clear guidelines for its future way and where it wants to go.  

Germanyis the largest trading partner of Nepal in Europe with highest exports of Nepalese woolen carpets and handicrafts. What would you suggest to Nepal to retain that market?

This is what we do actually finding ways together with the Nepalese business to increase export to Germany. I am happy to point out that just two days ago we had a meeting regarding this subject. We have identified all kind of herbs as major products to export to Germany. These products can be used for perfumes or pharmaceutical products with high demand in our country. Even small farmers in Nepal can benefit from this. This project is based on public private partnership. With our support a company from Germany has agreed to work with farmer association in Nepal. Both together they are working to improve the quality of products. Furthermore, Nepal’s honey is world class and will be a good item to export to Germany, too. Ginger or mustard are other products for our market in Germany.

The contribution made by GIZ in Nepal’s overall development is immense. What are its likely priorities in the coming days?

GIZ is an agency which takes care of implementing projects we have agreed upon at governmental level. In the annual bilateral meetings, we agree on the fields of cooperation, thereafter GIZ is in charge of implementation. We are very glad that GIZ has done a very good job in the field and has an excellent reputation among people in Nepal.


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