Following devastating earthquake of 25 April, there has been 328 aftershocks of Local Magnitude 4 or more until 22 June 2015. The major damage was caused by quakes measuring 7.9 Richter scale on25 April,6.6 Richter scale on26 April, and 6.8 Richter scaleon 12 May. According to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)coordinated by the government, the earthquake has impacted the housing and human settlements sector the most. The PDNA has been a participatory and credible effort with support from bilaterals and multilaterals. It has been launched as the framework for donors to support the government’s recovery efforts. The PDNA report estimates huge reconstruction needs of US$ 6.7 billion.
An international conference on national reconstruction was organised by the Government of Nepal on 25 April to coordinate efforts among its partner governments and donor organizations involved in the reconstruction effort. Donor countries have pledged $4.4 billion in aid for the recovery bid during the conference. Of the total amount, the donors have pledged $2.2 billion in grant while the remaining $2.2 billion in loan.
The donors have expressed their priorities mainly on restoring public facilities, heritage sites and infrastructure developmentsuch as roads and bridges. Likewise, there have been pledges of support for economic reconstruction andskill training to the youths for reconstruction.
It should be remembered that early stage of relief had criticisms related to transparency, management of resources and government efficiency. There have been shortcomings with regard to coordination from the relief organisations too. There is no doubt that the government should be in the driving seat coordinating all the works being carried out by NGOs and INGOs. The donors must advise the recipientI/NGOs to better coordinate with the government mechanism through introduction of conditions that supports the government’s regulatory and monitoring mechanisms.
There have been doubts about the Government of Nepal’s capacity on efficient and transparent utilisation of funds, to achieve the PDNA goals. The Development Cooperation Report unveiled by the government on 10 April 2015 revealed that expenditure of donors’ aid budget was just 51% in three quarters of the fiscal year.Donors may help the government not only in providing monetary support, but also in supporting with technical assistance and capacity building to spend money efficiently and effectively. This may help the government to build a credible governance culture in the future.
With absence of elected personnel in the local bodies, mainly the Village Development Committees (VDCs) and District Development Committees (DDCs), there have been doubts about the credibility and accountability of the funds disbursed at that level. Likewise, the absence of locally elected leaders will be felt when there are potential conflicts over the disbursement of resources. As the reconstruction requires at least five years according to the government, it makes sense to hold local election as soon as possible to ensure credible reconstruction process at the VDC and district levels. The donors can help the government in conducting local elections with logistics support and send observers to ensure credibility.
A high powered authority for post-earthquake reconstruction has been approved through ordinanceunder the prime minister to lead the task of reconstruction. The authority will have three objectives - rebuilding quake-ravaged infrastructures (or building entirely new), mobilization of resources needed for the task, and capacity enhancement of local institutions. This authority will require a robust institutional mechanism and dedication of an empowered team of officials. The donors can provide technical support to the authority to develop a robust mechanism towards efficient implementation and adequate accountability.
The reconstruction work requires exchange of good practices between the government and other development agencies including NGOs and INGOs. There have been criticisms about lack of proper coordination between donor agencies too. There were plenty of overlaps in terms of sectoral and geographical coverage. This is one area where donors should also ensure coordination and consistency.The government’s Aid Management Platform (AMP) though is expected to minimise such overlaps. Rather than donors implementing their separate country strategies, it is advisable for them to support the single strategy of Nepalesegovernment for rebuilding.
There have been severe criticisms about highly paid consultants being imported by the donors and big relief organisations. The donors should emphasise the use of local knowledge and South-South experience. For example, the lessons of Pakistan from the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) could be instrumental in case of Nepal’s reconstruction. The donors could help in bringing the good lessons from there through technical support.
There were criticisms during the relief phase that the earmarked aid money was mostly consumed by donors themselves by paying their high expensive experts, equipment, technologies, etc. leaving only some residual money for ultimate beneficiaries. It is advisable to refrain from putting conditions on expertise, equipment and technologies by the donors for which the aid money will be consumed.
Luitel is a Director of Practical Action South Asia