By Matthias Meyer, German Ambassador to Nepal
Germany and Nepal have maintained a friendly and particularly close relationship for many decades. I can say this not only for our two Governments, but also with regard to the German and Nepali people. Nepal occupies a special place in the hearts of Germans – as has been impressively shown after the earthquake when German civil society raised funds of more than € 116 m. for the earthquake victims.
Allow me to make some remarks in this context that we hope the government of Nepal will continue to pursue as objectives with priority.
In order to secure that all our development cooperation with Nepal produces the best results we need a conducive economic environment. I have followed with interest that the government has launched new legislation to attract foreign investment to the country which is a right step in the right direction. But to be frank, much more has to be done to change the environment towards a better investment climate. This includes favorable conditions for capital in and outflow, less bureaucratic hurdles to start a new business, trusted legal procedures and mechanisms to prevent corruption. Foreign investments will then contribute to create jobs within the country, will support the infrastructure for sound vocational training conditions, will lead to an improvement of the trade balance and will finally help to sustain the projects within the framework of our cooperation. For both sides, Germany and Nepal, the improvement of economic framework conditions seems to be a matter of priority.
Another very important point which is closely linked to our cooperation are the recovery efforts of the government of Nepal after the devastating earthquake of April/May 2015. Germany has supported the activities of the government with additional funds of 30 Mio Euro which were focused mainly on the health and energy sector as well as on the restoration of infrastructure and monuments in Bhaktapur. Unfortunately many earthquake victims are still facing the approach of the second winter in their poorly insulated makeshift shelters. It is in everybody’s highest interest that the reconstruction process must be accelerated. The PM has recently underlined the necessity to speed up processes for the distribution of funds. But as the Head of our Parliamentary Committee for Development Cooperation has stated in March his year: extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures. In our eyes much more emphasis should be given to support those people still in need particularly facing the severe winter conditions in the mountains.
This leads me to another field of action where in our eyes progress is urgently needed. I’m sure I have mentioned it already before. Nepal needs local elections at the earliest. It is stipulated by the constitution and should not be postponed time and again. Last elections have been held 18 years ago. There are no locally elected leaders so far which had a very negative impact on the recovery efforts after the earthquake. As you all know, locally elected leaders are of crucial importance for local development. They know best how to deal with local issues and are respected by people in the communities. It is without question that with the help and support of locally elected representatives recovery efforts on the ground would have been much more efficient than with the existing mechanisms. Therefore I would like to encourage the Government of Nepal to create the necessary conditions for holding free and fair elections at the earliest.
At the same time and this belongs to an issue of allover importance, I mention this because Germany is strongly interested in a reliable stable political situation in the country, I wish and encourage all political stakeholders involved in the ongoing political discussions, to show as much flexibility and generosity as possible, in trying to find a compromise. Achieving this would be the most important step for a brighter development of the country.
And allow me to address two other points of importance in our eyes. First, from our own history we know that after the second world war in Europe with all the damage inflicted on people and human values by Germany, it was of foremost importance for us to find ways for reconciliation with those people who had suffered under our rule. Even if the events cannot be compared with the civil war in your country, we see that a broader part of the population in Nepal is still suffering under grief which has been inflicted on them during that period. Ten years have passed since the end of the conflict, and just some days ago a Peace Conference was held in Kathmandu on this occasion, but still the real value of peace meaning a reconciliation process has not yet started. We believe that only a meaningful transitional justice process that is in line with international practices can fulfill the desire of victims and their families for recognition. I can assure you that such a process which by the way is in line with assurances of all parties of the conflict, is necessary for creating a society which is based on common respect of its citizens.
And last but not least, this is a point which should be addressed for the sake of all of us in Kathmandu and the country at large. Since my arrival in 2014 (even from the tallest perspective) I was rarely in a position to spot the beautiful Himalayan Mountain range the same way I did when I first came to the country in 1979. Usually, if no clouds cover the view, layers of dust and pollution block this marvelous panorama. The increased level of environmental and air pollution is alarming. It is a heavy risk factor for our health and on a longer run will have negative impacts on tourism in general. Not only in my eyes there is an urgent need to tackle this problem with strong efforts from all sides. Nepal’s reputation depends on a clean environment, on free views on its snowcapped peaks and healthy air for visitors. Something has to be done urgently, otherwise the consequences for different sectors of public life will be grave.
German Development Cooperation is here to assist you in tackling some of the many challenges Nepal is facing. Our support cannot substitute responsibilities on the Nepali side. It is a joint undertaking, a co-operation, a collaborative affair. We can only achieve our objectives if we together are committed and work hard towards our common goals.
I hope that you and your colleagues of the Government of Nepal and my colleagues here from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development will conduct the negotiations in good spirit and come to shared results that will define our future collaboration.
Excerpts of the opening statement delivered at recently concluded Bilateral German-Nepal negotiations on development cooperation 2016.