How do you find the work of Lutheran World Federation in Nepal? What did you find the most interesting?
I am very impressed by the work that my colleagues have been doing here. I think it is a very solid, thought-through and well-implemented, program that I saw. LWF has a long standing presence since 1984 so there has been a lot of time to continuously improve. We are a learning organization and we are accumulating knowledge for the sake of improvements. I saw a different line of actions in which LWF-Nepal is involved. On the one hand we have a long standing commitment with Bhutanese Refugees in the east of the country. I am happy to see the work is being undertaken particularly linking the protection issues with development and so the whole questions of self reliance, community organization, livelihood improvements. I am very impressed. And also the level of self organizations of the camp. This is all good development.
We saw earthquake relief and rehabilitation, which I was also interested to see. I was very happy that LWF-Nepal continues to go to the far, remote, places where others have no time to reach. I am happy to see the whole work of LWF Nepal very well connected with governmental structures at local, provincial, national, with the INGOs and civil society and with UN System. So to see the LWF not standing on its own is something very encouraging.
During your visit, you also met the local community people in the project sites. What did you hear from them, particularly women and children?
First of all, I heard great words of appreciation for the works that have been done with them. At the same time I have also seen a lot of expectations, what may still happen, where they want to go, and I am just sharing with my colleagues that I am grateful for people having expectations because this tells you that these communities are alive and they are looking for improvements and they are not accommodating with situation of difficulties. So I could hear different pleas from Bhutanese refugee communities, there are big anxieties in the view of where and what is the direction now and what is going to happen to those who remain there. And indeed, this I understood as a very big question, with many different indications. I saw self help groups accessing markets and others wanting to improve looking not for vegetables but going to livestock and other things. That was very good. I saw people showing great appreciation for the work and I saw them wanting more and saw a lot of expectations in the view of local and regional governments. This I see will bring a big question in view of implementation of federal system of government.
What is your perspective on federalism and new opportunities for Nepal?
Federalism is a big opportunity. I could sense that while political decision is firm and implementation process required a lot of negotiations on finding out and also legislation to be put in place and the question of the budgets. The government is going close to the communities. That is a good step. This is going to increase expectations and the question is how is the federal system going to deliver those expectations. This needs to be solved so that federal system does not turn into disappointment.
What will be LWF’s priority areas in Nepal in the years to come? How will you work with the government and local partners?
I understand that LWF Nepal is preparing a new strategy. In view of that strategy those priorities for the next years are going to be outlined. From what I observed and what I was told, we remain committed to work with Bhutanese refugees. We will also seek to continue journeying with those communities that we have supported. I could foresee LWF-Nepal would want to see what is its role in the context of federal reform and what the role for us to take here is. I have asked my colleagues to pay a particular attention to climate change that is something to be taken up for the sake of present and future generations.
What could you take from this visit and share with the wider world?
I will take a lot of good insight back to my constituency. First of all, I am sitting the next to president of Church. I would like to acknowledge beautiful works church is doing among marginalized communities of Santhal and dalits and this has been done similar to LWF Nepal without discrimination with neutral approach and impartiality. I take home the whole question of how to connect the protection of Bhutanese refugees with development which has always been a good question how to link this approach. I see SDGs is probably playing a very important role on the duty to protect and development. I want to reflect my colleagues globally how to possibly take that further. I also want to bring back my constituency the excellent reputation that LWF Nepal has in Nepal throughout this decades of involvement. I found a great application from communities and from government structures at local, provincial and national levels. We don’t want to rest there. We want to build on it and we want to improve more on our service delivery to communities which are seeking to access basic rights.
During your visit, you also meet the prime minister, finance minister, minister of women, children, elderly and social welfare and other provincial officials. How do you look at your meetings with them?
I was grateful for the opportunity I had to meet the authorities of the country and the busy time accorded to us was very valuable. I sensed again a great recognition for the work we have been doing. I was able to pledge our commitment for ongoing partnership and support. LWF-Nepal does not see its presence is low. Our presence is linked up. In this regard, I was able to meet three ministers at central level. I felt the atmosphere was frank and forward looking and also encouraging in a view of authorities welcoming further partnership and more work to be done together.
I met a women in a high hill in Kavre. She was sharing her experience that was different than past. They are no more locked in the house, they are out to the community and contributing to the community and helping raise economic and social level. I was happy to hear these. But I was not happy to hear that she was not able to receive school education. I am happy to hear from her that her grand children are going to school.These are concrete and tangible evidences of the work that has been done and that has led to transformation and I know all these debates whether rural development and community based development make sense. What I can see is that they make sense because I could see the transformation.
How do you see the challenges?
The challenge is going to be we have good inputs into the process. I have always been very keen to transfer the leadership back to the community. Don’t look at us in the view of what you will do next. Don’t look only to us in the view of that you have a local government, provincial government and you have structures there which we need to be bringing together. This whole question is of not falling into the trap of generating the dependency structure but keeping the leadership but keeping the leadership for themselves. LWF-Nepal is doing very good in this respect. Not the ball dropping over but keeping the ball where it has to be.
From Left Rev. Joseph Soren (Center) and Dr. Prabin Manandhar, Country Director LWF-Nepal.
From Left Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation, Rev.Joseph Soren (Center) and Dr. Prabin Manandhar, Country Director LWF-Nepal.