Shoko Noda has witnessed major changes in Nepal during her tenure as UNDP Country Director for Nepal. Noda, who leaves for the Maldives as the island nation’s UN chief, commends Nepal’s progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Manish Gautam caught up with Noda to discuss her reflections on the time she spent in Nepal, development challenges and the effects of political instability on development .
You are leaving Nepal after nearly four years as the Country Director for UNDP Nepal, what are your thoughts and reflections?
During the last three and half years, Nepal saw substantial progress in the peace process including the closure of the cantonments, and the second Constituent Assembly elections were also held. UNDP helped the late recruits in their reintegration into the community. This is good, but looking at the larger picture Nepal still has a long way to go.
Nepal’s progress on MDGs has been exemplary despite difficulties such as the conflict and subsequent low economic growth. However, it is high time for Nepal to address the inequalities and high disparities across caste/ethnicities, geography and economic backgrounds.
How is political instability affecting Nepal’s development ?
I have always stressed on local elections which has not been held since 1998. Local elections are essential to really reflect the voices of communities at the grassroot level. Delayed or partial budget every year also affects the government’s development spending and that in turn impacts our joint programmes with the government. Young political leaders need to come forward and should be given space by the elders to change the story of this country.
What are the major development challenges Nepal faces?
If you look at the development gains so far, the easy part has been achieved. The difficult part remains: Reducing inequality among social groups and regions, and generating high growth rate in the economy. The biggest challenge Nepal faces is climate and disaster risks.
How do you assess Nepal’s capacity to deal with climate change and its impacts?
Climate change is not a separate threat category. What it does is exacerbates the impact of existing natural disasters such as floods, landslides and droughts–reversing decades of development gains in an instant. The impacts of climate change are still being studied and understood, but what is clear is that they affect the poor and vulnerable population the most.
So what are the solutions?
Some local communities in Nepal are already beginning to adapt to weather variations. They are switching to climate smart agriculture by choosing crops that grow better in local conditions, but these efforts require strong support from both the government and the international community. There are solutions but they cannot be implemented in isolation and a one-fit approach will not work.
How can the international community help?
The international community can only assist once the Government of Nepal decides to help itself. Development partners are here to support the government and the people of Nepal, and we work for the people on the ground. But to translate this goodwill into benefits for the population, there needs to be more thoughtful leadership from the government itself.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>