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Governance and poverty in Nepal

Sep 01, 2009

ODIs new publication Governance and Citizenship from Below: Views of Poor and Excluded Groups and their Vision for a New Nepal provides a first-hand account of the realities of poor and excluded groups in post-conflict Nepal. It advocates effective policy and awareness programme at the grassroots level for eradicating poverty.

Governance and Citizenship from Below: Views of Poor and Excluded Groups and their Vision for a New Nepal

Publisher: Overseas Development Institute, April 2009

The document explores how poor people in Nepal understand citizenship, governance, the barriers they face and the strategy that could be adopted to overcome those.

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It looks deep into the poor and excluded groups’ vision for a New Nepal following Jana Andolan 2 (the People’s Movement 2), the November 2006 peace agreement and the emergence of the democratically elected government in May 2008.

Nepal today has entered a new phase of constitutional development and is experiencing an emerging peace process. There is very strong support for peace among poor and excluded communities, regardless of their experiences during and views of the decade-long conflict.

Poor and excluded groups are not calling for revenge, retaliation or even transitional justice, but rather for sustainable peace and renewed development efforts. However the social exclusion is playing a huge role in impeding poverty alleviation and political representation.

Effective states and better governance are essential to combat poverty. The study’s starting point was a conviction that a more nuanced understanding of how poor and excluded groups interact with the state has much to offer policy makers and development practitioners interested in questions of state building and governance, especially in the context of a fragile peace.

Broader findings from the report include:

  • Local services are failing to meet the specific needs of poor women and men.
  • There is a strong desire from participants to be involved in the process of restructuring the state, but lack of information and awareness-raising initiatives at the village level often makes this difficult.
  • Poor and excluded people have developed coping strategies for dealing with exploitative and unequal power relations in their daily lives.

The study also found out that there was lack of access to services which was not limited to access to education and health services, but rather encompassed a wider range of services including access to drinking water, sanitation, veterinary, agricultural extension, vocational skills training, electricity and credit/ financial services.

Poor people commonly felt that their limited access to these services stemmed from their lack of education, poverty, low political and social standing, geographical isolation and lack of access to timely information.

Another striking general finding of this study is the surprising degree of citizen-state engagement.

It brings out that ascertaining poor and excluded groups’ priorities is a critical first step in designing an effective state building policy plan.

It is particularly important in a post-conflict context where relations between citizens and the state have frequently broken down, and the original sources of the conflict have not been addressed.

There is overwhelmingly strong support for sustainable peace among poor and excluded communities. Hence, a focus on a united, clearly communicated approach to state restructuring and the creation of a new Nepal is necessary.

This process requires the provision of information about political reforms and concerted civic education efforts by parties and NGOs at the district and village levels in order to meet demand.

The government can also seek to better understand the sources and perceptions of urban insecurity and invest in appropriate law and order measures.

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