Hon’ble Foreign Ministers
Hon’ble Finance Ministers
President of the Asian Development Bank
Vice President of the World Bank
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the people and Government of Nepal, and also myself, I extend my sincere thanks for honouring us with your kind presence. Your presence here is in itself a message for us, as we plan our journey of recovery and reconstruction in the post-quake situation.
At the outset, I would like to pay homage to all those who have lost lives in the earth quake. I would also like to remember those who lost their lives trying to save others, my thoughts are with the families of those brave people both national and international, including those involved in the US helicopter crash in Sindhupalchowk while trying to rescue others.
As we are all aware, natural disasters are unpredictable. They know no geographical boundaries. They are indiscriminate and could strike anywhere, and at anytime. In Nepal, geologists had warned us about the possibility of a disaster on this scale happening. Yet the earthquake of April 25th struck us when we were not fully prepared as the country remained mired in protracted political transition following a decade-long armed conflict. However, the Government was quick to respond, within hours, utilizing its available resources and institutions, as citizens all over the country joined hands together to dig the rubbles and bring the people to safety. Whether in remote villages in Gorkha and Sindhupalchok or in Dolakaha and Bhaktapur, the people relentlessly worked day in and day out in the early hours and early days to rush the wounded to nearby hospitals and health camps.
Nepal is fortunate to have the surge of goodwill as evidenced by overwhelming response and spontaneous support from the international community at the time of national crisis. We are grateful to our neighbors – India and China, fellow SAARC member states, and all other countries that so promptly and generously dispatched specialized Search and Rescue professionals and relief supplies within hours and days of the earthquake assisting us in our efforts. From all continents- Argentina to Australia, from Israel to Singapore, from Japan to Germany, from Spain to South Africa, from Malaysia to Mexico, from Thailand to Turkey, from Qatar to Vietnam, and from the United Kingdom to the United States, we received tremendous support in the most critical stage of search and rescue operation following the national tragedy. We thank the UN Secretary General for the UN system-wide support to Nepal including its flash appeal and UNGA resolution. I thank everyone, every government, donors, international organizations, international and regional financial institutions, humanitarian agencies, civil society, and non-governmental organizations, for standing firmly with us in our time of need. This support helped us to enhance the effectiveness of our national Search and Rescue efforts, and, in doing so, saved many lives.
I have personally visited many of the affected districts that have suffered the most damage and destruction. I have met and spoken with people who have lost everything – their families, homes, and their livelihoods. I have visited the hospitals and have directly seen the sufferings of people and also the quality and efficiency of services provided by healthcare professionals, and several volunteer groups, especially the youth.
We are stunned and shocked by the tragic loss of life, and property. With several people missing including 39 foreign nationals, and our historical and cultural treasures lying in ruins, it is still difficult for us to come to terms with the scale of the devastation.
I thank you all for your solace and support. That makes us feel that Nepal is not alone in times of difficulties.
The Government has undertaken a needs assessment, which the Finance Minister will share with you shortly after.
Amidst the sufferings, I also saw a bright spark of hope. Everywhere I went, despite the repeated aftershocks and the ongoing suffering caused by death, injury and displacement, I found the Nepali people to be full of hope and confidence amidst the despair and suffering, and a firm determination for recovery. This demonstration of resilience and display of unity by Nepali society in this tragic time, makes me the proudest of Nepalis.
We need to recover and rebuild better and stronger. Many people are living in temporary shelters. We want to make it easier for them to leave the disaster behind and move on. We have done what we could with relief supplies and now want partnership to restore permanency in their lives. We want to do more but are limited by our resources, particularly given the magnitude of the devastation and reconstruction on a Himalayan scale.
The Government has decided to establish a high level National Reconstruction Authority under the Prime Minister for carrying out the tasks of sustained, durable and planned reconstruction. This agency will be run by professionals in the engineering and disaster management disciplines, among others. We are committed to ensure that transparency remains at the core of the reconstruction effort.
To overcome the huge challenges of rehabilitation and reconstruction, we – the Government, Nepal’s neighbours, donors, development partners, international organizations and financial institutions and agencies and friends of Nepal in the International Community and the people of Nepal – need a robust partnership for doing what we must with clear goals and plans of action. In rebuilding Nepal we will be stronger, inclusive and sustainable, with peace and democracy at the centre of this process.
I am pleased to inform this distinguished audience that political parties in Nepal have shown an unprecedented sense of national unity and reconciliation. The National Parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution to this effect. They have forged a consensus to have an inclusive federal democratic constitution promulgated through the elected Constituent Assembly. It is my firm belief that this will irreversibly put Nepal on the path of peace, stability, rule of law, and development.
Democratic pluralism has been my first commitment and it remains my last article of faith. We are committed to the rule of law and the protection and promotion of the human rights of our people. We are working to put democratic institutions in place, with checks and balances firmly embedded in them. These institutions will be accountable to the people, and use criticism constructively as feedback for improvements and refinement of a system. I assure you my Government will have ZERO tolerance toward corruption.
There is no ‘one-size’ that fits all situations. National ownership of reconstruction and development agendas, policies, and strategies with a clear set of national priorities will ensure optimal use of scarce resources, capacity and expertise, where needed. I therefore call on the distinguished representatives to work with us, the Government of Nepal, in an environment of good faith. I assure you that we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that your support reaches the intended beneficiaries. We will share periodically the use of funds to maintain transparency because you are accountable to your own citizens. I am happy to note the increasing public awareness among the citizenry about these issues.
Nepal was on right track to achieve MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals. The devastating earthquake of April 25 and its subsequent powerful aftershocks have severely undermined our development endeavors and reversed the development gains achieved over the years. Annual economic growth this year is projected to be lowest in eight years.
A comprehensive reconstruction programme demands multi-pronged efforts. An early recovery of economy, restoration of sustainable livelihood and employment generation should also constitute the core of reconstruction efforts. We therefore need you to join hands and work together to help us focus on realities on the ground.
Every moment I think of recovery and reconstruction, I think of a woman from Charikot who was injured by falling debris and was airlifted by helicopter while I was there. She was in intense pain as she fought for her life. I think of Sonit Awal, the four-month-old boy who was rescued by the Nepalese Army in Bhaktapur, after being trapped in the rubble for 22 hours. I think of 21-year-old Rishi Khanal who was pulled out alive after 82 hours in the debris, and has since had his leg amputated. Rishi was to fly to a Gulf State the following day for an employment.
I am aware that no matter what we do it will not be enough to mask the pains of this woman, Sonit and Rishi, and thousands of others, who have lost everything in the earthquake.
I call on all the distinguished delegates to think about the future we can collectively build, for them, and the generations after them.
We have a shared destiny in this increasingly interdependent and interconnected world. Countries in every hemisphere matter in our global community. The human conditions in any corner of the world matter to us all irrespective of where we live, how we live, and what we do. We have to work together for a secure and bright future.
Nepal has all the essential elements for eminence and for success. This is a country of unique unity despite vast diversity, with a high degree of tolerance and social harmony. Nepal’s proximity to India and China provides an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from their economic dynamism and huge market of nearly a third of the worlds’ population. Nepal is blessed with vast natural resources including its huge hydropower, tourism, rich biodiversity, and agricultural potential. It has a vibrant diaspora equipped with financial clout and professional skills. Its young, dynamic population-the spirit of which was witnessed through the voluntarism during the immediate aftermath of the devastation in recent days- stand as our strengths and inspiration, both now and for the future. We are committed to create, enabling institutional, legal and policy arrangements to ensure the protection of foreign investment in Nepal.
Nepal pursues peace, friendship and cooperation with all countries of the world. Its foreign policy is guided by the principles of the Panchasheel, the United Nations Charter, non-alignment, international law and the norms of world peace. Nepal strictly adheres to these principles, to protect national sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and establish peace and stability in the country to create opportunities for its citizens.
There are immense potentials for collaboration and partnership for mutual benefit. We look to sustained and adequate support in order to unlock the great potential that this country holds to make the future secure and bright for future generations in Nepal- and be a good and reliable partner for peace, progress and prosperity at the global level. This, we believe, is best ensured with democratic institutions firmly rooted in the country. Democratic governance better ensures and better enhances disaster preparedness for effective response and delivers results. We look to continued goodwill, support and technology transfer at an enhanced level from our neighbours and the international community in the years to come.
With these words, I now have the pleasure to declare this conference open.
I wish you productive deliberations, and a pleasant stay in Nepal.