German Ambassador to Nepal
“International community should raise its voice to prevent an imminent humanitarian crisis in Nepal. The new constitution of Nepal is a landmark achievement. It has to be given time to mature through implementation. It has many progressive provisions, and more should be done to communicate these good arrangements to the people.”
How do you see the current situation in Nepal following the promulgation of new constitution?
First of all allow me to congratulate Nepal for the promulgation of its new constitution. The constitution which has been adopted by almost 90 % of the deputies is a big success and a proof that after years of conflict and struggle, the way to a new and modern society is paved. The constitution comprises all basic rights which we in Europe esteem essential for a free and democratic society. Nepal can be proud of this document which symbolizes a cornerstone in its development. Unfortunately, there seems to be a deficit in communicating its substance to the people. In my eyes, there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding about some of its articles. Moreover, as someone who has studied law, I can assure you that in the years to come, many of the clauses will be reviewed and clearly defined by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. There will be, as well, amendments of the constitution in future according to the needs of the society. It needs responsible political leadership to communicate this to the minds of the people instead of allowing the spread of rumors that create an atmosphere of public confusion.
As an Ambassador to this country I can assure you I would be happy if more would be done to inform the broader public about rights and duties of the new constitution and I appeal all relevant parties, after three months of different forms of protests, to reach a political compromise and bring an end to the ongoing horrible crisis. People have already suffered too much, particularly all those who were affected by the heavy earthquake and are still fully dependent on support from the outside world. The present situation with its strangulation of people in need, children, elderly people and those living under harsh conditions in the mountains is showing signs of a violation of human rights.
With the promulgation of the new constitution, there is unrest in Madhes with border blockade; the supply of essential commodities is negatively affected, which is developing into a major humanitarian crisis. How do you look at it?
From my point of view, there is no doubt that the international community should raise its voice to prevent a major humanitarian crisis which will go beyond the suffering of the people after the heavy earthquakes in April/May. The borders to India must be opened as soon as possible to allow in medical supplies and shelters needs for the people living under critical conditions. By opening the borders, the transport sector of the country which has almost come to a complete stop because of the shortage of fuel, should start activities again and secure distribution of all essential goods to the people in need. It cannot be accepted that suffering people are held hostage in the name of a future design of the country. I’m very worried about the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people of Nepal.
As Federal Republic of Germany has been supporting institution building at Municipal and VDC level for last many years, do you have any plans to support developing provincial institutions in the present context?
I really hope that the ongoing supply crisis will end soon and leaders will thereafter focus more on reconstruction of the country and implementation of its constitution. Both efforts will show if Nepal will be capable of proceeding to a brighter future and safeguard stability. Institutions will have to be strengthened; there should be more delegation of decision-making processes. Nepal needs a service-oriented administration; wide-spread practice of immunity for misbehavior on all levels of the society should end. This requires a strong and independent justice system.
Regarding your question on a possible support to the development of provincial institutions, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that a federal system in its true sense needs a sound foundation of well-functioning municipalities. It is the municipalities to which citizens have the closest and direct contact with administrative structures. It is the municipalities from which citizens expect the best services for their daily needs such as access to water, waste and wastewater treatment, health care, school facilities and much more. These services can be replaced neither by provincial nor by federal authorities. It is therefore obvious that first of all administrative structures on municipality level must be strengthened so that they can operate to everybody’s satisfaction.
In my eyes, a federal system finds its justification only if it leads to an improvement of services to citizens. The functions of provinces are focusing more on rules and regulations of regional matters. There is less direct contact of provincial authorities with citizens, same as for federal institutions. Therefore I’m convinced that the process of implementing federalism into the Nepalese environment could only and should start with all kinds of support for the municipalities. Since Germany and Nepal have a longstanding cooperation in support of institution building at municipal and VDC level, there is every reason to look into continuing this support.
As the new constitution demands new institutions and new legal system for its implementation, what do you suggest?
In discussions a team of German experts recently had with representatives of Nepalese authorities involved in the process of implementation of the new constitution, the focus was on three fields of possible support from our side: support of the legislative process, training of judicial staff and advisory services for establishing well-functioning administrative structures. The German IRZ, Institute for Judicial Cooperation, will be in charge of defining future projects in shaping new federal structures. There might be as well support for training facilities for trainers of administrative personnel. For the time being we have not yet concluded specific projects of cooperation but we are preparing them in the near future.
One of the problems in Nepal is the weak institutions at all levels. How is the German experience in this, from which Nepal can benefit?
Weak institutions are an obstacle for the development of a country. Progress and success of a society very much depends on qualified staff on all levels of the administration, on a set-up of rules and regulations understood and respected by the majority of people and a clearly defined mechanism for self-rule and availability of financial resources on municipal level. These are some of the most important sectors for stabilizing a country bottom-up.
Federal Republic of Germany has been providing much needed support to earthquake victims, how do you support in the post reconstruction phase of build back better?
The German Government has supported Nepal from the very beginning after the earthquake. In addition to 5 Million Euro humanitarian aid, amounts of 30 Million Euro for recovery and rehabilitation- on top of our ongoing bilateral programs- have been granted. Our rehabilitation support will mainly focus on three districts: Nuwakot, Dhading and Rasuwa and support primarily the health and energy sectors. We will, for example, ensure the reconstruction of several district hospitals and construct more than 40 health posts. We have also agreed to rehabilitate the central Load Dispatch Centre in Kathmandu and will work on the repair and extension of electrify transmission lines in quake-hit areas. For the past six months, we have also supported shelter and immediate needs of affected communities. Now it is important to move from recovery towards long-term rehabilitation.
As the Reconstruction Authority is yet to establish, has it made any difference in implementing the projects?
German Development Cooperation focuses its recovery and rehabilitation programs on those sectors in which we have been engaged in for a long time, such as health and energy. Hence, we have been fortunate to benefit from already-existing partnerships and networks. This has allowed us to deliver faster than others and to effectively support the people in need immediately after the earthquakes happened. However, the lack of an effective coordination mechanism and the lack of GoN guidelines for the reconstruction process severely limit the impact of what the international support could achieve. It is urgent that the authorities in Nepal step up efforts to put in place the institutional framework for a coordinated, accountable and effective reconstruction process. Otherwise, “Build Back Better” will remain only a slogan and the lessons learned from the recent disaster might quickly be forgotten.
Given the present shortage of supply of petroleum products, how much has it affected the development works funded by GIZ?
At present, German Development Cooperation still manages to maintain its operations, but under increasingly difficult circumstances. A lot of our time and resources these days go into ensuring a smooth running of our activities. This situation is not a sustainable one and we hope that a political solution can be found and the situation will normalize shortly. Many of our joint cooperation programs are located in the Mid and Far Western Terai districts. With the strikes and disruptions ongoing for more than three months now, it is the poorest of the poor that suffer the most. We support, for example, a number of cooperatives working with medicinal and aromatic plants. For these partners, ensuring access to markets becomes more and more difficult.
With a long experience of involving in restoration of heritage sites in Kathmandu Valley, how is Germany supporting to reconstruct the heritage sites which were destroyed by two earthquakes in April and May?
Germany has, as you know, a long-standing partnership with the city of Bhaktapur which dates back to the Nepal – German Bhaktapur Development Project implemented in the 1970s. Therefore, we feel a special commitment towards supporting the restoration of the city’s lost and damaged cultural heritage. A significant amount of the funds provided by the German Government are earmarked for projects in Bhaktapur, such as the reconstruction of historical heritage sites (for example the wood-carving museum Pujari Math) and the rehabilitation of schools. This will be a challenging endeavor, but we hope to substantially contribute to Bhaktapur regaining its former splendor. Moreover funds for the restoration of historical monuments from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs are dedicated to the Sundari Chok, Eastern part of the palace in Patan Durbar Square and to the the Kilishwor temple in Changu Narayan.
Is Germany providing additional support to Nepal along with regular programs?
The commitments made for recovery and rehabilitation after the earthquakes came on top of our ongoing programs and will be implemented mainly in three of the earthquake-affected districts as I have already stated. At the same time, it is important for us to maintain our existing projects in the energy, health and economic development sectors with a geographical focus on the Mid and Far West.
What are the priority areas for German support in the context when Nepal has been facing a lot of challenges like poverty, food insecurity, climate change and disasters?
With the current priorities of Nepal-German Development Cooperation (health, renewable energy / energy efficiency and economic development and trade), we hope to contribute to addressing these problems and challenges that are most pressing for Nepal’s development. The ultimate goal of all our programs is poverty reduction and a more sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development of the country. Let me take the example of our long-standing support for renewable energies and energy efficiency in Nepal: progress in these areas translates both into positive social and economic impacts, while at the same time also addressing the issue of climate change.
German NGOs are very active in Nepal and we see their work here as an important asset, which complements Government efforts. After the earthquake, more than 60 million Euros of private donations were mobilized in Germany which testifies to the particularly close relations and solidarity among the two countries. However, also German NGOs struggle with the difficult conditions in the country and face many delays and set-backs. The German Embassy organizes regular meetings with all German NGOs active in Nepal and tries to facilitate their work to the extent possible.
(Courtesy: Keshab Poudel, Editor, Spotlight magazine)