On April 25, 2015 a terrible earthquake struck Nepal — a tragedy of near unspeakable scale, but one which Nepalis bore with tremendous bravery, courage, and care for their fellow countrymen.
I traveled to Nepal shortly after the earthquake and saw the devastation, the pain, and the suffering of its people. But I also witnessed their resilience. I saw that even though many had lost homes, friends, and family members, they had not lost hope, even after a massive aftershock struck on May 12. While I was in Nepal, I was awestruck by the efforts from nations all over the world to sustain that hope. Military officers, diplomats, rescue workers, and good people from around the globe joined hands to help all Nepalis in their time of need. U.S. citizens gave generously, and U.S. companies like Facebook and Google deployed new technologies to help loved ones find each other. USAID provided critical relief supplies, and our armed forces were some of the first on the scene.
Some who went to help Nepal gave their own lives while trying to save the lives of others. Six U.S. Marines were among those who made the ultimate sacrifice when their helicopter crashed while rescuing injured civilians. We owe it to them, and to the many thousands who were killed or injured in this tragedy, to make sure that Nepal recovers from the earthquake.
Nepal can do it, because it is a nation of tremendous potential. Like our own country, it is gifted with an incredibly diverse, tolerant, creative, and entrepreneurial population. Its stunning landscapes and rich cultural history attract visitors from around the world. And its unique topography and water resources could allow it to harness tens of thousands of megawatts of hydropower, making it a major source of electricity for the growing economies of South Asia which, in turn, will be essential for driving global economic growth in the decades to come.
Nepal is a nation committed to democracy. Nepal passed a constitution last year which was a milestone in its democratic journey. The task now is to ensure that the constitution has the broadest possible support in every part of the country, is inclusive, and enshrines and protects human rights and fundamental freedoms, along with gender equality, religious freedom, and equal rights to citizenship. We have seen how unaddressed grievances –like those held by the people of the Terai, for example, on issues like demarcation or the parameters for citizenship — can result in negative consequences for Nepal’s economy and its society.
As the people of Nepal recover from the earthquake, I know that they can build back stronger. That is our firm hope and we will partner with the government and the people of Nepal to ensure and enable that vision. The road is long, and time is of the essence, but we are committed to helping the country achieve its full potential, for the benefit of all Nepalis.