Leading conflict resolution and accountability: Birbas Rural Municipality

Sep 10, 2017

A rural township in Gulmi is proving something of a role model in effectively implementing a mechanism to resolve locals’ grievances and disputes, and clearing a path for development

Conflict and disputes at the local level often delay the implementation of development projects in much of Nepal. Often, these disputes are not irreconcilable, but the lack of mechanisms to address them can lead to a protracted situation where everyone loses out. This, however, is not the case in Birbas Rural Municipality in Gulmi, western Nepal, a rural township that has been leading the way by effectively implementing a mechanism to redress locals’ grievances and disputes.

Over a single year, a total of 46 such cases were registered, mostly related to local disagreements over drinking water, land to be provided for motorable roads, quality and regularity of school operation and teaching/learning activities, distribution of relief materials to earthquake victims, and construction of the VDCs office building, among others. Except one case that had to be referred to the police, all were resolved in the village itself.

The registration of grievances was seen increasing after the management of the Complaint Box, nomination of a Grievance Redressing Officer and an orientation provided to relevant stakeholders on grievance redressal. Following a training given to local government staffers, representatives of political parties, members of the Ward Citizen Forum and Citizen Awareness Center, along with school teachers and Female Community Health Volunteers by the Integrated Rural Development Society, a local civil society organization was assignment for compliance monitoring of local bodies by the Local Government and Accountability Facility (LGAF) for Gulmi.

“We register all grievance, even those expressed verbally,” said local government Secretary Phars Bahadur Karki. He explained the process as follows: First, grievances are recorded as per the guidelines; a meeting is then called including the participation of representatives of local-level political parties and local government in which feedback and suggestions are sought; a decision is then made based on the inputs received. 

The local government had made a 10-point commitment to ensure accountability. The first commitment had been to start the Public Hearing regularly with due process, and this is being done, with hearings held every four months. The first social audit was also completed in October 2015.

Major notable steps towards accountability taken by the Birbas local government:

  • Updated Citizen Charter in front of the VDC Office and provision of services accordingly
  • Information and Nodal Officer
  • Complaint Box and grievance redressal
  • Public Hearings
  • Social Audit
  • Engagement of citizens in the development planning process; a total of 66 percent of households took part in the last fiscal year.

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