Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UN Resident Coordinator On the occasion of the 57th United Nations Day

Oct 24, 2002

Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UN Resident Coordinator On the occasion of the 57th United Nations Day
24 October 2002

Right Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Lokendra Bahadur Chand, Honourable Ministers, Dr. Durga Pokharel, Honourable Chairperson of the National Women’s Commission, Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, distinguished Representatives of His Majesty’s Government, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all on behalf of the United Nations System in Nepal to the celebration of the 57th United Nations Anniversary.

In these days the United Nations are much in the headlines mostly in the context of the Middle East. These headlines refer, of course only to one area of responsibility of the UN, namely peace and security. There are two other main areas which are equally important. These are social and economic development and human rights.

In my remarks I would like to briefly touch on all three areas, how they relate to Nepal and how they are inter-related in the context of our host country.

Much has been said about peace and security in Nepal and the country’s greatest challenges lie in this area. I believe all of us can agree on the necessity to address the root causes of conflict in an effective manner. Unless and until legitimate grievances of the rural population, grievances related to inequality, exclusion and poor service delivery are effectively dealt with conflict will raise its head again no matter how successful action in other areas may be. The Reform Agenda announced at the Nepal Development Forum and developed further in the Immediate Action Plan formulated by the Ministry of Finance and NPC could go a long way in bringing about the necessary structural changes including effective decentralization.

When we open the newspapers in these days we read almost exclusively stories of loom and doom conveying deep pessimism, the impression that nothing works and that the country finds itself in a never ending tailspin. I would submit that apart from the serious problems that no doubt exist there are also splendid success stories which need to be build upon not only to advance social and economic development but also to address conflict. For social and economic development and conflict resolution are inextricably intertwined.

When I talk of success stories I think, in particular of the hundreds of thousands of forests users groups, water users groups and community organizations which have sprung up all over the country and made Nepal a model in terms of bringing back forests in the hills, steadily increasing the number of households with access to drinking water and giving birth to large numbers of micro enterprises.

Whatever the political views of a person may be, everybody has the same basic needs, he or she wants to feed their families, obtain basic health services and educate their children with a view to providing them with opportunities for a better future. In all corners of the country we see that communities can be empowered to move the development agenda forward even in times of crisis. Supporting such community initiatives must, therefore, be a critically important element of the overall strategy.

As you know we have chosen education of the girl child as our main theme for this morning’s celebration and it is in the area of education that the UN has been able to support, on a pilot basis radical decentralization all the way down to local communities. The UN supported Community Owned Primary Schools, COPE schools, as they are known, have been able to overcome exclusion and discrimination providing universal primary education within the communities they serve including, of course, children of Dalits and those who belong to ethnic minorities.

At the Millennium Development Summit held in New York in September 2000 Heads of State and Government of all countries of the world committed themselves to realize a specified number of development objectives by the year 2015. Among all of these none is more important in its broad snowball effects than achieving universal primary education of children everywhere and equal access for boys and girls to primary and secondary schooling by the year 2005.

Over the last two years the UN system in Nepal has been working closely together formulating a Common Country Assessment (CCA) and United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). The UNDAF is now available in printed form and later this morning we will have the privilege and honour to have it launched by the Rt. Hon’ble Prime minister. This is a unique document that analyzes key development challenges of the country and outlines strategies for coordinated support by the UN system in Nepal to the realization of the government’s development objectives.

Let me mention here that our UNDAF is exceptional in the sense that it follows a rightsbased approach to development. In line with the UN Charter and corresponding conventions signed by His Majesty’s Government we are convinced that every human being has a right to a dignified life, a life free from fear and want. Focus on the most deprived and those who suffer most from discrimination are key elements of our UNDAF together with the promotion of a culture where the human rights of everyone are protected, respected and promoted.

Let me also mention that the UNDAF was developed in a participatory manner with the involvement of His Majesty’s Government, civil society and partners in the donor community. Copies will be available for all of you to take a look at later. You will not be surprised if I mention that education of the girl child figures prominently in our UNDAF as a major goal. Our UN Country Team has also selected this topic as an area for joint advocacy and joint programming.

Nobody can deny the fact that education empowers girls by building up their confidence and enabling them to make firm decisions about their lives. It is about escaping the trap of child labour and the perils of going into the labour of childbirth while she is still a child herself, about managing pregnancies so that they do not threaten her health, her livelihood or even her life; about ensuring that she and her children, in their turn, are guaranteed their right to education.

It is about being able to earn an income when women before earned none; about protecting herself against violence and enjoying rights which women before never knew they had; about taking part in economic and political decision-making; finally, it is about educating her children to do the same, and their children after them. It is about ending a spiral of poverty, which previously seemed to have no end.

No development strategy is better than one that involves women as central players. It has immediate benefits for nutrition, health, savings and reinvestment at the family, community and ultimately country level. In other words, education of girls is a social development policy that works. It is a long-term investment that yields an exceptionally high return.

- Education for girls needs to be brought into the mainstream development agenda. It must feature prominently in the 10th Five-year plan.
- Time bound targets need to be announced and implemented.
- Incentive programs for girls and communities need to be reviewed and expanded and
- There is a need to mobilize and sustain more female teachers as well as education managers. At the moment only two out of the 75 district education officers are women.

In the course of this morning we will see and hear brief presentations on the subject of the education of the girl child in the context of Nepal. Over and above the systematic steps that are outlined in these presentations we have been thinking in our UN Country Team how we could encourage all of you and the wider public in Nepal to take concrete steps that will at the same time have a symbolic value to demonstrate our commitment to the education of the girl child. In this context I would like to call on each one of you to make a commitment here today to finance the first five years of the education of a child from a disadvantaged community in a remote district. We have determined that a yearly amount of Rupees four thousand would be sufficient to accomplish this goal. Arrangements are being made with capable NGOs to implement and monitor the scheme. Progress reports will be provided and the Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister and I have agreed to be the first ones to sign up on the lists that have been laid out for the purpose. The Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Narendra Bikram Shah has also kindly and generously agreed to sign up. We will publish the names of those who have agreed to join this important cause. Hopefully the public at large including the business community will join us.

It is an old wisdom that a journey of one thousand miles begins with the first step. Let us all join hands in taking the first step towards the full and equal enrollment of all girl children of

Thank you.