A draft key note speech by the Deputy Country Director for Programme, Mr. Jorn Sorensen-UNDP National Stakeholder Consultation on Communication for Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in Nepal

Jan 20, 2010

A draft key note speech by the Deputy Country Director for Programme, Mr. Jorn Sorensen-UNDP National Stakeholder Consultation on Communication for Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in Nepal. PHOTO: UN

A draft key note speech by the Deputy Country Director for Programme, Mr. Jorn Sorensen-UNDP National Stakeholder Consultation on Communication for Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in Nepal
January 20, 2010

Mr Lok Bhadur Thapa, Member Secretary of NEFDIN, Chair of this Consultation,
Excellency Shankar Pokharel, Minister for Information and Communication,
Hrbl members of the Human Rights Commission, KB Rokaya
Hbl persons on the dais,

Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are pleased to be here for this national stakeholder consultation on communication for the empowerment of indigenous peoples in Nepal.

An assessment of the current situation of access to information by Indigenous Peoples, was carried out in 2009, largely driven by leading indigenous organisations and researchers in Nepal in 2009, under the auspices of the UNDP Regional Initiative on Communication for Empowerment of Asia's Indigenous Peoples . The findings from this assessment will be shared and discussed in the next 2 days.

This exercise is also part of the efforts undertaken to implement the ILO convention 169 to which Nepal is a State Party.

All will agree that one major reason for the 10 year long conflict has been exclusion. The CPA recognizes this and has clear provisions for addressing inclusion in the peace building process.

Indigenous peoples or indigenous nationalities account for almost 40 per cent of the population in Nepal and represent one of the wealth of Nepal and its culture.

However, despite technological progress in the areas of communication, indigenous peoples, who often live in the most remote areas, remain among the most marginalised and vulnerable people in the country, with limited access to information and communication channels and consequently limited voices and participation in the governance process.

Limited representation and voices could further marginalize the indigenous peoples and result in greater disparities and inequalities in the Nepalese society, especially if the information and communication gaps among different social groups and geographic locations are not bridged. This could further fuel tensions and conflict and slow down the building of a new inclusive Nepal.

At this stage in it's history, Nepal has both an incredible window of opportunity and an obligation to ensure full integration of indigenous peoples rights, as it is in the process of writing its new Constitution , defining the key principles for restructuring of the State and redefining state-society relations.

An new Constitution which is seen to be really inclusive will be key to ensure buy in and support from all the people from Nepal and to pave the road for long lasting peace.

UNDP worldwide has been working to enhance communication channels and access to information for the empowerment of indigenous people.

Communication for empowerment lies at the heart of democratic governance. For citizens to participate and exercise meaningful democratic choices, they need access to information about the issues that affect their lives. It also involves the process of enhancing democratic space and social accountability; of discussing and debating issues related to their well-being as well as opportunities to make their perspectives and voices heard. Over the past decade, media, communication and access to information have been directly connected to the democratization process in Nepal

The role of community radio throughout Nepal's political transition has been paramount. It fostered the disseminations of news and information among different social groups and between urban and rural areas and was a catalyst in the holding of political rally and mass mobilization. Ultimately, this was important to Nepal's democratization process in two respects: firstly, generating awareness about the significant role of grassroots communication in expanding democratic space; and secondly, creating the conditions for democracy and development to thrive. It has also played a critical role before the 2008 elections and continues to inform and raise awareness and concerns of people from all parts of Nepal, even the most remote ones in the Constitution writing process. UNDP through it's Support to the Constitution Building project has been working hand in hand with ACORAB on many of these programmes, which are familiar to may of you ( Sajha Sawal and Katha Mitho sarangiko).. The Project has also been providing support to the CA member Indigenous Caucus.

Greater understanding of the role of communication for empowerment as an approach to promoting meaningful participation and engagement of indigenous peoples in the governance process is required to harmonize political differences, nurture plurality and enhance inclusiveness in the democratic system of Nepal. Simultaneously, communicative power of the marginalized citizens is critical to strengthening the social accountability and democratic space in the country.

The key messages coming from this assessment are :
1. Improving coverage of IP issues in the media
2. Capacity development of media professional to enable them to better understand and present issues of IPs.
3. Improving access to and quality of information to IPs
4. Mainstreaming communication for empowerment especially on IP issues in projects and programmes
5. Setting up a mechanism for colleting, archiving and disseminating indigenous knowledge.

We hope this consultation will provide a unique opportunity for relevant stakeholders to review the key research findings and provide their inputs to the recommendations to promote inclusive participation and capacity of indigenous organisations and communities to make their voices heard in society. We also hope that a national strategy will eventually emerge to ensuring access of IPs to communication and information.

Thank you.

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