Statement delivered by UNDP Country Director, Ms. Shoko Noda in the national meet on the topic "Local Governance: Aspirations and Reality"
Right Honorable Vice-President Mr. Pramananda Jha
Chief Secretary Mr. Leelamani Paudel
Secretaries of the Government of Nepal, Mr. Ganesh Raj Joshi and Mr. Shanta Bahadur Shrestha
Chair Person of Administrative Court Mr. Kashiraj Dahal
His Excellency Alf Arne Ramslien, Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal
Friends from the media
Ladies and gentlemen
I am very delighted to be here in this august gathering and deliver a few words on the very pertinent topic of local good governance. Let me take this opportunity to thank MIREST Nepal for providing UNDP this opportunity.
At the same time let me congratulate MIREST Nepal for carrying out this important assessment on the state of local governance. My sense is that even though there are many anecdotal evidences on the current status of local governance, there are only a few assessments of this sort that have been systematically carried out. I believe the assessment will go a long way in increasing the current stock of knowledge in this area. More importantly, since the second phase of Local Governance and Community Development Program (LGCDP) is being formulated and finalized, the findings of the study will inform the program document and its implementation.
Local governance is one of the key foundations of good governance. As government entities closest to the people, local governments are better positioned to represent the voices and choices of people, to deliver services that pertain to their daily lives, and to let the people hold local governments accountable. General people develop their impression and perceptions about government as a whole based on how local governments perform.
I believe that the Local Self-Governance Act (LSGA), 1999 created enough institutional and legal foundations paving way for good local governance. Immediately after the enactment of the law, a number of good initiatives were taken towards that end. Unfortunately, the momentum could not be continued as there have been no elected local bodies since 2002. The local bodies have witnessed upheavals in terms of leadership, but mostly they are being led by civil servants deputed by the government. This has really hampered the true spirit of devolution and local governance.
I understand that despite the odds, the government introduced many measures and tools to improve the state of governance at the local level. Provisions of minimum conditions and performance measures and linking the block grants with them, social and public audits, public hearing, citizen charters, project information board, information disclosure, etc. are some of the examples.
As suggested by the study, they have been only partially applied, but we have also to note that without these tools the state of local governance, especially with regards to transparency and accountability, would have been worse.
But despite the poor governance at the local level, local people have a better sense of ownership and control over the local bodies than any state organ. This has been substantiated by various studies and researches. Additionally, the local bodies have engaged the people to a substantial degree in planning, implementation and monitoring process of local level projects and programs and have delivered various services that are highly valued by the people at the local level.
The Government of Nepal introduced the first phase of LGCDP to deliver inclusive local services in the post conflict environment in 2008 with support from as many as 14 development partners. The Program helped strengthen and institutionalize existing system and has created a number of tools and mechanisms to make sure that the voices and choices of local people, especially the vulnerable ones, are reflected and represented in the planning process. Ward Citizens Forums and Citizen Awareness Centers deserve special mention.
I have been briefed that the second phase of LGCDP being designed now builds on these mechanisms to a significant extent when it comes to downward accountability. While it is important to empower them with more responsibilities and resources, it is also important to strengthen the supply side such that there is proper balance between demand and supply sides of local governance.
Regardless of how successful mechanisms like the Ward Citizen Forums are, they cannot be substituted for local elections. UNDP would like to see elections happen at the earliest possible time and will happily provide more technical support to the Election Commission of Nepal through Electoral Support Project. But until an election takes place, these Forums can serve as the second best option.
Before I conclude, I would like to mention that UNDP has been involved the area of local governance for more than two decades. During this period we have assisted the Government of Nepal in its endeavor to strengthen the capacity of the local bodies in planning, budgeting, reporting, etc. Currently, we are also a partner in the ongoing LGCDP. In this new phase of the Program, we will be willing to support the government in local governance reform both in the current structure of the state and in the new federal structure to be adopted after a new constitution comes into effect.
I would like to thank all for your participation.