June 5, 2015
The following open letter from Geneva, written by Kedar Neupane, was sent five days ago to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. (Translation of letter has been condensed and edited by Mikel Dunham.)
Mr. Kedar Neupane is the president of “We for Nepal”, an association based in Switzerland. He is a retired member of the United Nations staff, who has worked for over 38 years in countries of Asia, Africa and Europe.
His e-mail is Neupanek1950@gmail.com.
Attention: Chief Secretary Mr.Leela Mani Paudyal:
Five weeks have elapsed since the 25 April 2015 earthquake, which shook Nepal and continues to shake Nepalese confidence. Local media continues to report that government assistance is not reaching the more remote areas, where the most vulnerable people are. It is remarkable that many individuals, youths and NGOs are offering relief items. However, the political establishment and the ruling government in Kathmandu appear unable to agree on a command-and-control structure for post-disaster coordination and a way forward in crisis.
Commendable ideas have been floated by distinguished personalities, economists, administrators and experts. But is anyone in the government listening? Judging from media reports, the answer is ‘No’. The establishment suffers from a disease called “consensus-building” on everything this nation faces. What Nepal is really clamoring for is a “unity government”. The notion of “consensus-building” has already mangled the government’s primary duty to the people of Nepal: For seven years the government has been unable to fulfill its promise to write a new constitution.
The government must take a few urgent steps to demonstrate that it is ready to work with international cooperation and assistance. Normal business of the government should not be combined with the extraordinary requirements of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. The government faces two important tasks; (1) deliver a new constitution while overseeing day-to-day affairs of the state; (2) deal with post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. These are two distinct responsibilities. Both require very different strategy, mechanism, policy approach, expertise, and management and coordination skills. Disaster management is a specialized skill and it should not be part of political and bureaucratic debate. This calls for a separate and effective management and command structure for post disaster management.
POST-DISASTER RECONSTRUCTION RECOMMENDATIONS:
The government should take the following steps to establish governance credibility:
1) Established an autonomous Post-Disaster National Reconstruction Authority (PNRA), for a two-year term, headed by a capable former bureaucrat.
2) Assign Nepal Army (already it has displayed a commendable work) to assists the Authority (PNRA).
3) Establish a separate fund for PNRA to receive reconstruction funds from donors, cut bureaucratic obstacles, ease disbursement procedure so that funds and goods received are not held by the government departments.
4) Establish staging warehouses in strategic locations (erect rub-halls) and deliver relief and reconstruction materials in these warehouses under the direct control of PNRA and the Nepal Army to deliver relief materials to affected population.
5) Do not impose taxes and levies on relief and construction materials managed by the PNRA. The government should not contemplate raising government revenues out of this national tragedy by imposing taxes on relief material and supplies. This disaster recovery is not a revenue-making venture for the government.
6) PNRA should prepare a code-of-conduct for managing the reconstruction program within its structure. If necessary, co-opt reputed ex-officers (untainted former senior bureaucrats, ex-UN/multi-lateral international organizations, Nepalis who have international credibility) and skilled volunteers to assist PNRA, prepare exit strategies -- as and when activities are streamlined and services are mainstreamed with government/local departments.
7) Ensure that PNRA is NOT headed by any political party protégé and/or party representative.
8) Planning Commission and PNRA, in close collaboration, prepare post-disaster recovery Marshall Plan for Nepal.
9) Organize periodic donor briefings and consultations, jointly co-chaired by India and China, and internationalize the disaster recovery and reconstruction plan by soliciting major donor participation (not limited to funding only); consider implementing reconstruction plan by geographic location for clarity of responsibility and accountability and also to avoid duplication of efforts.
10) Table a conscientious-raising resolution at the UN Security Council (this is the body which can act and assist, not only at the UNGA - which lacks action).
The above suggestions are not an exhaustive list of steps but merely an indication of some important confidence-building-process preceedure. The Government of Nepal should seriously focus on this and take a firm decision forthwith.
We for Nepal
30 May 2015, Geneva.
We for Nepal is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious, non-commercial voluntary association of like-minded people who care for Nepal and Nepalese, based in Geneva, Switzerland.