Archive ref no: NCA-18943
Address by Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba at a Meeting with Heads of Diplomatic Missions In Kathmandu (Kathmandu, December 20, 2004)
Heads of Multilateral and Bilateral donors,
My cabinet colleagues and friends,
I have invited you here today to share views on the current political and security situation, and economic reform policies as well the development agenda of the government. I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation.
At the moment, Nepal is facing two major challenges -- return to the path of peace through negotiations and reactivation of the constitutional democratic institutions through elections. Addressing these challenges constitutes the prime agenda of His Majesty's Government at present. Government is sincerely putting its effort to end the crisis and reactivate the process without further delay.
You are aware that His Majesty's Government has made repeated calls to the Maoists to come to talks. Following consultations and decision at the Cabinet and the High Level Peace Committee, we have made public our position for peace talks. We have said we are prepared to talk on all issues and guarantee security to the negotiators. Nonetheless, I regret to say that we continue to face uncertainty in the absence of any responsible behavior on the part of the Maoists. We do not know why they are not utilizing the opportunity we have created for talks to save this country from further ravage.
As the present government is by far the most possible broad-based government, it would be most unfortunate if this opportunity is lost in uncertainty. A collective pressure on the Maoists may be helpful to take the momentum created by our call for talks.
We understand and appreciate your concerns over the security situation in Nepal. Our security forces have done commendable job to protect the citizens and they have successfully diminished the capability of the Maoists to launch major attacks. Though the Maoist insurgency has seriously undermined law and order in the rural areas, the security situation is under control and we are confident that things will further improve in the days ahead. Despite the resources constraints, the government is equally committeed to ensure the security of foreign nationals, foreign-added development projects and industry with foreign-investment.
I would like to draw your attention to the recent portrayal in some media reports labeling Nepal as a "failing state" in media. I do not know what indicators are applied for such a label. Despite some political problems fro absence of parliament, we have fully functional constitutional rule of law. The security situation is under the control of the government, though the Maoists possess some capacity to launch surprise attacks at some soft targets. The economic fundamentals are sound. The rates of growth of our GDP, revenue, export, tourist arrivals, and foreign currency reserve are convincingly good in this adverse situation. Our social and cultural fabric though under attack is intact. Nepalese people have the will and capacity to tackle the problem on our own.
I do accept that the Maoist violence has seriously undermined Nepal's image as a peaceful country. The ordinary citizens are targets of the worst kind of violence. And, it has seriously disrupted our efforts for social delivery and development in Nepal.
On our part, I would like to reiterate that the Government is committed to meet its obligations for the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. HMG is committed to the implementation of the commitments made on March 26, this year. In fact, I am pleased to mention to you that the present government has implemented most of those commitments.
We have achieved encouraging improvements in our efforts for the protection of the human rights. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for technical assistance to strengthen the National Human Rights Commission for carrying out its mandate, including for monitoring and investigation. Likewise, the Human Rights cells at the security agencies and the Human Rights Promotion Centre have been making a lot of difference in the protection of human rights. There has been significant improvement in meeting our reporting obligations. A comprehensive National Human Rights Action Plan has come to implementation.
We are seriously working on the reported cases of disappearances. A committee at the Ministry of Home Affairs to look into the cases of so-called disappearances has produced its fourth report. We recently invited the Chairman of UN Working Group on disappearances.
Access to places of detention has been given to the ICRC and the National Human Right Commission. Standing instructions have been issued to all the security personnel regarding the standard procedure for search and seizure, detention, treatment of detainees, to respect the human rights at all situations. Nepal's security forces, including the Royal Nepalese Army, have set highest standards on human rights abroad in the UN peacekeeping operations. I have no doubt of their capability to maintain that reputation at home.
I would like to reiterate that our commitment for human rights and democracy is not cosmetic. And our expression of support for human rights is not intended just to address your concerns in this regard. It comes from our deep faith in these values for which we ourselves fought for long.
However, despite our sincere efforts, we do agree that violations of human rights may not be completely avoidable in the difficult circumstances facing the country. But it is not our policy to let the violators go unpunished. In fact, you are aware that actions have been taken against those found guilty of violations. I would like to urge you to help us implement our commitments by encouraging our efforts. I must caution that views not based on objective analysis may unwittingly seek to undermine the moral authority of the State.
It was the continuing blatant violation of human rights, including the right to life, by the brutal methods of the Maoists that the State had to resort to mobilizing the security forces to protect its citizens. The atrocities of Maoists continue grinding the common people so hard that the people themselves, including women and children, have spontaneously started resisting them in several rural areas. The Government has the duty to support such spontaneous and courageous moves of the people, who have utter frustration over intolerable atrocities of the Maoists.
Now I would like to share my views on the development agenda and the economic reforms path pursued by the government.
Seen from economic and development point of view, the challenges that Nepal is facing today have compounded even more than before. Continued Maoist violence and atrocities has an adverse impact on development, which further aggravates poverty and thereby intensifies conflict. However, poverty reduction efforts cannot and should not be held captive until the full restoration of peace and stability. Hence, there is a need to take up developmental activities, peace and stability together. The government is committed to implementing the reform agenda as envisaged by the Poverty Reduction Strategy, such as the broad-based growth, social sector development, targeted programs for the poor and deprived groups, and improved governance. In this context, His Majesty's Government of Nepal has also approved a ten-year action plan to protect the rights of children in the country. Nepal is the second country in the world to make such an action plan public.
Increased regular expenditure has compelled the government to cut down its development expenditure. Alignment of projects has been carried out under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The prioritization of developmental efforts involved cutting down the number of projects, especially those remaining non-functional for a long time. Projects of similar nature have been merged to reduce the recurrent cost of project administration. Availability of adequate resources has been assured to projects categorized as P1 in conformity with the MTEF in order to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of public expenditure.
The government is fully committed to implement the Immediate Action Plan-3 by the end of the Fiscal Year.
The commercial banks have already initiated legal measures against willful defaulters. The government is hopeful that the banks would be able to bring the defaulters under control. The government will not interfere in the bank's actions.
We will place priority on privatization. The pace of privatization and liquidation of public enterprises is seen to be slow, though I anticipate some substantial changes within two months. Price adjustment on petroleum products often disturbs both the consumers and the government. A permanent solution to this would be to let the market determine the price.
Governance and civil service reforms have gained momentum. We are heading towards bringing about inclusive civil service, including through incorporating the reforms amending the Civil Service Act soon.
Emphasis has been laid on empowering and devolving functions to the locally elected bodies. In the absence of the local bodies, the government is increasingly using users group, local people and local institutions in accelerating development activities in the rural areas. In order to encourage direct local participation, the government has prepared and implemented working procedures for local level socio-economic development programs.
With a view to create an enabling environment for anti-corruption drive, the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers in late 2003 has made public a policy and action plan on combating corruption. The government is committed to implement it effectively.
Maoist violence has severely obstructed our service delivery and efforts to take a number of government activities to the local levels. No matter how severe the extent of Maoist atrocity is, the government cannot shirk from its responsibility. In order to prudently deliver services in the current security situations, the government has been utilizing the concept of "mobile government", in which goods and services such as citizenship, property transfer, old-age allowance etc. are distributed and delivered on the spot. The scale and magnitude of this service, however, is limited in terms of availability of resources, including human resources.
People have the right to know what services are available from a particular office, what formalities need to be completed, and what their timeframe is. The government has made it mandatory for every office to publish its "citizens' charter" and follow it in both letter and spirit. Furthermore, directives have been issued by the government in bringing about effectiveness in the delivery of services to the people. Mechanism for rewards and punishment, on the basis of performance of the service delivery has also been developed for civil servants. Government has also instructed security agencies to facilitate, not harass development workers who are helping to increase the income generating activities, social sector development and productive capacity of the rural areas.
The government has recently prepared and launched a "Relief Program for Internally Displaced People Due to Conflict" to address the problems of increasing number of internally displaced people. In addition to the directly affected population, there has been substantial rise in the number of displaced people due to insecurity in respective areas. The government, with limited resources is addressing some short-term needs of the displaced people, but longer terms programs have to be planned and initiated without further delay.
Despite the adverse political and security situation, we have made considerable achievements in the economic front. That is possible due to our continued implementation of a series of economic reform policies. We will be putting up our utmost efforts in implementing the reforms measures we have initiated and committed. We anticipate continued support from the donor community in these endeavors.
I fully appreciate the fact that most of you and your governments and institutions are willing to help Nepal and the Nepalese people to get out of the quagmire of terrorist violence and the temporary absence of elected democratic institutions. We are grateful to all of you for your continued understanding and support during these painful times.