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High-level Dialogue on “Post-2015 Development Agenda and 18th SAARC Summit: Nepal’s perspectives”

South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) organized a High-level Dialogue on “Post-2015 Development Agenda and 18th SAARC Summit: Nepal’s perspectives”in Kathmandu on 14 December 2014. The dialogue was organized on the backdrop of the recent SAARC Summit and the upcoming Ministerial Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on graduation. The objective of the programme was to discuss the importance of post-2015 development agenda, its possible inter-linkages and complementarities with the issues identified in the SAARC Summit and possible challenges for implementation in Nepal. The programme was attended by 60 participants representing high-level policy experts, government officials, diplomats, private sector and the media.

Opening the session, Dr. Hiramani Ghimire, Executive Director, SAWTEE briefed upon the objectives of the session and provided few pointers towards the issues to be discussed later. Recognizing the importance of its focus on economic growth, he mentioned that the process of formation of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been highly participatory. He also highlighted the importance of policy space provided by the upcoming SDGs which can be tailored according to the country specific needs. Knowing that Goal 8 of the MDGs on international cooperation has been the hardest of the goals to achieve, he mentioned that Goal 17 of the upcoming SDGs (which is similar to Goal 8 of MDG) will be equally hard to achieve, especially considering current the global economic climate.

Mr. Deependra Bahadur Kshetry, Former Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission pointed out that despite successes in some areas, Nepal was not able to meet many targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Going forward, he noted, completion of these goals will be a major challenge for Nepal. He also identified the need for recognizing global, regional and national contexts while designing and implementing the SDGs. At global level, he pointed out the issues of climate change, disaster management, international labour mobility, foreign aid mobilization and technology transfer as key issues to be considered with regards to the SDGs. At regional level, he identified issues like the lack of present success of SAARC, the need for cooperation at secretarial level, regional trade and economic imbalances and political skirmish, non-tariff barriers, and access and benefit sharing mechanism in the shared natural resources as important determinants for success of SDGs for Nepal. Finally at national level, he recognized lack of success in gender related MDGs, and pointed out the need to incorporate youth, economic growth, internal migration and high-quality FDI in the discussion related to the SDGs.

Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal, echoed the words of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and mentioned that there is a “development emergency” among the LDCs. He mentioned the need to revise the definition of poverty to include issues of psychological and behavioural aspects of poverty to make it more scientific. He also reminded the participants about the poor implementation mechanism among the LDCs and highlighted the importance of prioritizing among various goals to achieve credible results. Keeping in mind the peculiarities of the mountainous and low lying countries, he urged the UN to come up with a different plan for such countries. He also echoed the sentiments of earlier speakers on the need for environmental issues, free trade, and migration (including migrant workers’ safety, security and dignity) to be included in the upcoming SDGs.

Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokhrel, Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission of Nepal mentioned that the upcoming SDGs has three key areas of focus viz. economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. He also mentioned that continuing with the unfinished tasks of the MDGs was another important component of the SDGs. Reminding the audience that there were 17 Goals and 169 targets under the SDGs, he stated the need for prioritization among the goals marking some as necessary and some as aspirational. He pointed out that while poverty has fallen in Nepal, vulnerability among poor has risen considerably. Consequently, issues like disparity, inequality in various forms (like gender, income, and caste) are important agendas in South Asia. Besides inequality, he noted, jobless growth and lack of population planning as other key issues which have to be considered by the policy makers. Additionally, in order to finance the development, he pointed out the need for innovative forms of internal financing rather than relying on international partners. Therefore, he stressed on finding new ways of incorporating the private sector in the development process. He also floated the idea of transforming Nepal into a zero-carbon economy.

Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary General and High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Least Developed Countries (LLDCs), and Small Islands Developing States (SIDs), United Nations, gave a keynote to address the dialogue. He urged the LDCs to be more proactive in formulating the multilateral development programmes so their needs can be better reflected in the agenda. He mentioned that the UN provides the role of facilitator in the development process acting as a technical advisor carrying out fundamental analysis and ultimately, it is the individual countries themselves who are responsible for carrying out the development process. He mentioned that the upcoming SDGs should be ambitious, and transformative in nature. He reminded the audience of the importance of keeping people, justice, equity and basic services at the centre of the development process for people to lead “lives with dignity”. He also informed the audience of the increased involvement of the UN at regional levels.

Hon. Mr. Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal mentioned that the 18th SAARC Summit has been successful in deepening the cooperation between the SAARC countries. He mentioned that the regional cooperation in trade, investment, energy, and connectivity will be crucial in transforming the economics of the region and highlighted that SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and Railway Agreement that have come out of the most recent summit will be crucial in this process. He also underlined the need for regional effort in achieving the targets related to SDGs and suggested that the new development agenda will be helpful in Nepal’s graduation from LDC. Hon. Minister also stressed on the importance of addressing issues of poverty and risk and vulnerability arising out of climate change.

Closing the session, Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE and the chair of the dialogue emphasized the need for including issues related to full and meaningful employment, and gender equality in the upcoming SDGs. More importantly, he pointed out that the importance of technology has been underestimated in the dialogue (including the dialogue on formulation SDGs). He stated that technology leads to better, faster and smarter activities which can play transformative role in the development process and urged for the inclusion of technology in upcoming developmental dialogues. 

Programme Agenda

List of Participants

Media Coverage