Nepal And SDGs

 

Kushal Pokharel

 

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute globally agreed agendas dictating the entire discourse of development for the next one-and-half decade. With the objective of making the world a better place to live in free of poverty, hunger and illiteracy, among others, SDGs were adopted by the world community at the UN headquarters in September last year. Considered as the most comprehensive document to guide the activities of socio-economic development in a sustainable manner, SDGs call for concerted actions upon the world community to combat the common problems of poverty, inequality and social exclusion. 

Marking a transformative shift from the previous development agendas, SDGs put sustainable development at the core. Likewise, transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth and building effective, open and accountable institutions for all are its defining feature consisting of 17 developmental goals. Among the major goals are eradicating poverty, hunger, reducing inequalities and gender discrimination, and developing a system of clean water and sanitation.  

 

Nepal’s Challenges

Strengthening the domestic, financial, policy and human resource base for helping LDCs like Nepal to thrive on their own is a major concern of the global development partnership in the absence of which fulfilling the SDGs remain a challenging task. Nevertheless, the SDG goals have been incorporated in the current 14th Five-Year Plan, and Nepal has embarked on a journey to achieve the goals by 2030.

 In the absence of adequate human and financial resources, things have rather looked extremely difficult for Nepal to integrate its development goals with the SDGs. This has aggravated with the rise in corruption and ethical malpractices in the country. The increasing inability to prioritise the major development projects owing to limited knowledge has complicated the problem of effective resource distribution. This is to say that although paucity of funds is an issue, more crucial is the aspect of resource management and funds in the best interest of the country’s development.

Nepal’s LDC status will be a major threat to achieving these goals. Although Nepal’s 13th Plan is intended to graduate Nepal from the status of a LDC by 2022, no substantial progress has been witnessed in that direction so far. With our increasing negative indicators in education, health and employment, this transformation is looking a distant dream.

It is interesting to note that Nepal had made significant stride in achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a pre-cursor of the SDGs, despite the political stalemate and dysfunctioning bureaucracy. Many targets pertaining to poverty, health, women’s empowerment and education were achieved and was lauded by the international community. So, it would be unwise to belittle Nepal’s potential to attain the SDGs.

Having said that, reforms have remained long overdue, often causing obstacles in the path of development. Institutional strengthening and overcoming policy lacunae have remained a daunting task in addition to improving the national-level administrative and technical capacity. Promoting the rule of law, human rights, good governance and investment climate has also looked shaky over the last few decades in Nepal’s development trajectory. With the low level of economic growth and high income inequality exacerbating social vulnerabilities, the overall development indicators of Nepal paint a gloomy picture.

Meanwhile, the erosion of political commitment to development has hugely affected the sincere attempts to move ahead in the direction of attaining the global development goals. Thus, the need for an adaptive and flexible government that can accelerate the national economy and capitalise on international support has become urgent.

Equally significant will be the need to integrate the global priorities with our own local aspirations. Many development programmes have utterly failed in the past owing to excessive interference by the international community in the national development affairs. The mobilisation of foreign aid and foreign direct investment for creating social goods need to be mulled over. Contrary to previous development agendas, the SDGs have clearly laid out a policy of encouraging self-regulating mechanisms of the poor and vulnerable communities. Forging partnership among the civil society members, local governments and private sectors within the country is a must to realise the SDGs. This document has stressed on the policy of ‘leaving no one behind’ and providing equitable share to all in the development process.

Meeting the SDGs would require Nepal to have a stable political environment with predictable policies that can usher in developmental reforms. The induction of educated and skilled planners, researchers and policy experts into the system of governance would be essential in realising this objective. More importantly, the policy makers and administrators of Nepal should be able to establish various institutional structures and processes to facilitate the work.

 

Balanced growth

The need of the hour is implementing a people-centred development strategy to achieve balanced growth. A harmony between the economy, environment and society is a must to attain these lofty ideals. To this end, the state must put development issues at the core of the policy agendas and create an enabling environment for working consistently to meet the globally agreed goals.

 

 

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