Nepal

Thousands have gained access to electricity from Norwegian supported micro power plants, and 91 per cent of all children are now starting school in Nepal.

Facts about Nepal

Population
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Millions
Life expectancy
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Years
GNI pr capita
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USD
Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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%
HDI
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Ranking

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Politically, 2013 was an eventful year for Nepal. Much of the year was devoted to trying to get the country out of the political and constitutional crisis that arose after the constituent assembly was dissolved without the announcement of a new constitution in May 2012. The main reason for the dissolution was disagreement on the country's new federal structure.

In the aftermath, the negotiating climate among the parties was at a record low, and it took the politicians almost an entire year to find a solution to the crisis. They decided to hold a new election and that a neutral technocrat government, led by the sitting Chief Justice, would lead the country until the election.

Election

In November 2013, Nepal held a peaceful election with an historically high voter turnout of over 70 per cent. Both international and national observers found that the election process took place in a free and fair manner.

The security situation is more stable than it has been, and this is illustrated by the peaceful election. Stationing police and military personnel at the polling stations also contributed to this. In August 2013, the integration of the former Maoist soldiers into the army was formally discontinued. With this milestone, an important brick in the peace process is now in place.

At the same time, the general human rights situation has developed in a negative direction in the past year. Increasing interference from political parties in the police and justice sector was observed. Reports on human rights advocates show extensive use of violence and threats to stop their work. Many feel that the human rights situation in Nepal is at a critical crossroads. It is vital going forward that the authorities show a willingness to counteract the tendency towards lawlessness and impunity that now prevails.

A lack of respect for human rights challenges the fragile democratisation process the country is in, and it will have consequences for Nepal's status in an international context, as well as for long-term development cooperation. In spite of this negative development, a strong involvement by civil society and the media is now observed trying to counteract the lack of punishment.

Discrimination

As is the case for other countries in the region, systematic discrimination and assaults against women are the greatest challenges to human rights. The lack of respect for the rights of women and girls, and particularly the issue of violence against women and rape, have been high on the agenda in 2013. As we see in India, there is increasing popular engagement in the demands for better protection of women and girls, and for prosecution of the perpetrators. The media plays an important role in documenting the extent of the problem and by challenging current norms. The response from the authorities has been limited, but efforts are being made, for example, to establish special courts that will give priority to rape cases.

The main challenges in Nepal's economy are a poorly developed infrastructure and a weak industrial sector. Economic development is also hindered by extensive corruption in both the public and private sectors. In Nepal, there is an increased focus on corruption at all levels. Nepal scores poorly on "doing business" indices, and foreign investment is lower than in neighbouring countries. The economy also suffers due to the fact that the authorities cannot manage to speed up the planning and execution of publicly financed infrastructure projects.

Economic growth

The economic growth in 2013 was approximately 4 per cent, and it was attributed to a large degree to the transfer of money from guest workers abroad. Approximately three million Nepalese work abroad, primarily in India, the Gulf States and East Asia. The money that foreign workers send home has become increasingly important to the economy in recent years, and it accounted for 25 per cent of the gross national product in 2013. Inflation was just under 10 per cent. A weakened Nepalese rupee has resulted in favourable competitive conditions in relation to foreign countries, but it also increases the cost of imports, especially petroleum products. Agriculture contributes to approximately one-third of the country's value creation.

In the government budget for 2014, which totals approximately NOK 33 billion, there is an increased focus on energy and the agricultural sector. A lot of the budget is tied up in salary obligations. Government's revenues primarily come from import duties, value-added tax, income tax and aid. The major taxpayers are in the telecommunications and banking sector, while the power sector contributes little to tax revenue.

At the same time, there are now several positive features of the economy, such as an increase in government tax and duty revenues, reduced government debt and increased foreign currency reserves, a healthier property market, more diversified lending in the banking sector and a certain increase in foreign investments.

If Nepal is to realise its ambition of becoming a middle-income country by 2022, economic growth must increase considerably from the current level. This is probably not feasible without a stable political situation, an associated improvement in the investment climate and increased infrastructure investments.

Norway's development cooperation with Nepal:

  • Climate and clean energy
  • Education
  • Good governance
  • Peace and reconciliation
  • Women and gender equality

Climate and clean energy

The development of Nepal's hydropower resources can contribute to economic development. Large scale development cannot take place without substantial foreign investment. Norway seeks to contribute to a better investment climate for hydropower by financing power lines in cooperation with the authorities and other development partners. Many small power plants are under construction. Several Norwegian companies are involved in the hydropower sector. SN Power was the largest actor, and it transferred its assets in the Khimti Power Plant to Statkraft in 2014.

 More than half of Nepalese households do not have access to electricity. In rural areas, less than 10 per cent have access. The country has large undeveloped water resources, but are dependent on foreign investors to be able to build large hydropower plants. The Norwegian government provides this. The film is from 2012.

Norway took over as the leader of the donor group for the regional organisation ICIMOD in 2013. Cooperation with ICIMOD contributes to greater knowledge of the causes and consequences of climate change in the region. The agreement has a duration of five years and a budget of NOK 150 million. Activities will be continued in a project that acquires new knowledge of how glaciers in the Himalayas are affected by climate change. At the present there is little scientific data on this. The cooperation with ICIMOD resulted in several scientific articles on how glaciers are affected by climate change in 2013.

A plant conservation project that since 2008 has given 16,000 farmers training in practical agricultural methods that increase crops and reduce the use of chemicals is now in its final phase. The same applies to a fish farming project, where the project is being discontinued due to the weak implementation capacity of the national partner.

The installed output from hydropower and isolated systems for hydropower and solar panels is approximately 750 MW in Nepal. The demand is greater than the supply, which results in extensive rationing during the winter. Between 60 and 70 per cent of Nepalese households have access to electricity.

Nepal is one of the focus countries for Norwegian energy aid. The two largest projects are a village energy programme and a transmission project. NOK 3 million was contributed to clean energy in 2013. There was no need for contributions to the village energy programme, due to somewhat slower progress than previously anticipated. The transmission project is greatly delayed, which is attributed to the weak implementation capacity of the government power company.

Norway has cooperated with the Nepalese authorities and other donors, such as Denmark, on a village energy programme for several years Thus far, Norway's support has accounted for approximately 30 per cent. This cooperation has contributed to giving at least 10 per cent of all Nepalese households access to more clean-burning technology for cooking and electricity. In 2013, 16,000 households gained access to electricity from micro power plants. In addition, 98,000 households received electricity from solar cell systems. The cooperation also contributed to the installation of 87,000 improved wood-burning stoves and 24,000 biogas systems.

 Access to sustainable energy services and improved cooking stoves can contribute to significant health improvements.The health burden from indoor air pollution is highest amongst poor families who tend to use cheap bio-mass and low quality coal fuels in primitive stoves without proper ventilation. Women and young children are particularly vulnerable as they often spend a lot of time indoors and they are often responsible for cooking the family's meals.

Education

Norway supports Nepal's primary education programme. The main objective is to ensure a good programme of primary education for all children. The results in relation to the agreed targets are generally positive, especially with regard to increased access to education at all levels. The percentage of year one students with a preschool background is increasing rapidly, and it is now at 57 per cent, 3 per cent higher than in 2012. Nearly 92 per cent of all five-year-olds started in year one in 2013. Girls and boys are equally represented at all levels from the first to the eighth year, and national tests for year-eight students show that there is little difference between boys and girls with regard to learning.

Other indicators related to access, including the number of schools and classrooms, show positive development. In 2013, almost 500 schools, 18,000 new classrooms and 1000 girls' toilets were built, for example.

Public education statistics are not very suitable for identifying what happens in the classroom. One indicator is access to teachers. The number of students per teacher is 29 on a national basis, with significant regional differences. One recently conducted survey shows that absence among teachers is between 11 and 14 per cent. The teaching method is primarily based on lectures. A new national testing programme reveals that many lack basic reading and writing skills, even in the eighth year, as well as skills related to the application of knowledge and critical thinking.

Poor quality teaching and little adaptation in relation to individual needs contribute to inefficiency. In 2013, more than 17 per cent of the year one students had to repeat the year, down from 10 per cent in 2012. A greater focus on mother tongue instruction may be the reason for such a positive trend. While most children start school, there are many who drop out before the prescribed time. According to the most recent population census, up to half a million children between the ages of 5 and 15 do not attend school.

Donors to the sectoral programme have established work groups to follow up challenges such as administration, quality, evaluation, social inclusion and gender equality. Norway participates in the work group for social inclusion and gender equality, and it has particularly focused on the need to strengthen efforts for the rights of disabled children to education.

With regard to gender equality, in addition to scholarships for girls, efforts are directed towards schools having their own toilets for girls and the recruitment of female teachers. The current percentage of female teachers is approximately 40 percent at the primary school level, but just 17 per cent at the lower secondary school level. The quota system for women, people from lower castes and other discriminated groups in the public sector will contribute to an increased percentage of women over time.

 Join these Nepalese pupils in their classrooms. The film is from 2012.

Good governance

Since 2008, Norway has supported the national decentralisation programme LGCDP (Local Governance and Community Development Programme). Evaluations of LGCDP show good results with regard to strengthening the local population's participation in planning at the local level and improving the provision of local services from the local authorities to the population. Through LGCDP, local institutions and advisory groups have been established in all of Nepal's 3915 villages and 58 urban municipalities. By about the middle of 2013, 35,600 local institutions with somewhat over 800,000 members and 4300 advisory groups with around 116,000 members had been established.

In Nepal, Norway cooperates closely with the UN organisation UNICEF to promote child-friendly governance. The work has gradually changed from being a UNICEF-managed project to being a programme in which Norway and UNICEF support the implementation of the authorities' national strategy for child-friendly governance within the framework of the LGCDP.

Strengthening the rights of children and their living conditions is an important part of UNICEF's national programme in Nepal for the period from 2013 to 2017. Norway supports this work with approximately NOK 30 million during the period from 2013 to 2017.

In 2013, there were more than 17,000 clubs for children and youth with more than 400,000 members in Nepal. These clubs contribute to placing the interests and problems of children on the agenda. Representatives for the clubs participate to an increasing extent in municipal committees and planning processes, and over time they will participate in local administrative bodies for public health centres and schools.

Norway and the rest of the donor community in Nepal provided extensive support for the preparation and execution of the election in November 2013. Norway has supported the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) for several years through a multi-donor fund administered by UNDP. A new agreement on Norwegian contributions for the period from 2013 to 2016 was signed in 2013. Norway was also one of the largest contributors to the election through the Nepal Peace Trust Fund.

Norway's support for work on a new constitution has been channelled through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance). In addition, a Norwegian expert has been an advisor to the Election Commission in Nepal with regard to the voting system in connection with drafting a new constitution, preparation of a new Election Act and practical issues.

For a number of years, Norway has supported the work of the Institute for Democracy and Election Assistance (IDEA) in Nepal and fully financed the organisation in 2013. The IDEA plays an important role in connection with the country's constitutional work, for example as the only "external" actor that provides technical support to the members of the constituent assembly.

The IDEA also has a strong focus on gender equality in constitutional work, and it has prepared a check-list in order to facilitate identification of where in the constitution the text should be improved for the purpose of gender equality. This is a specific and useful tool for political interest groups and committees that work to strengthen gender equality in the constitution.

Peace and reconciliation

Norway has over time and through various channels supported the rehabilitation and reintegration of former Maoist soldiers. These efforts have yielded good results. Indications show that the efforts have drastically reduced the chance that the former soldiers will resort to violence or the use of weapons. In partnership with the German organisation GIZ, Norway continued its support of the reintegration process to return the former Maoist soldiers to civil society.

This work is aimed at both ex-soldiers and inhabitants of 30 selected local communities, and approximately 3500 ex-soldiers have been reintegrated socially and economically as of 2013. In 2013, over 15,000 individuals benefited greatly from the project's activities, which include vocational training, entrepreneurship, dialogue projects, increased agricultural productivity and improved water and sanitary conditions. Of the participants, 61 per cent were women, 10 per cent were Dalits (a minority) and 51 per cent were Janajatis (a minority).

In 2013, more than 800 participants, 34 per cent of these ex-soldiers, received vocational training through 20 different vocational training programmes. The programmes were completed by 97 per cent. In addition, more than 4700 have participated in various courses related to improving their livelihood, particularly in agriculture. Several of the activities, such as savings clubs and dialogue groups are especially aimed at women. The project is also aimed at young people. Norway supported the project with NOK 5.7 million in 2013.

Norway also supports a UN project that provides education, vocational training, career guidance and psychosocial support for the reintegration of child soldiers and soldiers that were recruited late in the conflict. Through participation in the UN organisation UNIRP, the soldiers have achieved greater social acceptance in their own family and society at large. Of the 3040 in the target group, 2234 were registered in one of four training programmes. Of these, 79 per cent have thus far completed training in primary school subjects or a vocational trade. An evaluation gives the project good feedback on its psychosocial work, but highlights that the project is relatively costly and should have anchored the work more closely with the authorities, and in particular the relevant local actors, to ensure that the efforts are sustainable.

Women and gender equality

Through field visits and external evaluations, it has been verified that Norwegian support contributes to the mobilisation of women's groups at the local level and that they work actively for women's rights. As emerges from the reports, violence against women and girls is regarded as one of the greatest challenges. However, there is a widespread opinion that the attitudes concerning violence against women are changing, and that it is increasingly being recognised as a social problem rather than a private matter. The willingness to report an assault, seek medical attention and protection is increasing. Local women activists, mobilised and trained by the women's organisation network Sankalpa, play an important role in assisting victims with information on their rights and with practical help for their encounters with various public institutions.

An interdisciplinary alliance of women politicians that Norway supports, the Inter Party Women's Alliance, has also intervened in a number of individual cases to prevent political interference in investigations and legal procedures. Norway has entered into a three-year partnership with an organisation of women journalists, Sancharkia Samhua, to create more debate on how traditional attitudes contribute to the discrimination of women and girls – and gender-based violence in particular.

With regard to gender equality, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people are given high priority. With Norwegian support, the Nepalese authorities arranged a regional LGBT conference in May with participants from 24 countries. The Nepalese LGBT organisation Blue Diamond Society (BDS), which the Norwegian embassy supports, played an important role in arranging the conference. The Blue Diamond Society focuses on combating the discrimination of sexual minorities in Nepal, and it has cooperated with Nepal's Ministry of Education on the introduction of LGBT to the curriculum for years six to eight, for example. The rules for the issuance of government identity cards have been changed to permit "other" as an alternative to male or female, and an effort is being made to have new passports designed with the same options.

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Nepal is a pioneer in the fight for the rights of transsexuals. With Norwegian support the activist organization Blue Diamond Society has achieved groundbreaking results.

Financial management and anti-corruption

Initiatives to improve the public financial management in Nepal are vital for combating corruption and improving the quality of public sector services.

Norway supports public financial management through a multi-donor fund that is administered by the World Bank. The first major project was support to the Ministry of Finance in Nepal for the establishment of one central bank account for payments. Previously, the Ministry of Finance had around 10,000 different bank accounts. The schedule was met, and all 75 districts in Nepal were connected by the end of 2013.

One of the other major projects that is financed through a multi-donor fund is capacity building at the National Audit Office. There is technical cooperation with the Office of the Auditor General of Norway in connection with this work. The quality of the reports that the Nepalese National Audit Office produces has gradually improved. The main challenges are associated with the fact that it takes a long time before the reports are available and that the various ministries and other public agencies do not carry out the improvement measures that are required by the reports.

Since 2011, Norway has supported Transparency International (TI) Nepal to work with systems for national integrity and combating corruption. TI Nepal has produced several research reports, including a report on Nepal's implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Norway also support the human rights organisation INSEC, which is represented in all the country's 75 districts. An evaluation shows that their year book, which documents cases from the whole country, has contributed to the victims of human rights violations receiving greater attention from the relevant authorities. This year book is a central reference document for all human rights actors in Nepal. The INSEC's work through many years has resulted in greater awareness of rights and duties among the population. At the same time, cooperation with local authorities has strengthened the capacity of the government apparatus to promote and protect human rights. Close to half of 30,000 cases mentioned in the UN report on assaults in connection with the conflict in Nepal during the period from 1995 to 2006 are based on reports from INSEC. The evaluation points out that INSEC's documentation can play a major role in a future truth and reconciliation process.

Norwegian NGO´s

Norwegian non governmental organisations that work through local partners in Nepal received NOK 42 million in support in 2013.

Among the most important areas of focus are education, disabled persons, children and women's rights, governance, peace and reconciliation, health and HIV/AIDS, copyright law, measures against human trafficking and child labour, as well as climate and the environment.

As a result of Norwegian efforts, among other things the rights of disabled persons have been strengthened, there is a greater understanding of mental problems and a Children's Rights Act has now been adopted.

 Watch how the everyday life of Sita Mainati has changed, after she had installed a solar panel. 

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 16.02.2015