RAM KUMAR KAMAT
KATHMANDU: The government has approved the United Nations Development Assistance Framework document with some changes that could irk the ethnic rights groups.
According to Vice-chairman of National Planning Commission, Deependra Bahadur Kshetry, the UNDAF document that the steering committee (comprising government and UN representatives) today approved has removed phrases like ‘religious minorities’, ‘structural’, ‘structural discrimination’ and ‘statelessness’.
“We have approved the document because the UN system in Nepal accepted our suggestion,” said Kshetry, adding that words like ‘stigma’ and similar formulations have also been removed from the document. The phrase ‘religious minorities’ has been replaced by Muslims, women, children and others, according to Kshetry.
Advocate Dipendra Jha, Chairman of Third Alliance, said government’s decision to remove some words/phrases that reflected the plight of minorities and disadvantaged groups was against the spirit of the Interim Constitution. “We will challenge the government decision,” he added.
Kshetry said since the document was of both the government and UN system, it should be mutually acceptable. “The government is committed to the rights and concerns of minorities, but at the same time, it should also be sensitive towards all other communities,” said Kshetry when asked about the concerns being raised by ethnic rights groups over the changes made in the UNDAF document. “We know that there are ills in the society, yet we cannot officially say that there are injustices and corruption,” he argued.
On UN system’s concern about the UNDAF document, he said it was ‘like spending merely $3,000 and trying to shake the whole world’.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper said he would sign the document probably tomorrow or on Friday. “I am satisfied with the changes,” added Piper.
The NPC had written a letter on August 1 to Piper seeking removal of phrases like ‘religious minorities’, ‘structural discrimination’ and ‘statelessness’ from the UNDAF text, which had irked ethnic rights groups no end. NPC’s letter was perceived as an attempt to undermine the plight of minorities.
UNDAF identifies areas of cooperation on the basis of which necessary budget is
allocated for programmes over a period of five years. Prevention of conflicts has been the major concern of all the donor agencies and development partners, including the UN system in Nepal.