RAM KUMAR KAMAT
KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai remains steadfast to the cause of minorities, but the National Planning Commission, which the PM heads, fears mentioning words that reflect the plight of these groups in UN Development Assistance Framework draft document.
A letter written to UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper on August 1 by the National Planning Commission, which this daily has obtained, has asked the UN body to remove words like ‘religious minorities’, ‘statelessness’, and ‘structural discrimination’, or any similar terms from the UNDAF draft document.
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.
“Words like ‘stigma’, stigmatised’ are not measurable, they incite emotions which might lead to potential conflict so remove these words/phrases,” the NPC has argued in the letter. “The mention of ‘weak rule of law’ and ‘impunity’ in the manner used in the document undermine the positive changes in Nepal over the years. So, these either need to be removed or toned down in acceptable formulation.”
Rajendra Mahato, Minister of Health and Population, who is also the Chairman of Sadbhawana Party, raised the issue with the PM in a Cabinet meeting and demanded action against those who wrote the ‘utterly objectionable letter’. “The letter violates our constitution that recognises the structural discrimination and statelessness being faced by minority communities and vulnerable groups. There has been no change in the state of minority groups,” Mahato said. The PM, Mahato added, agreed that the NPC letter was against the spirit of the Interim Constitution and he would look into the matter.
Dipendra Jha, Chairman, Third Alliance, said Nepali bureaucracy had no objection to mention ‘marginalisation’ and ‘discrimination’ until May 27 but after the dissolution of the CA it hesitates to recognise these problems. “It may be a consequence of lopsided bureaucracy,” Jha reacted. He said if the world body could not use words that reflected the problems of marginalised and vulnerable groups in its policy document, it would set a bad precedent for other donor agencies that want to empower these groups.
When asked if his office would delete terminologies like ‘structural discrimination, statelessness and religious minorities’ as suggested by the NPC, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper said, “Negotiations with the government on the UNDAF are still ongoing. The content is still under discussion.”
NPC member Dr Abdur Rahim Mikrani said he was aware of the letter and would raise the issue in NPC meeting.
Purna Man Shakya, Joint Secretary at the NPC, who wrote the letter on behalf of the commission, said although there were issues of the empowerment of marginalised communities, they did not believe that there were problems of statelessness and structural discrimination.
“As far as stigma and stigmatisation are concerned, problems of untouchability do exist in society because of cultural and religious reasons, but law treats everybody equally and therefore, we have requested the UN body to tone down the words in situation analysis part of the UNDAF,” Shakya clarified.
Asked whether the UN body would be compelled to incorporate suggestions made by the NPC, Shakya said the UN body could refuse to incorporate changes recommended by the government only when it deemed the suggestions against international instruments.