First Business News Portal in English from Nepal
KATHMANDU: Nepali Academics and development practitioners, including those from the Diaspora, have called upon public policy-making in Nepal to be more participatory, accountable, and people-centered.
Making a presentation at the ‘Policy Leaders Program (PLP)’ organized by Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) and KUSOM Policy Lab jointly on Monday, former Secretary of the Nepal government, Dr. Gopi Krishna Khanal, said that there was a need to make a policy-making process in Nepal more participatory.
“If we had strictly enforced building code policy, we could have saved many lives during the disasters,” he said. Khanal insisted on the need for programs to empower policymakers and generate resources for policy actors.
Adjunct Faculty at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Dr. Gambhir Bhatta, said that Nepal had failed to come up with several federal statutes required to properly implement federalism, such as on civil service, police services, and education.
Former Executive Director of NPI, Dr. Bhatta said donors are often too focused on the technical solutions and on ‘getting the prices right.’ So the focus has to move to institutions, and behind institutions lie politics. “Effective institutional and policy reform requires coming to grips with the political underpinnings and the drivers that shape how institutions develop, how decisions are made, and what the incentives and constraints are of all actors,” said Dr Bhatta. The program would be suitable for mid to high-level government officials, NGOs, and private sector leaders, he added.
Former global chief of Action Aid International, Ramesh Singh, said that traditional thinking regarding leadership had changed a lot over the past few decades. “Policymakers now think not only of people but also of the planet. We need to have a new definition for ‘development’. We need leaders who could understand and address not only national problems but global problems like climate change,” said Mr Singh. NPI founding board member Singh said Nepal had witnessed some progress in terms of the people’s quality of life but not in terms of political quality.
“We need transformational leaders, leaders with integrity.”Singh highlighted that new policy leaders should take into account the demand side with due consideration, which is one of the major reasons for the policy implementation failures based on his years-long international experience.
In his opening remark, Khagendra Dhakal, Chairman of the Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) and Adjunct Professor at King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok (KMUTNB), underscored the role of critical thinking in policy-making. It was drawing parallels with historical policies such as the U.S. Alcohol Ban policy in 1920, which resulted in increased organized crime. Dhakal highlighted the delicate balance policy decisions must strike.
“Policy-making is a double-edged sword. Take, for instance, Bhutan’s prioritization of the Gross Happiness Index over GDP. It shows us that while a policy can aim for the happiness and well-being of its people, it can also lead to unintended consequences, such as the human rights challenges faced by Nepali-descent Bhutanese refugees,” Dhakal explained.
Dhakal, whom the East-West Center recently awarded the prestigious Asia-Pacific Leadership Fellowship 2023, emphasized on the need of a new Policy Leadership Program (PLP) to cultivate a new generation of policy leaders for Nepal enriched by the Nepali diaspora’s knowledge.
“We need tools and skills to analyze the concerned policy, looking at the entire cycle from formulation and implementation to evaluation, and should look at them holistically as three dimensions of a single issue, Dhakal said, signaling a move towards a more inclusive and well-rounded policy development process. He said NPI is committed to leveraging the large pool of Nepali diaspora to this end.
Director of KUSOM Policy Lab, Dr Purna Nepali, said such policy discussions would help prepare the next generation of leaders who could formulate policies to address Nepal’s major challenges.
Dr. Nepali expressed commitment to move this forward with the collaboration with NPI for the long term. He informed the event participants that the residential component of the PLP will be held in March 2024.
Extending a vote of thanks, Mr. Yadav Ojha from the GIZ Nepal office said they were supporting ten think tanks, including NPI and KUSOM Policy Lab so that they could adopt the participatory policy-making process and strengthen the think-tank ecosystem. Ojha said that the PLP program would be useful for Nepal and that GIZ would support the PLP program.
Dr. Pramila Thapa, an NPI Expert Community member and former Registrar of Purbanchal University, moderated the one-day program, which was held in hybrid mode. Dr. Thapa underscored the need for diaspora scholars to join hands to meet the Nepal SDG goals.
A physical event was organized at KUSOM Hall Balkumari while invited NPI expert community members from North America, Europe, Oceania, and the Asia-Pacific region attended the event virtually.
The organizers stated that the event was organized as the soft launch of the PLP event to seek feedback from a spectrum of policy stakeholders, including government bodies, the media, private sectors, and civil society organizations, to design a comprehensive policy leadership program that’s critical to Nepal’s sustainable development.
The organizers said that by accommodating the feedback from the participants, the PLP would be given a final shape shortly. They said PLP would have pre-residency, residency, and post-residency components, while the residency component is planned for March 2023. NPI-KUSOM Policy Lab will start to identify the best participants for the ‘Generation 1’ cohort of the PLP.
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