Amplifying Voices of the People: Closing the Gaps of SDGs

Achieving the SDGs through COVID-19 response and recovery

SDGs National Network Nepal*

The complete report is available here.

Implementation Status

Federal Level

Nepal has completed most of the ground works for implementation of SDGs at federal level. Various initiatives have been moved forward by the Federal Government in order to adapt SDGs. As mentioned earlier, NPC is an apex body to coordinate the entire SDGs process in the country. The idea of leaving no one behind is in line with the agenda of the new Constitution of Nepal which aims to build a prosperous, egalitarian and pluralistic society with its overarching guidance to all development policies, plans and programmes. The government started to mainstream SDGs in national planning and budgeting systems from the 14th National Plan (2016/17-2018/19), and in other sectoral plans, policies, and their targets are being aligned with SDGs. Specific SDG codes are assigned for all national programmes in the national budget. The Government of Nepal has grouped SDGs in social, economic and environmental categories. Goal 5, 16 and 17 are categorized as cross-cutting goals. Nepal has embarked its 15th National Periodic Plan 2019/2020 to 2023/2024 since last year. Also, it has formulated a 25-year visionary plan with a roadmap and slogan “Prosperous Nepal: Happy Nepali”. The 15th National Plan has tried to mainstream SDGs.

NPC produced SDGs Status and Road Map 2016-2030 that identified 479 national indicators, set milestones and targets to achieve SDGs by 2030. Similarly, the NPC has developed SDG data portal where province wise data are available and a separate webpage (http://sdg.npc.gov.np) on SDGs has been launched. Government wants to develop partnerships with province and local governments, private sector, cooperative, civil society and NGOs, international development organizations, regional cooperation organizations, and stakeholders. Government has developed strategies to mobilize internal resources, local and province revenues, private and cooperative investments, as well as development cooperation. Moreover, the Government has estimated the budget required to achieve the SDGs for three fiscal years 2018/19-2020/21.

SDG Need Assessment, Costing and Financing Strategy 2018, formulation of planning and monitoring guidelines to local and federal governments, and review of sectoral plans and strategies in order to align with SDGs are some important steps taken by the Government. Further, the Government has promulgated a number of new laws to implement the fundamental rights. Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines for Federal/Provincial/Local level have also been prepared. Initiatives for localization of SDGs have also been taken through preparation of guidelines, capacity development, assisting in preparing results framework at sub-national levels. Baseline indicators for provinces and manuals for localization has been prepared. Ministries have been made responsible to implement the SDGs through their programmes and budgets. Main issue of SDGs’ implementation is, annual policy, programmes and budgets of the Government are not in line with SDGs national targets as stated in SDGs Roadmap. Absence of a sense of ownership of the agenda with high level political leadership is another challenge to implement the SDGs in the country. Ministries and its departments should be very serious to work on the SDGs since they are mainly responsible for implementation. Inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation are very important.

Implementing SDGs is a very tough job in Nepalese context because geo-politics and domestic political environment determine the entire development process. The country is now extremely suffering from COVID-19 crisis. All the development works have been disrupted and economic activities have been almost stopped. They have directly impacted almost all goals of the 2030 Agenda, but in the context of Nepal Goal 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8 have been highly affected. Most likely, Nepal’s plan to graduate from LDC in 2021, will be difficult in reality.

Local Development Training Academy (LDTA), a wing of the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MOFAGA), is in process to enhance the capacity of local governments to mainstream SDGs in their local development process. Administrative Staff College of Federal Government is also involved in human resource development in the SDGs sector.

Federal Parliament

The Sustainable Development and Good Governance Committee of the National Assembly has established a resource center in Kathmandu targeting the members of parliament. Development of a separate website (https://digobikas.gov.np) is another important work done by this committee. Further, it has organized training for some members of Province Assemblies and tried to develop them as SDGs champions. Furthermore, this committee has developed a Parliamentary Checklist that will help to make every national laws, policies and programmes SDGs oriented. This committee is also monitoring the progress and process of SDGs on behalf of the federal parliament.

Province Level

Federal government has organized workshops in all provinces on SDGs intending to mainstream SDGs. It is yet to align SDGs at province level planning and budgeting processes. However, Gandaki Province and Province No. 5 have prepared a baseline report of SDGs. Gandaki Province has formulated 5-Year Province Level Periodic Plan 2019/2020-2023/2024 and also it has set province level development targets aligned with province level SDGs targets (SDGs Baseline Report of Gandaki Province 2019), which are good examples of localization process. SDGs Report has set province level targets and milestones by 2030. Province on 2, Bagmati Province and Karnali Province are in process to prepare SDGs Baseline Report.

Federal government developed a national and provincial monitoring and evaluation framework and most recently identified 117 SDGs indicators for the provinces and also interacted with province level planning commissions. NPC has almost readied SDGs localization manual for provincial and local governments to facilitate their specific SDGs plan of action/budget aligned to national periodic/SDGs plan, that still remains to be rolled out. Province governments have not codified their budgets in line with SDGs. In reality, province level governments need to work hard to align SDGs in their development process. All province governments must prepare SDGs Baseline Report, and to formulate 5-year periodic plans by integrating SDG goals and targets. On the other hand, civil society Major Groups and Stakeholders should be active to work on SDGs in provinces. Mass awareness is still a challenge at province level. Province governments must review their development policies and plans in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local Level

Role of local governments is very important to implement the SDGs. But, most of the local governments are still not aware about the 2030 Agenda. Local people are also not aware about the SDGs. But, local government associations (Association of District Coordination Committees, National Association of Rural Municipalities and Municipal Association Nepal) are trying to support local governments to mainstream SDGs in the local development process. Local governments have realized the imperative of having SDGs interlinked development thrust and accordingly many of them are already in the process of formulating it.

National Planning Commission and Administrative Staff College are facilitating the process through training on SDGs localization and deployment of trained facilitators in 11 municipalities on a pilot basis. The Policy and Planning Commission of Gandaki Province is quite pro-active to supporting local governments to integrate SDGs through formulating local level 5-year development plans.

So far, all three local government associations are providing support to local governments that include deliberating on SDGs as well. Further, capacity development training is needed from national and provincial governments to help the local governments to develop SDGs framework therein. The strengthening of local capacity could be visualized as a three step process: fully functional and adequately staffed organizational setup, formulation of SDGs framework.

Realizing SDGs at local level needs awareness, full political ownership, capacity development, development of frameworks and clear guidance from federal and provincial governments. Of course local governments need more financial resources to implement the SDGs in their territories, which is very challenging. Local governments are not codifying local budgets in line with SDGs. Local governments should not take SDGs as a burden or separate programme.

Most importantly, the development is still not taken as human rights of the people. Political society, policy makers and government officials should change their mind set and to adopt human rights based approach in planning, policy making, programming and budgeting. It is equally important to increase the capacity of CSOs and communities locally.

COVID 19 Pandemic Situation

The first COVID 19 case in Nepal was confirmed on 23 January 2020, with a Nepali student, who had returned from Wuhan China on 9 January. It was also the first recorded case of COVID-19 in South Asia. Between January and March, Nepal took steps to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease while preparing for it by procuring essential supplies, equipment and medicine, upgrading health infrastructure, training medical personnel, and spreading public awareness. The country-wide lockdown came into effect on 24 March 2020. At the same time international border was shield and international flights were stopped. The first death occurred on 14 May 2020. It is still unclear what the ultimate effect of the coronavirus will be, the initial assessments are sobering, with losses of lives and livelihoods. The death toll is still climbing.

Impacts, Issues and Challenges

Actually, economic, social and humanitarian problems started after imposing lockdown. Lockdown restricted movement of the people within the country, and flight access in and out. Educational institutions, public offices, health institutions (except emergency), trade, industries, markets, construction works, transportations were totally closed down. Production and supply chain were disrupted.

More than 8 million students are at home in Nepal (MoEST, 2020). Public schools have been turned into quarantines managed by local governments. Digital divide is coming to the surface, since more than 49 percent of people don't have access to internet and general online technology (CEHRD, 2020).

Informal sector workers and daily wage earners have lost their jobs. Poor families, migrant workers and daily wage earners started to suffer from the food crisis. The limited access to nutritional services caused further risk to pregnant women, infants and children under 5 of the poorest families. Lockdown prevents humanitarian workers from accessing populations in need of assistance.

Despite the announcement of COVID-19-related relief support for the poor, there is neither a standard definition of ‘the poor’ in Nepali government frameworks, nor a database it could use to identify those who qualify to receive support. Poor migrant families, workers, and most vulnerable people such as LGBTIQ people could not receive relief support. COVID-19 crisis exposed the inequalities of society and it is most likely to rise in the days to come.

There is also a critical gap in Nepali policy-making when it comes to the way the informal economy intersects with the vulnerability of workers. The COVID-19 crisis has abruptly illuminated the glaring disparities between Nepal’s ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, most starkly between those in the formal versus informal sectors. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and workers living in cities were compelled to walk back home under the most inhumane conditions. Some of them have lost their lives on the way. It was proved that, rights of informal sector workers are not protected by the State, even if they do not have access to basic social protection.

Migrant workers have been returned from India, it is expected that more than 600,000 will return from India. In earlier days, thousands of Nepalese returnees were stranded in the Nepal-India border and they were maltreated. There are reports that repatriated migrants are stigmatized and some have been denied services.

The most vulnerable groups in Nepal are exposed to social structures such as caste, social norms, discriminatory practices, and gender discrimination. (UN 2020). In addition to poor families, migrant workers, daily wage earners; farmers, micro-entrepreneurs, Persons with Disabilities, chronic diseased persons, senior citizens, LGBTIQ, sex workers, pregnant and lactating women have been suffering a lot. With the spread of the epidemic and the consequent risk of stigmatization, this exposure is likely to increase.

Officials record a rise in domestic violence. Maternal mortality, suicide cases, violence against women and girls have been significantly increased. For minority groups, crises like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic can be doubly marginalizing.

First case of COVID19 was detected in January, so the Government had sufficient time for preparation and supply of health equipment and materials, but it did not happen in time. Private hospitals and nursing homes remained closed and they were reluctant to regularize their service during crisis time.

The healthcare system is likely to be put under significant stress as a consequence of increased cases of COVID-19, and access to health services will become more limited. The return of Nepalese migrants put additional pressure on an already overstretched healthcare system and will allow the virus to spread even faster. COVID19 has been an eye- opener of the fragile health system and infrastructures and has limited access to health and rights severely, especially among the most marginalized population.

The wholesale and retail sector has also been affected due to the fall of imports. The tourism sector has been suffering very hardly due to health risks and various travel restrictions imposed on travel globally. Nepal is projected to fall by 60 percent in 2020 resulting in a loss of foreign currency earnings worth USD 400 million. The average monthly Nepalese revenue of micro, small and medium size enterprises is decreasing by 95 percent. (UNDP 2020)

Manufacturing sector is experiencing a shortage of raw materials. The situation is exacerbated by spread of the pandemic to the Middle-east which is the main source of remittance. Remittance is expected to sharply drop by 14 percent (WB 2020). The World Bank estimates economic growth will be 1.4-2.9 percent in FY 2019/20 and it could be 2.7-3.6 percent in 2020/21. UN-ESCAP estimates 2.5 million are likely to be pushed into extreme poor.

COVID 19 crisis has directly impacted on revenue collection. Government is looking at funds between Rs 69 billion and Rs104 billion, equivalent to 2 to 3 percent of the GDP, to bridge the resource gap. Government also sought a deferral of the loan payment deadline and debt relief. Nepal needs additional funding as the country will require more money for the health care sector this year and for economic recovery next year. In the absence of adequate resources, Nepal has been forced to divert its capital budget towards procuring medical equipment and shoring up health care facilities.

Although Nepal has been spared the worst health effects of the pandemic so far, public frustration with the government is growing. In mid-June, groups of middle-class youth took to the streets in Kathmandu and other cities to protest perceived government apathy, incompetence, and corruption.

COVID-19 pandemic has made negative impacts in all the Goals, but Goal 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 16 and 17. But, positive change has been seen in the environmental sector, especially the air quality, due to lockdown. Within a few days of lockdown announced by the government, clear view of the sky and mountains and song of birds are creating new joy to nature lovers.

The temporary blanket ban on animal markets imposed by China as a response to the pandemic is expected to curb wildlife poaching and trafficking through Nepal, as the Chinese traditional medicine which uses various body parts of endangered animals as its ingredients has been the biggest challenge to wildlife conservation in the region.

For Nepal, the long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis is likely to be exacerbated by perennial vulnerability and a legacy of past poor policy choices. Amidst an ever-extending lockdown, there are clear signs that Nepal is struggling to cope during this crisis.

Call for Actions

Nepal should recover from the human and economic devastation caused by COVID-19 by accelerating efforts to achieve SDGs.

Nepal needs clamor for policy attention and scarce resources, there is great temptation during crisis to react only for the immediate term. That would be a big mistake: as every recent crisis has revealed, Nepal is extremely vulnerable to underlying threats that can quickly become existential for large sections of the population.

For Nepal, response to crises must therefore be treated as a strategic opening, an opportunity to turn focus onto these underlying threats – as well as a chance to push for appropriate and affordable policy choices.

Crisis resilience must become a strategic policy priority for Nepal. There is an urgent need to achieve food self-sufficiency and renewable energy security, rationalize emergency services and stockpiles across all seven provinces.

Crisis resilience also requires strategic investment in technologies that support vertical and horizontal coordination of government, remote education and health, food supply chains, and energy efficiency.

The crisis exposes critical gaps in Nepal’s policy-making infrastructure, which must be plugged. Nepal’s unwieldy, bloated pre-federal public administration architecture must be rationalized to drive policy coherence across the whole of government.

Massive weaknesses in how data and evidence are utilized by the government become glaring during crises. The fragmented approach to data is not helpful, especially in the context of federalism. Improving and unifying data for policy-making is an essential policy choice.

The continued failure to understand, treat, and engage the informal sector as the majority perpetuates the development of policy that fails to engage fundamental governance concerns on inequality and justice. The pressing needs of society’s most vulnerable will be better understood and prioritized through an informality-based policy approach.

The crisis provides a strategic opening to reimagine policy support for development effectiveness in Nepal’s federalized context. In a country with scarce state resources and challenging geography, inter-sectoral policy coherence is essential.

This is the case in health and education, for example, where the desired outcomes of citizen wellbeing and capability depend on the effective, and concurrent, delivery of both health and education services. In a crisis, both of these come under strain, and their resilience demands policy coherence across sectors.

Crucially for development effectiveness, it is important to rethink policy choices around development funding. It should not take the panic of a crisis to be creative in funding. It should be rationalized and linked to both government and non-government entities based on ability, utility, and accountability.

Further, subsidiarity and resilience can be guiding principles that incentivize provincial and municipal governments to raise and spend resources for development.

Prioritizing the elimination of corruption in the center of government is critical. Other strategic counter corruption entry points are the reform of campaign finance and the elimination of the use of the army for non-security matters.

Instead of continuing poor policy practice, Nepal can adapt and respond to the changed patterns of international life through a self-critical appraisal of circumstances and a seriousness in policy choices going forward. While the COVID-19 pandemic response presents a serious challenge for Nepal, if policymakers make crisis preparedness and good governance a priority in the process, it could become a unique opportunity to chart a course to better days.

Decisions taken now on whether to return to the pre-pandemic world or to one that is more sustainable and equitable will help shape future outcomes. If coronavirus responses are ad-hoc, underfunded and without a view to long-term goals, decades of progress toward sustainable development stand to be reversed. Alternatively, the country needs to move towards recovery with targeted actions towards achieving the SDGs.

The key concern of the SDGs—to leave no one behind—must be central to planners and decision makers while developing COVID-19 recovery policies. These policies should be created with an eye towards protecting vulnerable groups including young people who face unemployment, children who have no access to online learning opportunities, and women, who face a disproportionate increase in the burden of care work as well as greater risk of domestic violence.

The country should protect progress already made towards the SDGs, accelerating the universal provision of quality basic services, and protect the environment. The government should formulate and review the policies, frameworks, and mainstream the post-COVID-19 recovery plan to achieve the SDGs targets in line with the principles of open, inclusive, and green recovery.

To achieve national targets there should be greater coherence and coordination of national actions, as well as a stronger global partnership for development. In addition, the UN system must stand ready to facilitate progress in all these areas.

The transformation must “break the inequality and environmental degradation enchantment that darken our future”, National efforts should be based on sustainable consumption and production, on sustainable infrastructure that gives access to all to the opportunities of the future. We need concrete, radical and implementable solutions.

Historically marginalized and vulnerable identity groups must not be left outside of public health efforts or the pandemic will continue to spread. At the same time, economic programmes that address the economic consequences of COVID-19 need to address the hardships that migrants and fragile populations face during a crisis.

To lessen the negative impacts from this health crisis, we have to protect progress already made towards eradicating extreme deprivations by supporting those at immediate risk of poverty, hunger and disease; facilitating their safe return to work and education, and access to health care; and eliminating social or legal barriers for marginalized and disadvantaged groups.

We need to direct COVID-19 response stimulus packages toward the universal provision of quality essential services to build long-term resilience including by ensuring access to health care, education, social protection, water, sanitation, clean energy and the Internet. Additional support for the deployment of services in poorer countries needs to be made available.

Responding to COVID-19 crisis and resilient socio-economic recovery, demand a robust action oriented plan with full cooperation from political society. Lack of political stability and accountability may further escalate the situation. Government must focus its every action to protect the right to health and right to food security for instance. Reopening and revitalization of economic activities can create hope with the people. But, our future plans, policies and investments recovery plans must be compatible with long-term sustainability.

Who are left Behind

Leave No One Behind is the core principle of the 2030 Agenda. Like other member states, Nepal has also committed to reach the people furthest behind, secure their rights and to promote their dignified life. Basically, poor families, migrant workers, daily-wage earners, small farmers, Indigenous Peoples (Adibasi Janajati), Dalits, Madhesis, Persons with Disabilities, Senior Citizens, LGBTIQ, sex workers, religious minorities and women and youth are still left behind.

Poor: Despite Nepal witnessing progress in the fight against poverty, 28.6 percent people are suffering from multidimensional poverty. But, the question is who are they, and where do they live?

Karnali and Province 2: By geography, multidimensional poverty is high in Karnali Province (51%) and Province No.2 (48%). Sudurpaschim Province (33.56%) follows them.

Informal sector workers: In Nepal, more than 70 percent of the economically active population is involved in the informal economy. Workers in the informal economy face multiple challenges and constraints because the government is not in a position to regulate it. Consequently, workers are subject to exploitation and deprived of many fundamental rights at work. Social protection for the workers in the informal economy is one of the emerging issues in Nepal. Many Nepali workers who went to India, Gulf and other countries are compelled to do difficult, dangerous and dirty jobs and they are not well paid.

Rural People: Naturally, the rural-urban divide is evident, with 7 percent of the urban population and 33 percent of the rural population being multidimensionally poor. This means rural people are comparatively left behind. Amidst poverty is less in urban areas, Urban poverty is becoming more pervasive in Nepal. The urban poor are vulnerable to natural hazards because of the location of informal settlements in marginal areas, the poor quality of housing, and the lack of assets to assist in their recovery.

Women and Girls: Population of women and girls is 50.4 percent. Gender inequality prevails, and women are discriminated against in the social, economic and political sector. Women from Dalits, indigenous people, minority and Muslim groups and women with disabilities continue to face gender-based and identity-based discrimination. The Gender Inequality Index of Nepal is 0.476. In general, progress is not enough in gender inequality in the last four years.

Dalits: Dalits comprises more than 13 percent population. It is estimated that more than 40 percent Dalits live below the poverty line. Dalit people face caste-based discrimination and untouchability. They are landless and much poorer than the dominant caste population. Their life expectancy is lower than the national average, and so is their literacy rate. Discrimination against Dalits has affected access to education, health care, employment, water availability and ability to enjoy an adequate standard of living. Many instances have been abruptly attacked. Recent massacre of Dalit youths in Western Rukum is an example of serious criminal act. Dalits are discriminated against in schools, temples and other public and private places. They are deprived of education and face malnutrition, child labor, trafficking and sexual violence. Madhesi Dalits endure greater exclusion, marginalization, and landlessness. Dalit women face multiple discriminations. Badi women face sexual exploitation.

Madhesi: Madheshi people originally reside in the Terai region of Nepal and comprise various cultural groups. Madheshi people comprise Brahmin and Dalit caste groups as well as ethnic groups such as Maithils, Bhojpuri and Bajjika speaking people. The Madhesi ethnic group living in this region comprises only 19.3 percent of the total population. In general, the socio-economic status of this community is weak. Further, they say the constitution has failed to address their main demands, which include better political and economic representation, an end to the discriminatory citizenship law. This community has been doing a political movement several times for equal rights, dignity and identity. The government also failed during the year to publish the report of the Lal Commission, which investigated deadly violence between members of minority communities and the police in 2015.

Muslims: They are a religious minority community and one of the marginalized groups in the country, with a population 4.4 percent. Muslim women have lower access to health, justice and education because of cultural and language barriers. They suffer multiple forms of discrimination as women.

Indigenous Nationalities (Adhivasi Janajati): Indigenous peoples constitute 35.81 percent of the total population. Poverty among Hill Indigenous Peoples is higher (28.25%) than that of the high caste Brahmin (10.34%). Even, Nepal Government endorsed and approved the National Action Plan for the implementation of ILO 169, but it is not yet implemented. Big infrastructure development projects such as road, hydro power etc., and protected areas have been making negative impacts on their community rights and many families have been displaced.

Sexual and Gender Minorities (LGBTIQ): The Constitution recognizes “gender and sexual minority’ people among the disadvantaged groups, but they are not able to enjoy the rights and benefits equally. LGBTIQ persons are subjected to discrimination, hate, social stigma, harassment, attacked in their own families, public places, schools, employment and public services. Some of them are forced to involve in sex works. They are not getting citizenship easily and they are totally out of social security services.

Persons with Disabilities (PWDs): PWDs have been excluded from public institutions. They lack support systems and social security, persons with psychosocial and other severe disabilities are often chained, incarcerated and treated in inhuman ways. Access to education, information and health facilities are difficult for PWDs. They often suffer a lot at the time of crisis and emergencies.

Former Bonded and forced Labor: Kamaiya, Kamalari, Haruwa, Charuwa, Haliya, rely on agriculture, and forced labour in brick kilns, stone quarries, entertainment sector, domestic work, restaurant and embroidered textiles for their livelihoods. These exploitations are complex in Nepalese context where legal enforcement is weak and impunity is high without much economic opportunities. In 2000, the government declared Kamaiya emancipation, including from debt. There are around 37,000 freed Kamaiya. However, two decades after their emancipation, they are still waiting for proper rehabilitation. They are compelled to work for previous landlords.

Senior Citizens: The population is ageing at such speed that the existing health care system and economy might fail to mitigate the challenges of ageing. The 60-plus population currently constitutes around 9 percent of the total population, which is expected to rise to 11 percent by 2030. In this light, a paradigm shift is expected in the pattern of diseases within this population. Another challenge with regards to healthy ageing is the lack of rehabilitative and long-term care services for older people.

Small Farmers: In Nepal around 74.2 percent of agricultural holdings are below one hectare. 91.7 percent of the agricultural holdings are less than two hectares, accounting for 68.7 percent of the total operated area. The average size of holding is only 0.8 hectare. Hence marginal and small farmers are the protagonists in Nepal’s agricultural scenario. The preponderance of small and fragmented holdings, weather dependent farming, and uncertainty in the price of their output are key issues. Generally, farmers do not even get half of the price paid by the final consumer. This has discouraged youths from taking up farming as their profession, which has fuelled out-migration.

Youth: The United Nations defines “youth” as persons between the ages of 15-24 whereas the government of Nepal extends the definition to those between 16 and 40 years of age, which accounts for over 40 percent of the country’s population. Unemployment, migration, lack of quality education are some key issues of youth. Further, young people continue to be marginalized at the political, social and economic spheres. Formal political processes and institutions are still characterized by limited youth participation. By COVID-19 Crisis, millions of youth have lost their jobs, young people entering the job market are becoming hopeless and they are worried about their future. On one hand they are not getting quality education, on the other hand, they are averted from education.

Children: Population of children is around 5.5 million (0-18 years) in the country. Rate of child mortality and malnutrition is still high. Girls are still facing different types of violence due to social taboos and patriarchal social structure. Abuses and malpractices against children, trafficking, child labour and child marriage are still in prevalence in Nepal. Still, people give low priority in education, health and other basic requirements to female children than male children. Above all, discrimination between children on the basis of their work, class status, and caste status is common practices in Nepalese society.

Minorities: Some social groups or communities with small populations, categorized by religion, language and ethnicity, are minorities. By religion, Animism, Bon, Kiranta, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikh, Bahai are minorities. Some languages and few indigenous nationalities are in endanger. Some ethnic communities such as Musahar, Kurmi, Dhanu, Pasi, Raute, Nurg, Kusunda have less than 1 percent population. Thousands of refugees, most of them urban refugees are living in the country without proper legal recognition. All these minorities are vulnerable people. Caste and ethnic minorities remained more vulnerable than others to abuses, including excessive use of force by police, and torture in police custody. Crimes, such as sexual violence, against members of minority communities often go unreported and uninvestigated. It is estimated that number of people living with HIV is 29,944 and more people are suffering from chronic diseases, particularly non-communicable disease. Because of lack of money they and their families are trapped in poverty. More than 26 thousands of women have been working as sex workers because of poor economic conditions. All these above mentioned groups are deprived and highly vulnerable.

Survivors of natural disasters and conflict, such as seasonal flooding, who disproportionately belong to minority communities, were often not provided with adequate relief, such as basic shelter. Five years after the 2015 earthquake, which destroyed nearly 1 million homes, many survivors still live in temporary shelter. On the other hand, more than hundred thousand conflict victim families are patiently waiting for justice as they lost their family members, properties etc.

Call for Actions

Equitable distribution of power, resources and opportunities is the sustainable solution to end the marginalization and division in society. So, time has come to rethink all of its existing socio-economic and political policies, systems, practices and their norms and values. Political commitment is a must for radical transformation.

Government must adopt a human rights and justice based approach to development since human rights and SDGs are interwoven. All tiers of Governments must fully comply with international human rights laws and humanitarian laws. Laws, rules, regulations, policies, development plans and public resources should be able to deliver the provisions of the constitution. The government’s Public Service Commission sought to undermine constitutional guarantees of quotas for minority communities in civil service jobs, by defying hiring procedures.

Country must ensure access to justice for all, improve political accountability and to end impunity, which is deepening in our society. We urge government to accede Rome Statute and ratify Optional Protocol of ICESCR, Convention Against Torture and Optional Protocol III of Child Rights Convention to protect the rights of the people. The Government must settle the issues of transitional justice as soon as possible.

The National Human Rights Commission should be made fully independent and other constitutional bodies related with human rights should be made effective. These commissions should be out of political and government influence and serve effectively and efficiently. There should be inclusive representations in these bodies. Government should establish a Disability Commission and Children’s Commission.

Localizing human rights and SDGs is critical to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of the people. Province Governments, localgovernmentsandgovernmentagenciesshouldbemaderesponsibletoimplementrecommendations of UPR and human rights treaty bodies. Federal Governments should support local governments to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan.

Some systemic barriers such as the caste system, patriarchy, harmful practices, structural discrimination, corruption, unequal distribution of power and resources, neo-liberal economic system, and feudalistic mind-sets have to be addressed by reviewing all the existing policies, systems and practices.

It is essential to implement integrated and intensive poverty alleviation programmes for the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable communities with an adequate budget, robust monitoring and transparent public expenditure practise.

Nepal must improve statistical systems and come up with disaggregated and credibility of data by gender, caste/ ethnicity, geography, age, sex, religion, migratory status, geographic location, ability, and economic class to monitor and track the SDGs’ progress. Also it is recommended to utilize data generated by CSOs, Universities, research institutions and international organizations. Unfortunately, the Government was not able to present disaggregated data in its VNR report. Therefore, it is difficult to measure SDGs’ progress of marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Government must implement laws and the Supreme Court decisions to make citizenship easily available based on the mother’s citizenship. Effective implementation of laws and policies on gender equality is urgent, but that should be backed with sufficient resources. Meaningful and decisive participation of women must be ensured in political platforms. Government and all development actors must fully recognize intersectionality, diversity, and inclusivity within the women and girls.

Country should provide mother tongue-based multilingual education and to ensure access to schooling for children from Dalit and indigenous communities.

Government must establish fast track judicial service, investigate and prosecute cases of discrimination against Dalits, and to functionalize the National Dalit Commission and ensure access to justice on cases of discrimination. Existing law against caste-based discrimination; and policies, plans, strategies, programmes and budget should be effectively implementation. Government needs to amend all discriminatory laws, regulations, rules, directives, policies and programmes and inter-caste married couples should be protected.

Government need to ensure that all opportunities, resources and services are proportionally distributed among the hill and Madhesi Dalits and Dalit women as per the ratio of their respective populations. To end landlessness within one year, the government must provide citizenships to all Dalits.

Government must ensure that all religious groups have equal access to resources to preserve and protect religious and cultural heritage and to build religious infrastructures. Country needs to recognize and mainstream Madrasha education in Nepal’s education system and ensure proportional representation of Muslim women in all public spheres.

Nepal needs to implement the Action Plan for the implementation of the ILO Convention 169, review existing laws or formulate new one to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples, and expedite appointment of the commissioners in Indigenous Nationalities Commission and provide adequate financial, human and technical resources for its full and effective functioning. Government must fully implement constitutional provisions on inclusion and proportional representation of IPs including indigenous women at decision-making levels and state policy. Government must seriously act on disaster risk reduction, climate actions, protection of natural resources and biodiversity, adapt indigenous knowledge and practices to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Government needs to amend PWDs Act and address issues of psychosocial and other under-represented disabilities. Representation of PWDs should be ensured in all public institutions and they should be promoted in public and private services. Upcoming national census 2021 should design the questionnaire to get data of all types of disabilities.

Government must fully implement the constitutional provisions to increase the participation and representation of the LGBTI community in public services and state mechanisms and it must revise and amend the Civil and Criminal Codes and other discriminatory laws that restrict the rights of the LGBTI community. Government should ensure social security facilities, financial services, and LGBTI-Inclusive education. Policy makers should be aware about the LGBTIQ issues, stop violence against them, and provide citizenship according to their gender identity.

Government must ensure full and effective implementation of laws against slavery, including, the Kamaiyas (Prohibition) Act 2002 and to provide employment opportunities to freed bonded labourers. Local governments should be made responsible to ensure that there is no slavery, servitude or slavery-like practices in communities. Governments must ensure rights to housing to all the freed bonded labourers.

Governments must increase budgets to child protection services, including but not limited to social welfare workforce, justice, policing, social work, case management, education staff, health workers, legal aid, psycho-social support and rescue. We need to strengthen provincial and municipal level capacity to lead on prevention and reduction of child labour, child marriage, violence against children, trafficking and children living in residential care institutions.

Senior citizens need long-term care services, besides usual curative services. They must be protected from violence. The state should provide healthy, active, independent and contributory living prospects to senior citizens. We should remember that ‘older people might be retired, but they are not tired’. Local governments, in collaboration with communities, must strive to create geriatric-friendly communities that guarantee physical, familial as well as social security for the older population. Stakeholders must take into consideration the convenience of older people while building local infrastructure. The younger generations of families should play a pivotal role in ensuring ‘healthy and happy ageing’ for seniors at home. Our children will learn from the way we treat our parents and grandparents.

Governments should have proper data of informal sector workers, daily-wage earners, and migrant workers, particularly who have been working in cities and India. Nepali government would have to consider ways of including the returned workers in the domestic workforce. A sector that may be able to absorb this labor is agriculture.

Note:

* SDGs National Network Nepal is a common platform of independent Civil Society Major Groups and Stakeholders.