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June 18th in Nepal

Hello, unfortuneately there was no physical action or protest regarding J18 in Nepal. However, we composed a memorandum and gave it to the Nepal representatives of the ADB, IMF, and the WB. Below is a copy of that letter......

In connection with the "J18" global day of action and resistance against the globalization of capital, the purpose of this letter is to remind the World Bank, IMF, and ADB of their obligations and responsibilities to the people of Nepal who are directly, and most often negatively, affected by donor-funded development programs in the Kingdom of Nepal. This June 18, 1999, a world-wide day of action and protest is being held in recognition that the global capitalist system, based on the exploitation of people and the planet for the profit of a few, is at the very root of our social and ecological troubles.

With regard to ongoing and future development programs, the locally affected people of such programs and the general public of Nepal demand their right to timely access to honest and accurate information, printed in the local language, regarding donor funded projects so that critical debate and discussion can be fostered on both the positive and negative aspects of such programs. This issue is very important because without accurate knowledge and basic information the people are powerless to ask questions and participate in a project's progression from planning, to implementation, to completion. Thus, timely access to information ensures meaningful public participation.

Accordingly, the people have the right to respond and raise their concerns before agreements are made and plans are finalised. Financial organizations should not only make information available, but should encourage and seek out public participation from the incipient stages of a program's development. According to article 16 of the Constitution of Nepal, every citizen has the right to demand and receive information regarding matters of public interest. For instance, the electricity to be generated from the use of Nepal's natural resources in dam projects is a source of national wealth. Ruling on this issue in the context of the Arun III hydroelectric project, the Supreme Court of Nepal has stated: "In the creation of such a national wealth [electricity from hydroelectric projects], all the citizens have a meaningful relationship in all the subjects related to it. It is natural for any citizen to be curious and concerned to find out information or to know about the research and analysis made for the project and its utility." Likewise, failure to provide for the active participation of local/indigenous peoples in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of donor-assisted projects violates the people's fundamental human rights as protected in numerous international instruments. For instance, the Declaration on the Right to Development, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights all ensure the right of peoples to self-determination by virtue of which they have the right to pursue their own economic, social and cultural development and to participate in all processes that involve and may potentially infringe upon their fundamental human rights.

A few suggestions on the type of information that must be made known are: loan conditionalities, interest rates, results of thorough environmental impact assessments, the effect on the employment of the local people, opportunity of the affected people to share in the project's benefits, detailed analysis of public health-related issues, plans for the protection of the rights and interests of the local and indigenous peoples, adequate resettlement and compensation plans for displaced indigenous peoples, and adequate analysis of more affordable alternatives. Additionally, it must be known whether efforts have been made to minimise the cost of the project by utilising the maximum number of Nepali human and natural resources. Furthermore, we would also like to recommend that Structural Adjustment Programs should either be abolished all together or be considerably reformed with the direct participation of the locally affected people. The negative effects of SAPs must be investigated and the loans cancelled or used to provide compensation for damages from their policies and programs. Until SAPs have been reformed, they should not be imposed as conditions to receiving loans, whereby countries such as Nepal are forced to adopt many harmful measures such as reduced investment in health, education, and technical and vocational training. "Instead of benefiting the people, these policies benefit big business . . . [SAPs] have been shown to weaken the State, erode national sovereignty and compromise the right of peoples to self-determination. By imposing conditions on loans in general, the World Bank and the IMF interfere in the economic, political, social, and military life of countries." (Bruin, Janet, Root Causes of the Global Crisis, 1996). On the contrary, top priority should always be given to health, education, technical and vocational training, food security, disempowered women, and children's rights. Since the money is not given away for free, but is to be repaid by the country and its people, international donor agencies should not dictate the direction of a country's economic and developmental growth. On the contrary, they should seek to assist each country in their own set of priorities.

If international donor agencies would merely follow these suggestions and recognise the people's constitutional and fundamental human rights, development programs would achieve their goals much more efficiently. Furthermore, if donors were to implement these suggestions in future projects, they could re-establish their credibility and integrity that has been harmed by the disasters of past projects. Donor agencies possess the potential to be highly effective in mitigating the world-wide effects of poverty, famine and disease, and working for the protection of people's human rights. However, in order to achieve their full potential, donor agencies must relinquish their myopic focus on profit margin and cultivate compassion and understanding for the people who so desperately need their assistance.

J18 Global Action Day |