Accounts and accountability
- As much as pledging money, Donor Conference is also about accountability
Jun 24, 2015-
The International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction will be held today and the government is expecting the attending donors to pledge large sums of money. The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) estimates that $6.67 billion will be needed for reconstruction. Ministers and senior government officials state that they hope to receive pledges of around $3 billion at the conference.
The government had invited many prominent international dignitaries to the conference. Some of them, such as the Indian prime minister and Chinese premier, could not attend. However, many other senior officials, including those from India and China, are in attendance, and the conference is perhaps the highest-profile international donor conference ever held in Nepal.
The government tried to hold the conference as early as it could after the earthquake. International experience has demonstrated that conferences of this kind should be held as soon as possible after natural disasters, while they are still in the news, so as to attract as much international funding as possible. In Pakistan, for example, the donor conference was held less than six weeks after the 2005 earthquake . Nepal has not been able to quite meet this timeline. Nonetheless, to hold a major conference two months after a major earthquake is no mean feat and the government should be commended for being able to put up this high-powered conference in place.
Still, there are fears that the government is not quite prepared, something that could make international donors a little skeptical about making strong pledges. Some factors perhaps are not even in government control—long-term political stability, for one, which is fundamental to ensuring a sound reconstruction regime. But even while operating with these limitations, we hope that government officials can impress donors with their grasp of the situation and convince them that the money pledged will be used efficiently.
Over the past two months, there have been various occasions during which a degree of mistrust and conflict have arisen between the government and donors. During the conference, officials should do their utmost to establish trust with donors and resolve outstanding issues. In particular, the government needs to demonstrate that it has the capacity to utilise large sums of money effectively. It also needs to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring complete transparency and preventing corruption. The government also needs to show that it is willing to facilitate the work of donors and international humanitarian organisations rather than obstructing them.
On the other hand, international organisations should also demonstrate that they are committed to spending the pledged money in a transparent way and avoiding wastage. There is a widespread perception in Nepali society that much donor money is wasted on overhead costs and high salaries for consultants. International agencies such as the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) should also commit to investigate the sources of the sub-standard food they have distributed in many areas and pledge to take steps to prevent these fiascos in the future. The reconstruction effort will succeed only if the government and donors are both committed to issues of transparency and accountability. Getting donors to put their money on the table is only half the story; it is as important to ensure that the money is used wisely to benefit the Nepali people.
Published: 25-06-2015 08:32