Separating peace from development in the development discourse in Nepal’s post-conflict scenario may result in conflict re-escalation and pose serious threats to sustainable peace. Conflict is caused by inequality, so inclusive development is needed to sustain peace, writes Prakash Paudel
INCLUSIVE and decentralised development projects can address the causes of conflict-prone situations such as rural poverty, social injustice, and unequal distribution of resources, food insecurity and rural unemployment. Development policies are central to peace building and stability efforts because these policies attempt to reduce social vulnerabilities by strengthening participatory democracy. That is why development should be adopted as a strong tool to promote a sense of unity, democracy and social cohesion which ultimately promotes sustainable peace. With the establishment of peace and political stability, development agendas have become vibrant. The government set aside Rs335.1 billion for capital expenditure in 2018, up 27.9 percent from the previous year. International communities are equally interested in gearing up developmental activities.
The federal government has delegated most of its development tasks to local bodies to ensure public participation. However, in Nepal’s post-conflict scenario, development should be peace-sensitive in two senses. First, since the root causes of the Maoist conflict were development-related, our traditional definition of development should be re-defined.
All approaches should address development-related causes of the conflict which not only target key areas of development needs but also serves as a defence to ensure that Nepal will never see a protracted conflict of such scale again. Political instability, poverty, tyranny, social marginalisation and unequal economic opportunities are also causes of violence. Addressing these problems empowers diverse local populations and significantly helps to establish a peaceful society.
Second, peace should not be the result of an imposition by the state. Rather, it should come from positivity and respect for other people regardless of their backgrounds. To achieve this result, public participation should be ensured during the time of implementation of development projects, and they should not increase social tensions and disputes, especially while targeting specific groups or regions. Ultimately, a peace-centric approach to development should form the basic foundation for moving forward to achieve sustainable peace. In this foundation, development in one region should positively affect other regions.
For example, if the government only directs its resources towards the eastern or central region of the country, it will obviously arouse destructive conflicting opinions in the minds of people in the western region.
Any development intervention which enhances conflicting opinions will undoubtedly revive repressed conflict wounds, and push society back to the violent conflict. In this context, it is very important to execute development projects on the basis of the principle of equity from the national level, which will do justice to comparatively weaker regions without disturbing peace and harmony.
To work in this direction, development should ensure several distributary factors such as equal access and ownership of the project; distribution of resources among various regions; equal participation of women, youths and other socially marginalised groups; and equity while targeting certain groups or classes. In addition to participation and ownership, the responsibility for sustaining the achieved result of the development project should be given to the local people who will develop a sense of unity despite coming from differing backgrounds. While development strategies discuss bottom-up approaches, it is also important to ensure that the grounds that these bottom-up approaches stem from are diverse and representative.
While implementing development projects, agencies should develop peace assessment parameters for an early warning system to avoid possible tensions. So, if the immediate results do not seem to meet the parameters, development activities can be adjusted or readjusted where and when they are needed. If development projects focus on promoting local participation and gender equality, building poor people’s capacity, and empowering them through community organisations, they can undoubtedly contribute to establishing sustainable peace in post-conflict societies of Nepal. For example, the large investments made by the International Fund for Agricultural Development in the most conflict-affected rural communities in the near east and North Africa are strong enough to show how community-based development projects help to address the root causes of conflict, thus setting the foundation for sustainable peace.
Essentially, the programme addressed the problem of food scarcity, rural youth unemployment, resourcelessness and gender inequality — which they identified as causes of conflict and instability. The 2011 uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia took place mainly as a result of youth unemployment and gender exclusion.
Here, the development initiatives launched by the IFAD and the governments focused on agricultural programmes which engaged unemployed graduates in creating a wider agricultural base in the respective countries. As a result, these projects significantly helped to root out the causes of past conflicts and build a society without hostility. These results can be a great lesson for policymakers in Nepal to create development activities which can significantly contribute to making peace sustainable.
In a nutshell, separating peace from development in the development discourse in Nepal’s post-conflict scenario may result in conflict re-escalation and pose serious threats to sustainable peace. So, a participatory development approach is the most appropriate tool to address previous development-related causes of conflict and involve people from different segments of society by forgetting past prejudices and animosity. A peace-sensitive assessment of all development projects should be made mandatory, and civil society can be the watchdog for these projects to make them pro-marginalised.
The Kathmundu Post, January 7. Prakash Paudel has a master’s degree in IR from the University of Queensland.
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