May 8, 2011


[The Himalayan Voice was founded on February 01, 2010  for the issues of the Himalayan region and beyond also. Over a period of one year and some, it has offered forum to those also who have apparently not found outlets for voicing their concerns. But to our astonishment, more regrettably however, it has come under cyber attacks for some unknown reasons from unspecified locations already. Very recently again on May 5, 2011 one of its log-in accounts has been accessed unauthorized five times from United Kingdom only, after which Google alerted  us sending details and blocked all other accounts also citing violation of terms and conditions specified therein. Since the domain-name is owned by Google, we are therefore unsure whether we would be able to keep going ahead with any such recurrences. We would therefore like to inform our valuable contributors, readers and well wishers that we are being targeted for voicing the cause which we deem appropriate in all respects and  we shall never back down from disseminating the information the people deserve. - Editor ]

By Madhukar SJB Rana 
Image: Google
It is, by any account, a historic moment for Nepal and so let me start with a bit of history. In 1964, at UNCTAD, it was realized -but not recognized - that the South consisted of ‘Less Developed among Developing Countries’ (LDCs). 

Not recognized, why not ? Because it was believed that it would create a wedge in the G-77’s new-found unity at the UN General Assembly. You recall, we had entered the era of the North-South Dialogue where Equity was henceforth to be safeguarded by International Law under the UNCTAD formulated S&D Principle – that there should be special and differential treatment for the poorest of the poor and disadvantaged countries.  A principle much like what we call ‘inclusion’ today in the new development parlance.

(By the way, and as a diversion, let us underscore here that our politics of inclusion has hit the absurd whereby the majority Indo-Aryan community of Bahuns, Chetris and Dalits are being completely excluded! I always thought that-- notwithstanding Abraham Lincoln’s definition of ‘democracy’-- in law ‘democracy’ means “will of the majority, with rights of the minorities fully and adequately safeguarded”. We are currently turning democracy on its head like Marx did to Hegelian thought)

Back to history from current absurdities: It was finally recognized, in 1971, when 25 countries were identified as LDCs thanks to the relentless efforts of UNCTAD at Geneva. Currently there are 48 as 3 have ‘graduated’.

As it bears on our topic –the role of Nepal as Chair—let me underscore that 2 South Asian nations were at the forefront of multilateral diplomacy for the cause of the LDCs - Bangladesh for LDCs and Afghanistan for a new breed of LDCs – the LLDCs or landlocked least developed countries.

As Afghanistan’s role in the UN fell by the wayside with the endless revolutions and counter revolutions, and the Soviet occupation, this pride of place was taken by Nepal with its vision of Nepal as a Zone of Peace backed by 116 nations (except India); its dynamic role towards the formation of SAARC; laudable contribution to the UN Peacekeeping Force; its record of internal peace and stability and constitutional changes backed by a national referendum in 1980. Not least, the place of the United Nations was enshrined in our Constitution then: and our contribution to the UN had been recognized by being voted as UN Security Council member-- not once, but twice!

And so in 1981 UNCTAD I took place with King Birendra inaugurating it with 51 countries participating as LDCs. In 199O there was UNCTAD II and the Paris Declaration and Programme of Action followed by, in 2001, UNCTAD III and the Brussels Declaration and Programme of Action. And now, in 2011, there is going to be a UNCTAD IV and, most likely, the Istanbul Declaration and Programme of Action, as its final outcome, to chart out a new strategy for the community of nations for the next decade (2100-2021) following a review of the achievements of UNCYAD III (it must be admitted that the review will a poor showing with the POG the might just as well be called the POIG—programme of inaction).

What, then, should our Role as Chair be? Frankly, it is a challenging question. Challenging for two fundamental reasons: Firstly: I have not seen any Position Paper on the subject.  Nor I have been invited to contribute as in the past, since, I have had UNCTAD exposure and experience having served as Senior Regional Transport and Transit Economist and Senior Project Manager in Laos and Afghanistan from 1978-82;  and also as Senior Programme Manager for South Asia with UNDP in 2004. Further, the bygone royal regime did draw upon my knowledge (as it did with others with UN exposure) having been invited to make Expert Presentation by the UNCTAD Board on Trade on LDCs Committee Meetings in the 2002 on the subject of LDC graduation from that status. Nepal had achieved a small historical moment when I had the honour to be invited by the UN Secretariat in New York, as recently as 2005, to appeal to the international community on behalf of the Asian LDCs: when aid by the DCs, led by Bush-Blair combine, was to be diverted to sub Sahara Africa as the new strategy for the UN in its quest for the Millennium Development Goals.

Secondly: it is a veritable challenge because I believe our current foreign policy is an ‘unknown commodity’ and or politics and economics are at the edge of a precipice as the peace process flounders. Normally, it is said that foreign policy should be a reflection of a country’s national policies and realities. Let’s hope that this grammar of international relations is not followed at Istanbul!  

We are a new Republic yes: But one without a Constitution yet; we have rejected the role of the United Nations in our peace process and the UN has, in turn, rejected us as the candidate for the Presidency of the UN General Assembly.  One solid demand we should make, on behalf of all LDCs at Istanbul, is that the 48 current LDCs should have non permanent membership in the UN Security Council on a rotation basis. It should also demand full membership in all the meetings of G20 and G7 (here Switzerland could ideally represent the LLDCs).

The above scenario behoves us to be at our best in diplomatic terms and to execute our duty as Chair with finesse and deep commitment. The fact that Turkey is hosting the event speaks volumes for me. Clearly, Turkey aspires to be a proactive Euro-Asian global player that has been made geo-strategically more significant with the revolutions take place in West Asia and North Africa. It already has its sphere of influence in Central Asia and all of them are land locked states with common interests as Nepal’s.

We should take this opportunity to deepen our bilateral political and economic relations with Turkey by calling for not just a role for BRICS in the new world order but BRICTS –‘T’ being for Turkey.

Even though this is a multilateral diplomacy forum we have to keep in mind that, be that it may, we got to incessantly promote our supreme national interest and project our image abroad as a nation that thinks and acts independently in its national interest: And also decides issues on merit in the larger interest of global peace, security and the rule of international law. Such should be the modus operandi to be pursued in the cumbersome process of multilateral diplomacy as Chief. Giving voice to all and seeking at all times to obtain results that are much more than the lowest common denominator –as happens in the UN.

More specifically, I believe Nepal must at all times champion the cause of the LLDCs as well as be the Voice of the Mountain Peoples and Ecology in the global arena. We must, constantly, call for democracy, rule of law and equity in international relations and move forward to put into practice the UNCTAD S & D Treatment principle by pushing the multilateral organizations like WTO, IMF, WB to do so too. This necessitates that we emphatically move to have UNCTAD strengthened as it is the true repository of intellectual capital to empower the developing and least developed nations with knowledge and ideas on alternative development models to those being espoused by the rich and powerful, and the multilateral financial institutions.  We should lead the LDCs to demand that UNCTAD be the monitoring agency for the progress with the Istanbul Declaration and Programme of Action for 2011-2021. UNCTAD does a commendable job of evaluating progress (or lack of) but this  does not suffice to give true value to the Programme of Action as strategized since it get’s no pride of place competing with other strategies like UNDPs MDG, World Banks PRSP and Additional PRSPs and IMFs SAP, ASAPs and now HIPIC.

It is understandable why UNCTAD is disliked by the rich nations and IMF and WB . There was a time when the USA moved to close it down! But what is incomprehensible is the inability of the UNDP and UNCTAD to work in harmony to integrate human development with development of trade and commerce .This lack of synergy is to be seen in the absence of similar focus in the UNESCAP as a regional body . Yes, the UN cries out for reforms and Nepal should be championing this cause on behalf of LDCs ( One may wonder if we can, really, when our Ambassadors to UN go begging for jobs as international bureaucrats).

Finally, let us not forget that development must be an internal matter and not left to the whims and fancies of international donors and their largesse: Which in any case is going to be difficult to depend on-- in the wake of the Japanese Tsumani; US and EU chronic debt crises and the turmoil in West Asia.

We are an LDC because:

(a) We have mal governance—lacks fair competition in the market for goods and services and political power, accountability and transparency;

(b) Suffers geographic handicaps as a peripheral nation of the past imperial and colonial world order;
(c) Is endowed with weak institutions and their ineffective application of the rule of law;

(d) Is battered by population explosion;

(e) With economic structures that need to be radically transformed, and

(f) Is smitten with unhealthy bilateral aid dependency that has robbed national creativity and retarded the entrepreneurial spirit.
I wish to underscore that we need to raise our voice loud and clear, at Istanbul, for total aid forgiveness to all LDCs. Better this than call for more aid since aid has made us a high cost economy and needs to be corrected (e.g. the highest per KWh for hydroelectricity even though our potential is more than 85,000 MW !) It is time the bilateral donors redressed their aid fault lines if LDCs are to be empowered, take full ownership of their development strategies and move beyond their current fate as fragile, failing or filed states. Their states may have failed but their societies are embattling for their own independent identities found on their own civilizations.
We have to commit to graduate from a LDC which only is the case with 3/48 of the LDC nations! Graduation requires that, unlike the past, the National Planning Commission (NPC) incorporate the Programme of Action as an integral part of the country strategy to combine multilateral diplomacy and economic diplomacy holistically. Here the private sector must be given a lead role in economic diplomacy with specially care for the role of SMEs. It may be opportune to have PM Jhalnath Khanal to announce in Istanbul, after consultation with the UNCTAD Secretary- General that Nepal will create a High Level Integrated Planning and Monitoring Committee to incorporate the Istanbul POG into the planning process. This will also empower the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act as the national catalyst for integrated multilateral and economic diplomacy.
As the geo political and geo economic gravity shifts to Asia Pacific making it the geo strategic fulcrum of the new global order, Nepal must do all in its powers to involve the other Asian powers like Australia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to invest in Asian public goods for the larger benefit of Asia Pacific region as a whole --- and in the SAARC region more specifically.

These Asian powers should commit, in turn, to seeing that all the 14 Asia Pacific LDCs graduate, by 2020, as middle income nations by investing in infrastructure development; transformation of their agriculture with help in R&D and, finally,  by providing preferential trade access based on the sound S & D Treatment principles.

It was the great Asian statesman Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, who foresaw the emergence of Asia to rediscover its lost pride and glory; and, what’s more, he envisioned, I suspect, Nepal and Tibet as the fountain head of this emergent Asia.  He may be right with the threats from global warming and climate change. Asian vulnerabilities will be felt in what happens to the Himalayan water towers as the globe tussles with food security, energy security, social security for the aged and unemployed and, most vitally, water security.

Perhaps, therefore, the Istanbul Programme of Action should have two components now:

(a) Coping with LDCs vulnerabilities and modalities for it and
(b) Concrete measures to graduate by 2020.

* The author is professor of economics at  South Asian Institute of Management and has served the country as the  finance minister already.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mukund Apte <>
Date: Sun, May 8, 2011 at 7:48 PM
To: The Himalayan Voice <>
Cc: Lal Bahadur Thapa <>, Shiv Rana <>, "Col (Retd) Satish C Dewan" <>, Prof 'Padma Bhushan' N S Ramaswamy <>

It is correct that development is an internal matter of a country and there is no need of the UNO getting involved in it. It has to be understood by everyone as to what is development of a nation. Mere economic improvement of a nation is likely to bring worse situation for its people. I am enclosing my article "Nation & Development" along with it. Kindly publish it and let me have comments of your members also. I shall be grateful to you.
Prof. Mukund Apte,
Mumbai, India.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dibakar Pant <>
Date: Sun, May 8, 2011 at 2:07 AM

Dear Bishal Shahji,

Let me thank you for your suggestion to all concerned Nepalis who,indeed love and care their great motherland.In reality,Nepal is in her time of great trouble and if things are not really  dealt cautiously, the country might be in great danger ranging from unwanted civil war to ending its separate identity as an independent country. Undoubtedly, only monarchy can ensure territorial integrity and independence of Nepal and that is why recognising the most needed institution of crown in the greater frame work of constitution in the changed context as well is the demand of soil.

Thanks you and Jay Nepal !

Dibakar Pant,
--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bishal Shah <>
Sat, May 7, 2011 at 6:17 AM
Dear Shree Madhukar SJB Rana,

Your elaborate piece on Nepal-UNCTAD relations, I am afraid to write, may not impress that many, not because it has nothing to offer. It definitely enlightens the students of International Affairs and especially to those who are closely observing Nepal's foreign policy evolution. I enjoyed reading it. As a matter of fact, I was taught to enjoy such a nice piece by my uncle Mr. Narendra B. Shah and my father Gobardhan B. Shah. I hope you know both of them very well. Let me not dwell into the details and come to the point.
While you or Mr. Mana Ranjan Josse write, please try to use words that could be understood by as many as possible. As per present standard, both of you have very limited readership within the margin of 15 head counts or so. In this case, what is the purpose of spending time on such thing. Let Permanent Representative Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya and his team do the business.

What I would have appreciated is that you should have written to convince the people  ahead a very important issue: that is saving Nepal from falling prey to the impending violence. Your pen should be writing on how to save Nepal and who should be doing that. Why don't our intellectuals come in the front to convince all forces to unitedly withstand foreign interference and tell them to not invite interference for the political mileage? I am at complete loss to understand the reason behind our intellectuals' failure to convince the people and the party leaders what is good for the nation?

I have a very personal request to you and all other intellectuals to discard any ill-will against the institution of monarchy and make sincere efforts to bring it back to its constitutional position for the sake of the nation. I am dragging this subject just to kindly remind you that Nepal's internal politics has become far more important than Nepal's chairing LDCs forum or Nepal losing the  GA chair, which you are very much well aware of. Thus, the pens of the intellectuals, I think should be writing to enlightening people, parties and the politicians for the good of the country.

With due respect,

Bishal Shah,
New York City