Haoliang Xu is the Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He was recently in Nepal to mark UNDP's 50th anniversary.
Sujan Dhungana of Republica talked to Xu on issues related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by UN member countries and UNDP's activities in Nepal. Excerpts:
Last year, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - a plan for ending poverty everywhere and in all its forms in 15 years. It is composed of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to tackle key systemic barriers to sustainable development such as inequality, polluting consumption and production patterns, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of decent jobs. Nepal is one of the first countries to have produced a "National Report on SDGs" which charts a pathway for implementation of SDGs. I commend the Government of Nepal for this groundbreaking work.
The first goal is to end poverty by 2030. How realistic do you think is this target for Nepal?
We have to think big, innovate and scale up. Nepal needs to continue to attract new international and local, public and private investments. Agriculture, hydropower and tourism, among other sectors, hold great potentials for Nepal. From our point of view, there are four policy areas where the government has to drive the anti-poverty agenda: post-quake recovery, increasing annual economic growth to around seven percent, strengthening disaster preparedness, and ensuring rule of law, transparency and stability. This is critical for setting Nepal on the path to sustainable future free of poverty.
What are the challenges that Nepal could face in achieving SDGs?
One of the main challenges is improving the delivery capacity of government institutions. In short term, we could fill the gaps by providing concrete services to the government such as procurement or recruitment. To achieve a systemic change, the government could benefit from a robust training and twinning program with an active south-south knowledge exchange with experts from similar countries. Stronger institutions will then help expedite the pace of reconstruction. With the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) up and running, the government can integrate all initiatives into a concerted effort that will implement the US$ 4.2 billion and propel Nepal toward the required recovery and economic growth. In my view, there are resources and expertise to begin implementing SDGs in Nepal.
UNDP supported victims of 2015 earthquakes by providing early recovery support. How is UNDP supporting post-earthquake reconstruction of Nepal?
We continue to assist with damage assessment and providing training on earthquake safe construction to engineers and masons. These activities are part of a broader, three-year flagship program that UNDP is delivering together with the government. It is focused on providing support to national planning, coordination and institutional strengthening of the NRA; restoring livelihoods and economic recovery of communities; reintroducing governance systems and public service delivery; and helping to build a disaster-resilient Nepal. In everything we do, we place emphasis on accountability and transparency, and ensuring that existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, gender issues and environmental concerns are addressed. We share with your readers the goal of building back better, safer and prosperous Nepal.