| August 22, 2017
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NRNs in rebuilding

NRNs in rebuilding

We would like to propose strategic partnership between highly skilled professionals from NRN community and the government

Last month marked the one-year of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. We noticed a plethora of news reports that highlighted the ways in which various national and international organizations had contributed to rescue and relief efforts. Yet something important seems to be missing in the process of memorialization of the tragedy which is the present condition of earthquake survivors.

In order to commemorate the misfortune and use this opportunity to develop a framework for Nepali diaspora's long-term commitment to Nepal's post-quake reconstruction and development, we would like to propose a strategic partnership between highly skilled professionals from the Non-Resident Nepali community and the Government of Nepal in the following four domains of reconstruction and development. The NRNA can play a significant role both to operationalize this partnership and to institutionalize the mechanism.

Reconstruction

The April 2015 earthquake destroyed over 498,000 private homes and 2,656 government buildings while three out of seven world heritage sites in Kathmandu were severely damaged. It is estimated that over 5,000 engineers and technical experts of Nepali origin work in developed countries in the Western World who would be keen to support the National Reconstruction Authority, both at policy and technical levels. These people have the experience of working with latest technologies, managing large projects and leading technological innovations. To join forces for rebuilding Nepal, many of them would be willing to contribute to reconstruction both individually and through business partnerships with their employers.

International aid

Nepali diaspora worked tirelessly to raise funds, collect relief materials and to provide support to rescue teams in the immediate aftermath of the quakes. Disaster Emergency Committee in the UK alone raised £87 million through Nepal Earthquake Appeal. All Nepalis, whether at home or abroad, are aware that poor governance is a real issue in Nepal. Yet we cannot replace the state, bureaucracy and the corrupt system overnight. The only and perhaps the best option we have is to work with the Nepali government. Rather than excluding state mechanisms, we should hold the state accountable as well as provide support to build its capacity in delivering quality services and good governance.

Some international agencies have tried to bypass the government in reconstruction and development and there were also some reports that aid could be diverted unless the Nepali government complied with donor aid conditions. It is irresponsible of aid agencies to behave arrogantly and a breach of the do-no-harm policy. Nepali people should take full control over the aid and development model. There are a large number of Non-Resident Nepalis who are working in senior positions in the academia, international development agencies, humanitarian organizations and think tanks across the world who would be willing to engage with the Government of Nepal in reshaping the development model. This would help attract foreign aid, business investment and expertise while preserving Nepal's dignity and autonomy.
Post-disaster health

Over 22,000 people were injured during the earthquake which resulted in havoc in hospitals, some of which were highly under-resourced and were not technically equipped to deal with large-scale injuries and fatalities. How is the health sector in Nepal coping with the medical needs of injured people and what mechanisms have been established to provide long-term care for the people who have become disabled due to earthquake injuries? To what extent is the government responding to this crisis and what mechanisms have been established to address health crises that often lead to economic and social problems for families? What lessons have been learnt in the health sector after the devastating earthquakes?

There is an enormous potential to gain support from a large number of medical professionals of Nepali origin who are living and working in the UK, Canada, the US and New Zealand. In the aftermath of last year's earthquakes, various doctors' and nurses' associations from these countries contributed by providing disaster healthcare through mobile clinics. Nepal needs to develop specialization in Disaster Medicine so that we have the capacity to deal with large-scale tragedies. A proper mechanism to facilitate collaboration between Non-Resident Nepali health professionals and the health sector in Nepal would be necessary to maximize the impact.

Impact on education

The earthquake had a debilitating impact on education with over 24,000 damaged classrooms, leaving hundreds of thousands of children out of school. While there were some immediate responses from humanitarian agencies, the government response to rebuilding safe classrooms has been slow and inadequate. In addition to the imminent need to rebuild durable earthquake-proof schools, there is also a physical task of seismic retrofitting in all schools across the country. What if the earthquake last year had occurred during school hours? It is crucial that the education system is reconstructed with strong component of disaster risk reduction and preparedness for future disasters.

Between April 14 and 16, earthquakes of similar magnitudes hit Japan and Ecuador. Ecuador suffered 654 deaths while only 49 Japanese died. Disaster risk reduction is an integral part of Japanese education system and social life. Education in emergencies provides a sense of normality and hope for the future. More importantly, quality education is the foundation of Nepal's equitable development and social transformation and thus, an avenue for strengthening peace and democracy. The highly-skilled Nepali diaspora can play a big role in rebuilding the education sector in Nepal.
It is therefore important that we identify specific avenues and work towards a development framework through which the NRNA could facilitate partnerships between the Government of Nepal and highly skilled Nepali professionals who are living and working abroad.

The author is President of the Society of Nepalese Highly Skilled Professionals – UK and Senior Lecturer in Education and International Development at the UCL Institute of Education, University College, London

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