Right after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord five years ago, Nepal’s donors had shown keen interest in assisting and helping in the peace process. They came up with various concerns about the immediate needs that would be necessary for the peace process.
Some showed interest in cantonment management and wanted to help with infrastructure development, identification and verification of the combatants of the United Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist, while others were interested in helping with the election of the Constituent Assembly (CA), such as voter registration and the election itself. Still others were interested in helping and assisting the victims of the conflict such as widows, families of deceased persons, people undergoing trauma, families of the disappeared persons and so on.
At the same time, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was established and a UN Peace Fund was created to help Nepal’s peace endeavour. The UN Peace Fund was led and handled by UNMIN.
The Government of Nepal decided to use the various funds under the logo of Nepal Peace Trust Fund (NPTF) in line with the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. So the government enacted the Peace Fund Operation (procedure) Regulation (PFOR), 2063 with immediate action. The PFOR, 2063 created a powerful board, chaired by the finance minister, and the members were represented by the Minister for Physical Planning and Works, vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, two ministers nominated by the prime minister, secretaries of the Home Ministry and the Finance Ministry. The board was reoriented in 2065 B.S. as the government decided to establish the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction to handle the peace process through a separate ministry.
Peace is considered a multi-dimensional and cross-cutting issue which needs to be taken forward in a collective manner. The CA election, cantonment management, assistance to the victims of the conflict and management of the local peace committees are some of the visible outcomes of the Nepal Peace Trust Fund.
Time has, however, taken its own course of action. After five years of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the establishment of the Nepal Peace Trust Fund, the results are mixed, i.e., there are hopes and challenges. The peace process is proceeding in the right direction. But challenges have emerged showing unprecedented and unanticipated facets, with 30 plus agreements having been reached between different groups and parties and the government since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Over time, the NPTF scope needed to be expanded. So the government catered to the needs by repealing the PFOR 2063 with the Peace Fund (Operation) Rules, 2065. However, once again, the government has decided to amend the PFOR 2065 to make NPTF fully functional and operational.
The recent changes in the NPTF rules will create new avenues while addressing the current issues. The NPTF board has been restructured to have multiparty representation. Sub-committees of the board may be created to make the board more functional. The scope of NPTF funding has been increased. A core cluster has been created to pass concept notes and other sectoral clusters to evaluate the project proposals that have been submitted by the implementing agencies. The implementing agencies may propose a proposal within the sketch provided by the core cluster.
The secretariat of the NPTF has also been readjusted - the number of employees increased and various positions created. A coordination committee may be created by the board to suggest/recommend to the board on NPTF matters. Such a coordination committee will comprise related government employees and representatives of the donor agencies. Similarly, a capacity development technical assistance committee has been established to enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction and the NPTF.
The NPTF was established initially for a period of three years and has been extended for another three years. Now the amendment extends the NPTF’s tenure to "as per the needs". Hopes and aspirations from the NPTF are rising. It may become a real tool for peace building.
The NPTF initiatives should reach the grassroots level of the peace process. No doubt local peace committees are somehow funded by the NPTF. But this is very small and addresses very limited concerns. The monitoring part of the NPTF-funded projects is relatively weak, and such responsibility may be entrusted to other government agencies outside the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction.
The second joint review mission report of the NPTF is likely to address and suggest the future course of action for the NPTF, but in my opinion the NPTF should get a fixed term of say five years, and after that there should be no extension. This will assure the donors to come up with new contributions while new donors will enter in the NPTF’s endeavours.
(Sharma is former Director of the NPTF and currently Regional Administrator of the Far Western Development Region, Dipayal, Doti)