FIRST EARTHQUAKE – THEN FLOODING
It is difficult to keep track of all the natural disasters that force their way into our homes through television. Right now, one hurricane after the other is slamming the coasts of small islands in the Caribbean, leaving many dead and thousands more homeless, and all of those surviving will be poorer than they already were. For reasons I will not dwell on today, we – in the West – tend to be more preoccupied with those disasters that create havoc on ‘our own’ coasts, like when Harvey hit Texas and Irma nailed Florida. So when hundreds of thousands are left homeless in Bangladesh or Nepal, we take note, yes, and then we quickly move on.
Of course, when you know people in a far-away country that have lost the attention of the global community, because there is only so much we can be compassionate about at the same time, it is different. Which is why I have followed developments in Nepal more closely than the average Danish citizen. Because I know a bit about Nepal. Because I have friends there. I know people that have enriched my life.
POLITICIANS COMING TOGETHER
This has been possible because of my work with the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy during 2011-16. This gave me an opportunity to work with the high-level representatives of the major political parties represented in the Parliament of Nepal, organised in what is called the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening [JOMPOPS]. During our interactions in Nepal and Denmark, we shared our respective traditions and ways of managing our democracies, and this benefitted all of us. We came to respect and trust each other, not because protocol told us to, but because we earned respect and trust from each other through our actions. This is what real ‘partnership’ is about.
Moderne political history of Nepal is ‘no dance on roses’ – and if it is, my understanding is that the roses have been very thorny! All of the JOMPOPS representatives have experienced political violence, have fought for their rights in the streets and the mountains, and bacause of this they are also today committed to delivering a peaceful and democratic Nepal to the citizens of their country. Whether maoist, communist, social democrat or something else, they share that vision. Whether they represent the communities in the mountains or the villages in the plains, they want peace and democracy for themselves and their children.
Bringing this group of people together in JOMPOPS to share these diversities in a peaceful manner has been one of the most exciting challenges of my entire career; being allowed into their ‘secret’ conversations has been an eye opener indeed; having to leave them after I retired as Director has been both sad and painful.
FIRST CAME THE EARTHQUAKE…
Back in 2015, Nepal was hit by a destructive earthquake, at a time when political parties were working hard to rally around a new Constitution. In addition to the poverty already making life difficult, thousands of families had to start from scratch – and the political leaders had to find ways to support the people. This has not always been easy in Nepal, but because of the mutual trust and respect among the representatives of the six parties in JOMPOPS, they found ways of moving in the right direction. They also showed the top leadership of their parties what was necessary.
I never went to the mountains to see the areas devastated by the earthquake, but I can image how it was from the stories told to me. And as documented in the photo from Kathmandu at the top, many of the beautiful buildings in the old city of the capital of Kathmandu were also seriously impacted. The photo is taken a year after the quake, after the worst clean up has taken place, but before it had been possible to start rebuilding with the bricks saved from the rubbles.
…THEN CAME THE WATER
When it comes to natural disaters [that are not all as ‘natural’ as we would like to believe, but the result of human behaviour and activity], there seems to be no justice or fairness. The fact that two years ago the mountains fell apart and killed a lot of people and made thousands homeless, does not mean that you will be untouched when the waters swell! So once again, Nepal is being haunted. And once again politicians from different parties have to find ways to put their differences away and focus on delivering comfort and hope to their people. Once again JOMPOPS is rising to the occasion, and even though they have no resources to spread around the areas impacted by the water, they can spread a sense of unity which is much needed.
Denmark is unfortunately no longer an official development partner of Nepal, for reasons I still fail to understand. Denmark has played a key role in many important areas, and Denmark was a respected development partner. So why leave Nepal at a time when the Constitution had just been approved, and political parties were doing their best to implement the visions and ideals. Fortunately there are still private organisations active in the country, like Care Denmark, and Danish organisations working with humanitarian support have reached out both during the earthquake and now qith the flooding.
LETTER FROM JOMPOPS
I encourage the Danes not to forget Nepal – despite all the other disasters taking place. I expressed my sadness to the members of JOMPOPS, and the Chairman sent me this letter.
Firstly, we thank you for your concern on Nepal’s recent floods. We felt deeply comforted to receive your warm message. In times of crisis, what matters most is – heartfelt wishes and warmth from friends, from wherever they are.
We had a Steering Committee meeting recently to discuss how to support in this national crisis caused by the recent natural disaster. As you know, the southern belt of Nepal where the majority of people reside is immersed in water caused by the recent monsoon floods. It’s considered as the worst in years. Hundreds of people have died. Millions have been displaced from their homes. We don’t have a communication link with thousands who have been stranded in the remote corners, waiting to be rescued. In many areas, there is not a single patch of land. One of our SC members from the Tarai was informing they could not even find a slice of land to burn a dead body.
Actuate shortage of clean drinking water and food have created almost a desperate situation for millions. Our government is trying our best. But you know the context. After myriad of challenges, we are in the process of implementing our new Constitution. We have not been able to upgrade our governance structures to respond to these kinds of new challenges. In effect, there’s almost a humanitarian crisis in Nepal. And we need support in whatever form it can be.
We remember that we had received a great support from the Danish people during the earthquake. We also remember that the DIPD Chair himself had shown a great concern and supported our initiatives at that time. Even though you are no longer with DIPD, as our old friend we are turning to you to disseminate the situation of Nepal to your other Danish friends as far as possible. As I mentioned earlier, millions are in a desperate situation and they need help.
Finally, we miss you greatly. You always put a great effort in developing a close relationship with us, making us feel cared. You also always respected our decisions, making us feel trusted. And that’s what counted most to us. And that’s one of the things that still holds all the six parties in JOMPOPS together. We hope you know it
Best wishes, Dina nath Sharma, JOMPOPS Chair
Please also read a recent article on the DIPD website about the deliberations of the JOMPOPS parties regarding the flooding.