Equitable economic recovery is a key requirement for consolidating peace in Nepal, where the economic exclusion of various groups, ownership of productive resources by a small elite, and decades of failed development have fed both poverty and multiple conflicts. Public expectations of “peace dividends” remain high and are defined largely in terms of economic opportunity. The perceived failure of the peace process to meet these expectations thus far is fuelling increased frustration, particularly amongst young people.
However, recent research undertaken by International Alert and its partner, the National Business Initiative (NBI) shows that insecurity is perceived as posing one of the biggest challenges to this much-needed economic growth and recovery. This is particularly the case at the district level.
The research, which was conducted from October 2009 to January 2010 among business people, business associations, political actors, trade unions and civil society in 7 districts of Nepal, reveals that the private sector is deeply affected by insecurity. This includes abductions, murder, extortion and strikes. These security problems stifle production, limit investments and increase the cost of doing business. This ultimately results in higher retail prices, less employment opportunities and contributes to the vicious circle of conflict, insecurity and low economic growth.
The research highlights not only that business is impacted by public insecurity, but also that it is in a position to make important contributions to tackling it. In many instances, it is already feeling compelled to act, and has responded to security challenges in innovative ways. This type of business involvement can and should be scaled up to make meaningful contributions to the discussions, strategy planning and policy development at Kathmandu-level among government officials, donors, and civil society.
Over the next three months, Alert and NBI will run a series of dialogues and consultations on this topic with the private sector, government, civil society and international community; and hold a national-level workshop to bring together those with an interest in contributing to public security, from public, private, and non-governmental sectors to discuss more concrete ways of working together.