+977 9801193336

NIPoRe DatavizNIPoRe UpdatesResearch

NDV0004 – President Xi Jinping’s State Visits – SAARC Vs ASEAN

Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Nepal for a two-day state visit between October 12 and 13 this year. He became the first Chinese president to visit Nepal since December 1996 when Jiang Zemin visited the Himalayan nation. President Xi’s rare visit to Nepal this year indicates that China – the second largest world economy and one of the major global players in world politics – have Nepal in its foreign policy priority. During his visit, a list of instruments was signed. Later on, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had released the Joint-Statement between Nepal and the People’s Republic of China.

After taking responsibility as the President of the People’s Republic of China, President Xi has had made a series of state visits to countries in South and South East Asia indicating China’s interests in pursuing country’s major foreign policy priorities across countries in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regions.

Here, based on information from XINHUANET, we highlight few interesting facts about President Xi’s state visits to SAARC and ASEAN member countries.

9 and 11 Months: Between March 2013 and October 2019, President Xi Jinping has travelled to ASEAN and SAARC member countries for a state visit, on average, every 9 and 11 months respectively.

Minus 1: ASEAN and SAARC have welcomed President Xi for state visits to their members countries for 9 and 7 occasions respectively (Number of associations’ member countries minus 1 times).

2 and 1: There are only 2 countries – 1 country each in each region – that have hosted President Xi twice for state visits.

4 and 2: Only 4 countries in these regions – 2 countries each in each region – are yet to welcome the incumbent Chinese leader for a state visit.

Research Commentaries

NRC0015 – Nepali foreign policy and Zone of Peace: an attempt at neutrality?

Santosh Sharma Poudel


In my last Research Commentary, I summarized that Nepali foreign policy moved from ‘special relations’ with India towards diversification in the 1950s and 1960s. This period coincides with the direct rule of King Birendra. In this commentary, I analyze the country’s foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s via the proposal of Zone of Peace. This period provides a stark reminder of the practical constraints of Nepal’s foreign policy priorities.

Domestic Political Developments

As seen in the previous two decades, domestic politics has been one of the major factors informing Nepal’s foreign policy, if not determining itself. The 1970s and 1980s were relatively stable periods under the then Panchayat System. The Prime Ministers were rotated heavily, but the power always rested with the King. King Birendra ascended the throne in 1972. During his coronation, which was attended by a large number of diplomatic dignitaries, he proposed Nepal to be made a ‘Zone of Peace’. It was a major initiative from the King, and the analysis of the intention and progress of the proposal reflects the foreign policy of Nepal during the period. There was the matter of ‘referendum’ in 1980, but the result was in favor of ‘reformed Panchayat’, and it did not alter the domestic dynamics much. Towards the end of this period, there was ‘Jana Andolan’ in Nepal, led by the Nepali Congress and communist parties, which overthrew the direct rule of the King, established multi-party democracy, and cosigned the King to a constitutional monarchy.

Zone of Peace (ZOP)

King Birendra’s prepared speech during the Non-Aligned Summit in 1973 stated that Nepal ‘wishes to be declared a Zone of Peace’. However, the official announcement of the ZOP by the King was made on 25th February 1975, during the farewell address delivered to the foreign dignitaries present to celebrate his coronation ceremony. His focus was on peace, peace in the country, the region and the world, and believed that ‘Zone of Peace’ will help institutionalize peace. Major points of the proposal included peace, non-alignment and peaceful coexistence, Nepal would not permit any activities on its soil that are hostile to other states supporting the proposal and expect reciprocity, and Nepal will not enter into any military alliance with any other countries among others. Nepal planned to take the proposal to the UN for endorsement.

There were international and domestic reasons for the proposal. Domestically, it was about maintaining stability, as the democratic opposition to the Panchayat regime came from Nepali exiles in India. It was also an opportunity for King Birendra to stamp his authority in Nepal’s foreign policy. Regionally, few issues were of real concern to Nepal. Nepal had a close eye on the political development in Sikkim. Sikkim, an independent state with ethnic Nepali people, was absorbed into the union territory of India in 1975. That was an urgent issue of concern for Nepal, a country that has inferiority complex vis-à-vis India. Many also had concerns that India could attempt a similar policy towards Nepal. Therefore, Nepal needed to ascertain its survival. Similarly, Nepal did not want to insert itself into the regional and global rivalries (such as India-Pakistan, Sino-India, US-USSR), and would rather expend its limited resources for peace and growth. Notwithstanding the justifications of the ZOP, it marked a significant change in the orientation of foreign policy of Nepal compared to a decade earlier.

Neutrality, not ‘balance’

The foreign policy of Nepal in the 1950s and 1960s was marked by movement along with the ‘special relations with India’ to ‘diversification in economic, trade, aid and global engagement’. In saying that, the relations with India was still the most important. ‘Zone of Peace’ was an attempt at ‘neutrality’ or ‘equidistance’, doing away with ‘special relations with India’. ZOP would do away with the concept of Nepal as ‘buffer state’, the strategic view that India held since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru. An agreement on such a proposal would also limit the role of India in Nepal’s domestic politics. Firstly, it would have limited the activities and some freedom enjoyed by exiled political leaders in India. Secondly, requests were made for the withdrawal of Indian intelligence posts in Nepal.

Two regional incidents also heightened the insecurity in Nepal vis-à-vis India. First, India played an active role in the breaking up of East Pakistan to form an independent Bangladesh in 1971. China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend, could not do much to change the scenario in which India got a decisive victory. The second was the dissolution of the Kingdom of Sikkim into the Indian union territory in 1975. Within a span of five years, the political map of South Asia changed significantly, thanks to India. This was bound to have a profound impact on the psyche of another small nation that shared a deeply unequal power relations with India.

Therefore, according to S.K. Upadhyaya, Nepal’s former Permanent Representative to the UN, ZOP, was the only way to ensure small nation’s (Nepal’s) survival when large powers commit aggression against small powers.

The ZOP was supported by a large number of countries to varying degrees. Major global and regional powers such as China, Pakistan, the US, the USSR, France, and the UK among others supported the proposal (on various dates and to varying degrees). By the mid-1980s, more than 85 countries around the globe had supported the proposal. However, Nepal’s closest neighbor India had major reservations. While the ZOP was not targeted at India, it could not be denied that India was a major target in terms of why the ZOP was proposed and would require to do the most to ensure the proposal was applied if India accepted given the socio-economic, political and geo-strategic linkages. Accepting the ZOP would mean that India’s ‘special’ position vis-à-vis (Nepal) would be diluted. Similarly, Indira Gandhi could not fathom that Nepal-China relations would be equated with Nepal-India relations. Other governments in India and leaders too had various reservations primarily that India has a special security interest in Nepal and ZOP does not address that.

The Fate of ZOP and Lessons for Nepal’s Foreign Policy

Despite the support of more than six dozen countries including the major powers, the ZOP died its natural death after the demise of Panchayat in 1990, thanks to the Indian reservation. The relations between the King and India also suffered which ultimately culminated in India’s blockade over Nepal in 1989 (though this was not the direct cause). This offers key lessons for Nepal’s foreign policy priorities. Firstly, the geo-economic rationale (in this context, the over-dependence on India) is a severe constraint to Nepal’s foreign policy. India does not hesitate to use such a constraint to undo Nepali strategies that do not address its national interests. Secondly, Nepal can count on the support of other neighbors and major powers. However, they are no substitute for the Indian influence and presence in Nepal. If Nepal aims at the successful implementation of any major foreign policy, it has to assure India that its legitimate security interests will be addressed and brought into confidence. Finally, as the saga unfolded, a foreign policy based on neutrality or equidistance failed to materialize at best, and backfired at worst. Nepal needs to engage with each neighbor and other countries, based on Nepal’s and the other partner’s specific interests. Trying to weigh two different neighbors on the same scale is not prudent as both countries have different interests in Nepal and vice-versa.


  1. Poudel, Santosh Sharma. (2019). RC0011 – Nepalese Foreign Policy Practice in the 1950s and 1960s. Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe). Kathmandu, Nepal. retrieved from https://nipore.org/nrc0011-nepalese-foreign-policy-practice-in-the-1950s-and-60s-special-relationship-balance-and-diversification/
  2. Upadhyaya, S. K. (1982). Nepal’s Peace Zone Proposal: Many Voices, One concern. Weekly Mirror, Special Issue.
  3. Muni, S.D. (2016). Foreign Policy of Nepal. Adroit Publishers, New Delhi, India.
NIPoRe DatavizNIPoRe UpdatesResearch

NDV0003 – Dashain and Internal Movement of People in Nepal

Each year, Dashain witnesses largest internal movement of people in Nepal. Kathmandu Valley accounts for most of this movement. According to the data released by Metropolitan Traffic Office, between Ghatasthapana (DAY 1) and Phulpati (DAY 7) this Dashain, a total of 1,695,360 people left Kathmandu Valley while 488,755 people arrived in the Valley.

Dashain is the longest and the biggest festival in the Bikram Sambat Calendar that symbolizes victory of good over evil. Observed for 15 days, it is an important annual occasion for Nepalis (and Nepali speaking people in other South Asian countries) to reunite with their families, friends and relatives. Of Dashain’s 15 days, 6 days are most important – 1, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 15.

Research Commentaries

NRC0014 – Individual’s Contributions in Nonprofit Funding: Prospects for Nepali Nonprofits

Kaushal Sapkota


This commentary explores the prospects of individual fundraising in the context of Nepali nonprofit organizations. It attempts to evaluate individual giving in the U.S., other developed countries and in India, through secondary research. While comprehensive research on individual giving in Nepal does not exist, the article identifies favorable patterns and evidence within the social structure, literature, history, and religion of Nepal. Based on my research, I find that Nepali society is built around a giving culture thereby proving that individual giving is not an alien concept for the country. It is not a philosophical challenge, rather a communication exercise for nonprofit organizations to use it for their benefit.

Individual’s Contributions in Nonprofit Funding: Prospects for Nepali Nonprofits

A couple of months ago, I was discussing fundraising with a group of nonprofit leaders in Nepal, trying to explore their thoughts on raising funds from individuals to be sustainable and “somewhat” independent of grants. As a recent graduate of nonprofit management, it was surprising to me that almost everyone believed that individual fundraising is an “alien” concept surviving only in the U.S. or other developed nations because of their “generous” tax benefits and wealthy status. Intrigued by their response, I explored what literature and data had to say about raising funds from individuals.

Individual Giving in the U.S.

A total of 1.56 million nonprofit organizations registered at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), contributed an estimated $985.4 billion to the US GDP (5.6 percent) in 2015. In 2016, nearly 12.3 million people worked for nonprofits, accounting for 10.2 percent of the total private-sector employment, as nonprofits became the third-largest sector of US employment that year. The role of nonprofit organizations in the civil society and the US economy is significant. Klein claims that private-sector funding accounts for 13 percent of the total revenue received by nonprofits, while earned income and public funding contribute 55 percent and 32 percent respectively. Analyzing private-sector funding for nonprofit organizations reveal that:

    • Individuals in the U.S. give to charities. In 2017, American individuals, bequests, foundations, and corporations gave $410.02 billion as charitable giving, increasing by 5.2 percent from 2016 and reaching the $400-billion mark for the first time. Out of the total private sector giving, 70 percent was contributed by individuals, 16 percent by foundations, 9 percent by bequests, and only 5 percent by corporate foundations.
    • The demographic distribution of donors debunks myths about individual donations. In 2013, the wealthiest Americans donated 1.3 percent of their income, while the poorest donated 3.2 percent. Seven out of ten individuals donate, and most people who give to nonprofits give to at least five groups. Every year, about 20 percent of the population on some kind of welfare programs give, and 97 percent of the millionaires donate.
    • Religion motivates giving. In Fundraising for Social Change (2016) Kim Klein writes, “the majority of people who give money in describe themselves as religious or spiritual, regardless of their involvement in a formal religious or spiritual community”. In 2014, out of the $358.38 billion contributions made to nonprofit organizations, 32 percent of such donations were made to the religious organizations.

Individual Giving Elsewhere

People give for different reasons like expressing their altruistic self by giving to causes they care, gaining instrumental benefits like tax deductions and network gains, and out of social pressures. The giving trend of the U.S. is replicated in other developed economies around the world. Eight out of ten Canadians give, while in Holland, almost 90 percent of the population donates despite paying high taxes. 64 percent in South Korea and 80 percent in the Philippines give. In the U.K., 60 percent of the population donated in 2017, out of which 25 percent donated monthly and the size of an average donation was £44. In 2016, the Charity Aid Foundation published its findings from a survey on 195,000 people from 153 countries in the form of the Global Giving Index. The index claimed that a fifth of the global population volunteered, a third had given money to charity, while 45 percent helped a stranger.

Although there has not been comprehensive research on individual giving in Nepal, we can withdraw few relatable conclusions from the Everyday Giving in India Report 2019, jointly published by Sattva, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Defining everyday giver as “individuals (residents, diaspora, global citizens) with an annual income of over INR 2.5 lakhs and a net worth below”, the report valued total everyday giving in India at INR 34,000 crore ($3.1 billion) out of which 90 percent was informal everyday giving and only 10 percent was the formal everyday giving. In the meantime, 10.2 percent of the total charitable giving was made to Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs). India’s everyday givers were motivated by the urgency of cause, the convenience of the process, community influence and impact of giving. 64 percent of the everyday giving was community giving and 26 percent was religious. The report further claims that an increasing propensity to give and an accelerating digital revolution will contribute to larger everyday giving in India in the future. The report accounted for four kinds of giving: money, goods, voice, and time and skills.

Individual Giving in Nepal

The first poet of Nepali literature, Adikavi Bhanubhakta Acharya (1814-1868), wrote a poem to express his guilt of not giving to the society despite his riches as he compared himself with poor grasscutter who had built a well for travelers:

भर् जन्म घाँसतिर मन दिइ धन् कमायो (Bhara Janma Ghastira Mana Diyi Dhana Kamayo)

नाम क्यै रहोस् पछि भनेर कुवा खनायो (Nama Kei Rahos Pachi Bhanera Kuwa Khanayo)

घाँसी दरिद्रि घरको तर बुद्धि कस्तो (Ghansi Daridra Tara Buddhi Kasto)

म भानुभक्त धनि भै कन आज यस्तो ! (Ma Bhanubhakta Bhai Kana Aja Yesto)

मेरो इनार न त सातल पाटि कै छन् (Mero Inaar Na Ta Satala Paati Kai Chhan)

जे धन र चीज हरु छन् घर भित्र नै छन् (Je Dhana Ra Cheej Haru Chan Ghara Bhitrai Chan)

त्यस घासीले आज कसरी दिएछन् अर्थी (Tyas Ghansile Aaja Kasari Diyechan Arthi)

धिक्कार हो मकन बस्नु नराखी कृति ! (Dhikkar Ho Makana Basnu Narakhi Kriti)

Matri summarizes the poem as: “This grasscutter is poor, but his heart is generous…he has planned to do a noble deed like digging a pond with his meager savings. Whereas, I, Bhanubhakta, though a son of a well-to-do family, do not think of any service to others…My thoughts are centered around me…fie on my life which is devoid of any good work.”

Centuries before Bhanubhakta, Nepal developed the “Guthi” System (derived from the Sanskrit “Gosthi” meaning “assembly” or “association”) to preserve the heritage of Kathmandu Valley by generating capital from collective land ownership thereby financing cultural preservation and maintenance communally. The history of Guthi can be traced back to the Lichchavi period; between the 5th and the 9th centuries, and have been used widely in different periods for different purposes. Different types of Guthis serve different missions and their existence is still communal.

Individual giving is also prevalent in the major religions of Nepal. In Hinduism, the Upanishad (religious text) identifies Dana (donation or charity) as one of the three characteristics of a good person. It is also visible in donations during events like Saptaha (week-long worship) or in stone inscriptions outside each temple. The concept of Dana (donation) in Buddhism, Zakat (one of the five principles of Islam asking individuals to donate certain part of their income) and Sadaqa (voluntary donations) in Islam, and charity in Christianity, focus on individual giving.


Nepali Society is built around a giving culture. It is evident in the social structure, literature, folklore, history, religion, and noticeably in the post-disaster relief efforts in recent years. Individual giving is not an alien concept for Nepal. Considering the need for diversifying their revenue sources, Nepali nonprofits have to be courageous. I see it as a marketing and communication challenge rather than a philosophical one.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. (2018). Nonprofits account for 12.3 million jobs, 10.2 percent of private-sector employment in 2016. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/nonprofits-account-for-12-3-million-jobs-10-2-percent-of-private-sector-employment-in-2016.htm
  2. Burke, G. A. (n.d.). Charity and the Three Gunas. Light of the Spirit Monastery. New Mexico. USA.
  3. Center for Civil Society Studies, John Hopkins University. (2019). The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report. Retrieved from http://ccss.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2019/01/2019-NP-Employment-Report_FINAL_1.8.2019.pdf
  4. Charities Aid Foundation. (2016). World Giving Index 2016
  5. Giving USA. (2018). Giving USA 2018: Americans gave $410.02 billion to charity in 2017, crossing the $400 billion mark for the first time. Retrieved from https://givingusa.org/giving-usa-2018-americans-gave-410-02-billion-to-charity-in-2017-crossing-the-400-billion-mark-for-the-first-time/
  6. Klein, K. (2016). Fundraising for Social Change. 7th edition. pp. 3-11. Wiley.
  7. Maitra, K. S. (1982). The First Poet of Nepali Literature. Indian Literature Vol. 25, No. 5 (September-October 1982). Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/23331113
  8. Müller-Böker, U. (1988). Spatial Organization of a Caste Society: The Example of the Newar in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Mountain Research and Development, 8(1), 23-31.
  9. National Philanthropic Trust. (2019). Charitable Giving Statistics in the U.K. Retrieved from https://www.nptuk.org/philanthropic-resources/uk-charitable-giving-statistics/
  10. Pradhananga, N., Shrestha, K. K. & Dee, J. (2009). Sustaining Indigenous Heritage: Learning from the Guthi System in Nepal. Retrieved from https://ocoy.org/dharma-for-christians/bhagavad-gita-for-awakening/charity-and-the-three-gunas/
  11. Salamon, L. M. & Newhouse, C. L. (2019). The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report. John Hopkins
  12. Sattva, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2019). Everyday Giving in India Report 2019
  13. Shaha, R. S. (1992). Ancient and medieval Nepal. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers and Distributors.
  14. Urban Institute. (2018). The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2018. National Center for Charitable Statistics. Retrieved from https://nccs.urban.org/publication/nonprofit-sector-brief-2018#the-nonprofit-sector-in-brief-2018-public-charites-giving-and-volunteering
  15. Weber, E. (2016). Charity of religions with special references to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity: an interreligious perspective. Journal of Religious Culture. No. 213. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316454842
NIPoRe DatavizNIPoRe UpdatesResearch

NDV0002 – State of Urban Population in South Asia

As per the World Bank’s 2018 data, urban population (as percentage of total population) in South Asian economies varies a lot. Among the eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries, Bhutan has the highest proportion of population living in urban areas (41%) and Sri Lanka has the lowest (18%). SAARC Region’s proportion of urban population (34%) still lags behind by a large margin as compared to that of the global proportion (55.27%).

Research Commentaries

NRC0013 – Targeted Advertisements – Are Facebook Ads Discriminatory?

Jaya Jung Mahat


The last decade saw an unprecedented rise in major social media platforms. There is no doubt that these platforms have enabled people across the globe to (re) connect with their families and friends. However, from the online advertisement perspective, these platforms have given birth to a new form of discrimination based on users’ gender, age, qualification, profession, and nationality among others. This commentary discusses Facebook’s prevalent Advertising Policies and the platform’s key ad optimization tools to check whether ads delivered through Facebook discriminates audiences. It also identifies few unintended consequences of ad optimization works on firms, and on individuals.


With the recent developments in information and communication technologies, firms are able to track users’ online preferences and their behaviors. Moreover, available internet and social media tools enable firms to discover people’s personal details and employ online advertising with more precision for the targeted audiences. While this strategy, in general, is extremely beneficial for the firms, it need not yield desired benefits for the consumers. In recent years, Facebook has been at the center of this debate due to the platform’s controversial and ambiguous ad delivery provisions.

The Case of Ad Optimization on Facebook

A study has found Facebook’s proven roles in skewed outcomes from ads (related to the US housing and employment sectors) that run on this platform. The study specifically outlines three key areas in which Facebook is changing the way ads are delivered and thus yielding more skewed outcomes as compared to the traditional media. They include – Facebook does not allow advertisers to purposefully promote ads to a wide and diverse audience, Facebook strictly limits an individual’s ability to see ads that otherwise are not targeted at him/her, and finally Facebook possess sole power to do public interest scrutiny of results of online ads. Furthermore, ProPublica has also exposed earlier on how Facebook allowed advertisers to restrict citizens representing black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

Facebook has revised the platform’s ads policies and tools, time and again (For example, you can refer to Facebook’s 2016 updates and 2017 updates), to minimize Ads optimization options. In addition, the company has incorporated a separate section (Discriminatory Practices) under its main Advertising Policies document to address some of the controversial issues related to discriminatory ads delivery mechanisms. However, Facebook still allows firms to optimize their Ads unless those contents violate (the) platform’s terms while creating an audience. Many still doubt, and some of them have written about it, if Facebook’s updates are effective at addressing the issues as platform’s existing ad algorithm automatically employes discriminatory practices even when it’s not told to.

Facebook Ad Optimization – How It Works?

One can easily create a Facebook Ad in just a few steps. According to Facebook, one needs to follow seven steps to create an Ad on (the) firm’s online platform – Choose your objective, select your audience, decide where to run you ad, Set your budget, Pick a format, Place your order, and finally Measure and manage your ad.

Five of these seven steps pose least risks in terms of ad optimization. The two steps that have long been sources of major controversies for Facebook are – Select your audience (Step 2) and decide where to run your ad (Step 3). These two tools allow advertisers to optimize their ads as much as they want and build a desired audience to run their ads for. Out of them, Step 2 is more controversial than the Step 3 as the latter step only allows advertisers to optimize ads in limited ways. In fact, Step 3 allows a firm to decide on where to run its ads – either on Facebook Family’s all platforms or only one or few of them. Moreover, this option also allows the firm to ensure company’s ads run on specific mobile devices only.

For the purpose of this commentary, I created an experimental ad to check through all the major steps that are involved while creating an ad using Facebook’s available online tools.

The first step in this process is to identify appropriate contents as per a firm’s specific objectives. For example, earlier I had the following options to select from for Step 1.

Photo 1: Options for a business page to create and optimize ads for different purposes (Source: Facebook)

As discussed, the Step 2 is the most comprehensive and complex step among all other steps as it helps a firm to optimize the ad delivery mechanism as much as possible. I selected “Promote Your Page” in Step 1. For Step 2, I needed to work on the following contents (to select an audience):

Photo 2: Facebook’s default ad optimization tool for “Promote Your Page” Option (Source: Facebook)

As highlighted in the Photo 2, I could optimize an audience based on geography, age, budget and duration of the ad. In terms of geography, Facebook allows a firm to run its ads across a specific area [either a city or a precise area (within the radius range of 1 – 50 miles)]. For age specifications, a firm can customize an audience by selecting an age range that spans between the age of 13 and 65+ years. The overall duration of the ad would depend on the available budget. Depending upon the budget, an advertiser can choose a convenient ad-run period [range: day(s) – year(s)].

If the advertiser is not happy with the optimization tools available in Photo 2, he/she can choose to create an entirely new audience by setting own criteria using gender, age and geography factors as indicated in Photo 3. Moreover, the firm can either include or exclude an audience by using hundreds of criteria listed under three sections namely user demographics, their interests and behaviors. Each of these sections has sub-sections and sub-categories that conveniently helps the firm to work on further optimization of ads (Photo 4). The key sub-sections under there section are listed below:

  1. Demographics: Education, Financial, Life Events, Parents, Relationship, and Work
  2. Interests: Business and industry, Entertainment, Family and relationships, Fitness and wellness, Food and drink, Hobbies and activities, Shopping and fashion, Sports and outdoors, and Technology
  3. Behaviors: Anniversary, Consumer classification, Digital activities, Expats, Mobile Device user, Mobile Device user/Device use time, Multicultural Affinity, Politics (US), Purchase behavior, Ramadan (Month), Soccer, Travel, and one more category with name “More Categories” that is available for special firms only

Photo 3: Gender, Age and Geography tools for creating an optimized audience for Facebook ads (Source: Facebook)

Photo 4: Additional filters (Human Demographics, Interests and Behaviors) for creating an even better targeted ads (Source: Facebook)

The basic idea of the Step 2 is to work on all available ad optimization tools to design an audience (either a specific or a broad) that best suits the company’s advertising targets. Whether a firm has been able to achieve its audience specifications (with red color indicating more specific audience and the yellow color notifying of more general audience) is indicated by the digital indicator in Photos 3 and 4.

Potential Unintended Consequences of Ad Optimization

During my experiment with the “Experiment Group” (an audience that I have created for the purpose of this commentary) using the Facebook Ad tools, I could either include or exclude an individual from my targeted audience. From my experiment, I can clearly think of a professional (and firm), who has more knowledge of marketing and ad optimization, can deliberately create ads that discriminate against people based on hundreds of criteria. As these criteria not only incorporate people’s geography, gender, age and financial statuses into the Facebook ad optimization tools but also factors that define key human behaviors. From a public policy perspective, I don’t think the frequent and intentional use of these forms of ads would ever support concerned governments in meeting goals of the latter’s major positive discrimination policies and initiatives.

At first, it may seem quite natural and cost-effective for a firm to optimize its ads on Facebook (and on any other online platforms) to ensure that (a) company’s all ad spending yield best results. However, segregation of users using diverse criteria could result in disadvantages too, for the users and advertisers alike – though the overall costs for the firms will be far lesser than those for the consumers.

The only major costs that the advertisers may have to compromise while optimizing ads would be to leave out some of the most genuine beneficiaries from the pool. For example, if a private firm based in Nepal’s Capital City (Kathmandu) optimizes company’s ad on Facebook by targeting ads for people in Kathmandu Valley only may misses all potential consumers from other major cities in Nepal and neighboring urban areas in India and in China. On the contrary, such consequences on users may go far beyond personal levels and can yield unintended outcomes in social, economic and political terms.


  1. Ali, M., Sapiezynski, P., Bogen, M., Korolova, A., Mislove, A., & Rieke, A. (2019). Discrimination through optimization: How Facebook’s ad delivery can lead to skewed outcomes. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 2019. Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.02095
  2. Andreou, A., Venkatadri, V., Goga, O., Gummadi, K. P., Loiseau, P., & Mislove, A. (2018). Investigating Ad Transparency Mechanisms in Social Media: A Case Study of Facebook’s Explanations. Network and Distributed Systems Security (NDSS) Symposium 2018 18-21 February 2018, San Diego, CA, USA. Retrieved from https://mislove.org/publications/Explanations-NDSS.pdf
  3. Angwin, J. & Parris Jr., T. (October 28, 2016). Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race. ProPublica Inc. Retrieved from www.propublica.org/article/facebook-lets-advertisers-exclude-users-by-race
  4. Facebook. (2019). Advertising Policies. Retrieved from www.facebook.com/policies/ads/
  5. Facebook. (2019). Facebook Ads. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/business/ads
  6. Facebook. (February 08, 2017). Improving Enforcement and Promoting Diversity: Updates to Ads Policies and Tools. Retrieved from https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/02/improving-enforcement-and-promoting-diversity-updates-to-ads-policies-and-tools/
  7. Facebook. (November 11, 2016). Improving Enforcement and Promoting Diversity: Updates to Ethnic Affinity Marketing. Retrieved from https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/11/updates-to-ethnic-affinity-marketing/
  8. Johnson, J. P. (2013). Targeted advertising and advertising avoidance. The RAND Journal of Economics, 44(1), 128–144. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1756-2171.12014
  9. Speicher, T., Ali, M., Venkatadri, G., Robeiro, F. N., Arvanitakis, G., Benevenuto, F., Gummadi, K. P., Loiseau, P., & Mislove, A. (2018). Potential for Discrimination in Online Targeted Advertising. Proceedings of Machine Learning Research 81:1–15, 2018. Retrieved from http://proceedings.mlr.press/v81/speicher18a/speicher18a.pdf
  10. Stied, M. (April 05, 2019). Facebook’s Ad Algorithm Discriminates Even When It’s Not Told To, Study Finds. New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/facebooks-ad-algorithm-is-a-fully-functional-racism-machine.html
NIPoRe DatavizNIPoRe UpdatesResearch

NDV0001 – Access to Finance in Nepal (As of mid-July 2019)

As per the first monthly Economic Bulletin of the Ministry of Finance, (Government of Nepal), the country has 171 banks and financial institutions (BFIs). So far, they have opened a total of 27,866,505 bank accounts. To better serve their beneficiaries, the BFIs have issued 6,708,521 and 123,146 debit and credit cards respectively. To further boost people’s access to finance, the existing BFIs have 8,686 branch offices and 3,316 ATM outlets spread across 735 out of country’s 753 local levels.

Nepal had 171 banks and financial institutions (BFIs). As of mid-July 2019, they have opened a total of 27,866,505 bank accounts. To better serve the beneficiaries, the BFIs have issued 6,708,521 and 123,146 debit and credit cards respectively. To further boost people’s access to finance, the existing BFIs have 8,686 branch offices and 3,316 ATM outlets spread across 735 out of country’s 753 local levels.

Research Commentaries

NRC0012 – Enabling Factors for Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure in Nepal

Enabling Factors for Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure in Nepal

Nirnaya Bhatta


The fanfare with which the Third Nepal Infrastructure Summit was organized during 11-12 September indicates a realization that public infrastructural goods unequivocally contribute to national development. Public-private partnership is gradually being considered as the modality of choice to implement large infrastructure projects in Nepal, as evidenced by the recently passed Public Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2018. Although, it is essential to understand the state of the enabling conditions that in are in place currently that could either contribute or hinder effective public-private partnership in infrastructure in Nepal. The EIU Infrascope Index that measures a country’s capacity to implement PPPs in infrastructure is a good reference point in this regard. This RC draws lessons from common literature on the subject that Nepal could consider in terms of improving its enabling environment to implement PPPs in infrastructure.

PPP in Infrastructure in Nepal

There is an increasing consensus across political parties, the civil service, the private sector and the donor agencies that Nepal needs to urgently make strides in its infrastructure development. Further, to operationalize implementation of infrastructure projects, for the right reasons, Public-private partnership (PPP) is gradually being considered as the right modality to achieve these ends. After all, developing nations such as Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, to name a few, have managed to upgrade national infrastructure through the effective applications of PPP arrangements.

Any development in promoting PPPs in infrastructure in Nepal must be lauded. Consider the direct relationship between investments spending and raise in gross domestic product (GDP). For instance, “the International Monetary Fund estimates that an increase of 1% in investment spending raises gross domestic product (GDP) by approximately 0.4% in the same year and by 1.5% in 4 years after the increase” (IMF, 2014).

The increased importance given to PPP in Nepal is further attested by its importance underlined during the Nepal Infrastructure Summit held last week, which comes after a month of the first India Nepal Logistics Summit. Further, the Federal Parliament passed the Public Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2018, which only demonstrates there is a growing realization among major policy stakeholders that Nepal needs better infrastructure as a start to also support the tourism, education as well as industrialization.

It is useful to closely look at the enabling as well as disabling conditions in Nepal that would affect implementation of PPPs in infrastructure. For instance, how willing is the private sector in Nepal and foreign investors to invest in Nepali infrastructure? And more important, how capacitated is the Nepali public sector to bring relevant parties on board? Considering the low number of PPPs in infrastructure in Nepal, as compared to most of Asia, it does seem like Nepal still needs to get some fundamental factors in place. Although, the new PPPI, 2018 Act that seeks to establish a PPP Unit within the Investment Board, Nepal, is exclusively mandated to oversee PPP infrastructural undertakings.

Infrastructure Ranking of Developing Asian Economies, 2017–2018

Source: World Economic Forum. 2017. Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018

Why PPP in infrastructure?

The World Bank defines PPP as “a long-term contract between a private party and a government entity, for providing a public asset or service, in which the private party bears significant risk and management responsibility, and remuneration is linked to performance” (World Bank, 2018). There may not be a better way to cover the infrastructure gap than public and private sector working alongside each other. PPPs “have been an effective conduit to channel private capital and funds to address a broader development agenda” (Deep, Kim, & Lee, 2019).

The increasing preference of availing PPP is easily understood, as “Lee et al. (2018) projected that doubling PPP investment from 0.5% of GDP in 2015 to 1% generate additional 0.1 percentage points to GDP growth per capita across Asia and the Pacific” (Deep, Kim, & Lee, 2019).

Further, while the public sector has the capacity to be the guarantor and can mobilize the state apparatus, the private sector provides readily available capital, operational efficiency, innovation in project implementation, and managerial and technical skills. Most importantly, the public sector could afford to consider the welfare implications of projects proposed under PPP.

The Infrascope Index provides an immediate reference point for evaluation:

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) provides a very handy and insightful tool known as the Infrascope Index which Nepali policy makers can immediately consider using as a guide to improve the countries enabling environment. The Infrascope index is a benchmarking tool that assesses a country’s implementation capacity to execute key infrastructure sectors through PPP in transport, electricity, water and solid waste management. Hence, it allows policy makers to quickly identify major hindrances “unlock the power of PPPs and support the broader development agenda”.

Unfortunately, Nepal is not included in the index as of now. Although, on the bright side, the index exclusively studies countries where the American agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) works in. As Nepal is one of the beneficiaries of MCC, it is likely that Nepal will be considered in this index after MCC’s projects start the construction of “313-kilometre-long 400 kVA high-voltage transmission lines and three high-capacity substations, including building 1,039 transmission line towers across the alignment, and build different road projects with a total length of 305 kilometres.” (The Himalayan Times, 2019)

Does Nepal’s public sector have the capacity to effectively implement PPPs?

While it is useful to explore if the public sector of Nepal is adequately competent to implement effective PPPs, it is also fair to question whether the private sector is. An excellent report by Asian Development Bank, that compares PPP in infrastructure across Asian economies states that, “Among major factors supporting PPP implementation, the following features are critical: coherent policy, public sector capacity to manage PPP appropriately, public sector willingness to have mutual relation with private partners, and leadership” (Deep, Kim, & Lee, 2019). The challenges to apply PPP in a large scale pertains to it is a complex system; requires specific and sufficient knowledge of financing structure, risks allocation, contract management, and disputes resolution; and the transaction process usually takes a long time to conclude” (Zen, 2018).

In Nepal, investments in the infrastructure sector are often misunderstood to mean merely construction. The actual work continues after construction has concluded, including how the infrastructure is managed and maintained, and identifying different collaborative mechanisms that would engage the private and public sector together. This points to the extraordinary role that the public sector needs to play as the private sector could not be expected to take primarily take the role of a custodian.

As per the index, the following indicators can be used to evaluate Nepal’s readiness and capacity to implement PPPs in infrastructure into five components:

  • Enabling laws and regulations
  • The institutional framework
  • Operational maturity
  • Investment and business climate
  • Financing facilities for infrastructure projects

Policy Implications

Considering that the public and private sector have usually functioned in silos in Nepal, an environment of mitigating suspicion between the two needs to be created. While the public sector needs to regard the private sector as an equal partner in any PPP-based project; the private sector needs to take advantage of the fact that the public sector can indeed leverage massive resources, not limited to economic, but also the state apparatus to implement projects run under PPP. Huge profits can thus be generated.

Finally, the public sector should be under no delusion that PPPs will get off the ground by merely passing legal instruments and organizing glamorous summits. Traditionally, the public sector has been reactive in terms of putting relevant policies in place to address any issue, so when it comes to PPPs, it should be at the vanguard of initiating and ensuring all stakeholders are brought together. After all, the mandate to ensure welfare of a country is with the public sector, and not necessarily with the private sector that is not compelled to consider welfare implications.


  1. Deep, A., Kim, J., & Lee, M. (2019). Realizing The Potential Of Public–Private Partnerships To Advance Asia’s Infrastructure Development. Manila: Adb.
  2. IMF. (2014). World Economic Outlook: October 2914: Legacies, Clouds, Uncertainties. Washington, DC.
  3. The Himalayan Times. (2019, August 08). MCA-Nepal projects to start from June 2020. Retrieved from The Himalayan Times: https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/mca-nepal-projects-to-start-from-june-2020/
  4. World Bank. (2018, 02 06). What are Public Private Partnerships? Retrieved from Wolrd Bank PPP LRC: https://ppp.worldbank.org/public-private-partnership/overview/what-are-public-private-partnerships
Research Commentaries

NRC0011 – Nepalese foreign policy practice in the 1950s and 60s: special relationship, balance and diversification

NRC0011 – Nepalese foreign policy practice in the 1950s and 60s: special relationship, balance and diversification

Santosh Sharma Poudel


In the last Research Commentary, I argued that ‘balancing’ as the framing of Nepal’s foreign policy vis-à-vis China and India is problematic: ill-defined, impossible, undesirable and counter-productive. Instead, I argued that ‘diversification’ is the better way forward. In this commentary, I analyze Nepalese foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s vis-à-vis China and India through those lenses while also assessing the relative success and/or failure of those policies during this period.

Domestic Political Developments

Nepal went through significant political changes in the 1950s and 1960s. This period was tail ended by autocratic Rana regime and Panchayat system with some democratic practice in between. It started with the first wave of the democratic revolution in Nepal, led by Nepali Congress. It led to the overthrow of 104 years long Rana regime. King Tribhuvan returned to the royal throne after taking refuge in India for a while. This was followed by political instability. In the 1950s, Nepal saw nine governments, twice led by the Kings directly. King Mahendra seized the power in 1960 with a stable regime, but the governments and prime ministers changed frequently.

During this period, the rapid political change was reflected in its foreign policy as well. Given the crucial role India played in the first democratic revolution, India had an outsized and overt presence (and interference) in Nepalese politics, especially in the first decade. Nepalese foreign policy revolved around Nepal-India relations.

Special relationship with India

With the signing of the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship just before the overthrow of the Rana regime, the Indo-Nepal relations entered a phase of ‘special relationship’. Some of the clauses in the treaty justified the label of ‘special’ relationship, especially in the context of open-border, reciprocal rights to each other’s citizens, and security arrangement for Nepal.

In light of Nepalese foreign policy during Rana regime, which almost exclusively focused on the relationship with the British, and the active role of India in the democratization of Nepal (to bring a compromise between Nepali Congress, the King, and the Rana regime), it was not totally unexpected. At the same time, China, some parts of which were colonized by Western powers and faced a war between the Nationalist and Communist forces until 1949 was preoccupied with internal developments.

The Nepal-India special relationship continued for about a decade, even though some elites in Nepal had (already?) begun to question the 1950 treaty and Indian heavy-handed approach. Anti-India sentiment became a requisite to be a ‘nationalist’ in Nepal. It was not helped by the Indian attitude and behavior whereby India explicitly believed that Nepal was in India’s ‘sphere of influence’. Some leaders such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel openly questioned the sovereignty of Nepal and mulled if Nepal should be brought within the fold of India.

Nepal expanded its diplomatic relations with the US and France by 1949. Yet, Nepal was not able to expand diplomatic relations at the insistence of India. There were discussions about having common ‘defense and foreign’ policies. Even the British and the Americans looked to Indians. Nepal actively followed New Delhi’s guidance.

Three developments in different spheres proved vital in the 1950s. Domestically, King Mahendra became the King in 1955. At the international level, Nepal became a member of the UN. At the diplomatic level, Nepal established diplomatic relations with China.


After King Mahendra ascended the throne, he appointed Tanka Prasad Acharya, a leftist with anti-Indian views as the Prime Minister. He put forth the idea of ‘equal relations’ with India and China, changing the narrative of ‘special relations’ with India on its head. He was able to sign a treaty with China with a relationship based on the principles of Panchshila. Similarly, the direct telegraphic service between Lhasa and Kathmandu was to be started, replacing the need for using the Indian mission. Formerly reticent Chinese started to engage with Nepal actively, and Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai visited Nepal in 1957 and emphasized the ‘blood relations’ between people of the two countries. An agreement was made on the construction of a road linking Kathmandu to Kodari (Chinese border). Nepal also voted differently than India at the UN for the first time in 1957.

Delhi was uncomfortable with the pace scope of Nepal’s increasing engagement with China. In an attempt to lure Nepal back, Delhi promised (an) aid of IRs. 110 million. To show its displeasure at Tanka Prasad Acharya, Delhi provided an unusually lavish welcome to Dr. K.I. Singh, a fierce critic of the Acharya government’s pro-China policy. Given increasing Indian reservations about the Acharya government, King Mahendra dismissed the government and appointed Dr. Singh as the next Prime Minister. For a short period of time, ‘special relations’ became the fervor. China and the Soviet Union were not allowed to establish resident embassies, and no further diplomatic relations were established.

Both the governments had been a part of the ploy of King Mahendra to test the waters and keep India on its toes. India could no longer take it for ‘granted’ that Nepal and Nepalese leaders would bow to India. Once this was accomplished, King Mahendra dismissed the Singh government and had a brief period of direct rule. He promoted ‘diversification’ in relations beyond the immediate neighbors. In 1958, an agreement was made with the US and the USSR to establish resident embassies in respective countries. Nepal came out of the shadows of India and engaged with all the permanent members of the UNSC (China would later join the UNSC replacing Taiwan).

The first elected government of Nepal under the premiership of B.P. Koirala brought forth the policy of neutrality, non-alignment in Sino-Indian dispute and ‘equal friendship’. Some progress was made to ‘balance’ the relations with the two. China would establish a resident embassy in Kathmandu in 1960, but the Mustang incident and Chinese claims over Everest had exposed that relations with China would not be as easy. Shortly, the Koirala government was dismissed in a Royal coup before we could see any sustainable impact on Nepal’s foreign policy.


Upon establishing the direct rule of the King, called Panchayat, the relationship with China, and later with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) gained momentum. This could be seen from King Mahendra’s 17-day visit to China in 1961 and the signing of the Trade and Transit Treaty with Pakistan. India maintained cautious engagement with the King. The monarch also did not criticize India publicly, despite some subtle maneuver from the Chinese during his visit. During the visit, the King was out-maneuvered to sign agreement on construction of the road. Yet, it proved to be a crucial bargaining chip in Nepal’s relations with India. The disillusioned Indian government gave tacit approval, and some support, to Nepal Congress activists in India to organize violent protests in Nepal and levied economic blockade on Nepal to pressure the government to take a more favorable approach towards India.

The 1962 Sino-Indian border war could not have come at a better time for Nepal. India lifted the economic blockade and advised the rebels to suspend, and eventually terminate, their violent campaign. The King understood that sustained deterioration in relations with India is not a sound policy. So, too realized India. Therefore, the Indian offer of rapprochement was welcomed and promoted, but not at the cost of Sino-Nepal relations. As a result, India maintained some relations with the broad political actors in Nepal, but not at the level that would threaten the Royal regime.

During this period, Nepal sought to diversify its foreign policy, economic relations, aid and defense (all linked for the most part). Nepal started to engage heavily and took some leadership in various international organizations. Nepal became a vocal advocate of land-locked countries. Nepal participated actively in UNCTAD I and II. It culminated in Nepal becoming a member of the United Nations Security Council in 1968, which is probably the highest recognition of Nepalese diplomacy in the international arena so far?.

An agreement was made with India to provide unrestricted transit of Nepalese goods from one part to another via India in 1965. A year later, India agreed to provide separate and self-contained cargo at a port in Calcutta (now Kolkota). Similarly, the emphasis was put on economic expansion and trade with China. Trade agreements were signed with China as well. The trade with East Pakistan did not go as envisaged. Yet, Nepal was able to establish trade relations with Japan, USSR, and Western European countries. In terms of volume, trade with India comprised the lion’s share, yet it was a move in the right direction.

A sense of competition was created among the aid-giving countries. The different approaches the donors followed gave Nepal the flexibility and bite in the formulation of the development budget. Similarly, after the 1962 Sino-India border war, the ability of India to provide adequate defense support to Nepal was limited. Great Britain and the US agreed to provide limited military assistance on a short-term basis, but such support would only be sought if India could not supply the required military equipment.

In this sense, Nepal was able to establish friendly relations with India and China, without altering the essentials of Nepal-India relations. Trade and aid sources were diversified. So was diplomatic relations. Between 1955 and 1969, diplomatic relations were established with an additional 43 countries, both large and small. Nepal had an active presence in the international arena. Nepal exercised more independent foreign policy during this period that it had ever before since the advent of the Rana regime.

What does it mean for now?

Looking back, Nepal experimented with a variety of foreign policy vis-a-vis India and China during the 1950s. None of the ‘special relations’, ‘balance’, or ‘China-card’ tactics became sustainable. Finally, the foreign policy was consolidated and diversification sought in various aspects. That led to the 1960s, which is probably the most successful decade in modern Nepalese foreign policy history. Two major events helped the process. Firstly, it was the stability brought about by the direct rule of the King. Secondly, it was the opportunities brought forth by the rivalry between India and China (who fought a brief border war) and the competition between the USSR and USA globally. Nepal was able to exploit these developments to further its national interests.

These two decades bear some parallels with the situation post-1990 and hence some clear lessons. Firstly, domestic cohesion and a basic understanding of crucial foreign policy issue are must to have a coherent and effective foreign policy. Secondly, active and bold participation in international forums is important, especially for small powers such as Nepal. Thirdly, Nepal should practice broadening its economic, diplomatic, security and aid policy as far as practicable. This does not mean Nepal should ignore the legitimate interests of neighboring countries though. Fourth, foreign countries should be dealt with based on their merit insofar as it helps promote Nepalese national interest. Given that we have not learned most of the lessons, or are unable to practice, the foreign policy of Nepal post-1990s has been a case of failure for the most part.

  1. Ministry of External Affairs, India, Treaty of Peace and Friendship, retrieved from: https://mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/6295/Treaty+of+Peace+and+Friendship
  2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal, Bilateral Relations, retrieved from: https://mofa.gov.np/foreign-policy/bilateral-relation/
  3. Poudel, Santosh Sharma, RC004 Framing Nepal’s Relations with China and India, Nepal Institute for Policy Research, retrieved from: https://nipore.org/framing-nepals-relations-with-china-and-india-balance-or-diversify/
  4. Rose, Leo E. (1971). Nepal: Strategy for Survival, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Publisher’s Note: This commentary is the second write-up in a series of scholarly pieces. The third write-up will be the analysis of Nepalese foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s. The case of post-1990s foreign policy will be analyzed on fourth write-up.
Research Commentaries

NRC0010 – Nepal Earthquake 2015 at 4: Lessons and Recommendations for Developing South and Southeast Asia

Nepal Earthquake 2015 at 4: Lessons and Recommendations for Developing South and Southeast Asia

Hao Nan


It has been a little more than four years since the massive 7.8 Richter Scale Earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. Concerted efforts have moved to post-disaster reconstruction phase which, however, is not progressing smoothly. A series of lessons and recommendations can be drawn from Nepal’s experiences for the developing South and Southeast Asian countries that, to a large extent, share the vulnerability to disasters and face the similar potentiality of the problems.


On 25 April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Gorkha, Nepal, followed by a 7.3 magnitude aftershock, resulting in death of more than 8,800 lives and injury of thousands of people. The earthquake also damaged over 800,000 buildings and monuments, amounting the loss of staggering USD 7 billion. After the immediate relief, concerted efforts moved to the post-earthquake reconstruction, marked by the establishment of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (NRRC).

Given the fact that developing South and Southeast Asia are regions in Asia where disasters often occur including tsunami, earthquake and volcanic eruptions among others, it would be relevant to look at Nepal’s case in the post-earthquake reconstruction in which the bottlenecks are putting the concerted efforts in dilemma and the resulting lessons, I think, are useful for concerned developing countries across the Region.

A. Governance Dilemma: Weak Local Government vs Strong Reconstruction Demand

In general, a local government plays critical roles in post-disaster reconstruction by means of its strength in resource management, information dissemination, collaboration, coordination and balancing related agenda.

However, Nepal has long been suffering from unstable domestic politics. Prior to the 2017 local election, Nepal had major such election in in 1999 and was disrupted by the decade-long Maoist Insurgency that left the local levels with governance vacuum and accountability deficit for two decades. While the local government system was still in the building and was unable to provide enough local information, international humanitarian organizations find it hard to fulfill reconstruction tasks as they have to collaborate with the local government for all related works. Therefore, the reconstruction plan was substantially delayed and caused secondary harms to victims. Such ineffectiveness with an image of corruption also created distrust between the government and the citizens, and also between the government and donors that generated undesirable political and social obstacles.

B. Capacity Dilemma: Lagged-behind Local Capacity vs Impermanent Advanced International Support

Local capacity is important for the long-term and sustainable post-disaster reconstruction, given the humanitarian work normally focuses on the immediate and middle terms, as mandated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN’s designated coordinator for international disaster reduction.

However, Nepal, even though it has over 30 million population, does not have sufficient qualified human resources. This is due to the fact that over 2.2 million skilled Nepali youths are employed outside Nepal and the reconstruction demands some 10,000 skilled manpower that includes engineers, foremen, masons, and carpenters and another 40,000 semiskilled workers, of which only 20% can be met by the existing human capacity and the available resources. Knowledge gap is also huge, given earthquake-resistance has never been part of Nepal’s general engineering education. Meanwhile, few active international humanitarian workers, with insufficient indigenous assistance, had to stay longer and couldn’t effectively reach and serve the most vulnerable groups. Their presence also caused a big amount of donations to be spent in administration and coordination without directly benefiting the victims.

A. Reconstruction without Retrofit

In the developing South Asia and Southeast Asia, informal housing is common and even accommodates many more people than the formal housing does. Therefore, reconstruction should be together with retrofit so to be inclusive for the vulnerable victims.

In Nepal, 80% of settlements were referred as “informal”. However, in the reconstruction, those informal housing residents who did not own land and bore loss of housing were locked out from the reconstruction support. Instead, the government spent much time and resources in works that involved reconstructing the fully damaged 600,000 buildings but failed due to the unbearable cost. In fact, many traditionally informal housings stood after the earthquake, protecting lives and properties, though possessing risks of collapsing. The government did not immediately shift to retrofitting, which substantially delayed the shelter provision to victims.

B. Data-lacking Reconstruction

Big data opens a new door for post-disaster reconstruction because of the possibilities it provides in visualizing, analysing, and predicting natural disasters. However, this brings challenges to the developing South and Southeast Asia in terms of collecting, storing and analysing data due insufficient regular capacity of professionals and resources.

In Nepal’s reconstruction, the long-time absence of the effective local government led to the missing of the basic data about demographics, geography and households. The low levels of electrification and electronization caused from frequent load-shedding also constraints the maximal usage of the data in the process. Without the guiding data, a phenomenon appeared that humanitarian organizations intensively worked in the most accessible regions where they even started to build hotels, and meanwhile, left the less accessible area stranded.

C. Non-localised Reconstruction

Disasters are catalysts for change as they are increasingly recognized as opportunities to direct and navigate change towards aspired outcomes, such as sustainable development goals. Even though Nepal government published a vision, “well-planned resilient settlements and a prosperous society”, for the reconstruction, the country failed to leverage the reconstruction and rather use it as an opportunity to bring about needed changes across disaster affected communities.

Due to the insufficient number of required skilled professionals and also ineffective mobilisation of local personnel, many of the humanitarian donations didn’t reach the real victims. Rather, it was spent on salaries, accommodation and transport for the I/NGO expatriates themselves. Nepal Red Cross Society had spent USD 2.5 billion by 2018 in devastated districts, but the noticeable results of those investments are yet to be seen. Without employing local communities (people) and services, thus spent money cannot be recycled in the local economic system, and therefore cannot boom the local economy.

Policy Recommendations

The policy recommendations proposed below prioritize the works related to knowledge creation and sharing, planning with local communities and building synergy with the partners’ strengths, so to focus more on demand-driven humanitarian efforts that are in line with today’s New Humanitarianism movement.

In short term, reconstruction process should involve local people and services. Moreover, this work should involve the local service providers so as to complement reconstruction works with indigenous knowledge, needs, perceptions, behavioural patterns. Then, the stakeholders should come up with local-oriented, people-centered and disaster-resistant plan and design the overall implementation plan. This plan should prioritise the basic needs of the local people – such as shelters and food. This participatory process can mobilise the ordinary victims to proactively recover from the post-disaster traumas through employment and mutual help, and avoid relying too much on the pre-existing power structure to mis-prioritize the less vulnerable over the most. Meanwhile, an effective government and judicial system should be recovered first, in order to maintain the social order, dissimilate information and deliver the service.

For mid-term activities, reconstruction process should employ data-collection and employment of technologies and equipment to better monitor, analyse and implement the reconstruction works. These should be done after the approval and proactive support of the local stakeholders while also following the compliance requirements of respective local governments’ existing laws and regulations. A disaster-resistant code of building should also be strictly implemented in the rebuilding process, with prioritization of retrofitting the standing buildings. Meanwhile, the technology and equipment transfer and capacity building should be started that ensures creation a sustainable and self-reliant reconstruction system and the process.

In the long term, disaster-resistance and -prevention should be integrated within local school and college curriculums – General subjects and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Also, a more holistic and inclusive awareness campaign should be developed and put in place. In addition, a few disaster risk reduction teams comprising professionals from across professions and sectors should be formed autonomously from the government system with regular international channels for exchange and cooperation. This will help the concerned stakeholders to put aside their political differences and prioritize work on disasters and the related events. This, in a way, helps to avoid the potential negative impacts of local policy and political instability. Finally, a comprehensive contingency plan – that involves key people from the local governments, local communities, technocrats and the disaster experts – should be established and updated regularly, together with contingency reserve resources.

  1. Brundiers, K.; Eakin, H. C. (2018). “Leveraging Post-Disaster Windows of Opportunities for Change towards Sustainability: A Framework.” Sustainability 10, no. 5: 1390.
  2. Dobai, A. & Kanta Kafle, S. (2017, October 08). Mid Term Review of Nepal Earthquake Recovery Operation. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Retrieved from https://www.alnap.org/system/files/content/resource/files/main/MTR%20Nepal%20EQ%20final%20report.pdf
  3. Johnson, L. A. and Olshansky, R. B. (2013, July) The Road to Recovery: Governing Post-Disaster Reconstruction, Land Lines. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Retrieved from https://www.lincolninst.edu/publications/articles/road-recovery
  4. Arslan, M. Roxin, A.M., Cruz, C. and Ginhac, D. (2017). A Review on Applications of Big Data for Disaster Management. 13th International Conference on Signal-Image Technology & Internet-Based Systems (SITIS), Jaipur, India, IEEE, 4-7 Dec. 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3263/8/5/165/pdf-vor
  5. Adhikari, N. (2017, April 25). Nepal’s earthquake disaster: Two years and $4.1bn later, Opinion: Nepal. Aljazeera. Retrieved from ttps://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/04/nepal-earthquake-disaster-years-41bn-170412110550808.html
  6. National Planning Commission of Nepal. (2015). Nepal earthquake 2015: post disaster needs assessment. Retrieved from https://www.nepalhousingreconstruction.org/sites/nuh/files/2017-03/PDNA%20Volume%20A%20Final.pdf
  7. Meding, J.V., Shrestha, H. D., Kabir, H. and Ahmed, I. (2017, November 24). Nepal earthquake reconstruction won’t succeed until the vulnerability of survivors is addressed. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/nepal-earthquake-reconstruction-wont-succeed-until-the-vulnerability-of-survivors-is-addressed-87335
  8. Sharma, K., KC, A., Subedi, M. & Pokharel, B. (2018). Challenges for reconstruction after Mw7.8 Gorkha earthquake: a study on a devastated area of Nepal, Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk, 9:1, 760-790, DOI: 10.1080/19475705.2018.1480535
  9. Pokharel, T., Manandhar, M.D., Dahal, A., Chalise, B., Bhandari, R. & Kharel, TP. (2018). Political Analysis of Post-Earthquake Reconstruction in Nepal: An Assessment of Emerging Role of Local Governments. Kathmandu: Nepal Administrative Staff College and The Asia Foundation
  10. Sharma, K., KC, A., Subedi, M., & Pokharel, B. (2018). Post Disaster Reconstruction after 2015 Gorkha Earthquake: Challenges and Influencing Factors. Journal of the Institute of Engineering, 14(1), 52-63. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3126/jie.v14i1.20068
  11. Schorno, S. (2004 November). Why humanitarian assistance is not a long-term solution in the OPT. Humanitarian Practice Network. Retrieved from https://odihpn.org/magazine/why-humanitarian-assistance-is-not-a-long-term-solution-in-the-opt/
  12. Ostermann, S. (2018). Nepal in 2017: Democracy’s Festive Return, Asian Survey, Vol. 58 No. 1, January/February 2018; (pp. 134-137) DOI: 10.1525/as.2018.58.1.134
Publisher’s Note: The Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe) publishes occasional well-researched research commentaries on policy issues representing Nepal and countries in South and Southeast Asia authored by researchers around the world to inform and generate policy debates among concerned professionals and stakeholders in Asia.