As I come to the end of my fellowship at Accountability Lab Nepal’s office in Kathmandu, I have been reflecting on what I have learnt over the past five months.
By Iona Eckstein
As I come to the end of my fellowship at Accountability Lab Nepal’s office in Kathmandu, I have been reflecting on what I have learnt over the past five months. Having worked on a range of programs including Integrity Idol, Citizen Helpdesks and other accountability-related projects, I feel fortunate to have experienced so much in a short time.
So without further ado, here are 5 things I have learnt from my time in Nepal….
- The decentralisation process provides the opportunity for real growth in democratic and inclusive governance – if it’s done right. As a response to the varied demography, geography and lifestyles of Nepalis, the government has been undergoing a process of decentralisation since 2015. This has led to the reconfiguration of the country into 7 provinces and 753 local government units, replacing the previous 5 development regions. Such a huge change to the political structure marks an important new era for Nepal which could result in a more responsive and accountable government. However, decentralisation also carries the risk of the ‘decentralisation of corruption,’ which could lead to the corruption of service provision at the local level as well as the elite capture of local resources. Due to this risk, the decentralisation process must be taken seriously and concerns from the community and newly elected local representatives must be listened to.
- Being involved in the Integrity Idol campaign was hugely enjoyable and rewarding! I was lucky enough to be involved with the Integrity Idol 2018 campaign, as it was all hands on deck during the lead up to the award ceremony. Attending the ceremony was an immensely enjoyable and energising experience. There was a great atmosphere amongst all the attendees – from volunteers to VIP guests, the Accountability Lab team and the idols themselves. While setting up the venue, orienting the media representatives, and greeting the guests, I enjoyed every minute of the ceremony and shared the huge sense of achievement with the rest of the Accountability Lab Nepal team.
- Migration is an important, but complex, part of life in Nepal. Through the Citizen Helpdesk project, I learnt about the first-hand experiences of migrants leaving Nepal to work abroad. Migration is undoubtedly an invaluable asset to Nepal with remittances making up around 30% of GDP. But, despite the huge developmental contribution made by Nepali migrants to both their home and host country, they face a myriad of issues during their migration, including high fees charged by recruitment agencies, confiscation of passports on arrival, injury during work and lack of support from the government (Read about the experience of returnee migrants here).
- Cross-cultural exchange with my colleagues was a great part of my experience in Nepal. While celebrating the Hindu Dashain festival by flying kites on the office roof, going on a trip to the ancient city of Bhaktapur, and attending the Nepali wedding of a colleague, I learnt all about the rich and colourful culture of Nepal. My small contribution to this exchange was to organise an office ‘Secret Santa,’ which went down surprisingly well in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas!
- Accountability is an essential part of development. My final lesson from Nepal is that accountability is an unequivocal requirement for fair, equal and responsive development, wherever you call home. In Nepal, accountability around migration, local budgeting and disaster relief has been the focus of Accountability Lab’s work. Accountability within the government is the obvious example, but we as individuals can also uphold the values of accountability by taking full responsibility for our actions and making decisions we stand behind. I hope to put these values into practice in both my personal and professional life.