In the past several decades, Nepal has made substantial progress in achieving sustainable development despite major challenges – including a long-running civil conflict which ended in 2006. By 2015, the country had sharply reduced the poverty and maternal mortality rates while increasing educational enrollment, meeting or exceeding several of the Millennium Development Goals in the process. But the next phase of Nepal’s development will be difficult as the country pushes to move out of the "Least Developed Countries" category, eliminate extreme poverty, and encourage further sustainable growth in all sectors of the economy.
Inclusive growth through UNNATI
It is with these difficulties in mind that the Governments of Denmark and Nepal agreed to implement an inclusive growth programme entitled UNNATI (which means prosperity or progress in Nepali). This programme seeks to promote inclusive sustainable growth that will reduce poverty and improve living standards. To meet these goals, funding is provided for projects at both the micro and macro levels, with mutually reinforcing benefits that will last beyond the programme’s funding.
These projects take many forms: helping the Nepalese government set national policy and regulatory frameworks conductive to business, supporting the development of critical infrastructure to encourage private sector growth, and working directly with companies to improve their value chains. UNNATI was launched in January 2014 and ran for five years until December 2018 and represented a strong commitment to sustainable growth in Nepal, with an overall budget of DKK 400 million (approximately EUR 53.5 million).
Measuring results for ongoing improvement
Every country is unique and requires different types of programmes to foster the kind of growth required. Contextual factors such as political history, geography, and economy all combine in unexpected and challenging ways. This means that programmes such as UNNATI, which represent significant monetary investment and are implemented over the course of multiple years, have an opportunity for constant improvement and adjustment.
Making changes to ongoing programmes is impossible without practical, reliable information about performance.
That’s where NIRAS has been able to apply our expertise. We implemented a comprehensive monitoring and results measurement (MRM) system that is embedded within UNNATI to let the programme's implementing partners see what the impact of the various interventions were and make changes to improve their efficacy where necessary.
A more complete picture from outside the office
The most fundamentally important part of MRM is comprehensive and reliable data, so a major task for our team was to spend substantial time out of the Kathmandu country office and out in the field, collecting information first-hand to establish a baseline for how different programmes were performing. The process of setting up consistent and regular reporting mechanisms to allow for the continuous collection of new data is part skills training and part procedural, requiring a hands-on approach from the beginning so we can be certain that all parts of the system are working properly. Analysing the information gathered from the monitoring system takes another set of skills, and a part of NIRAS's job was to produce reporting with useful insights and actionable steps to improve performance. We also conducted studies on critical subjects such as UNNATI’s effect on gender roles, women’s burden of labour, and women’s economic empowerment.