UNCDF was represented in the seminar by Neil Webster, Chief Technical Advisor in Nepal who shared lessons learnt while developing the Human Development and Social Protection Pilot in Nepal. The project is being pilot tested in Kanchanpur and Dadeldhura districts with funding support from the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the World Bank (WB). The pilot initiative involves the Ministry of Local Development (MLD) as well as the Ministry of Education (MoE) in the management of a cash transfer payment to poor households. The initial time-frame for the project is 2 years with an estimated cost of about USD 4 million and it will benefit an estimated 24,000 children of school going age in the two pilot districts.
Rather than directly aiming to reduce poverty, the programme in Nepal is working to facilitate increased access to schooling for children in an attempt to affect many poverty-related outcomes. Nepal's challenging geography has resulted in an inefficient delivery system for cash-transfers, which has resulted in leakage and lost man-hours in administration offices. Nepal is seeking to develop its electronic payment system, which will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the cash transfers. Moreover the introduction of mobile networks provides the unprecedented opportunity to deepen financial inclusion in the Himalayan country.
In discussing the presentation, seminar participants presented questions with regards to the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms, as well as the sustainability and scale up of the programme in the future. In these aspects the Regional Technical Adviser reminded the seminar’s participants that the very first objective of a pilot is to gather empirical data. In this sense, the Human Development and Social Protection Pilot originates from the UNCDF-UNDP Discussion Paper “Local Government and Social Protection: making service delivery available for the most vulnerable” and seeks to pilot test some of the central ideas put forward in the publication. In Nepal, UNCDF and its partner in the pilot, the World Bank, have been actively engaging with different line ministries to ensure successful scale up and sustainability once the piloting phase is over.