BY LASSE BJØRN JOHANNESSEN
Today, all over Norway, we are celebrating the Norwegian constitution day. Children are parading in the streets, with the Norwegian flag, wearing our traditional costumes, and singing traditional songs. Today is the people’s day in Norway.
The Norwegian constitution was promulgated in 1814, and it is Europe’s oldest constitution still in use. The constitution that we got in 1814 was the starting point for the modern Norwegian democracy, when the executive and judicial power was taken from the king and given to the people through their elected representatives.
The constitution was drafted against a backdrop of great political upheaval and Napoleonic wars in Europe. Norway had been at constant wars with our Swedish and Danish neighbours, each allied with important European powers. With the new constitution in 1814, an era of peace started between Norway and our Nordic neighbours. A peace that has lasted for more than 200 years, and is still lasting today.
Even though the constitution laid the foundation for Norway’s modern democracy, it did not all come in place in 1814. More than 300 amendments have been made since 1814, and every generation since our forefathers met and promulgated the constitution in 1814 have been fighting to defend the constitution and democracy, as they have been fighting to develop Norway into a modern, developed, nation.
It is with gratitude and humbleness that we who represent present generation Norwegians do our best to protect and promote our freedom and our democracy for the generations yet to come.
In Nepal, a lot has happened over the last year. You have been holding successful local, provincial and federal elections that have been free and fair.
The successful completion of these elections is a milestone for the implementation of the new Constitution of Nepal. It also represents a major breakthrough in transforming Nepal into a federal state. Nepal’s peace and constitutional reform processes may serve as inspiration for other countries. You have all the reason to be proud of your Constitution and your achievements.
Nepal now has a historic opportunity to promote economic development and inclusive growth.
Norway is a long-standing partner of Nepal. We first got involved here in the hydropower sector in the 1960s. The hydropower sector has been of immense importance for Norway as the main driver of industrialization and inclusive growth. Here in Nepal, you have the same potential. The water in your rivers is your gold.
Norway has been a long time partner of Nepal in developing the hydro-power sector. Two small hydropower plants were built already in the 1960s. I recently visited another Norwegian built and operated hydro-power plant in Khimti, the first plant in Nepal built with foreign direct investment according to the Build-Own- Operate-Transfer model.
Norwegian cooperation has a strong focus on building competence and transfer of technology. Norwegian programs have helped to set up institutions such as Butwal Power Company, Butwal Technical Institute and Hydro Lab here in Kathmandu. These institution and companies are all contributing to the development of the hydropower sector in Nepal today.
Our academic institutions also have long term partnerships with universities in Nepal. One prominent example is the collaboration between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where many Nepali obtained their engineering degrees, and the Kathmandu University. These partnerships both do joint research projects and produce highly skilled professionals for the energy sector.
Today we are also financing the building of transmission and distribution infrastructure together with the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Nepal.
Until now, most hydropower schemes in Nepal have been small or medium in size. Nepal today has the competence and the know how to go from being a small producer, to graduating into a higher league.
I hope that Nepal now will seize the opportunity to make the country an investor friendly destination for larger FDI-projects in the hydro-power sector. Hydro-power transformed Norway from an agriculture based to an industry based society, and the same can happen here.
Norway is also engaged in the education sector in Nepal. Norway is financing the rebuilding of 36 schools in the areas that were hit by the devastating earth-quakes in 2015.
A few weeks back, I visited and opened together with my German colleague, H.E. Roland Schafer, a school that Norway has financed and the German Development Agency has built, in Rasuwa District, one of the districts hardest hit by the earth-quakes.
It was really heartening to meet the children who lost so much in 2015, and who now will receive their education in a modern school building with electricity and new technical equipment. We were met with smiles, flowers, songs and dance. As a development partner of Nepal, I would like to say that the smiles of the children we met in Rasuwa mean more than a thousand words. They mean optimism and a belief in the future.
Norway is also supporting Nepal’s School Sector Education Program. I am pleased to see the good results that Nepal is achieving in providing inclusive education for all. Norway will continue to support the Government of Nepal in achieving a better education system all over the country.
Let me end by noting that Nepal has expressed its commitment to attain by 2030 the 17 goals and 169 targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Government’s vision is “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali”. Norway stands fully behind the Government of Nepal in its ambitions to develop Nepal into a prosperous country with inclusive growth. We look forward to be your development partner in achieving these ambitious goals, and to support you in ensuring that “No-one (is) left behind”.
(Excerpt of the remarks made by Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal Lasse Bjørn Johannessen at the reception hosted on the occasion of Constitution Day of Norway, on 17 May.)
Nepal’s peace and constitutional reform an inspiration for other countries
BY LASSE BJØRN JOHANNESSEN