Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Social Dimensions Of Development Projects

Udbodh Bhandari

The United Nations Committee on Development Policy (CDP) has recommended that Nepal be graduated from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category after a five-year preparation period. This means that Nepal's graduation will take effect in 2026. For this, the social dimension of development has an imperative role in mitigate the intensity of poverty consequently. Among many development partners of Nepal, the World Bank (WB) has been the key agent contributing to her development endeavours.

As an essential part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the WB, the Social Dimensions of Adjustment (SDA) Project has a multitude of implications for improving the living standard of local people. The project helps governments in implementing its poverty reduction strategy in many of the developing countries, which have borrowed or have been granted money for development projects. This strategy is accomplished by procuring basic services like health and education coupled with devising improved population planning. Such a poverty reduction scheme can further be undertaken through the endorsement of job creation and expediting the job placement. Cultivating opportunities for women by ensuring their participation in development activities is another measure to achieve the poverty reduction targets.
Besides, in the course of implementing social policies for lessening the magnitude of poverty, institutional capabilities are strengthened. More importantly, basic social infrastructure is made available to the poor in this mega endeavour. Here, social infrastructure is a multi-layered compound that combines the activities of institutions, organisations, and bureaus of a municipality to meet its residents' basic needs and interests. Understanding all elements of social infrastructure and their concurrent development in a healthy economic, political, environmental, psychological, physical, and social setting is critical to achieving quality of life. Social security, intergenerational coexistence, and social stability are, therefore, guaranteed by effective and sustainable development of social infrastructure.
Furthermore, to help projects in developing countries like ours to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity, the WB's Environmental and Social Framework has established 10 environmental and social standards (ESS). Although the application of all the ESSs can make a significant contribution to raising the people's living standard and improving the quality of life, ESS 5 (land acquisition, restrictions on land use and involuntary resettlement) and ESS 10 (stakeholder engagement and information disclosure) have a crucial role to play in empowering the project-affected local people (PALP) and securing their socio-economic and cultural rights. The former acknowledges that project-related land acquisition and land-use restrictions can harm communities and individuals.
Project land purchases or land-use restrictions may bring about a physical displacement resulting in relocation, loss of residential property or a loss of shelter, or economic displacement leading to the loss of land, property, or access to the property giving rise to the loss of sources of income or other livelihoods or the both. It abets in mitigating the unavoidable negative social and economic effects of land acquisition or restrictions on land use by providing timely compensation for asset loss at replacement cost and assisting displaced persons in their efforts to improve or at least restore their livelihoods and living standards.
The latter distinguishes open and transparent engagement between the borrower (respective country borrowing the money for the project) and project stakeholders (here, individuals or groups who are affected or likely to be affected by the project: project-affected parties; and those who may have an interest in the project: other interested parties) as an essential component of good international practice. Effective stakeholder engagement can improve project environmental and social sustainability, increase project acceptance, and contribute significantly to successful project design and implementation. In this sense, by focusing on the identification and management of environmental and social risks, recipient countries like ours will be able to achieve the goals of reducing poverty and sustainably increasing prosperity for the benefit of the environment and their citizens.
Similarly, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is another leading partner or international development agency supporting Nepal's ongoing development activities. In this regard, poverty and social dimensions are central to current ADB policies and are an integral part of its vision of a poverty-free Asia-Pacific region. ADB's mission is to help the developing countries reduce poverty and improve people's living condition. Understanding needs, capacities and preferences of the project stakeholders is an important part of poverty and social analysis. Social dimensions like gender, ethnicity, caste, age, and so on influence decision-making, access to services and resources, and risk-taking opportunities. Gender and social inclusion is also a key cross-cutting topic.
Besides, the promotion of "social dialogue" between excluded, disadvantaged groups (indigenous peoples, Dalits, women, Madhesi), migrant workers, and youths, on the one hand, and development team led by social safeguard specialist, on the other, has been a key component of development activities funded or credited by development agencies. Formation of the Local Consultative Forums (LCF) consisting of all sectors of the population (women, disadvantaged, marginalised, or vulnerable people and ward representative of municipalities) can galvanise into this effort. Such dialogue is conducted on the premise that sustainability is impossible without social justice and the empowerment of socially and economically disadvantaged groups in all aspects of life. Almost all development agencies of Nepal have focused on addressing long-lasting obstacles to development and laid down priority on those excluded from economic and social opportunities.

Social sustainability
In this context, increasing investment in inclusive growth reflects social sustainability and inclusion, which is formerly known as social development. Moreover, providing employment opportunity to PALP; making vulnerable community development plan (VCDP) for the vulnerable and disadvantaged group within the corridor of impact (COI) or zone of impact (ZOI) of the project; conducting multiple discussions and interactions with PALP with the application of people-centered development approaches like 'bottom-up approach', 'participatory development approach', 'self-reliant approach' can boost up the social dimension of development. By complying with existing practices and principles of ‘social development’, Nepal can largely be enabled to mitigate poverty and graduate herself from the LDC status.

(A social development specialist, Bhandari teaches Sociology/Anthropology and Research in the management stream.