Discourses of development and nation-building in Nepal's state responses to post-earthquake reconstruction and post-conflict reconciliation

Authors: Courtney Balaz-Munn*, University of Toronto
Topics: Political Geography, Development
Keywords: reconstruction, reconciliation, truth and reconciliation commission, earthquake, expertise, Nepal, development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Cleveland 1, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2015, the Government of Nepal created new agencies to address two issues of national upheaval: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate and provide compensation for human rights abuses perpetrated during Nepal’s ten-year civil conflict (1996-2006), and the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to coordinate reconstruction processes and disburse aid funds following the devastating 2015 earthquakes. Both organizations are centrally-coordinated, state-driven attempts to address national-scale traumatic events through programs that provide redress and compensation at the scale of individuals/households, yet they have rarely been analyzed alongside each other as mechanisms of development. In this paper, I consider how development and nation-building are represented in relation to reconciliation (via the TRC) and reconstruction (via the NRA). Drawing from document analysis and qualitative interviews with government and civil society experts conducted in the Kathmandu Valley in 2018, this paper highlights the experiences, understandings, and knowledge production of those urban, educated elites with the power to both assert and contest discourses embedded in policies that impact the lives of the poor and marginalized. I identify, critically interrogate, and compare the discourses of development/destruction, progress/backwardness, and national unity/disunity that underlie “expert” understandings of reconstruction and reconciliation in Nepal. Contextualizing these processes in Nepal’s ongoing political transitions, this paper contributes to discussions around the interlinkages between post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction processes.

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