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The House of Lords addresses key issues for Dalits and Tribals in Nepal

17th December 2021

Representatives of the APPG for Dalits have been hard at work again, this time on the position of Nepal. Lord Harries of Pentregarth asked ‘what progress [the UK government] have made towards their commitments to providing (1) health services, (2) water and sanitation, and (3) access to justice, for marginalised communities in Nepal, including Dalits and Adivasis’.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon answered on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), stating that the UK targets development support at the most marginalised communities, and provides support to the Ministry of Health to ensure the most vulnerable are covered. He added that in 2021 they changed their support structure so that 400,000 of those most at risk were provided with water, sanitation and health facilities.

Lord Harries then asked the Minister as to why no Dalits had been appointed to the National Dalit Commission or the new National Human Rights Commission. The response was that there were encouraging signs of progress, as in 2017 roughly 22% of locally elected government positions were held by Dalit communities. However, Lord Ahmad agreed that the government will continue to lobby on strengthening human rights.

Lord Alton of Liverpool pressed again on the lack of representation of Dalits themselves on the National Human Rights Commission and the National Dalit Commission, and asked whether this would be specifically raised with the Nepalese government. He also asked whether there were any figures on the percentage of Dalits and Adivasis who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and indeed the death rates compared to the rest of the population. It was confirmed that 24% of HMG’s support targeted vulnerable groups, including Dalits, but no further figures were forthcoming.

Lord Collins of Highbury asked whether, during the Prime Minister’s special envoy’s visit to Nepal to discuss girls’ education, representatives of the Dalit community attended. The response was that all communities were involved. Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top also asked about the UK aid programme now that cuts have been made to funding, stressing that the Strengthening Access to Holistic Gender Responsive and Accountable Justice (SAHAJ) programme had been very successful, particularly with women and girls from the Dalit community, but that their future was now in financial jeopardy. Baroness Armstrong added that the VSO (who run the SAHAJ programme) need to know whether finances will be provided, in order to effectively work with its partners in Nepal. Lord Ahmad replied that he was in direct contact with VSO, appreciated their valuable work, and would look into it very closely.

Our thanks go out to the APPG for Dalits for continuing to keep caste-based discrimination on the agenda and ensuring that the government is held accountable for bringing up difficult subjects with their counterparts overseas.