Charting a New Century of UK-Nepal Friendship

Published On: February 20, 2024 09:50 PM NPT By: Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell

Andrew Mitchell

The author is UK Minister for Development and Africa.

It is wonderful to be in Nepal again. I know we have just celebrated an important milestone – one hundred years of our Nepal-Britain Treaty of Friendship. But the truth is, we go back much further. Bonds forged on the battlefields with the Gurkhas – who are rightly famed for their extraordinary courage – date back two centuries. Those admirable soldiers epitomize the deep and lasting friendship between the UK and Nepal, a friendship that continues to evolve and shape our future together.

When I last visited Nepal, over a decade ago, you were still recovering after a decade of civil war. Today, we are witnessing the fruits of progress. Ninety-two percent of people have access to electricity, up from 67% in 2011. Literacy rates have jumped from 66% to 76%, and infant mortality is nearly one third of what it was 25 years ago. You have made huge strides in economic growth. Your constitution enshrines important rights and addresses inequalities. Millions are engaging in the new democratic system. Not just at home, but abroad, Nepal is also showing it is a model citizen – whether defending the UN Charter on Ukraine or as a peacekeeping superpower.

Challenges remain

Progress has been remarkable, but Nepal still faces challenges. We need to work together to solve them. This is why today, I will set out how the UK is reshaping our development approach, focusing on eight programs that aim to deliver over £400m in grant support to Nepal by the end of the decade.

Why does the White Paper matter in Nepal?

In December, I set out a clear UK vision for development that will help us – together – get our sustainable development goals back on track. What does this mean in Nepal? Nepal is delivering great things, and the UK is proud to support its initiatives, including on Green Resilient and Inclusive Development. I've seen how the UK-Nepal partnership is evolving. I've met members of a Dalit community in Karnali who are better able to grow crops thanks to UK-backed climate-resilient irrigation. I met dedicated professionals at Butwal hospital helping end preventable deaths. The UK’s new development approach focuses on Nepali leadership and systems, on mobilizing money, on opportunities for all, and on securing a future for young Nepalis - a future in Nepal. This portfolio is not just about ‘good projects delivering great things’ but it is a joint, coherent approach, based on strong evidence, and focused on strong outcomes. Spanning economic transformation, climate resilience, stronger social services, inclusion, and much more besides.

How will we do this?

First, we will work with the government to unlock money for Nepal to mobilize funding for development and growth – which, in turn, will generate further investment. The private sector is central to this work. There is no doubt in my mind that the private sector is the engine, not the enemy, of development. The private sector creates jobs, puts food on the table, turbocharges growth, and enables societies to thrive on their own terms. We are committed to expanding this and supporting the government’s investment summit – though I stress how vital it is that investors have the right environment. For example, legal reforms and ensuring all actions needed to avoid the Financial Action Task Force grey-list. We aim to mobilize private capital – helping the government remove barriers to attract investors, supporting the sort of excellent engagement Minister Mahat had with the City of London last year. We are helping develop a Sovereign Credit rating, helping Green Bonds, helping Investment Board Nepal get the best deals. It will help Nepal access climate finance and work with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank,  and others to help the country deal with the threats of climate change. Developing the economy will also help create productive, attractive jobs such as those Upaya - the delivery company – is creating with UK support. And I am looking forward to meeting young innovators who, with UK support, are using technology to identify climate risks.

Second, our new portfolio will help tackle the climate change crisis and deliver economic transformation. Yesterday I flew over the Himalayas and saw firsthand the beauty and the fragility of glaciers that took thousands of years to form but are melting three times faster than elsewhere. Our work with Nepal will help protect the most vulnerable here and beyond, recognizing the Hindu Kush Himalaya supports a quarter of the world’s population. We will not sit back when reports suggest 80% of the ice here could be gone by the end of the century. Yesterday I also saw how British International Investment is helping Nepal realize some of its immense potential in green energy, at Upper Trishuli Hydropower Plant. Our new development portfolio will further support Nepal to access private and UN climate finance for projects like this and wider adaptation. It will help Nepal to plan for risk – like developing early warning systems through our RAIN program.

Our third offer focuses on women and girls: I’ve always said that to understand development, you need to see the world through the eyes of women and girls. I also plan to meet inspiring Nepali women leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists who spoke about their passions and ambitions. Increasing opportunities for women – which starts by ensuring every girl has a chance at a decent education - is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do. The most successful societies are the most inclusive; built around equality of opportunity for all. Finally, we will harness innovation and new technologies. Research, digital, AI, and data will underpin what we do and how we deliver.


I want to assure you that my visit is just part of the UK’s lasting and sustained engagement with Nepal. We have a tremendous chance now to galvanize the private sector's work in Nepal, and Britain will be your friend at your side throughout this process because the conflicts that damaged Nepal in the past are in the past. And because of the fact that BII is investing here on the ground now and will be a leader for so many others, now is the time through the use of the private sector, the ability of the private sector to deliver huge amounts of investment, huge numbers of jobs, and huge amounts of tax, which is so important to any government. Now is the time on the back of the Investment Summit that you are holding at the end of April, that we can see real progress made with the laws that are going through your Cabinet and your Parliament. We can see they are clearly set in action, put in place, to assure the private sector that here is a welcoming environment in which they can pride and prosper. You are, and remain, our uniquely close and valued partner. Today, I have outlined how that partnership will respond to the opportunities and the challenges we share, as we enter a new century of friendship. And today I salute that friendship and say, here’s to the next 100 years of working together.

The author is UK Minister for Development and Africa. This is an edited version of his speech at the Ministry of Finance in Kathmandu after the signing of the new UK Development Portfolio on Tuesday.


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