Research to understand the effects of political decentralization  

After decades of civil war and political turmoil, Nepal ratified a new federal constitution in 2015. Elections in 2017 voted in more than 30,000 first-time politicians to newly empowered local offices. This political transformation offers an extraordinary opportunity to address poverty and give more Nepalis a greater stake in their country’s future – but federalism remains controversial, and the transition is challenging.

In Nepal, federal Covid-relief funds were provided to local municipalities in adherence to the standard rules used to distribute relief funds for other disasters; rural areas subject to frequent flooding and earthquakes received more per capita as compared to urban areas, leaving them under-resourced for dealing with high caseloads.

In collaboration with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, researchers at Inclusion Economics at Yale University, Governance Lab, and the London School of Economics are exploring how current policies and programs are addressing Nepal’s long-standing political and economic inequities. The goal is to demonstrate how rigorous research can be relevant to meeting three major policy goals in Nepal: a successful transition to federalism, broader economic transformation, and more inclusive economic development. Research efforts include a large-scale exercise to track and understand the transition to federalism, analysis of administrative and secondary datasets, and the design of evaluations – in partnership with government and UKaid – of specific institutions and programs.

The project seeks answers on a range of questions, including: What policies and programs can best support positive change in a rapidly evolving political environment? What is enabling or constraining inclusive growth, state capacity, public services, private sector activity, civic engagement, and transparency and accountability? How can development partners use their limited resources to support political and economic inclusion? The project, currently in its implementation phase, aims to build a practical evidence base for Nepal and its supporters about what is working, what is not, and why.

Related Publications

Read more about RENT's research on the country's transition to federalism, and what this has meant for marginalized groups.

Measuring the Impact of Increased Political Representation on Historically underrepresented Castes in Nepal

Following the People's War in 2006, Nepal's new federation allowed for increased political representation of historically underrepresented castes. However, researchers find that it is the elected official's level of education, rather than caste affiliation, which appears to have the most positive impact on constituents.

Evaluating the Effect of Increased Female Political Representation in Nepal

In 2017, gender quotas brought an unprecedented wave of women in Nepal's local elected offices. Researchers find that increased female political representation may expand focus on policies favored by women and increase women's leadership aspirations. However, men still tend to dominate in higher positions of power.

Assessing the Performance of Nepal's Local Governments in 2019

In 2017, Nepal welcomed a new wave of local elected officials for a five-year term. In 2019, at the halfway milestone in the political term, a new survey assesses the local governments' performances in their legal, administrative, planning, and budgeting capacities.

Data Management to Enable Nepal's Covid-19 Response

Nepal's Crisis Management Information System (CMIS) collects local data to help the federal government allocate funds to local governments during the Covid-19 crisis. RENT research examines methods to support and strengthen the CMIS database to improve Nepal's Covid-19 Response.

Deploying Social Programs to Distribute Covid Cash Transfers

Researchers argue for a group-targeted cash transfer scheme that is implemented on the local level and makes use of an already existing social program to quickly and effectively roll out Covid-19 benefits.

Health Capacity and Local Covid Response

Researchers find that higher uptake of Covid-19 testing and tracing are associated with municipalities with higher levels of pre-existing health capacity, rather than actual caseload.

Understanding the Preferences and Perceptions of Young Voters

As Nepal gears up for local elections, it is important that the programs of political parties are informed by the priorities of citizens. In this memo, we use data from a citizen survey (SNP) conducted by Kathmandu University, Interdisciplinary Analysts and Asia Foundation in Feb-March 2020 to shed some light on citizen preferences and perceptions, especially in relation to local governments.

Local Government Official Priorities and Responsiveness

In theory, decentralized political systems can better represent the views and needs of local constituents as local governments have more information on citizen preferences relative to higher-tier governments. Geographic proximity may also help citizens better hold their representatives accountable. This brief asks how policy goals of elected politicians and appointed officials compare with citizen priorities.

Is Nepal on a Path Towards Gender Inclusive Political Leadership? An Analysis of the 2022 Local Level Elections

Did Nepal make further progress toward gender equality in the second round of elections in May 2022? To analyze temporal changes in Nepal’s gender representation, this brief draws on a comprehensive administrative dataset of candidates and elected representatives in the 2017 and 2022 local elections, provided by the Election Commission of Nepal.

About the Project

Principal Investigators:

Implementation Partners:

This research has received support from: