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The politics of citizen-centric governance in post-earthquake Nepal

Dhungana, Nimesh (2019) The politics of citizen-centric governance in post-earthquake Nepal. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Set in the contested climate following the 2015 Nepal earthquake, this thesis examines the politics of disaster governance from the perspective of disaster-affected citizens. The thesis draws on three distinct debates on governance of disasters, with the notions of citizen-centric monitoring, enforcement of voice and conditions for voice jointly setting the conceptual framework for the thesis. The main body of the thesis comprises three distinct yet interrelated empirical projects that draw on interview and ethnographic data collected through over five months of field work in Nepal. Paper 1, based on interviews with a mix of early responders to the Nepal earthquake, investigates the multidirectional accountability demands facing early responders, not only from donors and beneficiaries of aid, but also from the national government and wider publics. The paper shows that accountability is a live issue confronting early responders and argues that public interrogation and criticisms constitute a critical form of citizen-centric politics in post-disaster context, geared at promoting preventive action against misguided governance of disaster. Paper 2 is a case study of a civil society-driven accountability initiative in post- earthquake Nepal. The paper shows how such initiative sought to amplify local ‘voice’ regarding failures in the aid delivery and expanded local spaces for dialogue between disaster- affected communities and local powerholders. Attention is drawn to the ways in which a donor-driven, technical mode of accountability and ambiguous lines of authority undermined the local civil society actors’ efforts to promote inclusive and accountable governance of disaster. Paper 3 explores the politics of participatory governance within the state-induced post-disaster reconstruction. The nature of politics is revealed in terms of the state actors’ efforts to instrumentalise participatory spaces to legitimise their vision of ‘owner-led reconstruction’, on the one hand, and the local communities’ growing political awareness about their legitimate expectations and entitlements in relation to the state actors, on the other. Overall, the thesis argues that disasters are not merely an epicentre of human suffering but have the potential to trigger multiple forms of citizen-centric and civil society-based initiatives to influence the nature and practice of disaster governance, which tend to divert from and challenge the commonly understood bureaucratic form of disaster governance propagated by the State and the international humanitarian sector. While the empirical studies show that the transformative potential of such initiatives is often constrained by the State and international actors’ refusal to cede power, they offer disaster-affected citizens the opportunity to interrogate and interpret the powerholders’ actions, making them politically aware of their neglect and failures in ensuring inclusive and accountable governance of disaster.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Nimesh Dhungana
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Methodology
Supervisor: Cornish, Flora

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