Decentralization and Candidate Selection

Daayitwa is facilitating research of Harvard University’s Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) on Nepal’s decentralization and candidate selection processes. The study intends to understand the impact of decentralization on governance and public service delivery. The key goal of decentralization is to expand citizens’ access to political institutions through the facilitation of contact with politicians and by broadening the talent pool of potential candidates. The study will utilize this institution to better understand a fundamental question of democratic performance: who becomes a politician?

To do so, the study seeks to combine existing data sources from the recent election in Nepal with the population census data. First, the recent elections yielded a wealth of data on the 34,908 locally elected politicians in addition to the thousands of unsuccessful candidates. The research project involves collecting and cleaning all available data on candidates and winners from the recent rounds of local elections. Second, the study will utilize the Disaster Needs Assessment Census Data collected following the 2015 earthquake to provide crucial background information on candidates and newly elected politicians. The study will (1) collect, collate, and clean administrative election data on party lists, candidate lists, and election outcomes and (2) collect and merge reconstruction census data with election data. This data will both be a valuable resource to others seeking to understand the decentralization process in Nepal and will help to shed light on the candidates chosen for local office and their ultimate efficacy. A secondary output of the project will be to identify how well the Disaster assessment census can be used for potentially identifying the right population for social protection programs and to provide a summary on what social protection programs may be valuable.

This project will take a first step in understanding the consequences of Nepal’s political decentralization, ideally helping the government of Nepal to refine these new institutions, develop the capacity of locally elected representatives, and ultimately improve service delivery. A secondary aim is to provide a policy document on how Nepal’s social protection programs may be best reconfigured to leverage the twin combination of new political institutions and fast expanding digital governance technologies.


Community Engagement and Lottery Efficiency

Harvard University researcher Abraham Holland in partnership with Daayitwa is studying the role of community preferences in driving the viability of village relocation programs following the 2015 earthquake. In particular, Holland is working on the Nepal Reconstruction Authority’s (NRA) village resettlement program in an effort to shift high-risk communities to safer, previously unsettled locations. The key challenge of this program is to fairly and transparently allocate new private residential space to households, while maintaining individual and overall community satisfaction with the relocation effort.

In 2015, Nepal’s challenges were compounded when a series of massive earthquakes leveled 800,000 homes and destroyed entire villages. For 112 internally-displaced communities, the devastation caused the government to deem the original village location uninhabitable. As part of a new Village Relocation Program, officials intend to relocate entire villages to new, ostensibly safer, locations.  Interestingly, efforts to improve program effectiveness by being more sensitive to individual preferences may risk further conflict and run afoul with the informal structures that have supported these communities for nearly a generation. As such, the central research question of this study is: what is the role of community preferences in driving the viability of village relocation programs following natural disasters?

The NRA plans to administer land lotteries in villages selected via local surveys in each affected district. The research project focuses on potential drivers behind the popularity of different lottery types, social preferences, and seeks to understand its implications for community engagement efforts supporting the plot allocation process. The study examines how features of environments with strong informal governance systems may undermine the effectiveness of well-intentioned community engagement efforts and how choice-based approaches can be used in informal contexts without further risk of social conflict.