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South Asia Peace Initiative

Movement for the Underprivileged Launched in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, Nepal – “This may be the first joint venture between the corporate sector and civil society for generating self-employment in Nepal!” These words from Mr. Ravi Jaipuria, Chairman of RJ Corp (PepsiCo India), helped launch the “Movement for the Underprivileged” (MUP) in Kathmandu on March 11, 2008.

Two multimillion dollar business houses, the Chaudhary Group in Nepal (net worth $250 million) and the RJ Corp from India (net worth $400 million), joined hands with two non-profit NGOs, the Healing Touch from India and the Universal Peace Federation of Nepal. Their goal: “To Make Poverty History,” the slogan coined by Healing Touch and the primary objective of MUP.

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 Nepal faces the uncertainty of elections and limps along at just under 2.5 percent annual growth rate. (India, by comparison, is Asia’s fourth largest economy with a yearly growth rate over 9.4 percent, 2006-07.) In Nepal’s uncertain environment, members of the Communist Party (Maoists), professional gangsters, and hoodlums randomly extort businessmen and common people for huge bribes under the pretext of soliciting donations for the upcoming elections and raising funds for national development. The police are overextended and the army is in their barracks.

By establishing MUP, UPF along with the other MUP founding-partners, have offered the leaders of Nepal a positive, potentially more powerful, alternative route to peace and prosperity.

The day after launching the poverty eradication program, a delegation from MUP visited Mr. Prachanda, the Chairman of the Maoist party. The UPF-led coalition, in effect, provided a model that was scalable and replicable—and importantly—which has the possibility to raise far more funds for national development without the strong-armed intimidation which inevitably leads to resentment and retaliation.

When Dr. Julia Kim, Co-Chair of UPF-Asia, explained about “parentism” as the ideal model of good governance, Prachanda was very intrigued. He was also sincerely appreciative of the MUP model which could help develop Nepal and asked for more detailed meetings after the elections.

Under the leadership of Amb. K.V. Rajan, the former Indian Ambassador to Nepal and the Chair of UPF-Asia’s Regional Peace Council, this project aims at enabling those in the most vulnerable sections of society to be self-supporting, earn a respectable living, live in dignity, and make a contribution to society. Rajan’s personal relationships of mutual respect and trust has been the lynch pin for this international partnership.

The Indian diplomat emphasized that “this project reflects the belief that civil society groups and corporate sectors on both sides of the border can work together to make a meaningful contribution to the common search for human security, greater prosperity, and sustainable peace.”

The project envisages micro-level financing coupled with subsidized products supplied on consignment to provide income-generating capacity and employment opportunities in areas of greatest need. And each of the founder-partners contributes from its own expertise.

PepsiCo will be providing soft drinks and other beverages on concession at special rates for the project. They will use their network of distributors to train and support the beneficiaries.

The Chaudhary Group (CG) is the largest corporate group in Nepal. They are the distributors for LG, the giant electronic company from South Korea. Mr. Nirvana Chaudhary, Director for CG, reached into the depth of his heart to explain that, “We in the Chaudhary Group are extremely, extremely…, not only honored, but are so happy that we’ve been given a chance to participate in this initiative.”

He went on to say that not only would they be providing LG refrigerators at subsidized prices, CG would also work out the micro-financing component of the project.

The project model is based on the success of the Healing Touch in India. Mr. Mukesh Anand, founder and chairman, started the program in December 2000 by rehabilitating ex-servicemen, wounded soldiers, and war widows.

Rather than just giving low-interest loans, Anand, the son of an army officer, reached out to corporate sponsors. He asked them to provide food products and manufactured goods, which they already produced, to men and women in need. "We don't give money freely," he stressed at the meeting in Kathmandu, "Instead, we give love and affection freely."

PepsiCo was the first to accept Anand's concept, which resonated with their concept of "corporate social responsibility." The idea is simple: successful companies have a responsibility to society, beyond just making more and more money. Business enterprises are in the position to offer products which they already produce at, or near, cost to help people help themselves.

Since its inception, Healing Touch has been able to resettle over 1,400 people using this small-scale, self-employment project model. For his efforts, Anand received PepsiCo's highest honor, the Harvey C. Russell award given in January 2008 by Pepsi's international CEO, Indian-born Indra Nooyi. The award is named in honor of Harvey C. Russell, vice-president of corporate planning for Pepsi-Cola Company and the first African-American vice president of a major corporation.

Pepsi hired Russell in 1962, at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. The website of PepsiCo explains the courage, controversy, and conviction behind this decision: "In spite of Ku Klux Klan attempts to organize a national boycott against Pepsi, the company (stood) firm in its decision."

For its part, the Universal Peace Federation of Nepal will select beneficiaries through its Ambassadors for Peace network of representatives in all 75 districts of this mountainous nation. It will also provide motivational educational programs and garner the support from the highest levels of the Nepalese government.

Mr. Ek Nath Dhakal, president of UPF-Nepal, said, “UPF-Nepal is happy to be part of this major undertaking, to contribute to Nepal's inclusive economic growth.” Dhakal highlighted three fundamental pillars in the UPF philosophy that MUP is building on: 1) that sustainable peace can only be built on the principle of living for the sake of others; 2) that irrespective of religion, language, cultural or ethnic background we are essentially “One Family Under God”; and 3) a wholehearted support to fulfill the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

The Chief Guest at the launching of MUP, the Hon. Ramesh Lekhak, Minister of Labor and Transportation Management of the Government of Nepal, said “This movement will uplift the living standard of the people of Nepal who are victimized by conflict and poverty.” He thanked the four founding partners for establishing MUP, which he said was a “milestone for the nation of Nepal.”

Related articles:

Nepalese Vote to Give Peace a Chance, Nepal Concludes Historic Elections, U.N. Envoy Praises Peace Process

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