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New Colombo Plan

Anthropology and law graduate develops lasting connections in Nepal

Law and anthropology Monash graduate Iain Payne has developed strong connections with Nepal over the past 13 years as a volunteer, student, intern and consultant.

'Being awarded the 2016 New Colombo Plan Nepal Fellowship during my studies was a chance to be in Nepal at an important inflection point,' Iain says.

Bald man smiling
NCP alum Iain Payne. Photo credits: Iain Payne

'My anthropology studies gave me an opportunity to learn more about Nepal and understand the history of the country, and as part of my law degree, I developed a strong interest in public law, constitutional law and public policy more broadly.'

As part of the NCP Fellowship, Iain completed a semester of his honour's degree research at Nepal's Kathmandu University Law School, examining the country's new federal structure across its seven provinces.

He also interned at The Asia Foundation where he met Dr George Varughese, then Country Representative of the Foundation, and a relationship that continues to be pivotal for Iain's ongoing work and research in Nepal and beyond.

After completing his internship, Iain was invited to stay on with the Foundation as a consultant.

'In 2019, I joined Niti Foundation, a Nepali non-profit organisation helping to strengthen policy development through collaborative research and innovative policy adoption, and I have been in Nepal ever since,' Iain says.

'At Niti Foundation, my key focus has been to support a program of work that assesses the 2015 Constitution's implementation.'

Man at a podium presenting at a conference with a PowerPoint slide showing in the background
Iain giving a presentation at Kathmandu University, Nepal. Photo credits: Iain Payne

Iain says in the broadest sense, his work in Nepal focuses on supporting key institutions to be able to deliver on the Constitution's federal promise.

'The delivery of a new constitution was seen as part of the peace process, but its implementation, including the transition to federalism was always going to take time. The promise of a more equal, inclusive society, where development is balanced across all regions of the country, is a complex challenge.'

Iain continues to work with Niti Foundation as a strategic advisor and mentor for other Niti staff, and his collaboration continues with Dr George Varughese at the University of New South Wales Institute for Global Development, where Iain also works as a Senior Project Officer.

'Nepal faces other challenges. It is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and, despite significant developmental gains, the exodus of young people migrating for work and study continues,' Iain says.

'Nepalese students hold a vast array of contextual as well as technical knowledge that we must connect with, building better connections between students and researchers, to support more contextually relevant approaches to humanitarian and other development support.'

Speaking of Australia's role as Nepal's friend he said: 'Australia can play a significant role, including through research, through working closely with local partners, and making the most of those people-to-people links.'

Man on a mountain side with a backpack, hat and glasses. River can be seen below with mountains off into the background.
Iain trekking in Nepal. Photo credits: Iain Payne
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