December 4, 2010 — Professor Elinor Ostrom, whose extensive research in Nepal on local governance and management of natural resources made her the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, touched down today in Kathmandu. The Asia Foundation, which has long championed local good governance as the key determinant of long-term stability and development, provided support and facilitated her return to Nepal during a time of continued political uncertainty.
Invited by the Nepal government through the country’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Shankar Sharma, who is traveling with Ostrom, the Nobel Laureate will meet with President Ram Baran Yadav, Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire, and other senior officials. As Nepal struggles to draft its constitution, Ostrom has engaged with The Asia Foundation on how constitutional principles can be crafted to best promote local governance. In addition to meetings, she will deliver public lectures that emphasize the salience of Nepali successes in local governance for current public discourse on state restructuring.
The Nobel Committee had cited Ostrom’s study of Nepali examples of governance of natural resources by local communities as critical in bringing local governance back into a discourse that tended to focus on market and state solutions. Ostrom spent years in rural Nepali villages examining how communities manage to share natural resources like irrigation and forests.
Asia Foundation Country Representative in Nepal, George Varughese, a former doctoral student and colleague of Ostrom’s at Indiana University, said, “Ostrom’s pioneering work has influenced the cutting edge work of the Foundation in Nepal.” The Asia Foundation applies a form of institutional analysis that Ostrom pioneered to understand local economic and political institutions, most recently used in the Foundation’s study of resource allocation in municipalities.