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Ambassador invites Nobel laureate Ostrom to visit Nepal

Shankar Sharma, Nepal's Ambassador to the United States, has invited Indiana University Bloomington political scientist Elinor Ostrom to visit his country in 2010. Ambassador Sharma was in Bloomington on Dec. 28 to deliver the invitation personally, and to laud Ostrom for work he says has supported the economic health and development of Nepal.

Nepali ambassador and Elinor Ostrom

Photo by David Bricker

From right to left: IU Bloomington political scientist Elinor Ostrom, Nepali Ambassador to the U.S. Shankar Sharma, and Mrs. Ambassador Kalpana Sharma

Print-Quality Photo

Ostrom shared half of 2009's economics Nobel Prize with University of California Berkeley economist Oliver Williamson, in part for her study of forest management in Nepal's rural areas. IU Bloomington Creative Writing Program Director and author Samrat Upadhyay said Ostrom's presence in Nepal over several decades has been a source of pride for Nepalis.

"Many Nepalis felt as though one of their own had won the prize," Upadhyay told Ostrom. "They were ecstatic. It was all over the newspapers."

The university event was hosted by IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson and her husband, fellow philosopher Dennis Senchuk. Ambassador Sharma chatted with the dozen or so attendees and then stood to address Ostrom. He spoke of Nepal's appropriation of resources to local governments, which Ostrom has argued can often manage (local) resources better than a distant, central government can. Sharma said this shift in domestic policy has already borne successes, and Ostrom's scholarly work was a catalyst.

Ostrom immediately accepted the invitation, and told the ambassador that her time in Nepal has been edifying, both intellectually and personally. Joining her at the event was Ostrom's husband Vincent, her longtime collaborator, intellectual confidant and friend. The Ostroms founded IU's Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis in 1973.

Sharma said in a statement that Ostrom's visit to Nepal will "provide an opportunity to Nepali academia, policy makers and civil society members to interact with her and benefit from her research and wisdom."

The ambassador's wife, Kalpana Sharma, presented Ostrom with two Nepali gifts: a pashmina and silk shawl and a Nepali hand-painted silk scarf. Pashmina goats are native to the Himalayas.

Credited as the architect of the event is George Varughese, Nepal's representative for the Asia Foundation, a non-profit, non-government organization dedicated to the "development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region," according to the foundation. Varughese was once a School of Public and Environmental Affairs doctoral student under Elinor Ostrom. IU awarded him a Ph.D. in 1999.

At the event, Varughese also extended an invitation to Professor Ostrom from Nepal's Social Science Baha to deliver the annual Mahesh Chandra Regmi Lecture, to which she also assented.

Provost Hanson welcomed the Nepali ambassador to the Bloomington campus, and presented the ambassador and his wife with a gift.

Ostrom and colleagues at IU's Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis have conducted extensive research on the governance of common-pool resources in Nepal. Her research on irrigation systems found that user-managed dams in Nepal, despite "primitive" construction from stone, mud and trees, often were more effective in allocating water resources than multi-million-dollar concrete dams built by government agencies.

Also, the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) program, which Ostrom co-founded at IU in 1992, includes Nepal in its network of research projects to help policy makers and forest users design and implement evidence-based policies. It partners with the Natural Resource Research and Development Center, a nonprofit organization located in Pulchok, Kathmandu, which has conducted research in more than 40 sites in Nepal.

Ostrom is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science at IU Bloomington, She is the first woman to win the economics Nobel, formally titled the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Ostrom received the prize on Dec. 10 in Stockholm.