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Book Review:

Evolutionary Nature

Prominent experts discuss the enormity of the challenge of democratization

A Decade of Democracy in Nepal

Edited by Achyut Bahadur Shrestha, Sachinanda Srivastav and Indra Prasad Pokharel

Published by Study Center for Good Governance and Democracy and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Pages: 245

Price: Undisclosed

By KESHAB POUDEL

In the decade since the restoration of democracy in Nepal, hundreds of books and articles have been published on underpinnings of pluralistic governance as well as different methods of achieving the objectives enshrined by the constitution. Whatever intellectuals and political pundits say about the current state of democracy, our institutions have their own way of operating. This realization is vital to advancing the debate on our democratic future.

Democracy is a long process that presupposes certain inherent qualities for success. However, many of our intellectuals and politicians seem to have little patience for the process of social evolution to unfold.

Instead of acknowledging the ground realities of our context, many experts and analysts want to teach lessons on the values of democracy and good governance as if it were an overnight process. After publishing books and articles, many intellectuals tend to consider their job complete.

Actually, democracy is an ongoing process of debate and discussion on different issues among various segments of society. Instead of making constructive suggestions on ways of bolstering our democratic pillars and learning from the pitfalls, most academic writings tend to single out the government for criticism.

This book is compilation of papers and proceedings of the discussions at a recent seminar on Nepal’s decade-long experience with democracy. While some of the articles are highly thought provoking, others seem to have assumed an air of formality.

An important strength of this book is that it contains some very interesting articles written by prominent personalities at forefront of Nepal’s current democratization process. From the creation of a democratic culture to the basic tenets of the constitutional debate on good governance, the scope of the analysis is comprehensive.

As a non-government organization supported by all national political parties, the center has tried to prove that its functions and role are different than those of other groups. The basic question the book asks is: how successful have we been in our quest to bring meaningful change?

Nepal’s experience has shown that changing the constitution alone is not enough to bring changes in the behavior of people. Far-reaching change requires properly functioning basic institutions and a clear tradition of upholding the validity and pace of change. When democracy was restored in 1990, few people had realized that democratization would turn out to be such a long process. The current disenchantment with the political system is just a reflection of the lapses bred by expectations raised primarily by the newly ascendant leadership.

Eminent constitutional lawyer Ganesh Raj Sharma, advocates Bharat Raj Upreti and Ram Chandra Bhattarai, political scientist Dr. Ganga Bahadur Thapa, journalists Ram Pradhan and Jan Sharma, and former secretary Dwarika Nath Dhungel have contributed articles to the volume.

Achyut Bahadur Rajbhandary, Shailendra Sigdel and Ghana Nath Ojha, Pawan Kumar Ojha and Mihir Kumar Thakur present cogent views on various issues. Journalist Dhruba Adhikary and Dr. Govinda Koirala discuss salient features of the problems and prospects of our democratization process.

At a time when the national mood is gripped by deepening cynicism and gloom, the book helps to identify the challenges to democratic governance in Nepal and explains the evolutionary nature of the process.

SPOTLIGHT The National Newsmagazine, Vol. 20, No. 46, June 01 - June 07, 2001

 
Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
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