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FES Activities in Nepal on Democracy, Trade Union Development and Regional Co-operation in 2000

Since its establishment in Nepal in 1995 Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been organizing its activities with the objectives of promoting democracy and development in Nepal, strong trade union movement as well as helping to strengthen Nepal’s position in regional cooperation in South Asia. Accordingly, FES sponsored activities—seminars, workshops, trainings, meetings, exposure visits, scholarships, expert advise, publication, material support, etc became relevant to achieve a number of objectives set by the Nepalese government.

Focus and Outcome of Each Activity

In order to achieve the above objectives, FES Nepal office under its Democracy, Development, Trade Union and Regional Cooperation organized 67 activities involving meetings, seminars, workshops, training, exposure visit, publications and material support to its partner organizations. FES conducted most of its planned activities through 18 partner organizations. The activity list is given below:

Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) organized a series of one-day workshop on five different geographic regions of the country: Birgunj (June 9), Jaleshwor (June 12), Dharan (June 15), Nepalgunj (July 21) and Butwal (July 23) on "Educating Young Generation About Democracy in Nepal." The idea was to consolidate democracy in society through the spread of civic education and collective action. NEFAS is politically neutral organization capable of carrying out educational activities throughout the country. It is a link institution of ILO, and Japan Institute of Labor. Outcome: About forty higher secondary schools have offered civic education course, some donors have also entered into this domain and FES-prepared book on "Contemporary Nepali Society" is taught as an elective subject. The book is useful for civil service examination and party schools are using this book to train their cadres.

Forum for the Protection of Consumer Interest (Pro-Public) organized two-day training course in three places: Nagarkot, Kathmandu (June 3-4) on "Consumer Protection in the Next Millennium," Janakpur (August 12-13) on "Consumer’ Rights and Responsibilities, " and Nepalgunj (November 15-16) on "Empowering Consumers to Face Socio-economic and Cultural Challenges." Pro-Public involved many consumers-related NGOs, food and drug related organizations, lawyers, government officials and concerned citizens in their programs. This organization advocated the need for reform in Consumer Act, sensitized the consumers on their rights and responsibilities, explained the impact of new international competitive regimes and the structural changes occurring in the world and their impacts on Nepal. Outcome: Pro-public established and consolidated its networking with important consumer and public interest related organizations; supplied them with five Briefing Papers written in Nepali to familiarize them with the changing informational, economic, technological and political regimes, especially focusing on globalization, WTO and regionalization and prepared them on how to cope with the emerging challenges.

Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies (NCCS) Organized one-day Workshop on three places: Biratnagar (July 12), Kathmandu (August 17) and Mahendranagar (November 23) on "Critical Discourse on Electoral Reforms in Nepal." The main purpose of the workshops were: to familiarize the opinion leaders, party representatives and elected representatives about the different modes of elections: first-past-the-post, absolute majority and proportional representative systems of German type; familiarize the attentive public of the need for free and fair election for strengthening democracy and good governance; shortcomings on the current election system in terms of representativeness and provide suggestions for reforms. Earlier this year His Majesty the King had asked the government to establish mechanism for free and fair elections in the country and the government had constituted a commission to suggest ways and means for this. Outcome: Workshops were organized in the context to provide 1) inputs to the Government-constituted Commission on the modality to make elections free and fair; and b) involve chief election commissioner and election commissioners in the debate process so that policy linkages are established about the administration of elections from the day of registration of voters to final outcome; and c) provide inputs to those involved in electoral administration.

Prithvi Narayan Post-Graduate Campus (PNPGC) organized a one-day seminar on "How Civil Society Can Uplift the Disadvantaged People?" in Pokhara on July 6. The purpose was to see the disadvantaged people’s condition in the context of government policies of liberalization, globalization and privatization, social struggles emerging in the country with anti-state discourse, and the legitimate movements of those disadvantaged people themselves. Dalits who having 20 percent of population have no representation in the Lower House of Parliament; women whose representation is just 6 percent and indigenous communities and societies who are marginalized from the mainstream politics, development and society. Outcome: alternative views were articulated outside Kathmandu; demands of Dalits and bonded labors are heard and heeded by the donors and the decision-makers; and dominant groups of society began to consider that democracy and development cannot be possible without the upliftment of the all sections of society, especially the downtrodden.

Nepal Foundation for Advantaged Studies (NEFAS) organized a two-day seminar on "Good Governance in South Asia: A Decade of Governance in Nepal," on September 19-20 in Kathmandu. The ideas behind the holding of this seminar were: to assess the performance of a decade of governance in Nepal; find out critical obstacles on the way of achieving good governance and explore ways and means to cope with the implications of changing concepts and contexts brought about by the new developments, especially in political, economic, technological, informational and security regimes. Outcomes: the proposed Information Policy of the governance brought to critical scrutiny involving the drafters of policy; the consequence of bad governance on the poor and its fallout were brought to decision-makers’ notice; new definitions of security as opposed to military security was suggested and the impacts of new technology on the state, market, civil society, political parties, etc were anticipated in the discourse. Participants noted that more systematic study and seminars be conducted on the IT Governance in the light of Nepal’s changing policy parameters and structural needs of the nation.

Center for Studies on Democracy and Good Governance (CSDG) organized a two-day seminar on "A Decade of Democracy in Nepal" in Kathmandu on June 23-24. The basic idea behind the seminar was to take stock of the strength and weakness of democratic structures, actors, processes and practices over the last one decade of the restoration of multi-party polity in Nepal. This is an organization established and manned by the Secretary-Generals of major political parties, including Speaker and Chairman of the parliament. Outcome: Forty members of parliament took part in the workshop including all chairman of parliamentary committees. Decision-makers of the parties were acquainted with the lacunas in the different branches of governance, constitution, political leaders including public policies regarding development in Nepal; several recommendations were furnished by the Center and submitted to concerned ministries including the Prime Minister. The Center is preparing Governance Act and intending to undertake to prepare Civil Society Acts in the future.

Center for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) organized a two-day seminar on "Development of Strategies for Uplifting Dalits in Nepal" in Kathmandu on July 8-9 involving mainly Dalit representatives from different parts of the country, major donors involved in Dalit upliftment process and Bishwa Hindu Parisad. Outcome: The Bishwa Hindu Parisad immediately organized a follow up seminars involving the same participants and advocated for the abolition of "untouchability" system in the country; recommendations of the seminars were taken up by DANIDA, UNDP and Action Aid to formulate project development for the welfare of Dalits. UNDP in its 2001 Human Development Report has undertaken Dalit as major area of policy focus.

Center for the Consolidation of Democracy (CCD) organized a series of one-day Workshops on "Dissemination of the Idea of Social Justice in Nepal" in different part of country including in remote areas where such discussions are hardly organized. Venue of the Workshops involved: Kathmandu (June 1), Jhapa (July 15), Syangja (September 24), Mustang (October 27), Sirha (November 1), Chitwan (December 29), Dang (December 31). CCD is an ideological think-tank of Nepali Congress Party and manned mostly by senior political leaders, ministers and office bearers of Nepali Congress. Outcome: political leaders and decision-makers came to know about different types and forms of social democracy; the context of social justice; development policies of Nepal in the context of social justice; economic liberalization and social justice and how the Nepali Congress as a "social democratic party" ought to resolve the dilemma between social justice and free market economy, etc A book prepared by CCD in cooperation with FES "Social Justice in Nepal’s Context" were distributed among the participants for discussion.

Legal Aid and Consultancy Center (LACC) organized a series of four-day workshops on "Gender Mainstreaming for Schools Principles and Secondary Teachers" in Kathmandu (May 15-18), Dhanagadhi/Kailali (August 13-16) and Dharan (September 9-12). This is the ongoing advocacy and education program targeting the change agents of society with a view that upon gender sensitization, teachers will help re-socialization of students on democratic lines. The partner organization is also active in helping the women and girl child at risk and provide them immediate services. The other purposes of the workshops were to: sensitize the school teachers and principles about the importance of gender equality for women’s empowerment and deconstruct the conventional practices of keeping women as unequal partners in society; familiarize them with the knowledge with the Nepali laws and International Conventions signed regarding women’s rights; and lobby for why property rights for women is essential for their rightful place in public life, self-dignity and self-determination. Outcome: Teachers are better educated about gender rights and equality and schools are revising their teaching courses to include women’s empowerment and policy-makers are revising development policies to make them gender-sensitive.

Padma Kanya Multiple Campus (PKMC) organized a two-day seminar on "Gender Equality and Democracy in Nepal" in Kathmandu on May 30-31. This is the only women’s campus for higher learning and the campus is active in educating the elected women members of Village development Committees and Municipalities. The additional purpose were: to generate teaching materials for Women’s Studies Department for the same campus; generate recommendations for lobbying for property rights for women and provide inputs for the bill on property rights pending in the parliament. PKMC is the only post-graduate women’s campus in the country having the potential to undertake effective teaching on women’s affairs. Outcome: Tribhuvan University is considering to upgrade Womens’ Studies Department from one year diploma to two-year degree course; the outputs of the seminars have been shared by the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs, all NGOs and INGOs involved in gender issues became known about gender problems; and secretary of law during the seminar articulated that feedback of the seminar shall help him parade women’s case in the legislative action. A book prepared by the campus on "Gender and Democracy in Nepal" is going to be included into their syllabus.

Nepal Forum for Human Rights and Development (NFHRD) organized a one-day seminar on "Enhancing National Integrity System through the Accountability of Government" on December 9 in Kathmandu. The influential members of Nepali Congress Party and a few independent members man this human right forum. The aims were to suggest ways and means to strengthen the national integrity system of the state, accountability of the government and increase their service delivery capacity to the public. Outcome: Both the speaker of the House and chairman of the Public Account Committee of the Parliament viewed the seminar important in the context of Parliament undertaking initiatives in strengthening Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Political Party Act and Civil Society Act, the two are hotly debated in the parliament. They while chairing the sessions suggested that similar type of activities should be organized in other part of the country to alert the watchdog agencies about an increase in the culture of impunity; government not taking heed of parliament; and acting in an arbitrary manner and thus weakening the state’s integrity system and public purpose of the government to protect weak.

Nepal Forum for Human Rights and Development (NFHRD) organized a one-day seminar on "Consolidation of Multi-Party Democracy in Nepal: Inter-Party Relations," on December 30 in Kathmandu. In view of tremendous inter-and intra-party conflicts occurring in the country due to personalized nature of party leadership, the topic has immense relevance to be pursued to in order to familiarize the public about its harmful impacts on the governance, especially in shaping political will for policy implementation and policy legitimation as well as development. The objective was how to effect a bottom-up approach to party reform so that real difference in democratic process can be made and a culture of accountability to the people can be enforced. The seminar highlighted the lacuna in the currently passed party act and suggested that further reforms should be initiated to bring change in the party’s political culture, party finance, leadership evaluation, succession and monitoring of party activities.

Central Department of Sociology and Anthropology (CDSA) organized a two-day national seminar on "The Government, NGOs and Civil Society in Nepal: A Critical Examination of Their Roles and Responsibilities" in Kathmandu on April 10-11. CDSA is the policy-making department for all the sociology/anthropology departments in the country. The purposes of the seminar were three-fold: to take stock of the performance of these three actors; evaluate their roles and responsibilities in the changed context in an interactive perspective and publish a book to be used as a reference material for teachers and students for B. A. and M.A. levels in the Department of Sociology/ Anthropology. The policy context of the seminar was that Public Account Committee of the Parliament Charged NGOs for running "parallel government" while NGOs and civil society entered into anti-government and anti-state discourse. Social Service Council, a government body where all local and international NGOs are registered, is now collecting information to reform NGO Acts. Outcome: decision-makers, teachers, students, NGO representatives and civil society became aware of their respective roles; and Central Department of Sociology/ Anthropology agreed to include the publication in their curriculum.

Central Department of Political Science (CDPS) organized a two-day seminar on "How Democratization Can Help Evolve Civic Culture?" at Bhairahawa on August 27-28. This is the policy-making department for all political science faculties of the university. The basic purposes were to: assess the impact of a decade of democratization on the evolution of CIVIC political culture; to take stock of post-democratic political awareness; the process of local political development and educate the public of why civic political culture is fundamental to good governance in the country. Outcome: the mico-macro gap on the perception of people, their attitudes, behavior and orientations towards the polity, the state and the government came into sharper focus; the service delivery institutions of the government were found to be suffering from the psychology of rulers that put them above the people as a "giver" with the people expected to lie low and act low, not actively participate in the governance process. Webs of political power and patrimonial decision-making were identified as the barriers to the development of political culture conducive to democracy consolidation. Participants, therefore, noted that clientalistic sort of governing institutions and political parties must be changed through social mobilization of people, political institutionalization, and constitutionalization of societies and the state power.

Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) organized a series of two-day training programs on "Strengthening Union Capacity Through Union Campaigning" in different parts of the country. The Venues Include: Kathmandu (July 8-9), Chitwan (July 27-28), Rajbiraj (September 12-13), Bara (September 19-20), Mahendranagar-Kanchanpur ( September 21-22), Birgunj-Parsa (September 21-22), and Kathmandu (December 30-31). The Dang training had to be shifted to Kathmandu because Dang is politically vulnerable to Maoist problems and Dang Valley hosts increasing victims of Maoist violence. The training course involved, among others, trade union movement at domestic and international levels, objectives of trade unions and their function, including collective bargaining; legal status of trade union, its importance, operation process, funds and finance; trade union leadership (style, art, quality, skills, merits and demerits); trade union communication (skills, process and media, etc); public speaking and its practice; trade union act/labor act and general information on labor issues, problem analysis of carpet workers in group work and its presentation; etc. Outcome: NTUC has improved both its organizational structure and functions and trade union movement in Nepal became more professional relatively independent of political parties and cooperation with other trade unions improved.

Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) organized a series of three-day training course on "Organizing Women Workers Through Union Campaigning". The venues include: Kathmandu (September 23-25), Nawalparasi (17-19 October) and Kathmandu (December 19-21). Nawalparasi venue had to be shifted to Kathmandu because of political problem occurring there. The trainees involved the participation of women members of NTUC. The training courses include, among others, trade union movement at domestic and international levels, objectives of trade unions and their function, including collective bargaining; legal status of trade union, its importance, operation process, funds and finance; trade union leadership (style, art, quality, skills, merits and demerits); trade union communication (skills, process and media, etc); public speaking and its practice; trade union act/labor act and general information on labor issues, problem analysis of carpet workers in group work and its presentation; etc. Outcome: increased women’s participation in union activities, in leadership position and knowledge. This is for the first time so many women leaders of NTUC got opportunity to expose themselves to trade union skills.

Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (DECONT) organized a series of four-day regional level training courses on "Leadership Training Program" in Kathmandu (May 30-June 2), Biratnagar (June 6-9), Parsa-Birgunj (June 18-21) and Mahendranagar (October 14-17). As DECONT is relatively new trade unions it required training course for its local level leaders and members. The Course contents involved: the importance of independent trade union movement-- domestic and international; international cooperation, especially ITSes, FES and ILO; basic principles of trade union rights; trade union finance, administration and membership recruitment; labor economics and the changing nature of global economy, trade union act and labor laws and collective bargaining, leadership quality, communication/ motivation, public speaking, information handling and grievance ventilation, etc. Outcome: DECONT leadership at the local level is now getting better equipped with modern trade union skills, becoming stronger, better organized and professional.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organized a half-day talk program on "Trade Union, Globalization and the WTO Process" on July 28 involving all the major trade unions, all the trade unions-related national and international organizations working Nepal. Mr. Klaus Zwickel, Chairman, IMF and his secretary made presentations followed by discussions from the floor. Outcome: Nepalese trade union leaders and decision-makers became familiar with the challenges of Globalization on International Trade Union movements and the roles and responsibilities of unions in coping them.

General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) organized two-day five training courses for its members on "Training of Workers on Trade Union Education" in different parts of the country, such as: Mahendranagar (March 22-23), Jhapa (March 29-30), Itahari (March 31-April 1), Hetaunda (April 2-3), and Kathmandu (April 14-15). Course contents involve: moving ahead within the first decade of 21st Century; glorious ten years of our struggle; GEFONT Campaign in the next Millennium; Towards self-dependence; and compatible structures for the new millennium. Outcome: GEFONT affiliated members and local leaders received advanced level of training on planing, budgeting, programming, informational technology, office management and informational handling, and Future Plan of Action; a proposal for GEFONT'’ Financial Program and a Proposal for the amendment of GEFONt’s Constitutions. GEFONT members are better equipped with the new informational and technological development and their implications for Nepalese trade union, labor market, and union movement.

Coalition for Action on South Asian Cooperation (CASAC) organized a one-day seminar on "Role of Private Sector in Regional Cooperation in South Asia," on September 22. CASAC is regional network of eminent persons, including ex-Secretary-Generals of SAARC and is active in promoting regional cooperation in South Asia through research, publication, meetings, advocacy, consultation and lobbying. Other additional purposes were identify the areas where private sectors could play roles especially in foreign direct investments, water resources and tourism in matters of regional cooperation. Outcome: Problems were identified on Nepal’s potential in water resources, foreign direct investments and tourism and suggestions were furnished on how to go ahead. The costs of non-cooperation were brought to decision-makers notice. Findings are used by the American Center to go into the details of tourism sector and identify wider areas of cooperation.

Publications/ and Other activities

  • UNI-APRO/FES "Sub-Regional Training Course for Educators" March 1-9, Kathmandu.
  • NEFAS: "Preparation of book on "Contemporary Nepali Society" (in Nepali) 1,500 copies.
  • CCD: " Social Justice in Nepal’s Context" (in Nepali) 500 Copies.
  • CETS: "Strategies for Uplifting Dalits in Nepal" (in Nepali) 1,000 Copies.
  • PNPGC: "Institutionalization of Democratic Polity in Nepal" 1,000 copies.
  • GEFONT: "Training of Workers on Trade Union Education" (in Nepali) 1,000 Copies.
  • CSDG: "A Decade of Democracy in Nepal" 2000 (in Nepali) copies.
  • Pro-Public: "Briefing Papers," 500 copies.
  • NEFAS: CASAC: "Issues of Governance in Nepal" 700 copies.
  • CASAC: "Kathmandu Statement II: Program of Action" (March 2000) 2000 copies.
  • Preparation of a Report on "Five Years of FES in Nepal" (October 1).
  • CASAC: First "Meeting of Citizens’ Commission in South Asia,"Kathmandu December 1-3.
  • CASAC Policy Paper 111, "SAARC Vision Beyond the Year 2000: The CASAC Perspective on the Report of the SAARC Group of Eminent Persons", September 2000.
  • Study tour of Journalist "Yub Nath Lamsal" to Germany.
  • CASAC: "Computer"

 

 
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