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FES Activities Report - 2002

FES office in Nepal works in four broad themes--democracy, conflict- resolution and peace, social justice and regional cooperation and organizes its activities, such as seminars, training, workshops, exposure visits, internet on Nepaldemocracy.org and material support to achieve its intended goals. In 2002, under these themes, it organized altogether 32 activities with partner organizations.

Democracy

Political Science Association of Nepal (POLSAN) organized a one-day national seminar in Kathmandu on "Strengthening Decentralization and Good Governance in Nepal" on April 21. The seminar was inaugurated by leader of opposition Madhav Kumar Nepal and also addressed by ex-deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudyal and Vice-President of RPP Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani. Altogether 60 participants representing various political parties, policy makers and representatives of Village Development Committee, municipalities and District Development Committee participated the meeting and discussed about the problems regarding the implementation of Local Self-governance Act 1999, dispute settlement mechanism in local bodies, ethnicity problems, distributive justice, Indigenous local self-governance in Nepal, etc. They viewed that the crisis in Nepal arose because of leaders' feudalistic and centralizing tendency who could not extend trust to the people, did not entitle them with constitutional rights and authorities and left the problems in limbo rather than solving them. Any decentralized scheme to be successful, they concluded, should involve the principle of subsidiarity, participation, resource sharing, proper coordination, communication, dispute settlement and collective action.

Martyr Memorial Foundation (MMF) organized a two-day regional workshop at Mujaliya, Janakpur on the "Prospect of Democratic Socialism in Nepal" on May 18-19. Four papers were presented on various aspects of Social Democracy. Altogether 60 participants from four districts Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sindhuli and Sarlahi received training including the DDC president of Dhanusha, Mayor of Janakpur Municipality, lawyers, university professors, party workers and social service representatives took part. Chairman of the inaugural function was former minister for Labour and Industry Dhundi Raj Shastri, while chief guest was Speaker of the House Taranath Ranabhat. Participants noted that the core values of social democracy such as freedom, social justice and solidarity dovetails with the Directive Principles and Policies of State. Nepal's constitution is social democratic as it postulates its three fundamental features--right to information, right to work and public-private partnership in the economic sector to achieve self-reliance. Nepal has also signed all the instruments of human rights. But, social, economic and political policies were neo-liberal not attuned to achieve these values. They argued that conflict management system ought to be evolved into the democratic system and political parties should be democratized to make the leadership accountable, transparent and responsive to public needs. Power should spring from bottom up as people are the source of sovereignty.

Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies (NCCS) organized a one-day national seminar on "Participatory Democracy: Issues of Reducing Social Disparity" in Kathmandu on June 10. There were two papers: "Rethinking Participatory Democracy in Nepal: Enlarging the Public Sphere" and "Current Political Crisis and Constitutional Way-out." Altogether 61 participants involving politicians from different political parties, MPs, constitutional lawyers, parliamentary officials, university teachers and civil society took part. They viewed that the current constitution is the product of political equation--representing the King, United Left Front and unified Nepali Congress, therefore, it did not become a consensual document. Political processes have become multipolar among those who wanted to maintain status quo, who wanted to amend it and those who wanted to alter its basic features to expand political space in political parties, the state institutions and civil society to make democracy inclusionary even to the social minorities, Dalits, indigenous people and marginalized. The inflexible nature of Constitution posed problem in handling Maoist problems. Majority of participants who advocated the need for participatory democracy argued for the constitutional change so that it can establish viable institutional process and enable democracy catch social base of politics. The current situation where parliament is dissolved and there is less certainty of free and free election created a situation of constitutional void.
NCCS organized its second one-day regional seminar on "Participatory Democracy: Issues of Reducing Social Disparity" at Baglung on August 26. Altogether 85 persons from political parties, elected representatives, civil society, media, lawyers and teachers were trained on the nature and functioning of participatory democracy. Three papers were presented on the strategies of consolidating democracy in Nepal, women's empowerment and the inclusion of indigenous people and dalits in democratic process. They discussed the role of vision and leadership, basic functions of political parties, governance effectiveness, social dynamics, fulfillment of basic needs, corruption free society and politically neutral state institutions, such as army, police and bureaucracy. Participatory democracy was thought essential to make diverse people of Nepal stakeholders in the governance and a common position was articulated for the need to the dissemination of knowledge and information about public issues from Kathmandu to other areas so that enlightened opinion is formed and reshaped.

Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) organized a two-day meeting on "Achieving Accountable Governance in Nepal," on October 3-4 in Kathmandu. Altogether 50 participants representing government, policy makers, donors, civil society and private sectors participated the meeting. It focused on reforming public policy making in Nepal, conflict resolution through governance effectiveness, managing regional disparity in development and the quest of rational economic policies. They raised the problems in the democratization of public policy making, involvement of diverse social interest groups of society, establishment of proper institutional channels for feedback, establishment of think tank and building all party consensus on policy goals and cooperation of various actors in their effective implementation. Some raised that the question of the accountability of policy failures must be addressed while others floated the idea of creating "Council of Economic Advisors." They also articulated that public policies should try to mediate between the political system and everyday life of people in order to strengthen the legitimacy and accountability of political system.

Social Justice

Under the theme of social justice FES is involved in the advocacy, knowledge and capacity building and solidarity of trade unions, Dalits and women's organizations. Partner and the type of activities are:

General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) organized a two-day "National Planning Workshop" on March 23-24 in Kathmandu. The program was participated by all 31 GEFONT zonal leaders and departmental heads drafted the GEFONT national plan for one year and evaluated the past activities. It highlighted national political and trade union situation, problems in the mobilization of committees and departments, organization of activities, research and publication, training and educational activities and drives in securing membership. They identified the weakness and strengths, problems in coordination, and reiterated the implementation of 16-point program passed by Third National Congress of GEFONT. The workshop also focused on GEFONT Cooperative and Campaign on improving the working conditions of Working women. GEFONT and International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) organized a two-day Workshop in Kathmandu on "Restructuring and Privatization in Nepal: Developing Union Strategies for Industrial Policy" on May 7-8. It aimed to develop union agenda for restructuring of industries; education and publicity required to support union campaign; the capacity building of unions in mobilizing support for their proposals; and an assessment of international support for national campaigns. The theme of the program involved an overview of Nepal's political economy and the role of trade unions; the global and South Asian trends in energy sectors; electric power sector in Nepal; social and economic impact of industrial restructuring and privatization; building national and international solidarity, energy as a social product and public service and development of a program of action. Four international experts and two national experts were involved in the facilitation of discussion. Altogether 45 trade unionists involving the concerned affiliate of three trade unions-- GEFONT, NTUC and DECONT for the first time participated the common program.

Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (DECONT) organized a two-day workshop on April 16-17 in Nepalgunj, the Far-Western town of Nepal, on "Training for Organizational Strengthening of Agricultural Workers' Union." Altogether 50 DECONT related workers and bonded leaders were trained on: unionization of agricultural workers, education about trade union education, knowledge about the application of new agricultural tools, health and safety condition, problems of bonded labor, networking and information flow, open border, basic minimum wage for agricultural workers, abolition of discriminatory wage between male and female workers, social security, job oriented training, child labor, representation system of agricultural laborers in the policy making ,etc Six trainers were involved. The program also drew a sketch about the future strategy of DECONT in networking agricultural workers.
DECONT organized another three-day workshop on "Leadership Training for Nepal Restaurants and Small Hotel Workers Union (NRSHWU)," in Kathmandu on May 27-29. Altogether 25 participants from Morang, Sunsari, Jhapa, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Parsa, Makwanpur, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts were trained on the identification of social, economic, legal and political problems faced by the workers; chalking out the strategies for unionization and defining the policy for mainstreaming their movement into national trade union movement. The contents of training involved Labor Law and Trade Union Act, unionization strategies and activities of Nepal Restaurants and Small Hotel Workers Union (NRSHWU), Nepalese Trade Union Movement and its Organizational Need, Organizing Union meeting and public speaking, Administration and Finance, Problem of Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Child Labor in the less organization sector, Procedures for Collective Bargaining, Occupational Health and Safety and Future Course and strategies.
DECONT organized its third two-day workshop on "Leadership Empowerment Training Program for the Transport Workers," on September 15-16 in Kathmandu. Thirty participants from 15 districts representing transportation sectors were trained. The themes of the training involved the leadership vision, mission, objectives, organization, membership and networking with other civil society organizations. Altogether 5 resource persons were involved in facilitating the training. Other contents were: understanding the global dynamics of economic system, nature of political economy, collective power of labor in negotiations, experiences of international trade union movement and trade union education such as professionalization, flexibilization, collective bargaining, organization management, conflict handling, relationship with political parties and civil society organizations, international cooperation, etc.

Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) organized a two-day program on "Awareness Campaign for Social Security" on August 8-9, in Kathmandu. In the Campaign it criticized first, the government's decision to impose tax on workers' provident fund and gratuity and called upon the government to withdraw its decision; second, government's ignorance to ILO's request to lift Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) imposed on hotel workers last year to curb their protest program; and third, demanded to fix minimum wage for the workers which was static for many years (salary of the government employees have been increased significantly but the workers' wage is unchanged for many years). It also criticized Premier Deuba for pushing the country to the elections at a difficult time, declared emergency in the country which targeted many innocent democratic activists and teachers. The program provided sensitization of the workers on social security concepts; training of local level leaders on social dialogues; linking of NTUC's social security policy to district levels and setting up of a lobby mechanism for the endorsement of social security by the government. Fifty trade union leaders took part in the meeting facilitated by five resource persons. NTUC organized another two-day national seminar on "Dialogue on Social Security in Formal and Informal Sector," on August 24-25 in Biratnagar, the second largest industrial town of Nepal. Chief Guest of the seminar Shailaja Achrya, ex-Deputy Prime Minister laid stress on the implementation of social security policies. President of NTUC Laxman Basnet argued that the democratic development of the nation rests on the welfare of the workers, realization of their human rights including their dignified life. Five resource persons facilitated the seminar which was attended by 54 NTUC district and enterprise level leaders. They discussed about the contents of Social Security Bill submitted in the parliament, problems in the organization of informal and rural workers, patterns of social dialogues, and the role of social and civil organization including the role of tripartite organization. NTUC organized its third two-day program on "Awareness Campaign for Social Security" on September 7-8, at Chitwan. Chief Guest was ex-Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudyal. The campaign sensitized the union members on the broad social security concepts, NTUC's position on social security, importance of social dialogue on enhancing workers' welfare, need to articulate social security concepts at the lower plant levels and formation of a mechanism and lobbying for the passage of social security bill pending in the parliament. Fifty-three union members affiliated to NTUC took part in the meeting which was facilitated by four resource persons.

Nepal Forum for Human Rights and Development (NFHRD) organized a one-day seminar on "Privatization in Nepal" in Kathmandu on October 6. The seminar was organized to take stock of the failure of privatization efforts in Nepal and their consequences. Thirty participants that took part in the discussion attributed the failure of privatization to a lack of clear-cut policy, political intervention, rent-seeking and rent-seizing tendencies of politicians and bureaucrats and weak accountability and transparency measures in the overall sectors of the political economy. The worst victims of privatization are the workers as the privatization process caused more job layoff than job creation. Liquidation of many agro-based factories also affected the agricultural and service sectors of the economy pushing more people into poverty trap. Participants viewed that there is an imperative to a) introduce comprehensive policy reforms for restructuring the economy, b) formulate laws necessary to attract foreign direct investments in private sectors, C) give preference to small and medium sized agro-based industries that are cost-effective, decentralized and labor intensive, and d) build proper incentive measures to make their sustainability.

Academy for Law and Human Resource Development Studies (ALHUREDS) organized a two-day national seminar "The Way of Execution of Prime Minister's Declaration About Dalit Upliftment," in Kathmandu on May 10-11. The seminar was inaugurated by Minister without Portfolio Rishikesh Gautam and was addressed by the State Minister for Education N. P. Sawad, Deputy Chairman of Upper House Ram Prit Paswan, MPs Rishibabu Pariyar, Bijul Bishwokarma, and former Speaker of Parliament Daman Nath Dhungana. The seminar aimed to provide input to the newly constituted National Commission for Dalit Upliftment and find the ways to implement 8-point program embedded in the premier Deuba's last year's announcement for the abolition of untouchability in Nepal and mainstreaming Dalit community which constitute 20 percent of the population. The seminar involved 10 papers for discussion covering important aspects of Dalit empowerment such as health, women, psychological development, media attention, social and human resource development, child and educational development, political participation, and legal reforms. Altogether 60 persons representing Dalit NGOs, civil society, government representatives, policy makers, lawyers and academicians were sensitized. A culture of impunity, many participants argued, was the main hindrance in the application of constitutions and law in society including the abolition of social discrimination. They argued that a systematic application of law in private and public life, social reforms, reeducation and socialization, coalition building for social change and entitlement measures can help the upliftment of Dalits in Nepal.

Center for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) organized a two-day national seminar on "Strategies for Improving the Conditions of Dalit Women of the Tarai" on October 10-11 at Mujliya, Janakpur. Altogether 70 persons representing Dalit association, Dalit NGOs, NGOs working in the fields of Dalit upliftment, journalists, lawyers and social workers participated. The seminar aimed to draw a) the attention of plannes, policy makers, government officials, NGOs, INGOs and civil society members about the conditions of dalit women of Tarai, b) raise social and political awareness about the problems of untouchability of Dailt, and c) explore the possibilities for the empowerment of Tarai dalit women by improving their occupational skills. Six papers were presented focusing on various aspects of dalits' life and ways to uplift them. Participants and the papers focused on educational and social mobilization campaign for igniting the consciousness of dalits; women-specific equality oriented political education program; strict enforcement to the laws that prohibits untouchability; skill upgrading of dalits; and equal participation of Tarai dalits in the political parties, state institutions and entrepreneurial activities. Special efforts have to be made by the donors/INGOs and NGOs to strengthen the Dalit-owned grassroots NGOs and civil society so that they can influence public policy and decision making process.

Dalit Welfare Youth Club (DWIC) received "Material Support for Dalit Training in Sirha " in December 29. DWIC provides literacy classes for Dalit children of Sirha district and it is running two schools whereby children of Dalits are provided education and educational materials, such as books, copies, pencils, pens, slate, boards, etc free of cost. More than 100 students receive education. It is also a literacy campaign having positive bearing on the children of other backward communities.

Legal Aid and Consultancy Center (LAAC) organized a two-day workshop on "Gender Mainstreaming of High School Teachers and the Principals of Higher Secondary Schools" at Bhaktapur on December 7- 8. Altogether 25 participants attended the workshop. The workshop aimed to impart knowledge on gender discrimination and social development in Nepal, women law and development, national and international efforts for the elimination of violence against women, child rights, women's rights and CEDAW, women's rights and 11th amendment of National Code of Nepal, group discussion and suggestions. LAAC organized another two-day workshop in Pokhara on December 24-25 on the same theme involving 24 participants. Five women trainers facilitated the training.

Padma Kanya Multiple Campus (PKMC) organized a one-day interaction program on "Peace, Justice, Human Rights and Democracy in Nepal" on December 5 in Kathmandu. More than hundred participants took part in the discussion. 7 experts facilitated the interaction. The participants focused on the unstable political situation of Nepal especially violent conflicts between the government and the political parties and even the Maoists, its implications on women, children and widows; existing social discrimination in the country, the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, and compromise on the fundamental political processes of the country, especially the dissolution of parliament, local government, migration of younger generation of people abroad and economic downturn.

Conflict Resolution and Peace

Conflict resolution in Nepal basically involves coping with the conflicts at three levels--structural conflicts between the government and Maoists, manifest conflicts between the government and political parties and latent conflicts between the government and societal forces.

Center for Studies on Democracy and Good Governance (CSDG) organized a one-day national seminar on "Conflict Resolution in Nepal" on December 17 in Kathmandu. Altogether 60 participants representing secretary-general of major political parties, government officials, academics, etc participated the seminar. Speaker Taranath Ranabhat called for consensus between constitutional forces--the monarch and mainstream political parties--to find a solution of the existing political crisis in the country and protect national sovereignty of the country. The mainstream political parties and the king should create an environment of peace among themselves to isolate Maoists and compel them to come to the negotiating table for peace talks. General-Secretary of CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal said that prevailing social discrimination, poverty, unemployment and bad governance were the root causes of the existing conflict, which must be alleviated in order to resolve the problem. The state should do extensive homework and seek the cooperation of political parties, civil society and common people. RPP president Pashupati Rana said that all the constitutional forces and the king should stand in one place and bring the Maoists to negotiation table. Four papers were presented in the seminar representing major parties and were commented and chaired by senior politicians like Tara Nath Ranabhat, Sribhadra Sharma, Hom Nath Dahal, Nilamber Acharya, Subash Nembang and Keshav Badal. Participants identified the causes of direct, structural and cultural conflicts and suggested multiple measures--negotiation, constitutional change and equity measures to prevent, contain and settle conflicts in Nepal including the establishment of a mechanism of intermediaries among all the conflicting parties for the moderation of conflicts.

Center for the Consolidation of Democracy (CCD) organized a one-day seminar on "Challenges to Democracy in Nepal" on November 8 in Kathmandu. Former Speaker of Parliament Daman Nath Dhungana presented a paper on "Problems of Democracy in Nepal and its Prospects" highlighting that the constitution espouse "progressive change" and redefine at least three things: a) role and responsibility of the king; b) guarantee of the rights of people and their public organization; and c) settlement of many of the questions of foreign policy. The seminar brought 40 high level of participants from both sides of Nepali Congress and Nepali Congress (democratic), CPN-UML, RPP, members of parliament, central level political leaders and constitutional experts. In order to avoid triangular power struggle among the king (following the dismissal of elected government and subsequent nomination of Lokendra B. Chand as prime minister), mainstream political parties and the Maoists, ex-Speaker Dhungana pleaded for a Constuent Assembly as a point of consensus, while NC (Democratic) sought for the restoration of Deuba government, the NC for the revival of parliament, RPP asked for support to king's initiative and CPN-UML pleaded for the restoration of constitution, an all-party government and early elections. All participants, however, agreed that a situation of confrontation between the political parties and the king as well as with the government must be brought to an end by convening a "round table conferences" among all the political actors concerned. Participants also pointed out that due to non-representative character of the constitution it needs reforms and restructing so that sturdy institutions and a healthy political culture can be created.
CCD organized its second one-day seminar on the "Roles and Responsibilities of Parliamentary Parties in the Present Context" on December 20, in Kathmandu. Altogether 36 participants from different political parties, human rights organizations, academicians and lawyers participated the meeting. The program aimed to build consensus among the mainstream political parties and catalyze them to play a mediating role between the king and pro-multi-party forces as per the letter and spirit of the Constitution, build confidence between the political parties and the king seeking progressive reforms and holding dialogue with the Maoists. One paper was presented by Dr. Purna Kanth Adhikari on "Roles of Parliamentary Parties in the Triangular Struggle" and was commented by senior politicians, such as Sindhu Nath Pyakurel, Laxman Ghimire, Hom Nath Dahal, Binay Dhoj Chand, Radheshayam Kamaro, Binod Bhatttarai, Dip Kumar Upadhayay and Bhim Bahadur Tamang. Instability and incoherence among the positions of main parties prevented them to play significant role in bringing peace and consolidating democracy. Participants, therefore, suggested that there should be a round table conference of political parties on defining the agenda for rapprochement among all the forces of the country and setting framework for dialogue.

Central Department of Political Science (CDPS) of Tribhuvan University organized a on-day interaction program on "Constitutional Disputes and Their Solutions" in Kathmandu on December 21. Altogether 127 participants involving political science teachers of Kathmandu valley, lawyers, politicians representing parliamentary political parties and members of human rights commission participated. Seven speakers facilitated the interaction. Disputes on constitution occurred in three areas--amendment of constitution, constituent assembly and holding of referendum. The political forces in the country are also divided into three poles--Maoist on republican state, conservative on active monarchy and multi-party supporters on constitutional monarchy. These three tendencies have brought discord in the constitution. Participants suggested that there are points for consensus, for example, all the forces want to consolidate the achievement of the popular movement for democracy in 1990, multiparty democracy and political competition. No one speaks against the sovereignty of people and the nation. Participants also agreed that a) there should be a broad understanding among the political parties adhering multi-party democracy and that they should forge linkages with the king and Maoists and b) initiate debates on how to solve the crisis plaguing the nation. The problem in Nepal is not created by constitutional deadlock, but by political deadlock caused by the dissolution of parliament at a time when there is no possibility for holding election due to Maoist violence. Therefore, the Maoist problems should be solved first, then restore the constitution and hold elections.

Regional Cooperation

Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) organized a one-day national seminar on "Workers' Rights in the SAARC Social Charter," on July 21 in Kathmandu. Altogether 41 participants representing trade unions, policy makers, Industrial Relations Forum, International Labor Organizations, government, NGOs, Civil society participated. Former secretary-general of SAARC Yadav Kant Silwal chaired the program. The seminar was organized in the context of the preparation of SAARC Social Charter. Participants viewed that inclusion of workers in the social charter is essential to avoid double standards of the MNCs who provide numerous benefits to workers in certain countries but curtail in others. Others view that it is important to have common positions of the regional countries on South Asian workers working in Gulf and other regions. Still others believe that in the context of WTO and globalization, SAARC must evolve comprehensive social charter addressing the questions of minimum wages in the region, land reforms, social security, occupational health and security, fair labor practices, informal economy, role of business and international community, corporate citizenship and ethical business practices. They also stressed on the right to work, rights of the workers, right to be retrained and creation of a collective social fund by the workers, the government and employers.

The Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) organized a one-day seminar on "Follow-Up of the 11th SAARC Summit" in Kathmandu on December 11. Foreign Minister N. B. Shah inaugurated the seminar. 68 participants including the foreign secretary, secretary-general of SAARC, directors of SAARC, joint secretaries of different ministries, member of planning commission, academicians and business representatives attended the meeting. Shah expressed hope that 12th SAARC summit would be worked out as early as possible. SAARC has created a distinct regional identity and enhanced interactions at the government and civil society levels and begun to evolve common positions on many of the international issues. Papers focused on the implementation of the decisions of 11th SAARC summit, Social Charter and Poverty Alleviation and Economic Cooperation in South Asia. Some progresses were identified, such as vocational training, poverty alleviation, sharing best practices, creation of safety nets, etc. The decisions have also been reached whereby Secretary-General has to prepare regional poverty profile, reconstitution of Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation, synchronization of national, reginal and global initiatives, and crafting of a viable social charter for SAARC. The debates focused on many questions, including the problems having regionality in dimension, such as cross border terrorism, poverty, labor migration, resource crunch, etc, internationality in dimension and state-centric in dimensions so that similar type of implementing mechanisms can be formulated.

Publications

1. NEFAS, Reprint of The Role of Civil Society and Democratization (Kathmandu: NEFAS-FES, 2002)
2. IFA, Open Border Between Nepal and India (Kathmandu: IFA-FES, 2002).
3. NEFAS-CASAC, Energy Policy: National and Regional Implications (Kathmandu: NEFAS/ CASAC and FES).
4. NGOs for Nepal (Kathmandu: NGO Forum Nepal and German-Nepal Society, 2002).

 

 

 
 
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