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The Process of Nation Building, Constitution building and Civic Education

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Prepared by Raj Kumar KC, Journalist, The Rising Nepal

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a German-based political foundation in Nepal organized one-day seminar on "State-Building, Constitution-Making and Civic Education" at Janakpur, one of the conflict-hit town of Nepal, on November 07. Over 60 persons representing judges, local administration, political parties, civil society and college and school teachers took part in the seminar.

They are still uninformed and largely bewildered about the hyperbolic jargons on the constituent assembly and formulation of the new constitution to make new Nepal. They do not know what in fact the proportional electoral system is.

Not only the general public who are confused about the present political activities and the procedures about the formulation of new Constitution, even the local politicians, college professors, and journalists seem to be simmering with confusion since the Interim Legislature Parliament Monday passed two proposals which has directed the government to go for fully proportional electoral system and the set the date for the announcement of republic.

Each of them has their own interpretation and understanding. But still they are not sure about the procedures about elections of Constituent Assembly. Different groups have their different opinions and arguments. Surprisingly neither the government nor the non-governmental organisations has made any efforts to educate them yet.

"It is a great irony that the government and particularly the political parties are talking much about the Constituent Assembly without letting the people know that they really mean," said 78-year-old former professor Janaki Saran Yadav.

The new schedule and modality of the upcoming constituent assembly are yet to be decided. Even though the Interim Legislature Parliament passed the proposals for fully proportional electoral system, the modality is yet to be decided. Moreover, the people have not been informed which model would be the appropriate according to the country's existing situation. It is said that the modality of electoral system would be decided in the regular session of the parliament which will be held in less than two weeks time.

Kashi Raj Dahal, chairman of the Administrative Court says that awareness generation campaign among the people is a must to hold elections of the Constituent Assembly. Dwelling upon the topic entitled "The Process of Nation Building, Constitution building and Civic Education" organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Dahal said that all political parties should work in tandem for political stability and development, for that visionary leadership is a must.
The formation of a new constitution takes place only on special occasion of a country's history. The process of formation of the constitution demands independent judiciary, press freedom, fearless situation, no external and internal interference and human rights, he said.

The cardinal objectives of the formulation of the new constitution are to establish sustainable peace, restructure of state and the development of the democratic (loktantrik) system, which according to Dahal is not possible without people's participation. A constitution is the fundamental law that sets and regulates structures of the state and its procedures. It defines the nature of the political system of the state, organs of the state and methods of exercising state power.

It lends legitimacy, to the functions and activities of the state and ensures the rights of the people and demarcates the power of the government. A constitution is the road map of the state. It is the 'charter' of that guides, the conduct of the state and its people. Unlike, ordinary laws, the constitution are not written in any kind of situation or circumstance. Rather it is written in special situation and circumstance through the application of special procedures.
The main objective of writing constitution is to ensure the rights of the people and a conduct in the state affairs, which is based on the rule of law. In a modern state, constitution is written to prevent tyranny of the government to make it accountable tot the people and to ensure that the state is governed as per the people's desire and through their representatives. Writing constitution is a political task. The privilege to write a constitution lies with the new political forces, which have changed the existing state power system, and represents the changing aspirations of the people.

Regarding the Constituent Assembly, he said that it is an assembly, which is elected by the people to write a constitution. The major function of this assembly is to write a constitution as per the aspiration of the people. It is also understood as an assembly of citizens that drafts the constitution. It is a participatory assembly that has actual representation of the people and which writes the constitution as per their desire.

He also elaborated different types of electoral system such as - the existing system of maximum scoring, proportional electoral system and mixed electoral system. He said that the nature of politics determines the process of writing the constitution. When a constitution is written on the basis of political process, then it directs the politics and state system to be governed by the constitution and law. He described the constitution of various countries.

During the discussion programme, local leaders, teachers and journalists accused the political parties and their leaders for undermining the existence of people. They said that this is the high time of building the nation. However, the political leaders are squabbling over the seats at the cost of the sovereignty of the nation. In fact people are tired of all the wheeling and dealing of political leaders, they said.

Dr. Ram Kumar Yadav, a political scientist and executive member of Nepal University Professor's Association, observed that civic sense among the political actors and the people is a must to foster democratic culture in the society. Making of constitution is not a big deal, but the actors who implement it should be honest towards people and the nation. All political parties irrespective of their partisan interests should be united for the development of the nation, he said. Young generations are in dire need of civic education and they should be made to feel their responsibilities towards the society and the nation.

Unless the young generations are aware of their responsibility towards the nation, a sustainable development of the country is not possible. He also made a comment that today's generations are not serious about their duties as a result of which the entire society has mired into uncertainties, insecurities and lack of confidence. People are moving away because of lack of economic and social opportunities. It is the responsibility of the government and the civil society to integrate their feelings and galvanize their efforts for the development and unity of the nation. Political awareness is vital among the youths. Despite having opportunities thousands of youths are leaving for abroad to earn money. This is not a healthy trend at all, he said. He also accused the political leaders of ignoring key issues of the country. Majority of the people in this shantytown are more concerned about peace security and development.

Earlier Nav Raj Dahal programme director of the FES while highlighting the objectives of the programmes said that sense of responsibility, reconciliation, and respect were essential to foster democracy in the society. The FES, according to Dahal has been conducting massive awareness generation programmes on civic education, constituent assembly and democracy in more than 40 districts for the last one year. On the occasion FES also distributed 150 copies of the handouts on CA, Democracy, and other publications to participants and non-participants.

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