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Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Nepal

Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

7 October 2007, Lalitpur


Excerpts of the discussion

Inaugural Session
Chairperson Mohan Man Sainju

Ananda Srestha's address:
Much has happened on Nepal's political front in the last two years, especially after the seven political parties and the Maoists signed the Peace Accord prior to assuming power. As of now, the country has been declared a secular state, the King stripped of all powers and the Prime minister of Nepal now stands as the most powerful in the nation's history. The Maoists who spearheaded the Jana Andolan 2 joined the government only to withdraw a couple of months later on grounds of irreconcilable differences with the other partners in government. And in addition, the much-touted Constituent Assembly polls, believed to be the panacea for all the country's political ills, have been postponed for the second time.

As a result, the Nepali people today have become disillusioned with the multi party dispensation that virtually swept the country off its feet with the success of the movement for the restoration for democracy in 1990. In just a span of some seventeen years this aversion towards the most popular and coveted form of governance came about primarily because of democratic norms and values being thrown to the winds by the new leadership. The various governments the country saw and experienced in these years were far from satisfactory and the tolerance and loud silence exhibited by the silent majority in spite of all odds and hardships has indeed been phenomenal. This not only gave the license to our leaders to continue taking the people for granted, but also in the process did a serious disservice to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Today even after the eight party government (now seven with Maoists having opted out) lawlessness and chaotic law and order situation continues to reign supreme. The recent spate of bombings in Kathmandu, the Kapilavastu carnage and another bomb explosion outside the Japanese embassy in Pani Pokhari are some cases in point. Add to these the just recent twice-postponed CA elections that the people pinned their hopes on all along, and we are back to where we started - back to square one. The mercurial rise and fall in the country's political temperature has not only relegated to the back seat the people's desire and their hope for peace and stability, but sidelined crucial issues like rehabilitation of the displaced and the rebuilding of infrastructures destroyed during the Maoist insurgency. Moreover, it has also dampened people's hopes for true democracy, social justice and the rule of law within an all-inclusive social structure.

It is at this point in time that this seminar is being organized to search for ideas on post conflict issues. I hope you all actively contribute to the discussion.

Dev Raj Dahal: If we take the Maoists as the source of conflict, then the title of the seminar may make sense, as they have entered the peace process. But, if we take up other conflicting actors, then we are yet to come out of the myriad conflicts to be able to talk about post-conflict issues.

Post conflict reconstruction has to take into account the peace building measures and issues related with the drivers of the conflict. We find that politics still appears to be a zero-sum game as the political actors are solely interested in power and self-interest and do not appear to be bothered about the resulting anarchy. This is ignoring the aspiration of the sovereign people.

Relief, humanitarian and other short term measures are part of the reconstruction process. Besides that, planned activities like development and decentralization must be given continuity. But, there are also issues that need special initiatives like the peace committees and the truth and reconciliation commission. The actors must be able to feel that their issues are being resolved, for example, integration of the armed fighters. There are a lot of grey areas here that have not been clarified so far.

Chairperson Mohan Man Sainju: Post-conflict issues are related with the physical dimension of reconstruction. The addresses by Srestha and Dahal have clarified the objective of the seminar. Not just reconstruction and relief, but the political process must also be taken into account while discussing post-conflict issues. The positive side of the Nepalese peace process is that it has given us an initiative to create a new structure for the first time in history.

In the past 50 years, world GDP has grown by the fastest rate ever, but has also increased the gap between the rich and then poor in historical proportions. This means that we are left with great challenges along with the opportunities available. Global political initiatives merely talk about military security but there has been growing realization that human security also needs to be taken up. We find marginalization as a great bottleneck for achieving that human development. Hence, the current political actors talking about inclusion as an objective is a good thing.

People sometimes say that Nepal gained a lot without losing much in the course of the conflict, but it should be remembered that we lost 13,000 lives. It is true that other countries lost more lives and have still not achieved peace. But the value of even one life lost is incalculable.

We did see that foreign forces were involved in the peace process but it could not be perceivable directly, like the Norwegian involvement in the Sri Lankan peace process.

The most affected sectors of Nepal's conflict are the rural areas, the marginalized groups and sectors. Suspension bridges, health posts, primary schools, small hydel projects were the targets for destruction during the conflict years. These are all vital day-to-day needs of the rural areas.

Children were the most affected even among the marginalized sections- their psychology has borne incalculable losses. There must be ways to deal with how to bring them to the mainstream. I hope the papers will deal with these issues. This might be the first seminar that is talking so broadly of post-conflict reconstruction.

In the one and a half years of the peace process, we see that our performance record in terms of reconstruction has been very poor. If the concerned stakeholders and consumers are included in post conflict reconstruction, we can build on the gains we made in the involvement of the community in our development efforts, like in community forestry.

Reconciliation through peace councils and the like are equally important in bringing ideological extremes to moderation. In Nepal, the extreme has even taken the ethnic and regional dimensions threatening the very fabric of national society.

Lastly, we must ensure that our reconstruction efforts are lasting and sustainable.

Working Session I
Presentation: Bharat Pokhrel
Chair: Bihari Krishna Srestha

Presentation
Bharat Pokhrel's paper deals with the economics surrounding issues involving post-conflict reconstruction. He lumps development needs and the needs brought about by destruction during conflict and prescribes a careful path between donor conditionalities, policies induced by global economic reform efforts, and the carrying capacity of the economy manifested in the post-conflict shortage of capital- both human and financial.

The paper recommends caution in the post-reconstruction tasks by giving examples of the various post-conflict scenarios throughout the world so that Nepal can avoid the mistakes those countries made and follow the successes they gained.

He also lists the damages that Nepal suffered in terms of physical infrastructure and hints at the social and psychological damages that Nepalese had to bear because of the armed conflict. The author finally advocates measures to mitigate such hardships through reconciliation processes and social rehabilitation, side by side with the imperatives of development and reconstruction.

FLOOR

Prem Sharma: The paper should have linked the discussion with current post-conflict governance as well.

Laxmi Kesari Manandhar: A review of the tasks underway to reconstruct the destroyed infrastructure should have given us a practical perspective.

Women and children are also victims of the conflict. Inclusion of private sector and NGO reconstruction efforts would have provided a broader picture.

Bijaya Srestha: Discussion of reconstruction efforts elsewhere should have been provided by the author for comparison and as examples for Nepal to follow. Not just physical reconstruction, but social reconstruction too, like women's role, should have been included in the paper.

How do we involve women in the integration process?

Ram Kumar Dahal: You talk of the need for donor focus. What are the priorities you would list for the focus?

Indu Pokhrel: Is the conflict actually over?

Secondly, you talk of rehabilitation. There are two aspects to this: Rehabilitation of those displaced by the conflict and the rehabilitation of services. For rehabilitation, there must be peace, able government, and an environment free of fear. How can there be rehabilitation in today's environment? The paper does not deal with the specialized rehabilitation needs during such a situation.

If we reconstruct without consideration to the existing environment, we will reach nowhere. Even if the donor comes to help us in our efforts, nothing is going to be achieved in terms of social losses, something only the state can take up.

Shova Gautam: I think we are merely in a transitional phase, and not in a post-conflict state. The issues taken up today should have been issues relevant for the transition.

I too believe that the gender perspective should be a priority. You should have also talked of the reconstruction of the psychology. Women's issues should have been taken up.

Lal Babu Yadav: Did globalization and privatization have any role in resulting in the conflict? The paper should have discussed the initiatives of the government towards that end as well.

Women and children are the biggest victims. What are the initiatives to deal with that particular problem?

Also, if you had taken up the Madhes issue, it would have enlightened me.

Keshav Khadka: The paper's survey of the international scene is good. But the background leading to it is not impressive.

Regarding costs, we have paid very high, especially in terms of social costs. There is conflict among various groups. Going to one part of the country from another has become virtually impossible. This is an irreparable loss for our nationhood.

Regarding economics, what are the issues that we need to address? The defence spending rose during the conflict years. Was it justified? How has it impacted on the investment sector, especially on reconstruction projects?

WFP's food-for-work programme is paying only three kilos of rice per day [21 rupees per kilo] less than the minimum wage, but people are enthusiastically working to build roads and the like.

Two post-conflict budgets have already been announced and we have not assessed the state of the reconstruction projects. The existing reconstruction picture would have provided us the wherewithal to find new directions to go.

Mohan Lohani: You contradict yourself when you prescribe a heavy dose of foreign aid in reconstruction and again say that we should not be dependent on aid.

Also, are we in the post conflict age? Because, there is still the environment which instills fear in us?

Regarding the community approach, Chuda Bahadur Thapa has come out with his thesis on the issue in detail.

Ganga Bahadur Thapa: Economic development could prevent violent conflict but not the inherent conflict; hence all approaches must be taken up simultaneously. Our conflict was political, violent and aimed at taking over the reins of power. It is not going to be resolved easily. Marxists have not become vegetarians so far, and the traditional forces are bent on using force in the conventional sense. Hence, talk of a post-conflict situation might be too premature at the moment. But discussion should not harm anyone.

Chuda Bahadur Thapa: Are the infrastructure damages that you included in the paper only the pre-April ones or also those that occurred afterwards. The damages should be classified as those that occurred pre-2006, during the 19-day movement and the post movement destruction.

We need foreign examples. In East Timor, the government led to failure of the preace process. In Haiti, too, the peace initiative could not reach its conclusion. South Korea and Malaysia should serve as better examples with regard to development projects.

Rehabilitation and service delivery should be taken up simultaneously. Not even minor services have been delivered in these years.

We know that donors are involved in corruption in post-conflict projects.

Achyut Rajbhandari: I, too, think that the governance aspect should have been looked into as it is the delivery window of any political system. In Nepal, we see that even after political changes the same governments continue to rule, whether you talk of the 1951 change or the 1991 one.

Conflict is not just the result of lapses in service delivery but also in the rearrangement of inter-people relations. For example, Article 35 of the constitution has continued to work ever since 1950. Everything has continued they way they did before, whether it is the bureaucracy or the executive. If we want to talk of the post-conflict situation, should not changes actually take place to address the root causes of the conflict-- marginalization?


Jitendra Dhoj Khand: The over 30,000 Maoist fighters need to be rehabilitated for the conflict to be over. At the moment, they have entered the cities from the rural forests.

If we can utilize all the rivers in Nepal, we can develop every part of the nation any way we want to.

The fighters cannot be reintegrated to the Nepalese army, but they can be utilized for the development of the nation just as water resources can be.

The government has not even removed the terrorist tag off of the Maoists.

The DNA of the political leaders must be checked to find out whether they are criminally minded or they are actually honest people geared to resolve the problems of the country.

We have seen civilian coups taking place in Nepal throughout history.

India made a mistake by inciting the Maoists, as this has put guns in every Nepali hand.

Mohammad Habibullah: We need to first understand the nature of the conflict. It is different from those in Africa. The examples you give are not contextual. We have taken UN's help but they have not contributed to the resolution. We are still in the beginning phase of the conflict to be able to talk about a post-conflict situation. One conflict is between those in power and the powerless and another one between the haves and have nots.

We have not been able to address the root cause of the conflict. Mere talking about the removal of the king by 480 persons will not reduce the level of conflict.

If the Nepalese army is for the country's defence, the country does not even need demarcated borders as they can take care of any pending attacks. Four million Indians have been given Nepalese citizenship but people in the Madhesh have not received them. The distribution of the document was not done by people from the Madhesh, but by those from the hills.

You talk of reconstruction in a place where we still have Jung Bahadur's institutions functioning.

Lambasting the Maoist Young Communist League is not productive. What can those who have not passed high school do except what they are already doing? What do you expect? Political leaders are beating their own drums and are not thinking about finding the real resolution.

Surendra KC: The paper does not talk of the plight the Nepalese economy is going through. The white elephants called public enterprises that the government is taking upon itself to manage, people going abroad for employment and huge amounts of foreign debts are issues that must be taken up. We have such incapable government that makes us wonder whether reconstruction can take place at all. Jailed women have not been spared of rape in prison. The army did not even budge while 24 persons were killed in Kapilvastu right outside their barracks.

A Maoist woman leader recently said that inclusiveness has meant inclusiveness of wives of their political leaders. If this is the case with revolutionary women, what of others? Can reconstruction take place under such circumstances?

Why should the Nepal Oil Corporation be paying 250 million rupees interest? Just give one reason why the Nepal airlines, or the other corporations, should not be privatized, especially when we have already done so with profit oriented corporations.

The danger is still there that our conflict has not been over.

Khilanath Dahal: We are supposed to be in the post-conflict stage but the conflict is continuing. If we find the root cause of the conflict, we can resolve them. Social justice and lack of focus on youth are the reasons for conflict. The push factor on youth to foreign countries must be addressed. Economic issues must be taken up. Political rehabilitation in rural areas, the government's own rehabilitation in areas where it appears absent and people's rehabilitation from places they have been displaced to are other rehabilitation issues. Only this will make reconstruction possible. Otherwise not.

We have not addressed the issues of workers which includes all the marginalized groups. The workers include those marginalized even among more privileged groups.

Rudra Upadhya: The author has consulted 19 foreign books and papers. You talk of the need to include the grassroots in reconstruction, but who will take the lead? Can we use the TU students from rural development faculty and hand them the responsibility of reconstruction?

If we talk of new Nepal and base our arguments on the old one, it would not help.

Nine hundred of the 100 doctors that we produce annually go abroad for work, how will we have rehabilitation of the health sector in such a situation? Rural youths are going abroad for work, how will we include them in rural reconstruction? You talk of unemployment in Haiti, but do not talk about Nepal's case.

Tourism in Sirubari declined by 67 per cent because of the conflict.

Political parties are robbing the country and we do not know whether we have law and order at all. Would increasing civil service pay actually curb corruption? I think inheritance law should be abolished for corruption control.

What were the privatization successes that Mozambique garnered?

Please include Ananda Aditya's book called "Reinventing the State" in your list of references.

Reply by Bharat Pokhrel
Regarding whether we are in a post conflict situation or not, let me ask you whether a rural farmer still migrates to the urban area for better opportunity? This transformation of the lifestyle is what gives rise to conflict. In other words, the Nepalese conflict has not ended, only its nature has changed after the Maoists entered the peace process. I agree that the conflict has not yet settled.

Nepal's conflict has resulted in so much literature that researchers will find it difficult to navigate through them to find the essence. I took up authoritative data on the conflict, so I did not bother with other data published by others on the same issue. There are about 100 reference books on Nepal's conflict.

I agree that the gender issue is a vital one and needs a proper approach. The government has not included household chores in the GDP under international pressure and as a result we do not know the extent of their contribution.

Yes, governance issues must be included in reconstruction efforts.

Regarding the Nepalese army's criteria for recruitment, we should begin to think about changing those criteria to suit our needs.

Yes, I agree that we should think about whether politicians are making a sacrifice while following their professions or are they merely making investments for future personal benefits?

Chairperson's remarks
Can we begin talking of a post conflict era? I feel that there is a mere reduction of violence, not the end of conflict.

In rural areas, people have devised ways to skirt around the Maoist intimidation. In such a situation, we not only need reconstruction, but also incremental development as well.

We can have development despite the government and also despite the Maoists. A very good example is the community forestry sector.

In Nepal, talking about indigenous people is not done very accurately. All the different ethnic groups had migrated to the country from elsewhere in the past. Even the Newars of Kathmandu are said to have come from Tibet. But all these groups are being called indigenous these days. In such a situation, we need a seminar from NEFAS with adequate research on ethnic issues to put maters right. That has also been the point raised by many participants today.

Working Session I
How Inclusive Nepal's Institutions?
Presentation: Santa Bahadur Pun
Chair: Guna Nidhi Sharma


Presentation
Santa Bahadur Pun's paper looks for roots of exclusionary policies in the state structure and begins in the unification era of Nepal before proceeding to modern-day Nepal. He sees King Ram Shah adopting an inclusive policy in terms of the diversity of people he ruled, but sees him not being able to break the tradition of favouring the Bahuns, or the mullahs of the day, over the rest of the population in meting out punishment for crimes and allocating resources [professions] other than those that tradition dictated. His descendant, Prithvi Narayan Shah, Pun says, merely followed Ram Shah's footsteps in treatment of the different castes of the day although he advocated unity in diversity with his Sabai Jatko Fulbari dictum.

After Rana Bahadur's assassination, some time later, political power began to be monopolized by the Shah-Chhetri coalition, Pun says and concludes that this led the Magars and Gurungs to seek alternative employment by joining British-Indian forces. The then governments continued not only the exclusion they had been practicing but in fact began imposing the Aryan culture on the Matwales, the ethnic groups and other castes. Jung Bahadur codified the tradition to the extent that even today's society sees the Bahun-Chhetri-Newar troika dominating every government institution.

Pun vouches for an affirmative action to bring the other caste-ethnic groups into the mainstream through positive discrimination. This should not mean that Nepal blindly follow examples from other countries, particularly India, but learn from mistakes that are there to see. The point of entry to and vertical movement in government institution must be the areas of intervention for greater inclusiveness, he says.

FLOOR

Laxmi Kesari Manandhar: You have not included in your discussion the Malla period which has handed down a rich cultural heritage to us.

Talking of inclusion, the issues of Janajati, Dalit and women have also been talked of in the public sphere. But, you do not appear to touch on women.

Vidyanath Nepal: The exclusion that you portrayed has been accepted all. Poverty in the far west and the general exclusion do not need to be reiterated. Our concern should be about how to address them. Both the peace accord and the interim constitution have not addressed them. I feel that a master plan is needed for the vision of a new Nepal, one related with poverty alleviation in the disadvantaged areas and communities.

Regarding landholding and distributive justice we do not have large holdings to merit attention. We should rather stress on growth-oriented farm policy.

Mohan Lohani: Opportunity must be provided to the backward and marginalized communities.

Suman Dhakal: Inclusiveness does not appear to be there in any institution. What makes you think reservation will give us a way out and what could be its negative aspects, particularly in our context?

Bijaya Shrestha: Inclusive policies must be enforced with commitment to have the excluded groups included. Gender, regional and economic perspectives must be adopted to analyze the state of discrimination.

What could the groups that need affirmative action in today's context?

Krishna Belbase: The Newar among the Bahun-Chhetri-Newar troika identifies itself as a Janjati. What could be the impact of distribution of privileges to the Janajatis on the Newars? But, again, they have already benefited as a member of the troika.

I feel autonomy for the local level is better than a federal structure. One can have local level autonomy even in a unitary situation. For example, the Dalits may not have their state in spite of their 13 per cent share in population while even 2 per cent population, like the Kirats, may have their own state.

Ramesh Singh: The data that you have taken does not give the whole picture, for example, the ethnic mix of officials that you provide only lists up to the undersecretary level. If you go up to the secretary level, the picture may be different.

In the army too, you should not take the technical jobs as an inclusion issue, as that comes only after education and training. The picture may change if you make such discrimination in your analysis.

Mohan Man Sainju: Analysis on inclusion cannot be complete until the gender aspect is analyzed.

The paper talks little about the way forward. Other authors too have yet to do that. I suggest that our efforts are sustained. Extra efforts need to be made, like positive discrimination and affirmative action, and that needs to begin at the grassroots.

Since poverty alleviation in rural areas is the key, let me tell you something about our experiences. At the Poverty Alleviation Fund, we focused our attention on the Dalits and women. Over 85 per cent Janjatis and Dalits were included in the programmes and over 50 per cent women. The successes pushed the fund to expand its programmes to more districts.

Lal Babu Yadav: What does inclusiveness mean, in term of theoretical knowledge? You should also give a picture of the Dalits and women.

What is the definition of Madhesh and Tarai?

You should include the Tarai in your analysis of the village leadership.

I too agree that you have missed out on gender analysis. Not even one woman minister is found in today's cabinet on behalf of the Nepali Congress.

I do not believe that inclusion will solve all problems. Neither does federalism bring about inclusiveness. This is shown by the cases in India and the United States. Higher percentage in leadership does not guarantee wellbeing of the population that the percentage represents.

Ananda Srestha: The media has not been included in the analysis. Also, portrayal of the share of the pie at the decision-making level of ethnic groups should make better sense.

Reservation could also bring problems, like meritocracy getting marginalized. For example what about poor Brahmins who have the merit?

Ujjwal Baral: Should inclusiveness include only politics or should merit also be scrapped to make way for inclusiveness? The way to manage inclusiveness has not been charted out in spite of the loud slogans of inclusiveness. Should we be including also those going abroad for work? What about including Brahmins where they are in minority?

Indu Acharya: What does inclusion mean-- is it on the basis of class, caste or financial status? The paper does not touch upon the issues related with the health sector?

You also talk of the privileged class, please define. Is the Bahun in Humla privileged?

There is a lot of inclusion in NGOs.

I doubt if structural changes can bring about inclusiveness. It needs to be practiced in behaviour.

Bihari K. Shrestha: I believe that federalism is not needed at all. Federalism opens the way to opportunism. If we devolve powers to the local level, our problems can be solved. Basic opportunities should be accessible to all groups. This should allow us room for complaint. There will always be those privileged and those not so.

Ganga Thapa: Is the lack of inclusiveness a constitutional problem? If it is not so, then it must be a procedural one.

What could be the prescriptions for inclusiveness?

Again, democracy is supposed to be inclusive, why then talk of inclusive democracy?

Karna Bahadur Thapa: We need to follow the nation's history. Our transition has been very slow because we have not been able to chart the course we should take.

We see that old elites and new elites have ganged up against the people in today's context.

If you can portray your picture on both micro and macro levels, it may give a better picture.

There are areas in Nepal where the British and Indian armies have been providing exclusive service to Janjatis alone, through welfare centres, and not others.

Economic development is one issue while politics is another.

Please differentiate these issues and provide the necessary way out.

Surendra KC: Rather than Ram Shah, you should have quoted some modern social scientist.

Reservation does not guarantee that everything will work. In India, they have found its negative impact on the bureaucratic leadership.

We know that many of the Chhetris are also descendants of Janjatis.

The Ochtorlony convention was not a treaty and was not a formal treaty to allow recruitment of the Nepalese by the British army. Only after 1949, did such recruitment begin officially. We know that it was the British who excluded the Chhetris from their army; and even the Rais and Limbus until late. Today, we take money from the same British and say that the Magars have been excluded in Nepalese institutions.

We also have the tendency to be exclusive in our own dealings but slam others for not being inclusive.

We need experts to rule us.

Jitendra Dhoj Khand: Not four, but five, castes is the actual number. A Brahmin is one who knows Brahma and everyone becomes one when he preaches.

The issue of inclusiveness rose because people started demanding something that was prepared by someone else.

Prem Sharma: Is mechanical representation, one where the share of percentage is reflected in the share of privileges, the real solution.

Access to resources has been enjoyed by those near it. How will we ever come out of it? We see that even reservation does not solve our problem?

Santa Bahadur Pun's reply
Description of a way forward is indeed weak in my paper.

I did not go to the dictionary to seek the meaning of inclusion; I agree that you could also have your own perspective on the term.

Regarding the data in the paper, I tried to reach several institutions to find it. I found it difficult to get, even in my own previous corporation.

The terms like Tarai or Madhes that I have used follows what I found in official documents.

I tried to include the police data, but could not.

You appear to believe that I am for federalism and reservation, but I do not recall writing anything on ethnic provinces. I am in fact ignorant of the benefits of federalism and reservation.

Dr. Harka Gurung talks about political representation and education opportunity as the way forward. Also the Newars have gone to the Janajati network from the Bahun, Chhetri and Newar trinity.

Chairperson's remarks
Inclusion is needed in economics, society and politics.

The inclusion that the author talked about is a governance issue. But we must not sacrifice the ground for competition in the name of inclusion as it would lead to the phase of institutional decay and could even move towards collapse.

Geography, gender and even environmental issues must be taken into consideration to avert conflict and prevent poverty from afflicting us. Poverty allows conflict to grow. Prosperity is a big factor in mitigating conflict. Conflict appears when there is mistake committed in sharing the available resources. It is for equality and non discrimination that we talk of federalism and autonomy. We should be able to devise a scheme to include everyone in the democratic and development process. They would also be allowed to participate in all kinds of decision-making.

Also, let us not think that politics is the overarching tool that can be used. There are other issues that influence issues and result in conflict. Even the ecology can induce conflict.

Vote of thanks by Ananda Srestha

 
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