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Workshop Report on Building Sustainable Peace In A situation of Ongoing Conflict In Nepal

Organised by National Media Development Center ( NMDC)

Papers:

20 September 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal


National Media Development Center (NMDC) organized a one-day's Seminar on 'Building Sustainable Peace In a Situation of Ongoing Conflict in Nepal' on 20th September 2008 at Kathmandu with the financial support provided by FES Nepal.

At the Seminar, Chairman of Administrative court and expert in Constitution, Kashiraj Dahal said constitution must be formulated for sustainable development.

He added that there have been remnants of conflicts in some form but the conflict is necessary for giving the society momentum and resolution should be sought maintaining restraints and peace. He presented election, constitution building, national reconciliation and transformation period as four pillars of peace building.

Secretary at Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Madhav Ghimire said sustainable peace cannot be imagined during instability. Up to now, focus has been put on political goals. Transformation would fail severely if it could not include people. The economic programs must be implemented.

He elaborated that there are problems in implementation. Combatants are needed to be resettled and reintegrated. Compensation needs to be provided to hundreds of thousands of people. Marginalized people must be mainstreamed. There would be more hurdles in maintaining peace.

Secretary at Ministry of Information and Communication, Yuvaraj Pandey said peace process could be more successful if media could have become fairer. Fair practice is needed while taking people's dissatisfactions to the people. Nepali media has their own prejudices.

Head of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Dev Raj Dahal said the seminar has been organized for creating knowledge. He said actors have been changed. Power has changed hands between different social classes, political parties and public institutions. The advent of Madhesi parties and CPN (Maoist) marks the decline of old parties but they are not without internal friction.

"Sustainable conflict resolution requires finding optimal space for all the actors of conflict system-actual, potential and left out-and establishing a dynamic balance of their interests in the political system," Dahal concluded.

In the seminar Asst Prof. at Dept of Sociology/Anthropology and Program Coordinator Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Tribhuvan University, Dr. Saubhagya Shah, presented paper titled 'Conflict Transformation and Democratic Consolidation: A Nepali 'Post-Conflict'?'.

Similarly, Professor at Kantipur City College and Media Expert Rama Krishna Regmi presented paper on the theme: Media, Social Change and Peace Building (Media: the fast track to change, peace) in second session.

More than 80 intellectuals from different profession took part in the seminar.

From the chair, President of National Media Development Center (NMDC), Bishnu Prasad Sharma briefed the object of the seminar and commented that though there were incidents of yellow journalism media must be left free and be abided by their code of ethics and conducts.

Rapporteurs' Report

National Media Development Center organized a one-day's Seminar on Building Sustainable Peace In a Situation of Ongoing Conflict in Nepal on 20th September 2008 (4th Aswin 2065) at Hotel Orchid, Tripurshwor, Kathmandu.

The Seminar was divided into three sessions:

1. Inaugural Session
2. First Session
3. Second Session

1. Inaugural Session

Inaugural Session was chaired by President of NMDC, Bishnu Sharma (Parajuli).

Chairperson of Administrative Court and Expert in Constitution, Kashiraj Dahal; Secretary at Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MoPR), Madhav Ghimire and Head of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal Dev Raj Dahal were requested to take seats at dais.

Kicking off the Seminar, President Sharma highlighted the object of the seminar.

He said peace has been established after the end of conflict in Nepal. Though its impacts have not been measured, new dimensions of conflict have been emerging. He said neo conflicts have more sociological dimensions.

He stated that though Nepali media have been disseminating stories about the new types of conflict they are in confusion about its tentacles.

He urged experts and participants to ponder for finding sustainable peace amidst ongoing conflict.

Head of Friederich-Ebert-Stiftung, Dev Raj Dahal said the seminar has been organized for creating knowledge.

On the peace process, he said actors have been changed. Power has changed hands between different social classes, political parties and public institutions. The advent of Madhesi parties and CPN (Maoist) marks the decline of old parties but they are not without internal friction.

He said the tension created by multiple goals and orientations of various parties, such as Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-led coalition's aim of revolutionary transformation, Nepali Congress's incremental reforms and Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal's conservation of tradition have set the dynamics of politics in Nepal. The ruling coalition of three main parties-CPN (Maoist), Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum (MJAF) and three smaller parties are fighting for status and privileges. The over two-dozen non-state armed groups are acting as extra-constitutional actor of Nepalese politics.

He added that the CPN (Maoist) thinks that only the integration of combatants into NA is a key to the resolution of conflict in Nepal while other political parties fear its consequence to national security and instead prefer their integration in industrial security, border security force, forest guards, recruiting some women combatants in the UN Peace Keeping operation, etc.

Following CA elections, the political class shifted its position from principle-based conflict resolution to interest-based one.

"Sustainable conflict resolution requires finding optimal space for all the actors of conflict system-actual, potential and left out-and establishing a dynamic balance of their interests in the political system," Dahal concluded.

Secretary at Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Madhav Ghimire said sustainable peace cannot be imagined during instability. Up to now, focus has been put on political goals. New budget has given attention to economic and social issues. Transformation would fail severely if it could not include people. The economic programs must be implemented.

He added that there is confusion among people about new Nepal and state restructuring. These issues would be resolved by constituent assembly.

He said in the democratic process message of peace should be disseminate to people. The three processes remained to be addressed are a. constitution building a. peace process and c. federalism.

He elaborated that there are problems in implementation. Combatants are needed to be resettled and reintegrated. Compensation needs to be provided to hundreds of thousands of people. Marginalized people must be mainstreamed. There would be more hurdles in maintaining peace.

Chairman of Administrative court and expert in Constitution, Kashiraj Dahal said constitution must be formulated for sustainable development. Mahabharata says that peace would not be maintained immediately after big war.

He added that there have been remnants of conflicts in some form but the conflict is necessary for giving the society momentum. Resolution should be sought maintaining restraints and peace. If conflict could not be controlled it would have severe impact. It should be resolved peacefully.

He presented four pillars of peace building:

1. Election

The conflict and peace should be given people's mandate. Constituent assembly election has been accomplished. But new electorate system must be envisaged. There is problem of representation for including regions and genders. Though election provides legitimacy, maintaining inclusive representation is crucial problem.

2. Constitution Building

New constitution transforms one state mechanism to another. Constituent Assembly is expected to formulate new democratic constitution and institutionalize the peace.

Time provided for constitution making is two years and it begins from 2065 Jeth 15 (May 28, 2008) and ends on 2067 Jeth 14 ( May 27, 2010). Constitution should not be built by declaring emergency. The process has been delayed and has not taken momentum.

Government remains to be completed and constituent assembly has not begun its function.

Many countries have been laboratory of constitution building and people would not be able to sustain movements time and again.

The interim constitution has adopted the method of consensus and two-third majority. Constitution would not be built without resolving political problems and political parties have their own stances in many issues. The main issues are authority of the President, power sharing and power balance with the Prime Minister.

The Interim Constitution has accepted federal system but numbers of provinces and their authority have remained to be decided. The constitution must include these matters.

Mechanism for resolving disputes between provinces on issues including issues of natural resources must be formulated. Some countries have put the matter in the court but it is not the matter of judicial resolution.

It should be the matter of political resolution and in Germany and Switzerland such matters are resolved by political parties.

Inclusive democracy must include representation of all regions, classes, castes and genders. Parties need to reach to consensus on model of inclusion before writing constitution. The model must outline the border of inclusiveness.

The constitution beyond state's capacity will crumble down without implementation. State must be strengthened and unity is the base of the strength.

We are seeking identity by splitting but unity needs national interest. Political parties must find the base that unites the splitting sections.

3. National Reconciliation

For reconciliation bitterness among parties must be abated and they must develop culture of mutual respect and clean the remnants of conflicts.

4. Transformation Period

Order has been stirred and rule of law has been broken. Rule must be abided and criminal must be punished. Corrupt must not be let free unpunished.

Constitution is the national discipline. Political consensus must be forged for constitution building. The structure must be envisaged by political parties and on the base lawyers can letter the spirit.

Inauguration session ended after Dahal's remark.

2. First Session

After the tea, First Session of seminar began, and Secretary at Peace and Reconstruction Ministry, Madhav Ghimire moderated the Session.

Asst Prof. at Dept of Sociology/Anthropology and Program Coordinator Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Tribhuvan University, Dr. Soubhagya Shah, presented paper titled 'Conflict Transformation and Democratic Consolidation: A Nepali 'Post-Conflict'?'.

He said Nepal took a huge leap of faith in April 2006. The people are still waiting for it to land, right side up in 2008. The past two years since the fall of the ancient regime has been an extreme roller coaster ride for the people with its wide swings between unbridled euphoria and deep pessimism.

The ruling alliance that came to power on the back of the 19-day general strike or Janaandolan had declared through the reinstated parliament in May 2006 that holding of the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and writing of a new constitution would be the major yardstick in Nepal's political transition following the fall of the king's government on April 24, 2006, he said.

Despite the high priority given for successful CA elections by the donors, UN, civil society, and the coalition government comprised of seven political parties and the Maoist rebels, the actual holding of elections proved to be tortuously elusive for a while, he added.

He stated that despite everyone's worst fears and some reports of killings, violence, and irregularities, the "international community" that had come to assist, monitor, and observe the elections judged it to have been conducted in a "free and fair" manner.

If the actual holding of the elections - and that too largely peaceful - came as a relieved surprise to many, the actual electoral outcome flabbergasted political pundits and experts - both native and alien - who had consistently projected an easy victory for the liberal democratic camp and a near rout for the Maoist rebels, he said.

So when the Maoists emerged as the largest party in the CA elections with NC and UML trailing as distant second and third, it was as if there had been a polar reversal in the Nepali politics. In the 601-seat assembly, the Maoists had won 229 seats compared to the 115 for NC and 108 for UML. The ordinary voters had confounded the most learned pundits in Kathmandu, said Shah.

Asst. Prof. Shah said the actual procedure for writing up the constitution is not clearly laid out nor agreed upon. While the interim constitution has already decreed that Nepal to be a federal, democratic, republic, it has been left to the constituent assembly to work out the details of such a federal state.

He said, "The ambitious project of state restructuring begun in 2006 has perhaps not reflected adequately on the hyphenated relationship between the nation and the state."

"For what obtained before 2006 was not only a state, but a nation-state. The previous state had articulated the key foundations of the Nepali nation to be sanatanic Hindu ethos, monarchy, Nepali language, and the founding myth of unity and unification."

"The regime change has dismantled the old pillars of the Gorkhali nation: Hindu kingdom has become a secular state; monarchy has been replaced by a republic, and the preeminent position of Nepali language has been demoted both at the political and symbolic level. Most importantly, the earlier national narratives of Nepali unification and unity have been replaced with a counter-narrative of diversity and difference," he said.

"It has been argued in some quarters that the new values of secularism, republicanism, and federalism adopted by the new state can also become the foundations of a new nation. What this suggestion ignores is the fact that nation and nationalism is largely particularizing, that is, it is tied to a particular place, experience, and people. In contrast, secularism, republicanism, and federalism are universalizing political ideals, usually connected to the Enlightenment project of rationality and science freed from any specific locale or cultural identity," he argued.

"The restructuring project will have to consciously decide whether Nepal will be restructured as a state only or whether it will continue as a nation-state in some form; and if so, with what specific identity?" he questioned.

Dr. Shah said a major irony in Nepal at present is that despite the impressive governing alliance and the strong backing accorded to it by New Delhi and the Western powers, the government in Nepal has never been so weak.

"The judiciary has been put under the executive; the large Constituent Assembly has been reduced to a rubber stamp for the wishes of the ruling caucus; and there is acute demoralization in the civil service and the police. The military continues to be treated as a pariah by the new regime and the civil society."

He said, "Internally, the failure to implement rule of law, curb spiraling crime wave, check the rising political violence in society, and ensuring the flow of essential supplies is leaving the population feeling insecure and vulnerable."

"Externally, the new regime has become extremely susceptible to external pressures and influences. There is a general impression that no decisions or appointments are being taken without external approval."

After Dr. Shah's presentation, Session Moderator Ghimire added that election is the social fabric in rehabilitation process that takes leaders to grassroots for discourse with people and stressed that inclusiveness in itself is strength.

He said constitution would bind constituents or people. Its making process needs listening people's voice and compromise among key players. He added that reconciliation between universalism or secularism and localization including languages, castes, religions and regions would be challenging while building constitution.

He said state must be enabled and strengthened and it should protect national interest by institutionalizing democracy.

He added that Maoist has become vehicle for delivering changes and they have followed series of steps towards democratic framework. Meanwhile, existing parties have left their conservative agenda like monarchy.

Then he opened floor for comments and queries.

Dr. Prem Sharma said unclear issues like federalism and secularism needed to be elaborated.

Chandra Dev Bhatta said focus should have given to people and justice.

Dr. Shreekrishna Yadav said the country is heterogeneous and the paper has taken the sectorial approach transformation is driven by people. Both CPN (Maoist) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum lack state value.

Dr. Madan Manandhar said constitution should be put in simpler format to people.

Dr. Chuda Shrestha said transformation should be from gun culture to knowledge culture.

Dinesh Tripathi said still people have not owned the peace process. He gave example of Bolivia and stated that risk of derailing the peace process is ample. He said secularism is scientism not elimination of religions. He stressed that country would be split if federalism could not be implemented.

Madhu Giri said the paper seems pessimistic. It has not elaborated problems of local people.

Pitambar Bhandari said violence has been legalized and might be institutionalized.

Bishnu Upadhyaya said the paper based on criticism and did not state about achievement and it lacks the conclusion.

Chau Yen Lai of Nepali Congress said state has become feeble and conflict is ongoing.

Prabalraj Pokharel said everybody had to compromise during the conflict and it should be democratized.

Dr. Bodh Parajuli said the paper does not give path for resolution.

After queries and comments, Dr. Shah made his remarks stating that he wanted to present the scenario and let intellectuals to make the decision.

To conclude the session, Secretary Ghimire said this is academic discourse for making national vision. It should be taken to people's level.

Old values have been dismantled and national vision should be built.

In post conflict situation past messes should be cleared and new block must be created for future. The government is committed for peace.

After Secretary Ghimire's remark the first session concluded.

3. Second Session

Second session was moderated by Secretary at Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC), Yuvaraj Pandey.

At the beginning of the session, Secretary Pandey said peace process could be more successful if media could have become fairer. Fair practice is needed while taking people's dissatisfactions to the people. Nepali media has their own prejudices.

Professor at Kantipur City College and Media Expert Ram Krishna Regmi presented paper on the theme: Media, Social Change and Peace Building (Media: the fast track to change, peace) in second session.

He said the media - print, radio, TV and online - narrated mainly varied dimensions of the story of the joint political movement against the direct rule of the king, the success of the People's Movement II, restoration of parliament, formation of Movement - inspired - coalition - government, promulgation of Interim Constitution, Maoists entry into government, parliament, successful completion of Constituent Assembly poll, implementation of the people's mandate through the CA decisions on switching over to Republic and giving practical shape to pillars of State.

He pointed 10 major changes:

  1. Top decision making power gets transferred from special elite Narayanhity Royal Palace to commoners' arena - Baluwatar, the Prime Minister's residence + Singha Durbar, the seat of government of Nepal
  2. The army changes its traditional "loyal" role - backing king - to "national" duty - defense of the country
  3. Ideologically polarized parties forget their differences and work out a functional alliance for achieving PM II mission
  4. Peace Accord brings Maoists into political mainstream and discontinues conflict
  5. Insurgents become parliamentarians, earn politicos' trust in their commitment to democracy and disenchantment with arms
  6. Government's focused attempt to hold CA poll in a democratic manner
  7. People's participation in CA election and handover special mandate - leadership to Maoists, second, third positions to NC and CPN UML
  8. Beginning of Republican Era guaranteeing citizens' right to rule inspiring people of various places, minorities and excluded to speak out their grievances
  9. Peaceful transfer of power to one time armed rebels through parliamentary process
  10. Continued international support for PM II and all events following it

And drew attention to ten Chaotic confusions

  1. Political parties which benefited positively through alliance culture for two years decide to undo the consensus approach after CA poll
  2. Maoists who got crowned with political trophy through two years' peace and parliamentary election process advocate in the parliament against the parliamentary system
  3. Advocates of equal opportunities for all forget the marginalized, suppressed, and oppressed when they get positions of power
  4. The Constituent Assembly which has to produce a fresh Constitution for Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in two years does not take initial step towards the direction for first six months; it concentrates only on legislative jobs
  5. Ruling parties play opposition role; show no new trend in processing of government policy/programme, budget in CA; feel no need to stop forces parallel to state
  6. All commit to peace and people; but contribute to disturb both either through conflict -time practices or innovative methods of protesting or civil disobedience and ignore armed neo-conflict in various areas specially southern belt of the country
  7. Most refer to conflict victims, martyrs but most ignore their need particularly that of the families of the disappeared, the maimed, and the looted
  8. All advocate service - oriented politics but exercise power - centred one
  9. None disregards economy and private sector but none cares to make highways regularly operational and treat sick industrial plants
  10. All pay lip service to youths but do nothing to empower them, or depoliticize educational institutions or avoid unemployment

He said society is facing neo conflict hinting at several indicators of disturbance in the Tarai, hills, mountains, urban centres, and highways. The movements in Tarai, the demand for separate federal state with power of self decision by minorities, and other communities indicate: if their grievances are not addressed properly in time, another round of multi-dimensional conflict is sure to open in the country. Use of arms and practice of underground political tactics feature some of their activities which possess the real danger.

He added that the media has not been able to be a fair watchdog and has not pursued the principles of ABC of journalism in all cases and in all places. Because of its failure to report properly and fairly, the media itself has been victimised at the hand of some movement - people.

He stated that the option for media in neo - conflict situation is limited, but, fortunately, the same is not confusing. Intensifying the public communication in a fair and non-partisan manner, the media could prepare political parties to be more responsive to the grievances of people and serve their voice and aspirations with due respect and recognition. In the process it could create public opinion for building confidence in bodies which have to provide governance and ensure law and order.

After lunch the floor was open for queries and comments on the paper.

Dr. Saubhagya Shah said media would have its own symbolic, capitalistic and political interests. State wanted to rule by Lathee but this process could not be just. Media is facing both internal and external problems. Self censorship to defend itself from external attack impedes professionalism.

Dr. Chuda Shrestha blamed that media extorted the fact in some cases and in most cases it is disseminating party based news. He alleged that in some cases FM stirred violence.

Prabalraj Pokharel said political parties themselves should be well informed and alleged that both government and private media are under control and media lacks social discourse.

Shree Ram Singh Basnet said media professionalism has been deteriorating. Political parties have made media as their sister organization. Journalists are facing interventions. Each next day, journalists have been beaten. Though young generation is entering into the profession the situation cannot be said encouraging.

Parashuram Aryal said media should not present reverse picture.

Dr. Shreekrishna Yadav said republic has been facing problem from media and court. Media must be bound by ethics.

Dr. Madan Manandhar said media should present picture of both side of the coin.

Prakash Rimal said media was never guided by academic principles. Journalists' capacity must be enhanced.
Surendra Nepali said real journalists do not have any opportunity to develop their skill rather they are compelled to work in pressure.
Smita Dhungana said media must empower women rather than presenting them as sex product.

Dr. Pulkit Choudhari said media people should not maintain personal prejudices and should upkeep professional integrity.

Answering the queries Ram Krisna Regmi said media must decide their course between professional and promotional journalism. He added that media is science, profession and business. Blocking the information would make severe impact on the society.

Helping the moderator FES Head Dev Raj Dahal said during conflict communication might have been distorted. It is process of concept management. People are seeking their ownership in the media.

State wants to sensor the media and retains its own ownership. Media must not be indoctrinated and pushed to disseminate false information. It would deepen conflict. Politicians are making discourse through media.

Media should be part of civil education taking the course of professionalism. They should not try to split the people. Media must mediate the peace process and help to institutionalize the democracy.

After Second Session, President of National Media Development Center, Bishnu Sharma declared the end of the seminar making comment that though there were incidents of yellow journalism media must be left free and be abided by their code of ethics and conducts.

 
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