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Narrative Report on Role of Trade Unions in Constituent Assembly Election

Organised by Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (DECONT)

28-29 February 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal


Introduction

The announcement of Constituent Assembly (CA) date on April 10, 2008 has set off furor in the whole nation. All political parties, civil society, media and workers are on the move to explain the importance of CA election as it will elect 601-member CA to draft a new constitution for the nation. It has provided an opportunity for various stakeholders of Nepalese society to debate, discuss and participate in constitutional talk. Although it has been 55 years since demand of CA has been made for the framing of Nepal's constitution through CA but for various reasons it has been aborted. Its possibility has been materialized only after the historical people's movement April 2006 which also initiated a number of measures, such as restoration of interim parliament, interim constitution and interim government with the inclusion of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). A Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has been signed which facilitated the peace process with the help of the United Nations Mission in Nepal. Still, there were many deadlocks and movement of ethnic and regional forces in the hills and Tarai. The government successfully engaged them and tied them into agreements. The government also initiated a number of reform measures to make the CA representative of social diversity of the nation. It allocated specific number of seats for five categories of people. The Election Commission has made election arrangements and political parties are on electoral fray.

Now the country is heading towards the constituent assembly election. Since CA election is different from other types of election it is important to educate the people especially plant level workers as to what it means, why and how of the CA. For the first time Nepalese people have got an opportunity to be involved in constitution-making process, articulation of their interests, issue socialization and understand the political dynamics of the country. The CA is mandated to establish democracy based on popular sovereignty, inclusive state and sustainable peace process. It is, therefore, important to train the workers about all these, the problems on the way and its outcome. To ignite the hope of workers and educate them about the process of CA election, DECONT organized a program on 'Role of Trade Unions in CA Election' at Kathmandu on 28-29 February 2008. Altogether 123 participants from different level of union structure took part in the program where Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal, Mr. Khila Nath Dahal, Mr. Krishna Poudyal, Mrs Rama Poudyal took part as resource person. Mr Khila Nath Dahal, Acting President, DECONT chaired the opening and closing session of the program.

Inaugural Ceremony

A brief inaugural ceremony was organized for formal inauguration of the workshop and chief guest for the ceremony was Mr. Prakash Man Singh, Vice President of NC. The program was chaired by Mr. Khila Nath Dahal, Act. President of DECONT, Presented at the occasion were distinguished guests and other well-wisher of DECONT. Chief Guest

Mr. Singh inaugurated the workshop.

Business session

After the inaugural session, a brief introduction session was held where participants, presented guests and resource persons introduced themselves on the basis of personal as well as organizational background. Thereafter, formal workshop was started with session on 'Overview of CA Election and Role of Trade Unions in Nepalese Scenario', which was facilitated by Mr Dhruba Chandra Gautam, a veteran union leader. In this session he described about the background of CA election, current political scenario, position of various political parties and its strategic problems, opportunities and challenges for trade unions, initiation of DECONT to multiply the knowledge they have learned in the program etc. After the presentation, an open discussion was also held in which 17 participants took part and expressed their experiences of local level political situation and suggested how they have to move strategically.

The next session of the workshop was on "An introduction of Constituent Assembly Election" that was facilitated by Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal where he described about CA Election based on Process and provision, voter rights and workers. He also discussed about the existing such provisions both national and international and their shortcomings to address the rights and welfare of workers as well as few recommendations to the workers' rights under the new framing of CA. Thereafter an open discussion was also held for around 20 minutes and 15 participants raised their concern on the CA lection.

The next session of the day was on ' Democracy and Role of Trade Unions in Nepal' that was facilitated by Mr. Khila Nath Dahal. In this session he discussed about some important challenges thrown by CA for trade unions as well as for workers in making democratic both participatory and responsive. In this session he also underlined the need for the unions to become active to insert workers rights in the constitution and make democracy of social diversity. He explained the process, the meaning, formation and procedure of CA, international experience, Nepal and CA, the provisions in the interim constitution about the election system, election and workers education and fundamental issues to be addressed by CA, etc. Thereafter, a group discussion was designed to collect the ideas and experience of leaders regarding the challenges and opportunities for them at grass root level.

The last session of the day was on "Constitutional Assembly and Labor Right" that was facilitated by Rama Poudyal. She told about the important of CA to preserve the labor rights. She presented that the Nepali workers status under the existing interim constitution is good but requisites laws are lacking and expressed her hope that many labor rights will be included in the future constitution drafted by CA.

Second Day

Next day the program was started with the presentation of group reports on CA election and labor rights. All participants were divided into four groups and presented their group discussions' outcome respectively. The discussion was also held on the group reports and the issues rose therein. After it, next session was started and that was on ' Constitutional assembly election and Workers' participation, which was facilitated by Mr. Krishana Poudyal where he discussed about how the workers of varied sectors could be participated in CA election for the constitutional structure and how union can play role in it. During the session he also discussed some examples of successful participation of workers in CA election in the international experiences. He also added the importance of workers participation in the CA election to preserve their rights.

The next two sessions of the program were group work and presentation on "Constitutional assembly election and Workers' participation" and these sessions were participated by the entire participants and they presented a model CA election and workers participation. The resource person and Acting president jointly observe the model electoral system and advising them for the correction. During the session they briefed about the policies adopted by DECONT to make maximum participation of workers in CA election. Participants discussed about possible strategy to make more and more workers participation.

After the group discussion reports were prepared, each group presented its report. The summary of the Action Plan for CA election was thus presented. Thereafter, a brief closing session was held where Acting president of DECONT, Mr. Khila Nath Dahal chaired the session. At last distinguished gusts and participants put their opinion about the CA election respectively. And, they hoped that the formulating new constitution would be in faver of workers. At the last of the session Mr. Dahal closed the program after his manual remarks.

 
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