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Narrative Report on Role of Trade Unions in Constituent Assembly Election

Organised by Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (DECONT)

1-2 March 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal


Introduction

The political situation of the country is in critical phase now. Recently, the government of Nepal has declared the date of Constituent Assembly election on 10 April 2008 which had postponed twice earlier due to political differences among the ruling seven party alliances (SPA). However, all political parties now have shown their commitment towards the CA election which will be a first of its kind in Nepal giving great opportunity for the Nepalese people to elect their representatives to draft a new constitution. The Election Commission (EC) has completed all processes for the management of election and vigorously engaged in providing civic and political knowledge to the voters about the modality of CA.

At present, the Maoists have rejoined the coalition government after the seven party's two point consensus on the electoral system and declaration of a republic through the legislative- parliament to be implemented it by the first CA meeting. The EC has been collected candidates' nomination for first past the post system and proportional electoral system. Right this time different minority groups and professional associations are pushing their voices and visions. Some ethnic groups and non-state armed actors are using the methods of strike, terrorization and extortion to fulfill their demands. In such a critical political situation, the Nepalese workers are greatly affected. The strike and bandhas in major industrial belts are greatly affecting the life of workers and in such a chaos situation it has been difficult for the trade unions to work in protecting labor rights. Although this critical situation, government is successfully engaging itself with various groups and has even signed agreements to create conducive security environment for free and fair elections.

Nepalese workers at the factory levels are still not fully equipped with necessary political knowledge, issues and concerns about the CA elections. There is a need to impart them knowledge that this election is different from the periodic elections to shape a government. There also inclusive measures adopted for CA. Socialization of workers about these is a must for their informed participation and create their stake in the future political process. What is good with the workers is that they are very optimistic about its consequence-that their voice, visibility and representation will be guaranteed in the constitution-making process. Considering these facts, as a responsible trade union, Democratic Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (DECONT) organized a two-day seminar on "Role of Trade Unions in CA Election' ' at Kathmandu on 1-2 March 2008. Altogether 414 (341 Male and 73 Female participants from different level of union structure took part in the seminar where renowned political analytics like Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal, Mr. Khila Nath Dahal, and Mr. Rishav Dev Ghimire took part as resource persons and former minister and Secretary General of NC Mr. Bimalendra Nidhi addressed the opening ceremony of the programme. Mr Khila Nath Dahal, Acting President, DECONT chaired the opening and closing session of the program.

First day

Inaugural Session:

A brief inaugural ceremony was organized for formal inauguration of the workshop and chief guest for the ceremony was former minister and Secretary General of Nepali Congress Party Bimalendra Nidhi. The program was chaired by Brother Khila Nath Dahal, Acting President, and DECONT. Presented at the occasion distinguished guests were Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal, Mr. Rajendra Raut and other well-wisher of DECONT. Welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Rishav Dev Ghimire. After that Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal, Former minister Bimalendra Nidhi delivered the speech about the Constituent Assembly and the role of trade unions. At the last of the opening session brother Khila Nath Dahal closed the inaugural session by raising the issues of workers and workers representation and workers rights in the CA election.

Business Session:

After the inaugural session, a brief introduction session was held where participants, guests and resource persons introduced themselves on the basis of personal as well as organizational background. Thereafter, formal workshop was started with overview of the program which was facilitated by Rishav Dev Ghimire and then the other session which was facilitated by Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal on the topics "An introduction of Constituent Assembly Election." While discussing on the theme he also put forward few policy recommendations for CA election to the government and role of workers-clarity on the nature of the head of state, structure and framework of the state, subjects of democratic state system and protection of special areas and interests. After the presentation, an open discussion was held in which 30 participants took part. They raised the question as to how the voice and experiences of workers can be reflected in the future constitution.

The next session of the workshop was on ' Role and Responsibility of Trade Union (DECONT) in CA Election' that was facilitated by Bro. Khila Nath Dahal where he described about role of workers and the importance of their participation in CA Election. Thereafter an open discussion was held where 35 participants raised their concerns on the CA election and workers' place in the election. Participants raised questions about the expansion of social rights, such as right to social security, health, work, education, etc which were good but they wanted to know whether there are laws and resources for the realization of these rights. The Last session of the day was facilitated by Mr. Krishana Poudyal on Constitutional assembly and labor rights. In this session he pointed out needs of CA election for the promotion and protection of labor rights.

Second Day

Session of the next day was started with the recapitulation of the first day activities to understand as to whether participants had followed the messages and contents discussed so far or not. After it, next session was started on ' Constitutional Assembly Election and Workers' Participation" which was facilitated by brother Mr. Khila Nath Dahal where he discussed about how the workers play the role in CA election and their informed participation. During the session he discussed some examples of successful and unsuccessful CA election from the international experiences and its international provisions. He narrated how COSATU in South Africa become an important part in the success of CA elections there and how the question of capital and labor were debated and mediated. The other session was facilitated by Mr. Kashi Raj Dahal on "Constitutional Assembly and World Experiences". Mr. Dahal addressed how we can enhance workers capacities to make successful CA election in Nepal in the present political scenario. He shared international experiences among the participants and compared it with provision of CA election in interim constitution of Nepal. He presented policies and organizing Strategies for CA election. Thereafter an open discussion was held where 27 participants took part sharing their experiences.

The last session of the workshop was on "Constitutional assembly election and Workers' participation: Group work and Presentation." In this session the participants presented a model election process and workers participation. Resource persons observed their activities and controlled them. They also presented some national and international experiences of trade unions in CA election. He presented the future Action Plan of workers for that election on the behalf of the workers.

Closing Session

A brief closing session was held where Bro Khila Nath Dahal, acting president of DECONT chaired the program and other guests are also participated and addressed the program about subject matters. Brother Dhrubha Chandra Gautam, Treasurer, Mr. Radha Kant Deo, Vice President of DECONT deliberated the speech on the behalf of the organizer and they emphasized that CA election is an immense opportunity for trade unions. Similarly, sister Rama Paudyal, women vice-president of DECONT and Sis. Bimala Gaire, President of Agriculture Workers Union of Nepal delivered the speech on behalf of participants. At last of the program brother Dahal, chairman of DECONT closed the program after his short remarks.

 
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