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Seminar Report on State-building and Constitutional Dynamics

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

22-23 June 2009 (Bandipur, Siraha) & 24-25 June 2009 (Lalgadh, Dhanusa)


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Bandipur, Siraha district (22nd - 23rd June, 2009) and Lalgadh, Dhanusa district (24th -25th June, 2009) on state-building and constitutional dynamics. More than 150 persons actively participated in the programme in both the district [169 in Lalgadh and 146 in Bandipur]. In Bandipur, the programme was chaired by Mr Ashok Rana-Principal of Fulkumari Mahato National Higher Secondary School. Former lawmaker Mr. Bishnu Lal Baiba also actively participated in the promgramme. In Lalgadh the programme security personnel from Nepal Police actively participated in the programme, among others. The overarching aim of this seminar was to educate local political leaders/civil society activists on issues pertaining to state-building and constitutional dynamics in Nepal.

The Proceedings

The intellectuals, political leaders and civil society members of both the district expressed various social, economic and political measures to build a prosperous Nepal. Interestingly, both the programme saw very good presence from Madeshi community and women. They argued that drafting of a democratic constitution in the country requires inclusion of various voices, visions and views of all the segments of Nepali society. The concrete policies to address socio-economic problems, the constitution alone will not guarantee rights; the underlying social and political issues need to be dealt with.

In addition to constitutional issues, many participants were concerned about the unabated border encroachment from the Indian side and expressed dissatisfaction on the inability of Nepali political parties to act promptly on this issue. They viewed that the border issue has put our sovereignty at stake and demanded that state should come up with some scientific mechanism for the border management.

Constitutional expert Kashi Raj Dahal presented various models of constitution, model of governance, models of federalism and many other issues related with constitution and state-building. Likewise Chandra D. Bhatta spoke on building modern state and components of democracy that are necessary to be incorporated into the future constitution. He argued that modern state is based on civic political culture which transcends particularisms of the nations prevailing caste, class, region, religion and ethnic affiliations.

The floor discussion spotlighted about the drafting of a constitution and mechanism to guarantee rights for various social groups, question on federalism, foreign intervention, democratisation of political parties and many other topical issues that beset politics of Nepali state.

In both the place, many participants say no to 'federalism'. Women's from this region have raised strong voice against the dowry system that is widely in practice in Terai. They have also demanded for the special provision for the agriculture sector (like subsidy in mal-khad, biu-bijan etc).

Mr Bishnu Lal Baiba has demanded for the 'recall system" as majority of Nepali political leaders/law makers are least worried about the national issues and that of people and these lawmakers should be recalled from their position. Such a system has to be incorporated in the upcoming constitution as it will clean up the politics.

In terms of model of governance - presidential or prime Ministerial - there seems to have been great deal of confusion partly because of the existing political culture. But the fact is that change will automatically usher in (whatever the system is ) if we could get rid of the current political culture which has dismayed Nepali people.

Ms Kalayani Rayamajhi has said that the mushrooming number of man power agencies and educational consultancies in the urban areas are duping Nepali youths. She argued that state should play proactive role in health, education, and employment sector. She has also said that globalisation has brought some negative effects in our society (development of chhada sanskriti) and should be checked by the state as what is to be taken and what is not from the global market.

In both places, people have demanded an end to the culture of impunity and corruption - if we could wed them out, we can definitely enter into new and prosperous era irrespective the political system adopt. Today, there is no difference between Panchayat system and democracy.

Many people feared that (including one Mr Ram Avatar Rai) although constitution will be written but it is still not clear that which class will it represent - the elites or the poor. Our society is 'class based' society and the gap between various classes (poor and rich) needs to be bridged. By saying 'janata" we cannot put all in one basket - we have Golchhas and Surya B. Thapa (who are also janatas) and others. We have to be clear which janata we are focusing on.

Serious concerns were raised in both the places on the tendency of appointing ministers to those who were defeated in the election. This has set the wrong trend and is bound stay as a precedent. It has also challenged the very notion of democracy and democratic values. The lawmakers who were supposed to be in the villages to collect public opinions on Constitution making process were found in massage parlours of Kathmandu. We need to develop proper mechanism to democratize political parties and politics should not be taken as profession said Sameer Ghimire. The politicization of society by political parties has to be discouraged. Most of the political parties have vertically divided Nepali society by opening various 'associations' affiliated with them.

There was a strong voice in both the places on the of border management, and revocation of unequal treaties. State should come up with youth police as none of the government in the past have worked in this direction.

State should come up with strong industrial policy to address the unemployment problem in the country which would ultimately contribute towards economic development. Economic development (economic equality) is essential for to guarantee political equality.

Conclusion

Democracy can only grow if politicians strengthen the civic political culture and rise above the partisan interests and collective work to formulate policies that enables public to be active participant in the institutional life of the state. These are the ways to reduce anti-political sentiment which is on the rise in recent years. This can reduce the pitfalls of 'politics' opens up avenues for egalitarian democracy which Peter Croch refers post-democracy.
By conducting seminars in different parts of the country FES has successfully dentified various pitfalls of Nepali democracy and politics. The issue ranges from foreign policy to internal democracy in political parties, mismatch in politics and policy. By and large, these pitfalls need to be addressed by the state only then we can think of building a functional state that stand for the people.

 
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