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Post Conflict Situation and Governance in Nepal

One-day seminar organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

29 December 2009, Kathmandu

A one day seminar, "Post -Conflict Situation and Governance in Nepal", was organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies in Kathmandu on 29 December, 2009 to discuss the ongoing peace process and its various dimensions. The seminar was a part of a series of discussions among the members of the thinking class organized by NEFAS over the years with the cooperation of Frederich Ebert Stiftung of Germany. These discussions are broadly aimed at raising academic awareness on policies on the post conflict situation. Scholars, political workers, journalists of note and others attended the function.

The term 'post-conflict situation' itself has been up for debate among Nepalese academicians for a long time, mostly because of the emergence and escalation of various kinds of conflict in different sectors of the society since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the then Maoist rebels and representatives of seven political parties. More precisely, the 'conflict situation' versus 'post-conflict situation' terminology debate has taken place in each of the seminars in the series to demand the attention of the organizers. The seminar series, however, was designed assuming that the date of the signing of the CPA was the beginning of the post conflict period.

The seminar was divided into three sessions, including the inaugural that was reserved for the welcome address by NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha and a presentation on the topic of the seminar by FES representation C.D. Bhatta. The inaugural session was chaired by Ananda Aditya. Prof. Srestha talked about the difficulties the ongoing political impasse was creating for the common people while Bhatta talked about the need to refrain from criticizing politicians, as they are needed to move politics towards the positive direction. Chairperson Ananda Aditya said that in spite of the uncertainties, things were looking optimistic since the political parties had worked hard to bring the Maoists to the political mainstream. "If jagged rocks can smoothen their edges as they continue to roll downhill, so can the Maoists come to the Nepalese political mainstream as a legitimate political party", he said.

The first working session, chaired by Prof. Guna Nidhi Sharma, saw two presentations-- one on the legal complexities of turning the popular aspirations into a viable legal document called the constitution, while another but brief presentation was reserved for Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal. Prof. Dahal said that the uneasy situation that the country was going through was making the job of constitution drafting difficult. He added that the absence of law and order, the rampant foreign meddling in domestic affairs and the over half a dozen postponements of key constitution-drafting tasks was enough to suspect that the constitution may not be drafted in time. But, he said that, one must be positive and hope that things will take their due course.

Constitution expert Kashi Raj Dahal, for his part, tried to separate the politics from the down-to-earth legalities of constitution drafting and proposed several ideas to conclude the tasks in time-- the backbone of his ideas being a search for consensus among the disparate political actors. The floor discussions that followed picked on the proposition and the near-impossibility of bringing these incongruent forces together. Several of the participants even questioned the soundness of acts to bring together different political parties on a single platform in the competitive polity of multipartyism. Others talked about why even the Constituent Assembly was being treated like a parliament by political parties- with the attendant characteristics of both opposition and ruling benches. Chairman Prof. Sharma said that the situation was indeed rife with uncertainties and called for the need to end foreign intervention in the different aspects if national life,

The second session had only one presentation by Bishnu Raj Upreti and it was chaired by Prof. P. Kharel. Upreti's presentation dealt with the series of faux pas that the political actors were making and the complications these were creating for not just the drafting of the constitution but even in finding a consensus among the political parties. He said that there was a real fear that the ongoing political process was resulting in a situation that was moving towards a civil war. He added that if the conflict takes the ethnic dimension then it would be a very unfortunate day for the nation. Upreti said that the parties must come together to resolve the mistakes they have made and work for the benefit of the people.

The floor discussants pointed out the need to not just blame the political sector for the mess but the civil society as well. The point was picked up by the chairperson of the session, Prof. Kharel, who elaborated it further saying that there was a worldwide tendency to use the press and the NGOs on the frontline of latter-day conflicts, including war. Shivaraj Dahal gave the vote of thanks at the end of the session to formally conclude the day's function..

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