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Workshop Report on State-building as a Mechanism for Conflict Resolution

Organised by National Media Development Center (NMDC)

27 December 2009


National Media Development Center (NMDC), in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal -a German Foundation, organized a workshop on "State Building as Conflict Resolution Mechanism" on December 27, 2009 at Hotel Orchid, Tripureshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal. The workshop was organized in two sessions - Inaugural Session and Presentation and Discussion Session.

Inaugural Session

President of National Media Development Center (NMDC), Bishnu Prasad Sharma chaired shed light on the theme of the seminar. Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Rakam Chemjung was invited as chief guest at the program. Former Speaker Damannath Dhungana, Chairperson of Administrative Court, Kashiraj Dahal and Head of FES Nepal, Dev Raj Dahal were invited to the podium. The participants of the program were professors of different universities, media experts, journalists, Constituent Assembly Member, government officials, students and civil society members.

President of NMDC Bishnu Prasad Sharma introduced the objective of the program. Mr Sharma said that Nepales for long have dreamed of making a prosperous Nepal where everyone can live in peace and harmony but the political instability and the Maoist insurgency in the country has shattered the dream and today Nepali state tatters between order and anarchy. It has not been able to do its duties. Against this background, the main objective of this seminar is how can we divert political towards state-building agenda so that it can justify its very raison detre. He compared Nepali state with a situation of "Tilaurakot" a historic place where the boundary wires were broken, cows were grazing, people were taking home bricks of the ruins of Durbar (palance). No one was caring and no one was responsible on the historical national property. Situation of Nepal's state looks similar to the ruins of Tilaurakot," he said. He requested all the participants to fully participate in the discuss the situation lively and openly. Chief Guest of the one-day national workshop, Minister Rakam Chemjong inaugurated the program by lighting the oil-fed lamp, called Panas.

Head of FES Nepal, Dev Raj Dahal highlighted the key objectives of the workshop and also spoke about the theories of the state from Max Weber, Meinecke, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Burke, Hegel, Mazzini, JS Mill, Karl Marx and Kant. He said their insights could help Nepali policy makers and academic community to evolve ideas for crisis prevention and conflict resolution.

Mr. Dahal further said that the resolution of conflict between the traditional and modernity, between re-feudalization of public sphere and democratization of public sphere and between peace and justice require vigorous process of social transformation". Highlighting Nepali context, he said-" Nepali state and inter-governmental institutions have played crucial role in conflict resolution applying various approaches-imperial, muscular, hegemonic and democratic. Even before the adoption of Westphalian norms Nepalese applied insights of local societies and historical, cultural and religious treatises, memories and wise counsels." In his inaugural speech he threw lights on state minimalism and changing nature of conflict, challenges to conflict transformation weakened state capacity and fragmented identities.

Concluding his opening remarks, he said- "Strengthening state capacity requires an understanding of the driving forces of change that can balance the precariousness of post-conflict situation and sustainability of means: democratic ideals-- particularly social equality, inclusion and inter-generational and ecological justice; patterns of political engagement- especially voting participation, debates and dialogues about salient issues, protests and social movements to negotiating social contract and peace building measures; nature of state institutions- particularly inner-party democracy, civil-military relations, constructive role of civil society, discursive formation of laws and jurisprudence, bureaucratic reforms and democratization of educational, media and disciplinary institutions; and inclusion of all the relevant concepts in a new road map- for getting to the final democratic arrangements including the use of subsidiary, humanitarian principles and donor coordination in conflict resolution."

Former Speaker and Peace Negotiator, Daman Nath Dhungana said state has been facing challenges and there should be a mechanism to resolve them. "There have been great changes from 2007 BS but they could not be sustained, great leaders are needed to sustain great changes," he said.

He said there were differences on various issues including ideological one between Maoists and other political parties. He stressed the need for common consensus for preparing national document. Mr. Dhungana stated that combatants should be adjusted, common consensus and mechanism must be crafted and peace lobbies should be strengthened.
Chairperson of Administrative Court, Kashiraj Dahal said Nepal is facing contentious issues of use of executive power and De Jure institutions have been weakened. He stressed the need for strengthened cohesive power of state authority, capital formation and charismatic leadership.

He stated need for document of common consensus with objective resolutions for completing the task of constitution building in time.

Addressing the Inaugural Session, Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Rakam Chemjung said movements from 2007 to 2046 BS could not resolve regional and caste based social issues. Causes of conflict should be addressed at the time of constitution making. Issues of suppressed, Madhesi, women and indigenous people have emerged and three largest parties cannot unilaterally resolve them, he added. Stating on current peace process, he said that deepening suspect and mistrust among the major political parties was obstructing the pace of ongoing peace process, management of Maoist combatants and constitution writing process.

"If the parties fail to create consensus on major issues like new constitution, foundation of federalism and management of Maoist combatants, achievements made so far through the April Jana Aandolan would not be institutionalized", stressing on the need of building consensus he said.

There are different models of federalism and peace shall be sustainable if issue of federalism is rightly resolved. There have been distrusts among Maoists and other political parties and constitution would not be prepared in time unless the distrusts are wiped-out.

He said that civil societies had played strong role before constituent assembly election and they should play stronger one to lead the peace process to reasonable conclusion.

Presentation and Discussion Session

Presentation and Discussion Session was divided into further two sessions.

First Session

Secretary at Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Punya Prasad Neupane moderated the first session in which Former Speaker Damannath Dhungana presented his thought as working paper. Mr Dhungana spoke about various dimension of peace-process and stressed on the need of good governance which can assist to establish rule of law. He also raised few questions:

1. Can arm be raised for democracy?
2. Should there be benevolent dictatorship?
3. Should democracy be shunned aside in the name of security?
4. Is citizen's supremacy the issue of Maoist alone?

He said democracy should be strengthened by identifying and resolving its challenges. Economic and religious crimes would rise if democracy could not be responsive. Nepali people are informed and they desire the government that can deliver. All changes from 2007 are major changes but major issue is to resolve Nepali people's problem and development is for making them powerful.

Panchayat regime saw nationality in Nepali Topi and and tried to link development, authority and nationality with the King. In democracy, the King should have become ceremonial but he could not be abided by law, thus Nepal turned into republic.

Bringing Maoist, who were engaged in armed struggle since one decade, into peace process was the most important achievement, but there is suspicion that they do not believe in democracy. However, republicanism, constituent assembly, inclusiveness and federalism were the issues raised by them.

After four months of debate, Maoist entered into the government but engaged in disputes with Chief of the Army Staff. Prime Minister brought the army into politics and President used the executive power.

Following are the characteristics of Nepal State, as per Dhungana.

a. State dependent on army;
b. State dependent on neighboring state; and
c. Supremacy of people

However, emphasized on the need of armies engagement in decision making process of security issues. The nationalism factor should unite all Nepalese for the cause of development and empowerment of people. India helped in designing 12-point agreement pointed out Dhungana. There can be consensus in building the constitution: These should be convergence of ideas from the different spectrum of political parties such as Nepali Congress's focus on political issues and Maoists and UML's focus on economic and other issues should be taken into account. Other major parties should also make their agendas clear. In addition to this, political parties must resolve youth unemployment problem to hold them back from entering into extreme groups.

There is nothing bigger revolution than democracy (Loktantra). Parties should develop their capacity to decide on major political issues and constitutional process should be accomplished in time. Extend time for constitution making process is to invite another conflict said Dhungana. For all these it is necessary to generate consensus at political levels as well as societal levels. People's pressure should be there for completing the task in time. People must make leaders responsible for their failure in completing the task in time.
After Mr. Dhungana's delivery, Chair opened the floor for discussion. Chunda Shrestha, Bodh Prasad Parajuli, Nav Raj Dahal, Prof. Lalbabu Yadav, Dr. Prem Sharma, Krishna Adhikari, Arun Poudel, Hem Lamsal, Ramchandra Humagain, Dhan Bahadur Magar, Prawalraj Pokharel and others put their remarks in the discussion.

After the discussion, Secretary Neupane concluded the session. He said the state is moving from one conflict to another which is weakening the capacity of the state. He said affiliation of civil societies with political parties have made them weaker and stressed that the discussion should be a beginning rather than end, in which preventive and curative roles must be sought.

Second Session

Member of Constituent Assembly Hon. Usha Kala Rai moderated the second Presentation and Discussion Session in which Chandra Dev Bhatta Presented working paper on "State building as a Conflict Resolution Mechanism".

He said the overarching aim of state building is guided by three concepts (1) creating greater level of security, (2) reconciliation and (3) development, which can contribute to harmonise state-society relations by addressing the root causes of conflict. He stressed that state building hover around political settlement, survival functions of the state-society relations and expected function for sustainable peace in society.

Giving political emphasis in state building he said, "in the context of Nepal, we need to push for ideological settlements, political settlements and reformation of our political institutions in tune with popular spirit. We have to find out common ground on the national issues and develop mechanism how people can govern themselves rather than developing mechanism to rule the people."

Focusing on the point of peace and state building he said that -"the inclusive political settlements are at the center of integrated approach to peace building and state building. It provides platform to achieve other objectives of the state. The peace building lens highlights the need for state building approaches to pay sufficient attention to the causes of conflict and fragility, the conditions for peace." Peace and state building are fundamentally linked to each other and their focus is to find out the root causes of the conflict and avoiding recurring such conflicts in the future, he concluded.

After Mr. Bhatta's delivery, Chairperson Rai opened the floor for discussion. Prof. Lalbabu Yadav, Narayan Gurung, Rishikesh Tiwari, Chunda Shrestha, Dr. Prem Sharma, Praval Raj Pokharel and others put their comments on the paper.

After the discussion, Chairperson Rai concluded the session. She said that the situation that exist outside and opinions in public differ sharply. There is suspicion among public that constitution might not be built in time but that is not true, she said.

She stressed that new constitution must be completed in time and people must put pressure on their leaders. Civil societies and human right activists must exert pressure on leaders to reach common consensus.

After conclusion of both the sessions, Head of FES Nepal, Mr. Dahal put concluding remarks. He said walk itself begins formation of trail. He stressed that Nepal is passing through multiform of transformation and problem in knowledge would further create problems.

"State need identity, resources and recognition and election legitimizes the state, and both need socializing communication. Conflict can be based on identity, ideology and interest and they must be rationalized in common ground within the state. Power sharing is distributive phenomenon and people would penetrate the system if it does not cater their dream," he added.

Avenews Television, Metro FM, broadsheet daily newspapers carried the news of the workshop. News cuttings of the newspapers is also attached herewith in Annexes for references.

 
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