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Seminar Report on Enabling State to Address the Crisis of Governance in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

5 June 2010, Pokhara


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office organised a day-long seminar on "Enabling State to Address the Crisis of Governance in Nepal" in Pokhara on 5th June 2010. There were 85 participants that included academicians, journalists, political leaders and members of civil society, government officials and other stake-holders of society. The whole idea of this seminar was to initiate debate outside of Kathmandu and explore alternative views as how people understand/see the state and what prescriptions have they got to have a virtuous state that can address the crisis of governance. Nepali state is treated as weak and fragile requiring support of national and international community for strengthening its sovereignty, national identity, democratic dynamic and institutional equilibrium. Balancing the geopolitics of neighborhood and coping with foreign policy challenges such as globalisation, regional economic integration and climate change require mobilising resources of its inclusive, development- oriented transformation and post-conflict peace building measures. Debates on these issues could help to inculcate different perspectives into policy framework so that state enjoys broader ownership. Three papers were presented on state, political parties and role of civil society in state-building respectively by Dev Raj Dahal, Kashi Raj Dahal and Chandra Dev Bhatta. Arjun Bahadur Bhandari, Regional Administrator of Western Region, in his inaugural speech said that organising programmes like this outside of Kathmandu will definitely provide new ideas required for the consolidation of democracy, development and resolve contesting issues.

Proceedings

Presenting his well argued theoretical paper Dev Raj Dahal said that Nepalese leadership have to foster reconciliatory pragmatism rooted into the shared vision of the nation, inspire each actor to enable the leviathan to implement monopoly of power, restore unitary legal order , find space for all citizens, promote goodwill with others and make the country governable. The studies of community forestry, irrigation and consumer association in Nepal have proved that heterogeneity of Nepali society has not posed a problem in collective action if rule based system offers incentive for shared benefits, argued Dahal. The changing nature of multi-structural conflicts requires the state leaders to adopt multi-track approaches for their resolution and bolster its supply-response capacity said Dahal. Presenting his paper on political parties Kashi Raj Dahal said that there is an urgent need for the democratisation, institutionalisation and transparency of parties to enable them to win the confidence of people. Likewise, Chandra D. Bhatta has said that civil society contributes towards state-building by mediating between state and other societal actors. The citizens are the true owners of the state and civil society should mobilise them, initiate dialogue at different layers of society on different themes to maintain social cohesion and peace.

The Discussion

Dr. Bhawani Pandey emphasised on the need to strike a balance between freedom and equality primarily because the notion of freedom negations equality and vice versa. Citing the experiences of the parliamentary system Dr Pandey was of the view that it has failed in Nepal. In the same vein, he was of the view that political movements in Nepal have been launched not merely for identity and maintains influence in society by certain groups but there are other geopolitical per se factors which are not looked into carefully. There are issues like what type of state Nepalese wanted to have, whether state should be neutral between classes or vice versa asked Dr Pandey. If the state remains neutral there are high changes that people at large will be suppressed by the classes. Therefore state should engage more and more people in its institutional life. Dr Prakash Upadhyay said that the culture of mistrust has grown up in Nepali society and political classes are not abided by the agreement that have been reached among them in the past. Nepali democracy has become "dancing democracy" and the state stand at the cross road. Time has come for the academicians and intellectuals to work rationally to come out of this crisis. We must have to overcome what Emile Durkhiem called "society is becoming schizophrenic".

Madhav Sharma asked do we really need Leviathan. What does it to do with society? Does it mean that king should come and save the nation? How Nepal became a weak state, is it because of the conflict? What is the relevant of civil society when they are carrying the party flags? These issues needs to be taken into account if we really wanted to enable state said Sharma. He further argued that funding of political parties has to be made transparent.

Soviet Bahadur Adhikari of Nepali Congress said that civil society is part and parcel of our society and it should work for the broader society. Intellectuals who are the main pillars of civil society should provide opinions that mediate among different societal groups appealed Adhikari as new knowledge is required to solve many of our problems. Dr. Bishwa Kalyan Parajuli was of the view that civil society movements in Nepal have become politically induced (tagged) and losing the ground which needs to be made citizens' movement capable of articulating the legitimate needs and aspirations of society which ultimately will restore their legitimacy.

Prof. Padam Raj Regmi said that Nepali political leaders are philosophically not clear as what type of state, what type of political system (system of governance), whether we wanted to in line with the political movement of 2006 or that of 1990? These are some of the fundamental issues which have become major hurdle to move the constitution and peace-processes ahead. Violence has decentralised in the country due to failure of political parties to draw consensus among which prolonged the conflict which ultimately have made Nepal a weak-state.

Shanti Bhusal enquired the need of including gender component in governance. She further asked how can we develop the culture of inclusion in the elitist society like ours. These are the major challenges related with marginalised and weak classes of society. She further said that Nepali political parties have always used those who lack power, prestige and property in society for the movement. There is no difference in basic needs of the people whether one lives in the city or in the villages therefore we need to have same basic facilities for all.

Dr Lekhnath Bhattarai commented that we have to be clear with the fact that what the state is, how can it become effective primarily because some people are demanding for ethnic state while others are negating it. Under these circumstances, there is a great deal of need to transform ethnos into demos. We do not understand which interest (model) has influenced state-building process in Nepal after the April uprising of 2006 - whether it is American or European or any other models or interest (Chinese or Indian)?

Bhuwan Parajuli said that NGOs and INGOs in Nepal have increased the level of public awareness in society but state has failed to develop its capacity in order to translate them into reality (action) and some of the conflicts in society are product of this phenomenon as well. In the same vein, we have so many laws and by-laws but they are never implemented. This raises some questions if the laws and by-laws are not going to be implemented what is the need of having them in the piece of paper. Gyaneshwor Parajuli raised the issue of not having statesman (Rajaneta) in Nepal and politics has failed to take clear-cut direction as political parties are philosophically not clear.

Girdhari Subedi enquired what the bases are for social change evolution or revolution. Like the revolutions whether evolutions are also influenced by political ideology or not asked Subedi? What type of economic system should Nepal adopt has to be clarified in advance unlike in the 1990s when we adopted market centric economic policy backed up by the donors which ultimately landed us into the crisis? The economic policy of any state has to be embedded in society so that people at large can feel the fruits of economic prosperity rather than monopolised by few classes.

Kamal Aryal said that during thirty years period of Panchayat, it introduced the slogan of constructing a society free of disease, hunger and illiteracy and in the same vein Nepali Congress came up with an idea of development policy that emphasised "land to the tillers"? However, the bone of the contention is to what extent these slogans fulfilled their objectives in a areal sense of the term , that is, uplifting people out of poverty? If these polices have failed, the challenge is how we emancipate proletariat through communist ideas or through other mechanism. Whether we need to dismantle classes and make class less society or bridge the gap between classes. Can we make a state with single class? Do we really need to eliminate the classes? In order to fulfill the demands or to come into power weak always wage "conflict' in a society? Whether democracy is state-centric, people centric or leader centric? The way democracy Nepalese have experienced over the years have shown that it is more like leader centric because leaders have become rich over the years whereas poor have become more poor which has ultimately weakened Nepali state.

Prof Yadav Gaudel enquired what role political leaders have played in state-building ? What would be the role of intellectuals in state-building. During 1990s, we adopted socialism in principle but we practiced liberal polices due to influence from outside world. The geopolitics have had always a great deal of influence in our policies. There is a great deal of crisis in society and civil society has failed to mediate for the compromise among various societal forces.

Kapil Mani Dahal said that we have always had constitutional crisis in the country and have never worked to end this crisis. Moreover, we could never have economic constitutionalism in the past, the focus was simply on budgetary process as a result there have been perpetual gap between policy and practice. Our civil society is politically oriented and has failed to provide alternative opinions to come out of the crises.

Tek Bahadur Gurung said why we have to transform only ethnos into demos by contrast; the need of the hour is to transform everybody into demos for the creation of constitutional state. The challenge that lies ahead of us is how we can convert poor into demos or citizens for that matter. The citizenship certificate poor are holding of this country is to go abroad not to serve the nation (its not that they dislike the state) or get benefit from the state as it has been providing very little to citizens because political parties have failed to work for the broader citizenry. They have not realised, a result, the benefit of citizenship and democracy for that matter.

Gyan Bahadur Karki said we need to bring political parties into a common platform as they come from different schoolings. For the state-building we need to inculcate common schooling on them and intelligentsia should play crucial role in this direction. Govind Adhikari from UCPN (Maoist) demanded for the integration of Maoists combatants into Nepal army and every Nepali citizen who is above 18 has to go through military training to defend the state.

Gyaneshwor Koirala, Campus Chief of Prithnivi Narayan Camapus, was of the view of having strong and inclusionary state. Punya Prasad Poudyal enquired how we could move the state ahead when the main actors are entangled by their own personal interests. There is a great deal of competition among various groups to establish the type of state they envision ethnic, minority and regional state are some of the examples. But no debate has been initiated to establish constitutional state that cares for everybody.

Sociologist Prem Prasad Poudyal blamed that we do not have classes or intellectuals who can bring about change in a society or establish governance for that matter. The necessary capacity that is needed for the change lies with elites and these very elites are co-opted by political parties and donors. The rally that was taken out by Chambers of Commerce has no significance as these groups, most of the time, are anti-change and have their alliances with the government that serves their class interest most.

Dev Raj Chalise, political scientist, argued that new problems cannot be addressed with old concept or ideology and enquired is Marxism only way to alleviate poverty. Perhaps not, there are other mechanisms and many countries in the world have progressed without adopting Marxism. In Nepal we have more party people than fee "people", which is the clear indication to what extent society has been politicised in Nepal .That one has to identify him/herself by aligning with political parties to get the things done. He said that new paradigm has been seen in Nepali politics, that is, new consensus again new problems.

Conclusion

Old ideology cannot resolve new problems and civil society should provide new ideas and alternatives for the change. Joseph Schumpeter has rightly pointed out in his seminal work 'Capitalism, Socialism an Democracy' that its always elites who govern irrespective of regimes in power. Against the backdrop, the challenge is how to circulate non-elites into elite so that they can also be part of the system. This can only happen when we adopt state-building process from the below by engaging people into policy front. By and large, we have to create virtuous state that upholds praxis in order to bridge sovereignty gap, legitimacy gap and authority gap. Currently there are so many gaps for example; we have to make effort to strike a balance between freedom and equality within the context of haves and have-nots. Likewise, we need to make some sort of fundamental departure in our understanding of policies in line with changing global order. For example capitalism has reformed itself but we are using classical capitalism which focuses on the reckless exploitation of "resources and people" the classical example is the current trend of land plotting and building houses by destroying arable land. Merely constructing high-rise building should not be equated with ecologically embedded sustainable development.

We have to bear in mind that state is a necessary evil but again the challenge is how best to transform it into democratic constitutional state so that it can achieve governance goals and resolve multilayered conflict in society. Post-conflict Nepal also requires sustained international cooperation to overcome its domestic development deficits and achieved the synergy of state-society relations.

 
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