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Report of the National Seminar on Multitrack Approaches to Peacebuilding in Nepal

Multi-track Approaches to Peace Building in Nepal:Is public morality an issue? by Dr. Tone Bleie

Organized by Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS)

18 & 19 November 2010, Lalitpur


Background

With the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Nepal (GON) and the UCPN (Maoist) on 21 November 2006, the decade-long conflict beginning from 1996 largely ceased to exist. Yet conflict is not all over, though in the subsequent period the Constituent Assembly election was successfully conducted, monarchial institution was abolished and the elected representatives in the Constituent Assembly formed their governments - first under the leadership of UCPN (Maoist) and then under the leadership of CPN-UML.

In the post-conflict period, a number of armed groups have been formed in the Terai (plain) region of Nepal. They have been creating law and order problem. Initially, the number of such groups could be counted on the fingers. Now their number has reached 109 or so. Some of those groups operate with political motive. But many others have been working as criminal gangs. They have been largely involved in killings, forced donations, and abductions. As a result, economic and social activities in the region have largely been affected. In view of this scenario, the national seminar on "Multi-track Approaches to Peacebuilding in Nepal" was organized on 18 and 19 November 2010 in Lalitpur, Kathmandu with a view to enabling the government, political parties, civil society groups and other stakeholders to find out proper ways and means to restore peace and promote development activities in Nepal.

Objectives of the Seminar

The basic objective of the seminar was support peacebuilding initiatives in Nepal. Specific objectives of the seminar were to:

  • Discuss the pathways to peace;
  • Present the economics of peace in context to Nepal;
  • Discuss state building as a mechanism of peace;
  • Present state and civil society relation for conflict resolution;
  • Review the changing dynamics of conflict and peace; and
  • Discuss conflicting interests in constitution making.

The Seminar

The two-day seminar was organized on 18 & 19 November, 2010 at the prestigious institution - Nepal Administrative Staff College, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur, Kathmandu. Major participants of the seminar comprised of academicians, political activists, journalists, indigenous communities and women from Madhesh and different other parts of Nepal. The media that covered the news of the seminar included Headlines & Music FM 97.2 Mhz, the Telegraph Weekly, Bishweep and Vishleshan.

Inaugural Function

The Inaugural function of the two-day seminar on "Multi-track Approaches to Peacebuilding in Nepal" started in the morning at 9:00 A.M. on 18 November 2010. Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director of CETS presided over the function. Nepal's Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Rakam Chemjong was the Chief Guest on the occasion.


In his welcome address, Dev Raj Dahal, Representative, FES Nepal Office welcomed the guests and participants of the seminar. He said that the establishment of rule of law is a major problem amidst the environment of uncertainty, human rights violations and impunity in the country. It is, therefore, essential that the inter-institutional social capital is strengthened in order to build the capacity of state and engage different tracks of actors in conflict mediation and peacebuilding efforts in the society.

Speaking on the occasion, Pushpa Thakur, Central Member of Terai Madhesh Democratic Party said that the government and other stakeholders should implement all the agreements and understandings reached between the government and different political groups. She felt that the violence or threat to violence will continue so long as certain groups have arms and ammunitions in their possession.

Daman Nath Dhungana, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that the political approach and the civil society approach failed in Nepal. Hence, there has been no progress towards the implementation of understanding and agreements reached between the government and the different political forces. The civil society could have played certain role in pressurizing the two sides to fulfill their commitments, but very little progress was made in this direction. Virtually, the domestic mediators failed to create congenial environment for peace in the country. As such, foreign role has become inevitable in settling conflict in Nepal. He wanted India to come forward and take the responsibility for peacebuilding in Nepal.

In her Keynote address, Tone Bleie, Academic Director, Centre for Peace Studies, University of Tromsa stated that civilian supremacy, human security and rule of law are essential component for peace. The United Nations should not overtake national actors. It should rather support them. In this respect, jobs could be created for many of youth migrating to foreign countries through the development of various infrastructural facilities. Those who are impaired and victims of conflict need to be given due support. The artists, writers and other creative forces should come forward and play constructive role in peacebuilding efforts in the country.

In his inaugural address, Rakam Chemjong, Minister for Peace and Reconstruction stated that the political forces have not yet gone beyond the norms of Comprehensive Peace Accord. Of course, they are slow in their approach. But then they still sit together. Efforts have been made to narrow the level of disagreements on certain political issues. Besides, there is also a growing understanding among the political parties in regard to integration of the Maoist combatants in Nepalese army. In future, there can be no peace by excluding the Madhesh based political parties, the Dalits and other backward groups in the society. The civil society could play a vital role in peacebuilding in Nepal.

Finally, Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director of Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) and co-ordinator of the seminar said that tremendous development has been made in the post-World War II period in science, technology and other fields. All this was possible in the environment of peace. People moved to moon and then to mars. Internet and facebook have been making social change. Countries engulfed by conflict and wars have learned to live in peace. As such, they have now been focusing on development - be it in Africa, Latin America or Asia. As other countries, Nepal should create proper environment for peace in order to promote economic, social and political growth of the country.

Seminar Sessions

Altogether six papers were presented in different sessions in the two-day seminar. The paper writers presented their papers; while the participants made comments, observations and suggestions on the main theme of the papers in free, frank and fearless manner without any prejudice.

First Session

The first session of the seminar started in the morning at 11 A.M. on 18 November 2010. Hari Bansh Jha made his presentation on "Economics of Peace: The Nepalese Context." Anand Aditya, Chairman, Pragya Foundation presided over this session.

In his paper, Hari Bansh Jha said that peace was inseparable to economic growth. Peace has a great monetary value. It has multiplier effects on the growth of different sectors of the economy including on agricultural, trade and service sectors. Peace alone can ensure the protection of land and building and the growth of human and physical resources such as health, education, roads, electricity and communications. Economic stability, investment and capital flows are all possible when there is peace. Democracy and inclusive growth in addition to different drivers of peace are most essential for establishing peace. Lasting peace in the country is possible only when there is proper redistribution of wealth. There was a set back in all these areas during the period of conflict (1996-2006) in Nepal. Now in order to improve the situation and restore peace in long run, it is essential that funds meant for military expenditure is diverted to economic activities, investment is diverted to enterprises that promote peace, Peace Mediation Institute is developed and the culture of peace and spiritual growth is promoted at all the levels in the country.

Commenting on the paper, Pushpa Thakur said that no political patronage should be given to the elements indulging in criminal activities. Ganga Prasad Akela wanted that the paper should highlight on the role of King Janak of Mithila and also of Sita who made significant contribution for peace and meditation.

Tone Bleie observed that the indirect costs of conflict were most severe in nature. She wanted that the Centre for Peace mediation could be established in Nepal as Buddha widely known in the world as symbol of non-violence and peace was born in this country.

Binita Yadav supported the spirit of the paper for its focus on peace at heart, family and the nation. She wanted peace message to be carried to the villages and schools so that the children and common mass of the population are benefited. Prem Singh Basnet and Narayan Prasad Mishra also made useful observations on the paper.

Hari Bansh Jha answered all the questions raised from the floor. In his remarks as chairperson of the session, Anand Aditya made some observations for further improvement of the paper.

Second Session

Lal Babu Yadav, Associate Professor of Political Science, Tribhuvan University made his presentation on "Inclusive Democracy and Conflict Resolution in Nepal" in the second session of the seminar. The session was co-chaired by Birendra Prasad Mishra and K.D. Mishra, the two eminent scholars.

In his paper, Lal Babu Yadav stated that social inclusion provides a means to reduce alienation, exclusion and violence. The distribution of power among different groups of people was a major tool for conflict resolution. The political parties should demonstrate democratic culture. Civic education programmes should be widely launched throughout the length and breadth of the country. Also, proper balance should be maintained between legislative and executive bodies to enable the political leadership to resolve conflicts.

During the floor discussion, Nageena Kumari Jha observed that there is hardly any attempt made in Nepal to build the capacity among different communities.

Manoj K Bachchan stated that the Constituent Assembly should not be dictated by the political parties.

Narayan Prasad Mishra stated that only 'afantbad' (one's own person) has thrived in the name of inclusion in the country.

Ram Gupta said that the foreign agencies including the United Nations advocate for inclusion in Nepal, but in practice do differently. Arjun Thapa also made useful comments on the paper.

Lal Babu Yadav responded all the queries raised from the floor. As co-chairperson, K.D. Mishra stated that in Nepal people enjoy power, privilege and position by virtue of certain ethnic factors. He also added that the political parties, apart from the technocrats and bureaucrats are responsible for enhancing conflict in Nepal. Another co-chairperson of the session, Birendra Prasad Mishra maintained that instead of making effort towards peacebuilding, the political parties are all engaged in power capturing activities.

Third Session

In the third session of the seminar, Prakash A. Raj presented his paper on "Sustaining National Integration during Peace Building in Nepal." Former Ambassador of Nepal, M.P. Lohani presided over the session.

Prakash A. Raj stated that peace process promoted both the integrative and disintegrative forces in the country. While inclusivity aspect in political structure supported integrative aspect; the effort to create federal states on the basis of ethnicity might promote disintegrative forces. Such a move could even promote ethnic cleansing of minority groups in due course of time.

During the floor discussion, K.D. Mishra, Narayan Prasad Mishra, Arjun Thapa, Ganga Prasad Akela, Sushil Kant Jha and Lal Babu Yadav made some valuable comments and suggestions on the paper. The author responded all the queries from the floor. In his remarks as chairperson of the session, M.P. Lohani made various useful ideas for promoting the process of national integration in Nepal.

Fourth Session

The fourth session of the seminar began at 9:00 A.M. on 19 November 2010. In the absence of Charles F. Dambach, Keshab Chaulagain read his paper on "Building Pathways to Peace." The session was presided over by Keshab Raj Jha, Nepal's Former Ambassador.

Charles F. Dambach in his paper mentioned that it was possible for individuals and citizen-based organizations to build peace. All such factors as remaining on the side of peace, listening to learn and understand, demonstrating respect, building trust, and becoming patient and persistent are keys to conflict resolution. Those skills and qualities are applicable to any conflict mediation efforts, be it at family, work, community, national or international levels. As conquest is rarely possible, the main task for all concerned is to study war from the perspective of preventing rather than winning it.

During the floor discussion, the participants directly asked questions and made certain useful observations on the paper, which Dambach heard in Washington, DC through phone.

Commenting on Dambach's paper, Pushpa Thakur observed that it was essential to remove distrust in politics and at the same time resolve the mounting problem of unemployment, poverty and inequality in order to re-establish peace in the Nepalese society. Besides, the role of dharma (religion) could also be considered as one of primary factors in reducing the magnitude of violence in the society.

Other participants from the floor, included Ganga Prasad Akela, Nageena Kumari Jha, Narayan Prasad Mishra, Shanti Mishra, Mani Krishna Shrestha, Trilok Thapa, Binit Kumar Jha and J.D. Khand who made important observations on the paper.

The author responded all the queries raised from the floor satisfactorily. Keshab Raj Jha in his remarks as chairperson of the session expressed satisfaction at the way the author dealt with different pathways to peace. Besides, he also thanked the participants for their active participation in the session.

Fifth Session

Shambhu Ram Simkhada made his presentation on "State-Civil Society Role in Conflict Resolution" in the fifth session of the seminar. Balanand Sharma, Lt-Gen (Retd) presided over the session.

In his presentation, Shambhu Ram Simkhada said that the successful People's Movement of 2006 brought Nepal to a new threshold. It is necessary to institutionalize peace and democracy through the meaningful conclusion of the peace process, promulgation of the new Constitution, holding free and fair election and handing over power to a new democratic dispensation under the new constitution. In this context, too much focus on politics of power and too little attention to transformational politics can prove disastrous. All should understand that at this juncture no one is above the law and that there is no place for extremism and violence in the society. There is no room for corruption and incompetence in high public office. Also, there is no place for greed and excess in the free enterprise as everyone should be accountable for one's actions. However, there have been mismatch in the process of change. The Nepalese state failed to implement Comprehensive Peace Accord. It was before the Constituent Assembly election that the problems of Maoist combatants needed to be resolved, which, however, was not realized. Also, various commissions such as Truth and Reconciliation Commission expected to wipe out the tears and heal the wounds of the conflict affected people is yet to be realized. In such a moment of despair, it is indeed a great challenge before the state, civil society and all the friends of Nepal both within and outside the country as to how to translate the aspirations of the people into reality.

Responding from the floor, Shanti Mishra observed that it was not known if at all the civil society made any meaningful contribution in the post-conflict phase in Nepal.

K.D. Mishra observed that paper needed to throw light on the traffic jams taking place in the country at three levels i.e. political, civil society and bureaucracy, but it has done little on this aspect. .

Keshab Prasad Chaulagain stated that the paper is not complete as it has overlooked such aspects as religion and culture.

Prakash A. Raj observed that the threat to peace in Nepal is a matter of major concern for India's security.

Narayan Prasad Mishra wanted to know if there was any co-relation between the integration of Maoist army and peace process in Nepal.

Pushpa Thakur wanted to know if there was any rationale in integrating the Maoist combatants at a time when they have expressed their solidarity with their mother party.

Ganga Prasad Akela expressed that the civil society has not been able to make any headway in Nepal. Arjun Thapa and Gambhir Bahadur Hada also made certain observations on the paper.

The author responded all the queries raised from the floor. In his remarks as chairperson of the session, Balanand Sharma replied that the integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepalese army is inevitable. The Nepalese army could function even if certain number of Maoist combatants is integrated. The law of the land would take care if someone goes out of the way. Absence of the rule of law and corruption are two major problems in Nepal. Unfortunately, the leaders are fighting for master bed room when the country is on fire, he added.

Sixth Session

In the sixth session of the seminar, Dinesh Tripathi made his presentation on "Conflicting interest and constitution making in Nepal." Noted constitutional expert in Nepal, Surya Dhungel chaired the session.

While presenting his paper, Dinesh Tripathi stated that Nepal is in the process of writing constitution. It is the part of the peace process. It is a nation building exercise. It is a document that the nation should own. However, the constitution making process is facing a rough road in the country. Every where there are risks and challenges despite the fact that the duration of Constituent Assembly was extended by a year. There is a widening gulf among the political actors on the major issues of the constitution. The lack of management of Maoist combatants is a major stumbling block in constitution making process. The struggle for power among different political parties has shadowed activities related to constitution making. In such a moment of chaos, what is expected from the political parties is that they should agree on the basic principles, values and modalities of the new constitution without any further delay.

During the floor discussion, Dev Raj Dahal suggested that the paper needed to be systematized. In Nepal, the deadlock in politics is the result of not only the inter-party conflict, but more so due to the conflict among the different groups within all the major political parties. There is little scope of communication and dialogue among different groups in the political parties. Besides, the political parties have no ideological base.

Ram Dayal Rakesh observed that there is no social inclusion in Nepal. Nageena Kumari Jha and Prasis Mahara also made some important observations on the paper.

Responding the questions raised from the floor, Dinesh Tripathi stated that democracy is not the system in which the leaders automatically take the lead. It is the job of the civil society to exert pressure on them for this, but nothing concrete could develop on this front. Unfortunately, politics is based on ethnic factors. There is a greater need of vibrating civil society so that it could enable the government and political forces both to meet people's aspirations.

In his remarks as chairperson of the session, Surya Dhungel observed that constitution making would not be possible until politics in the country is put on right track. The possibility of another conflict is imminent in case the process of integration of Maoist combatants in regular army is not materialized. Therefore, priority needs to be given to integration issue in Nepal.

Finally, Hari Bansh Jha thanked all those who contributed towards making the two-day seminar successful. In this regard, he thanked Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung for its support to the seminar. He also thanked the paper writers, resource persons and participants for their cooperation and active participation in the deliberations of the seminar. He hoped that the outcome of the seminar in the form of valuable ideas and suggestions would help the government, political parties, civil society, foreign agencies and above all the people of Nepal to move forward towards conflict mediation and establishment of peace.

 
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