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Seminar Report on Initiate for State-building and Constitutional Dynamics

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

(23-24 November 2010) Damak, (25-26 November 2010) Ithari


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised two day seminar in Damak, Jhapa (23-24 November, 2010 ) and Ithari, Sunsari (25-26 November, 2010) on state-building and constitutional dynamics in Nepal. There were 70 participants in Jhapa of which 20 were women, and 90 in Ithari of which 30 were women participants. In both the districts the places, the programme was attended by the leaders of all political parties, members of civil society, civil servants, lawyers, lecturers, teachers, students, journalists, bureaucrats, security officials and other stake-holders of the society. In Ithari, the programmae was chaired by Ram Chandra Adhikari - a prominent social worker.

These are the part of the series of the programme that FES has been organizing over the years on the challenges of state-building in Nepal and the whole objective of these seminars was and is to educate local political leaders/civil society activists on issues pertaining to state-building and constitutional dynamics in Nepal.

Speaking in the inaugural session, and setting the scene for discussion, Chandra D Bhatta, Programme Officer of FES said that state didn't collapse in Nepal, however, it has failed to create authority as the same has been shifted toward political parties and their sister organizations, non-state armed actors and to some extent even individual leaders who play prominent role in national politics but failed to provide political stability. As a result, Nepali state's authority has been diluted and is on the verge of losing Weberian legitimacy in all spheres. Bhatta further said that there have been intermittent regime changes in every ten year since maize farming (Makaiko kheti) till today but they were only cosmetic in nature and failed to bring tangible changes into the life of people. The agenda for the change floated by the masses has been hijacked by the elites from the political parties and their leader who, in turn, later compelled to co-opt with the former primarily because political parties lack the desired power/knowledge/ for the change whereas elites do not want to change. This tendency has not brought any positive change in a society and people at large lost their confidence both on state and system. So unless and until we restore confidence of the people on the state and its institutions, the agenda of social, political, and economic transformation cannot be ensured. Moreover, under these circumstances, Nepal is bound to face further political crisis. Finally, we really need to establish democracy that is more substantive and change oriented than procedural, said Bhatta. He further pointed out that social change in Nepal has been postponed primarily because of the non-implementation of the laws and by- laws. Equally important is that we have to differentiate whether democracy is system or process. Democratisation is never ending process and all the countries, even those who claim democratic, are also in the process of further democratisations. Therefore democracy is a process which ensures people's accessibility in the activities of the state.

Proceedings

There were three papers presented by Prof. Anand Aditya, on State, Senior Constitutional Expert Kashi Raj Dahal on Constitution and Chandra D Bhatta on Democracy and Civic Education. Presenting his paper Prof. Aditya said that while the state in Nepal is chronologically one of the 15 oldest on the world map, it shows features of a hard state, with chronic governmental instability. Resiliency appears as another key characteristic evident in its ability to survive imperial onslaughts and a number of systematic crises in the course of its evolution. Authoritarian in is make-up and with considerable democracy deficits, the state is likely to take its time in its transition to democracy which also implies a far from smooth course in its ability to resolve conflicts and crises in a rational and effective way. He further said that it is also a hard state primarily because it is centralized with virtual democracy (power to command and course with little soft power (to convince, bargain and exchange) in multiple forms. The need of the hour, however, is to create to empower people and create civic state. He was of the view that political 'leaders' are strong but the state and citizens are weak. In fact, political change should have served the interest of nation and its people rather than serving the interest of few individuals. He also opined that constitutional amendment could have been done but people's mandate should not have been changed without consulting them.

Presenting his paper constitutional expert Kashi Raj Dahal said that the upcoming constitution should address the issues of the people living in the rural areas and emphasis should be given on education, science and technology, economic development so that people at large feel ownership towards constitution. He also explained about the different models of constitution and emphasised that we need to develop the model that serves our interest most. Likewise Chandra D Bhatt explained about the components of democracy, civil society and other issues.

Discussion

Nishanta Lawoti from CPN (Maoist) said that lack of clear political concept among political leaders have put the political process at risk. He also in the programme there are too much uses of English word in the seminar. There is not proper trade union leadership in the country. She also blamed that experts are individualistic and have no sense of nationalism. Educated people work in the INGOs/NGOs and there are few good teachers in the university. We also have to protect mother tongue. Mr Abi Narayan Khanal blamed that we do not have proper policy on agriculture due to which arable land has been used for real estate business. We have to classify the land which one for agriculture and which one for the real estate business. We have to make use of our resources and there is an urgent need to reevaluate or education policy. Himal Dahal Different approached to federalism which are primarily induced from outside has put the project of federalism in the crisis. Likewise Badri Bahadur Basnet was of the view that we need to carve states on north-south basis. We have too many CA members; we should not have more than 250 suggested Basnet.

Dinesh Tumbahamphe said that education is not adbasi friendly. Radha Pokhrel said that we need the leaders who work for the truth. Lok Sagar Sambhis said that state building should be initiated on the basis of emotion and equality and freedom are necessary for that. Ram Thapa asked how can we have a strong state. What exactly is our problem - ethnic or the economic backwardness? He also questioned the achievement of 2006 movement as it has failed to address our problem of underdevelopment. Basu Dev Bhattarai enquired where we stand after the movement of 2006. The movement has only benefited only experts and political leaders and the movement has no mandate to declare Nepal a secular state. The achievement of the movement is such that it has eroded our religious, cultural, traditional and other values. Due to the weak social structure, Nepal state is fledgling today. Shanti Ram Acharya blamed that political leaders are ready to do everything if they get monetary benefits and advised civil society should be active to discharge its duty of watchdog/ Chandra Prasad Pokhrel was of the view that these parties are in favour of drafting the constitution in time as they seems to benefit from not writing it. She Sing Limbu said that the influential political leaders are mobilizing criminals in the different activities that has to be stopped. There has been severe crisis in the political system and the need of the hour is to restore people's confidence on the system. We have to hate political leader not the political parties as has been normally happening in Nepal. We should not promote antinomies of democracy. Incalcation of political culture among citizens is necessary for democracy to flourish.

Padam Adhikari of Radio Parivartan has said that the current education system is not social; we need to have clear policy on language. How do we have Hindi as a national language? We should respect our national language and other languages spoken in our country. Comprehensive Peace Agreement was not justifiable; there was no honesty in its implementation part. The last movement has produced more problems than the solution it provided. Pradip Bhattarai said we have got too many political leaders that is the part of the problem. Badri Prasad Pokhrel said that this programme has come late. He said that why not man English as a medium of communication between Nepal and India rather than communicating in Hindi. Ram Prasad Acharya from Red Cross said that why Nepal's who have been living in India for years have not gotten citizenship. Ms. Bishnu Nepal said that this programme should have been taken to the villages. Urmila Sharma said that there is an urgent need of political education. Citizens need to be educated. Om Prasad Chaulagai said how governmental problem will be solved if the constitution is not written. Shiv Thakur said in the name of modernization, arable land is decreasing day-by-day and there is an acute food problem. Questions were also raised as to what extent proportional election system is fair. The culture of impunity has ruined the human rights situation in the country. Food deficit and the climate change has become major problems for any government but they have failed to address them. Civil society in Nepal has failed to do its job properly it has, by contrast, become partisan.

Conclusion

The seminars in these two places went very well. There was a demand of taking these types of programmes upto the VDC level as only informed citizens can have effective participation in the polity. The political radicalism has sustained our conflict and resulted in the weak state and citizen but strong political leaders. The change has to be realized by the people at large and mere adopting procedural democracy will not work. In fact both procedural and substantive democracy should go hand in hand. Political education is important as it promotes active citizenship in the country.

 
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