for Strengthening Relations between People and Local Self Governance
Seminar organized by Nepal Foundation for
Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
29 September 2010, Simara
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies organized
a discussion on civic education in Simara, Bara, in the central
plains of Nepal on 29 September, 2010. The function, held in cooperation
with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was attended by a thickly packed
audience, in the hall belonging to the village development committee
office, consisting mostly of teachers, political workers, journalists
and other luminaries of this small town that serves several neighbouring
districts with an airport. Ganesh Poudel, a principal of the nearby
higher secondary school, chaired the function.
In his inaugural address, NEFAS Executive
Director Prof. Ananda Srestha said that his organization has
been organizing academic debates on various issues of national
concern ever since its establishment in 1990. He said that many
such seminars have also been organized outside Kathmandu Valley.
Professor Srestha asked the participants to be forthcoming in
their comments as the outcome of the discussion would be published
in book form.
C.D. Bhatta, representative of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung,
told the audience that his organization is working in 80 countries
promoting ideals like freedom, equality, justice and solidarity.
At a time when the nation was drafting a new constitution, people
need to voice their concerns so that those concerns can be included
by the drafters, he said. He added that only civic education
could make people aware about their issues and the need to include
them in the national documents.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation followed the
initial remarks by the organizers. He said that civic education
is needed to transform the 'people' into 'citizens'. Citizens
are aware of the issues that surround them and the leadership
they catapult to power serves them well, Dahal said. But this
is not happening in Nepal, he said, because of the lack of civic
education. All the social deviations, political incompetence
and governance anomalies are the result of the lack of civic
sense among the political, business and civil societies, he
said. Civic education is needed to change their behaviour so
that people can enjoy peace and prosperity, according to Dahal.
The second presentation was on "Handbook
of Democracy", a FES publication and executed by Prof.
Ram Kumar Dahal. The book outlines and acts as a reference for
people seeking information on the different dimensions of a
democracy. Periodic elections, rule of law, free press, independent
judiciary are some of the aspects of a democracy included in
the handbook. Issues of local governance like federal rule are
also included in the publication. Professor Dahal also explained
to the people about different kinds of democracy, particularly
the different between liberal democracy and social democracy.
Bedraj Acharya discussed some of the economic
issues concerning Nepal. He talked about the need to have policies
focusing on poverty alleviation. He said that there was a need
for policymakers to shift the policy of selling primary goods
to one that focuses on selling finished products. The nation
would earn more remittance if the workers were trained before
sending them abroad in foreign employment, Acharya said.
In spite of the packed audience in the mid-summer
heat in the Nepalese plains, not many participants took part
in commenting on the presentations. The few that did were more
centered around the anomalies and differences seen among the
different political forces that are bent on drafting a new constitution
for Nepal. A participant said that the seminar would be more
useful for the political leaders than people at the grassroots.
The function came to a close with the chairman thanking all
the participants and the organizers for making the function
Excerpt of the seminar
Chair: Ganesh Poudel
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies was established 20 years ago.
Ever since then it has been organising seminars and workshops
on issues of public importance. The outcome of those discussions
are published. Those publications are used by universities today.
We believe that organising seminars only in
Kathmandu is not too useful for our purpose of generating debates
on issues of public importance. So we have been making the roundas
in various parts of the country. It is in this context that
we are here in Simara today.
The role of the younger generation is getting
maginalised today. Recent Nepali Congress elections have shown
an encouraging trend in that respect. Let us hope that the trend
continues. Shivaraj Dahal and Prof Ram Kumar Dahal will be presenting
papers for discussion. The papers are not complete in themselves.
Your comments will be included in the final publication.
We are grateful to Friedrich Ebert Foundation
for their continuous support to our programmes.
C.D. Bhatta: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
is a German foundation set up by the Social Democratic Party
there. Each political party in Germany has its own foundation
to promote their ideals.
Friedrich Ebert was a labour leader who became
the first president of Germany. The gifts he was given by the
people was turned into a fund to set up FES. FES works in over
80 countries today.
There has always been a conflict between justice
and freedom. Our aim is to take both together, hand in hand.
Only then can a nation progress. Our task is to get the poorer
sections of the Nepalese into the society's mainstream by giving
them justice. Only then can we make democracy strong and bring
Rule of law is also important for political
stability. The higher echelons of the society do not abide by
the law, the middle class does not care much about law and the
law appears to be applied only to the lowest rungs of society.
For political stability, rule of law should be applicable to
We need civic education to prevent the nation
from disintegrating. We see the national identity disintegrated
into various sub-national identities. There is a need to bring
them together for national unity. Only civic education can help
We have had civic education since the Vedic
era and it has continued to this day. What we need to do is
to contextualize it to suit our needs of the day.
Other countries too have programmes for civic
education. This is a political programme and it keeps the citizens
informed. Political parties usually concentrate on developing
cadres through political education. They too can contribute
in making civic education widespread.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation
Bedraj Acharya's lecture
Shiva Prasad Sharma Wagle: Your paper
talked about national identity. Just recently, the election
commission began distributing ID cards. The Madhesi people are
saying that they will be deprived of Election ID cards as they
do not have citizenship papers needed to acquire them. What
does civic education say on this? Will the second or third generation
settlers be allowed to vote or not?
Bhojraj Aryal: I hope you will take
civic education to more parts of the country, particularly in
We have allowed many foreigners to settle
in the name of loktantra. We gave them ID cards and Nepal is
turning into a Fiji [where the local population was swamped
by settlers]. How can we stop that? Can we repeal those citizenship
papers? Otherwise, we will all be displaced in the future. What
are academics doing in this regard?
Prem Baral: The paper was more on people's
relations with the centre and not with the local government.
Because of the difficulties we are going through today, I feel
that we can only create awareness at the local level.
The focus of your presentation was whether
people got the fruits of their political movements and the like.
You also talked about democratic failure because
people have had to rise up time and again for democracy. The
movements have only been able to raise political issues. The
aftermath has never been able to institutionalise the democracy
that was ushered in. Where did we miss out?
You talked about economic inequalities undermining
democracy. At the moment, we are devising a loktantrik constitution.
But the problem is that loktantra has been defined differently
by different parties.
Communists point out the economic gaps and
say that they are being translated into political instability.
Without ending the trend of marginalizing the people's access
to national resources, the gaps may never be filled.
Depak Bhatta: You did not give us the
recommendations, only the diagnosis of the problems.
Shiva Prasad Wagle: You said that you
have started holding functions outside Kathmandu Valley, please
go to more such areas.
Have you ever organised similar functions
in the capital? I suggest that you teach the political leaders
the value of civic education as they are too citizens. May be
then we will have politicians who elect a prime minister for
Shivaraj Dahal's reply
We first organized seminars on civic education
in Kathmandu and then we went to places like Palpa and Ilam.
We were suggested that we must take the function to more places.
We are doing that. Regarding the function in Kathmandu, as you
suggest, FES, not us, held a programme for the 601 Constituent
Assembly members some time ago. The result of such efforts is
there for all of you to see.
Regarding citizenship, I think that only Nepalese
citizens should get the election IDs. Those who have the card,
but are not citizens, should have them returned. The Election
Commission should not register political parties that are ethnicity
or region oriented.
Loktantra will not last long by only paying lip service. If
capital and labour get displaced by political problems, then
we will have more problems that we have today. Promoting brain
drain will not retain loktantra. National sovereignty is being
marginalised. There is no security, people are being displaced.
If the plainspeople lean on India and the mountain folks depend
on China, then the country will be in a terrible situation.
If loktantra is lost, like it did in the past, we have brought
it back, but the same will not happen if the country is gone.
It will have gone forever.
Regarding failure state, a state fails if
there is corruption and attempts are geared towards weakening
the leadership and rule of law. Society is divided into caste,
religion and language. A failing leadership, if allowed to continue
for a long time, leads to failed states.
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal: Your were right
when you say that the local level can only indulge in awareness
Regarding access to natural resources and
its exploitation, and the drafting of the constitution, we should
be able to address all our issues before the constitution is
drafted. Otherwise, the constitution will be burnt by one or
the other discontented group as soon as it is drafted. The political
parties should at least arrive at a consensus on vital national
There is a huge debate about citizenship papers
going to the wrong people. But there was a national consensus
while giving those papers. An all-party committee was consulted
before handing them out. I think all the parties that were there
to distribute the papers should be held responsible. Election
ID cards without citizenship papers may bring complexities.
Only Nepalese nationals should be allowed to vote. Maybe, we
need to provide the papers only to actual Nepalese nationals.
Chairperson Ganesh Ghimire's remarks:
I thank all the participants for their patience and NEFAS' efforts
in organising the function in this part of the country.
Obviously, we as humans should be able to
use our brains for ourselves before doing so for others. We
should make improvements at the local level on our own. We know
the problem at the national level. At the national level, we
face a situation where politicians have not even been able to
elect a prime minister. The different sectors of society, politics
and economy are all polarized by remaining aligned to one or
the other political party.
We saw 104 years of Rana rule when people
had no education. Then came multiparty democracy, but it was
only chaos, after that the Panchayat system, we still had no
development. People revolted again in 1990 and we have not been
able to get anything since then. We are even debating about
whether we have a citizenship at all. This is a pathetic situation
even for the average Nepalese.
Civic education is more important at the grassroots
as it helps collect information at the local level so that it
can be taken to the policy level.
I thank NEFAS for holding the seminar on such
an important topic. We, the people at then local, level must
unite so that we can do something.