Report on Interaction program on Social Democracy
and Gender in Nepal
Organised by Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial
3 December 2010, Kathmandu
The Foundation in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
(FES) organized a one day workshop on Social Democracy in Nepal"
at Hotel Malla on December 3, 2010 (Mansir 17, 2067), on the occasion
of 99th birth anniversary of the late Prime Minister Tanka Prasad
Acharya. About 70 people from various walks of life including
politicians, academicians and civil society participated in the
workshop. The primary objective of the workshop was to examine
the relevance of various political systems for Nepal at this stage
of socio-political development and the regional and international
- To review the current political scenario
and establish relevance of social democracy in Nepal
- To examine the strength and weakness of
the theoretical foundations of various political systems,
liberal democracy, Marxist system and social democracy from
a. gender perspective
The inaugural session was chaired by the former
Speaker of the Parliament and Chairperson of TPAMF Mr. Daman
Nath Dhungana. Minister of Information Communication and Technology
Mr. Shankar Pokheral was the chief guest. Welcome speech was
delivered by Mr Govinda Prasad Dulal, Executive officer of TPAMF.
Speaking on the occasion chairperson of Constituent
Committee Mr Nilambar Acharya said that the late Tanka Prasad
Acharya was the source of democratic politics in Nepal. His
social democratic thinking, unwavering commitment to nationalism
and democracy and exemplary courage to adhere to them is very
relevant to the current political situation in the country.
The late Tanka Prasad Acharya believed on achieving the social
democratic goals through peaceful means. The speaker emphasized
that political democracy by itself is not adequate. It must
be accompanied by social democracy. Currently, the framing of
constitution should be at the center of the political agenda.
But all of the political parties are engaged in advancing their
own interest, rather than making constitution. For them Constitution
making seems to be only a side job. We need to concentrate in
making the country free of violence and fear as per the ideology
of late Acharya.
Dr. Ram Saran Mahat, Ex Finance Minister,
member of the Constituent Assembly and Central Committee Member
of Nepali Congress deliberated the late Tanka Prasad Acharya's
political believes were very relevant to his time. He advocated
middle way to achieve and develop the democracy in the country.
But today the times have changed, we have a new context. We
have a Republican Nepal and a globalizing world. We (Nepali
Congress) are searching ways to empower people through economic
development and market management. There is a need for capitalism
to achieve social development as well. We should not follow
the old model of development.
The chief guest, Honorable Minister of Information,
Communication and Technology, Mr. Shankar Pokharel giving his
speech remarked that the history of political changes in Nepal
could be divided in three parts. The first part was leding by
the Late king Prithvi Narayan Shah, through establishment of
Nepalese Nation and the nationalism. The late Tanka Prasad Acharya
was leading the second part - which focused on socio-political
reform. Currently we are progressing through a third phase -
transforming the centralized State and the governance system
to federal one. In the context of Nepalese politics, there is
severe problem of neglect of principal based politics. There
is a need of a new Tanka Prasad Acharya to show the way for
principal based politics. We can bring social change only through
ideological and political struggle.
Speaking from the chair Mr. Daman Nath Dhungana
said that it is time we follow the political example shown by
late Tanka Prasad Acharya, who led the socio-political changes
and while in power implemented far reaching administrative reforms
and foreign policy, rather than the blaming each other within
the political party and in the Constituent Assembly.
The second session was chaired by the Vice
Chairperson of TPAMF Prof. Som Prasad Gauchan, Central Department
of Political Science, Tribhuvan University. At the beginning
of this session Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES in Nepal made his
remarks. He said that two features of Nepal's current political
scenario calls for a series discussion on the relevance of social
democracy in Nepal. Firstly, Nepal has signed both sets of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights-civil and political rights
and social, economic and cultural rights of the United Nations.
It is also a party to the SAARC Declaration on social charter.
Secondly, the Interim Constitution is largely based on social
democratic ideals as it has expanded more social rights of citizens
including right to work, food, social security, health, etc.
No matter what government is in power these two facts lead to
a social democratic path. While the liberal democracy focuses
on individual rights the Marxists/socialists/ social democrats
argue that without comprehensive framework of social justice
even liberal rights cannot be realized. The Social Democracy
propounds that both are equally important and tries to maintain
individual freedom within the context of social justice.
Dahal said that he wants to make four basic
points. Firstly, we can not be in a perpetual state of transition.
The changes have to be institutionalized for stability and resources
have to be allocated to realize human rights. We need to seek
political, social and economic reforms within the constitution
conducive to needs and freedom of citizens.
Secondly, the state has conceded too many
rights. Given that we have a week state it has little capacity
to implement them. A weak state cannot implement fundamental
rights and even provide classic public goods such as security,
rule of law and service delivery While the civil activism has
increased, the institutional capabilities of the state are declining.
Crucial issues are: How to balance the rights and duties of
citizens with the capacity of the state? How to strengthen the
institutions and constitutions so that freedoms become compatible
with legitimate public order? How the poor citizens can also
become stakeholders of democracy?
Thirdly, the structural context of poverty
and political equation in Constituent Assembly which is dominated
by left and social democrats make social democracy in inescapable
option for Nepal's future political order.
Fourthly, changes in our country must be rooted
in our own history and context. Our society is transforming
both because of global impact of modernity and our internal
needs and expectation of better living standards. How to stabilize
the social pact we have agreed to and make it judicious? Our
problems are systemic. But our vision is narrow, discipline-focused.
How to make our knowledge inter-subjective and system-sensitive
for solving the problems? If we start just on the basis of externally-driven
theory we may not be able to meet the needs of the native citizens.
Then the system will loose its legitimacy. The late Tanka Prasad
Acharya was very clear about this. He was the first social democrat
in this country. His opinions expressed in Living Martyrs are
very much rooted in our own indigenous context. He explains
how he raised voice for political changes on the basis of teachings
of Gita. He had a vision of Nepal's socio-economic and political
transformation. It was derived primarily from praxis, not any
fixed universal ideology. He never wanted to discredit the national
heritage by using universal ideology. We can not have a state
without history. We should value what we have inherited from
our ancestors and find our own path to social transformation.
Systems come and go, history remains with us. We cannot transcend
history rather we should learn the positive teaching and change
its negative aspects. Change is inevitable in every generation
but they must be rooted in history, only then the outcome will
be sustainable. The Chinese and Japanese have shown the way
how it can be done. Impact from global developments is inevitable
but we must learn to match them with our needs and choose our
own path. Social democracy is based on the self-determination
I hope that discussion will provide important
feedback to the politicians and the Constituent Assembly how
social democratic model provides a platform for compromise to
both the communists and democrats for meeting the aspirations
of the people for socio-and political transformation, including
women and various disadvantaged groups.
Two papers were presented in this session.
In the first paper "Why Social Democracy in Nepal"
Dr. Chaitanya Mishra first reviewed the current political scenario
in the country, whereby he divided the political parties and
politicians within each party, as right, left and centrists.
He commented that while the leftists of various shades still
adhered to the out dated ideology of communism and proletarian
dictatorship, the right saw nothing wrong with the old style
capitalism. He said both were out of context and that the politicians
needed to seriously consider the realities of the current political
scenario in the country and regional and global context. Internally,
neither the left nor the right was in any position to impose
their will at this stage. The strength of various parties in
the Constituent Assembly and the compromise worked out earlier
in the form of series of peace, the Interim Constitution, and
the reports of the various CA committees already contain elements
of social democracy. This is also the best solution for Nepal
at this point of history because only social democracy can combine
the aspirations of the people for democracy as well as socio-political
He adds that the present is also characterized
by large-scale social transition to new ways of making livelihood
- decline of subsistence agriculture and large scale migration
to cities in Nepal and beyond, with changing democratic consciousness
and increasing pool of income earners. This is an opportunity
to generate resources to meet the needs of the inept and the
subordinated, dispossessed and marginalized.
The second paper entitled "The Question
of Women under the Political Systems" was presented by
the General Secretary of the Foundation, Dr. Meena Acharya.
Dr. Acharya analyzes how women are placed in the liberal democratic,
the communist/socialist and social democratic systems. The paper
argues that political systems are not just a form of government
but a system of philosophy, economic order and forms of governments.
The questions raised are: how they deal with patriarchy and
gender issues in theory and in practice. Which system provides
women with best theoretical and practical opportunities to gain
gender equality in the current unequal world?
It is argued that liberal democratic system
of thought based on equality before the law and free market
system does not recognized the diversity of population or the
differentiated needs of the men and women. Economic relations
between the individuals are mediated by the market, where households
and firms trade goods and factors of production, land, labor
and capital. 'Household' is conceptualized as a unit of consumption
and supply of labor. Women as a group do not exist as 'producers'
or individuals in this system of thought. Nor does it recognize
the historical advantages and disadvantages and unequal ownership
of assets and means of production. Women have to gain equality
on male terms, to be like men.
In the Marxist system of thought, women's
subjugation is seen as a part of the capitalist subjugation
based on private property like that of the labor class. Women
are either in the capitalist class or proletariat depending
on their husbands' social status in the production process.
Therefore, for liberation of women women's labor must also be
socialized. This generalization is rejected both by the Marxist
feminists and other feminists. This construction fails to see
the productive role of the households and specific needs of
women because of their reproductive responsibilities. In conclusion
still there is neither a conclusive theory which provides perfect
explanation of women's subordination nor a theory for her liberation.
The feminist socialism, constructed, on materialistic historicity
grounds, takes into account the diverse realities of various
groups of women, countering the need for essentialist negation
of theoretical generalizations. Social democracy, which overcomes
the rigidities of both the liberal democratic and Marxist theorization,
is seen as more conduce to women's liberation, because both
democracy and social justice are intrinsic to it.