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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Ratnanagar, Chitwan 7-8 Septermber 2011


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised a two day seminar on civic education and state-building at Ratna Nagar of Chitwan District on September 7-8, 2011. The programme was attended by local political leaders, members of civil society, journalists, teachers, lecturers, students, civil servants (including security personnel) and other stake-holders of society actively participated. There were over 100 participants of which half of them were female. The whole idea of this programme was to educate people's at the local level on the importance of civic education and its role in modern state-building. Civic education basically is a political education and there is a great deal of urgency to inform people about politics that too, democratic politics. Only a democratic politics can contribute towards modern state-building by winning people's confidence on it which is at its lowest ebb at the moment. The seminar was chaired by Gokarna Malla of Sahid Smiriti Multiple Campus. Speaking from the Chair Mr Malla said that citizens are master of the nation who can guide the leaders. But the question arises what type of citizen can do so - the right answer is only the informed citizens. That only the informed citizens can bring politics on the right track and we can create the pool of such citizenry by giving them proper education including civic one.

Proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office welcomed participants and highlighted objectives of the seminar. During his inaugural speech Dahal underlined the importance of civic education. He said that the lack of civic education in our society can result in political anarchy. He further said that citizens are members of the state and by being the members of the state - they enjoy certain rights from it and they, too, have duties towards it. That feeling seems to be missing in our context both at the level of political classes and at the citizenry argued Dahal. The unaccountable politics is the product of this phenomenon pointed out Dahal. At this backdrop, the biggest challenge that lies ahead of us is how do we instill the culture of civic education in our political system said Dahal.

Three papers were presented in both the places wherein Dev Raj Dahal presented on Challenges of State-building in Nepal, Senior Journalist - Yuba Raj Ghimire on contemporary political issues in the country and highlighted on federalism, electoral system, and form of government and finally Chandra D Bhatta spoke about democracy and its elements. He also highlighted why democracy works in some countries and not in others.

Discussion

Birendra Subedi asked why Nepal has become recipient of policies as well - is it because we are a poor country or political parties are weak here. Citing Mao Tse Tung - he said that the state should stand on two legs - agriculture and industry. But here in Nepal we do not have either one. Under such a state of affairs how can we have policy sovereignty argued Subedi?

Mukunda Dhakal asked how can we implement the vision you have just explained (citing Dev Raj's presentation). He further said we have been extending the tenure of CA in the name of writing the constitution which is moving nowhere - how has it been viewed by the international community particularly its legitimacy part. What role civil society can have here? Why did NGOs and INGOs have come to Nepal - for construction or destruction?

Satya Narayan Chaudhary said that we do not need centralised federalism - that exercises authority of the federal states. Dambar Puri of RJM - the allocation of electoral constituency on the basis of population, granting of citizenship certificates on the basis of birth are the agendas solely promoted by India. The federalism is another ploy of authoritarianism which was floated by Indians too. We need to access our situation on our own account.

Rupi Joshi said that in our school texts we read Shakespeare's but not Devkota - why don't we change this.

Shibu Nepali asked what role civil society has in state-building. How can our civil society contribute towards creating the notion of unity in diversity and this will help to boost up our nationalism? Political parties should not compromise on national issues.

Arjun Dhakal asked - what is your take on experts committee on state restructuring. Sanjay Chaudhary asked how we can build-up active citizenship so that dalits, indigenous groups, Madhesi could be brought into the political mainstream.

Kamali Kanta Ghimire said that we all are sitting together. This is very good and will help to build-up common national identity at against ethnic identity which has dogged Nepali society. He further said that none of the ethnic groups enjoy absolute majority and the way ethnic federalism is floated is not a forward looking approach. We call ourselves communist but talk about ethnic state by completely forgetting the politics of class - which should have been our agenda.

Mahendra Chaudhary Rauniyar said that its very good programme and there has been very good attendance since very beginning. He said that we need to modernize agriculture which will create more jobs for our youths. He reminded that we used to export food some thirty years ago but today we import everything including food items.

Indra Poudyal, Rajendra Puri, Damber Puri, and Gokarna Adhikari also expressed their views during the seminar. They said that the programme is very good but they didn't have enough time to learn all. They said that two days time is not enough. They also expressed that we are slowly losing group on our values and we really need to restore them.

Conclusion

The programme in Ratnagar, Chitwan went very well. Participants got to know about important issues such as state, state building, inclusive democracy, federalism, forms of government, electoral process and many more. The conclusion of this seminar is that transformation requires at the multiple levels and a sustainable transformation can take place when it is backed up by proper mechanism.

 
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