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Seminar Report on Promoting Active Citizenship for Building Modern State

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

15-16 June 2011, Ramechhap


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office organised a two day seminar on Promoting Active Citizenship for Building Modern State in Ramechhap district. There were 120 participants out of which 15 were female. The programme was attended, among others, by the government officials, leaders of the political parties, academicians, teachers, media personnel, lawyers, civil society members, security personnel, students and other stake-holders of the society. The seminar was chaired by Nar Bahadur Karki of Gauri Shankar Multiple Campus.

Speaking in the inaugural programme C. D. Bhatta said that the biggest challenge in Nepal is to build up common consensus among various political parties to push the peace process ahead. Equally important is to extend authority of the state in society which is at its lowest ebb. This can only be done when we inculcate the concept of active citizenship among people and make them aware about both rights and responsibilities. One participant rightly pointed out that we as a citizen of this state failed to respond call made by the government to join the army/police during the crisis time and now everybody wanted to join the service. This is not the notion of active citizenship.

Proceedings

There were altogether three papers presented by Senior Journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire, Lal Babu Yadav - Associate Professor of Political Science at the Tribhuvan University and C D Bhatta. Ghimire presented his paper on state and current political situations, Yadav on federalism, election and other contemporary and Bhatta on democracy, civic education, and citizenship building. Ghimire argued that political leaders of Nepal have brought Nepal into this situation. With regard to the one Madhesh one Pradesh - Ghimire was of the view that this proposition will create imbalance in national politics and will hijack agendas of minorities. After the papers were presented, a good number of people took part in the discussion and as a citizen of this country we are equally responsible for this state of affairs. This is so because we always approve whatever our leaders do. The important point that was raised from the floor was that civil society leaders, intellectuals, media personnel, high-ranking authorities, activists all live in Kathmandu who are least bothered about the problem of the people living in the periphery.

Devi Khadka and Bhim Bahadur Tamang enquired about the model of federalism. Khadka was particularly concerned as what type of federalism would best suit Nepali state so that it can serve the interest of both the state and society. Tamang also argued that parliamentary system of governance has gone into astray and there is an urgent need to adopt presidential system as we have not yet practised it in the past.

Bindeshwor Magar asked where we can return the land that Nepal lost after the Sugauli Treaty. He was also concerned whether federalism would disintegrate Nepali state.
Tika Ram Lama asked the presenter about the number of unitary and federal state in the world.

Durga Basnet asked how we define modernity in the context of Nepal. Should we take unification date of P N Shah as a starting point or are there any other measures that can be taken as a reference point to define Nepali modernity.

Chet Bahadur Khadka asked what are the reasons behind political and constitutional stability in the Western Europe and the USA.
Another participant Raj Basnet asked what type of nationalism is required to build up the modern state? Is it necessary to be a democrat to become a nationalist? Another participant enquired what are the differences between pluralism and multiparty competitive system of governance? is pluralism an inalienable part of democracy ?

Anil Shreshtha made a point whether we can have separate states like Terai, Pahad and Himal.

Another participant expressed his concerned about state restructuring at a time when ethnicity has dominated the political discourse in the country by sidelining the role of political parties per se/.

Whether right to self-determination would cede Nepali state like Bangladesh ceded from Pakistan? What would be the future of federalism, while there are resenting voices coming against it from different sections of society argued another participant?

Shankar Dahal wanted to know about the role of media in democracy and constitutional process? He also asked what would happen if the constitution is not written in time?

Conclusion

The seminars emphasised that if the accountability is realised by all the people in perhaps the need for federalism will automatically shy away. There is an urgent need to introduce civic education in our society at different levels to instil the sense of accountability in societal actors. The corruption that exists in our society needs to be uprooted. That can alone address our problem of political instability as it will help to build up the civic culture in our society/. Another point that was raised is that the good people have not gone into Nepali politics and there is an urgent need to develop such a mechanism. We need to find out democracy within our own tradition and culture which will be more sustainable.

 
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