Committed to Social Democracy...
FES in Nepal
FES Worldwide
Media Development
Trade Union Development
Regional Cooperation
Conflict Resolution
Good Governance
Past Activities
FES in the Press
Annual Reports
Seminar/Workshop Reports
List of FES Publications
Book Reviews
FES Publications in University Curricula

Replenishing the Roots of Civil Society

Organised by PRAGYA Foundation

27 March 2011

Ritu Raj Subedi
Associate Editor
The Rising Nepal

As the country is passing through tumultuous political courses, the civil society members have sought their creative role to sort out the transitional glitches. It is imperative for the civil society to make its legitimate claim to find appropriate solution to the lingering crisis triggered by delay in the constitution writing and peace process. The civil society was ahead of the political parties in engineering the April movement in 2006. It has been continuously warning the parties for their lapses and misgivings for the past couples of years. At this critical moment, its role has been further heightened to remind the parties about their duty and convey the people's genuine concerns to them.

Like other segments of society, the civil society is also fragmented and polarized. It is also facing the severe criticism that it is donor-driven and carrying the partisan agenda. Despite these bitter facts, the civil society has a big role to play to end the current state of impasse. The civil society members need to demonstrate their solidarity and put pressure on the parties to execute the historic tasks. "They should again consolidate their voice for the realization of these national goals at this critical phase of history." This was the assertion during a seminar entitled 'Replenishing the Roots of Civil Society: Building Peace, Development and Democratization,' jointly organised by Pragya Foundation and FES-Nepal in Kathmandu on March 27, 2011. The programme rolled on linear way with the participants from different occupations expressed their views unequivocally. Their divergent views made the roundtable discussion interesting, thought-provoking and animated.

Press parties for timely constitution

Kashi Raj Dahal, chairman of Administrative Court, said that political stability was the precondition of the nation's development.

"Suppose there is a good constitution but not stability, the constitution cannot function well. Constitutional culture, democratic rule and economic development are prerequisites for stability," Dahal said.

He said that it was not wise to include the radical demands in the constitution. "The economic reality must be taken into account while framing the new constitution."

The past constitutions failed as the institutions, envisaged by the constitution, could not become effective and functional, he said.

Stating that the people should own the constitution for its legitimacy, Dahal said that the civil society should demonstrate solidarity and work for social harmony.

He said that the civil society was the de facto institution in democracy. "Where the civil society is strong, democracy functions well."

He said that the primary task of civil society members was now to press the parties for the timely statute writing and the conclusion of the peace process.

Former envoy Durgesh Man Singh said that the civil society must be able to guide the political parties.

Stating that the constitution was the foundation of political and social values, Singh said that the civil society could contribute to the peace and statute writing processes.

He noted that growing impatience among the people was the root cause of ongoing instability in the country.

Babu Ram Poudel said that the civil society should play its creative role to end the political deadlock. "It has already become delay to write the new statute. We must brace for economic revolution by concluding the peace and statute writing processes."

Civil society provides democratic impulses

FES-Nepal chief Dev Raj Dahal said that the civil society provides democratic impulses within societies to survive, and abide by the laws of their own existence.

Dahal, also a noted civil society expert, said that the spirit of civil society has, therefore, inflamed the spark of enlightenment values of freedom, equality, solidarity, ecological justice and peace within citizens. "As an agent of social change, the dharma of civil society is to de-traditionalize the general society and work for its continuous reforms and renewal. This helps to mediate the system and life-world and removes the evils that divide them."

Drawing on the ancient knowledge and religions of the country, he said that the modern civil society has to shore up the heritage of multiple nirwan (enlightenment) derived from Janak, Vedas and Gautam Buddha and internalize the utility of the rationalist and scientific tradition of modernity.

Stating that the civil society has to play its creative roles in building post-conflict nation, he asserted that the institutional transformation did not come form the system; it comes from alternative leadership and vision provided by genuine civil society and grassroots organizations.

Dahal called on national leadership in the various spheres of decision-making to open up their mind to social learning of the changing nature of citizens' rights. In the similar manner, he urged the civil society leaders to instill historical awareness to respond to the aspirations of the Nepalese, not only just for the interest of present generation but also for the inter-generational justice.

Pragya Foundation chief Ananda Aditya said that the future of the post conflict Nepal would revolve around how the civil society fares in the days ahead.

The civil society in Nepal has certainly played its role, its path has been erratic and intermitted, he said.

"The problem here is that we have not been preparing ourselves well and long enough for this kind of search: the search for the right kind of public good, rules, roles, resources and relationships that would enhance our social, political and public life," said Aditya.

He said that the civil society could do what the private sector and government cannot do alone to render the state peaceful, safe, secure and stable for the citizens.

"Only the synergy that flows from the triple complementarity of the private sector, government and civil society can materialize the freedoms in the true sense that humanity has dreamed of from ancient times," he said.

Tone Bleie, Academic Director of University of Tromps, Norway, asked the elite to engage in socio-economic transformations and create space for the deprived citizens.

She said that Nepal had witnessed big changes and there was challenge to institutionalize them. "The civil society has an important role to consolidate the gains of the dramatic changes."

Lal Babu Yadav said that the civil society should be based on inherent social and cultural values. "However, it currently suffers from petty and personal interest of the parties."

Civil society in Nepal failed to give voice to the voiceless.

Yadav also warned that the regional identities should not promoted at the cost of national identity.

Give up partisan agenda

Nepal Hariyali Party leader Kuber Sharma criticized the civil society and accused its members of being agents of NGOs and political parties. Sharma said that the civil society was run on family basis.

"They are mostly guided by the donors and parties' agenda," he claimed.

He also argued that parties formed the civil society organisations to fulfill their own vested interests.

Dr Gopal Pokharel said that the task of the civil society was to diagnose the problems, not to create them.

"The civil society should reflect common interests, not the partisan agenda," he added.

Dr. Pokharel warned that the country was facing the risk of disintegration in the name of restructuring itself.

Shymananda Suman said that lack of commitment and crisis of confidence had been the major problems in the Nepalese politics.

Suman said that the civil society was active during the April movement but it was now weak and ineffective.

He also accused the civil society members of making their organization as a means of minting money. .

Babita Basnet said that the civil society had become a handy tool of political parties and, therefore, was divided. "It must rise above the petty politics and give up partisan agenda."

"There is tendency of doing things in whim. Some are trying to create things by destroying history. The civil society kept mum when the statue of Prithivi Narayan Shaw was demolished," Basnet added.

She said that late Girija Prasad Koiral made great contribution to the nation's democratic movement but a few inches of land was not available to erect his statue after his demise.

"We need to build a civilized culture and must stop fighting over trivial matters," she said.

Dr. Jagadish Sharma called on civil society member to be inward looking.

"Light your own candle (appo dippo bhawo)," he said.

Dr. Sharma said that 90 per cent human communications are non-verbal but we focus on verbal communication, which causes problems for the members of the society to understand each other.

He noted that the civil society must be active to achieve constitutional rights and good governance.

Barun Shrestha said that civil society must be accountable to the people.

"It should focus on delivery and strive to institutionalize the political achievements,' he added.

Arun Thapa said that there was not uniformity in the civil society.

"It is the mirror of the society and the parties must raise the issues raised by the civil society," he said.

Nyutan Thapaliya said that it was not time to be pessimistic for the civil society, which he said, had developed much.

He admitted that foreign aid had created fissure in the civil society. "Still, there is reason to be optimistic about its robust role in nurturing the republican set-up."

Dr. Bishnu Bhandari said that the country first needed to put the rule of law in place and then should define the role of civil society.

Reach out to Villages

Gore Bahadur Khapangi said that the multi-party democracy was indeed a good political system but its experiment in Nepal was disastrous. It destroyed many things in the last two decades, he said.

"Civil society makes a big noise but does little," he said and advised it to go to villages to listen the voices of the laymen.

Shanta Shrestha said that if the civil society were not divided, the country peace and statute writing processes would have reached a decisive stage by now.

"Civil society is the key component in democracy but it is silence now. It must reach out to the rural areas to inform the people about the constitution writing," she added.

She said that those, who stood against the constituent assembly elections in the past, were now ironically advocating the CA.

Radha Poudel said that it was meaningless to make a clamour in the capital since the people in the far-flung parts had died of minor ailments like diarrhea in the absence of common medicines such as citamol and jeewanjal.

Sita Shrestha advised the civil society leaders to focus on action. "Speak little, do more."

She suggested that the civil society must fight to ensure the peoples' basic rights to health, education and employment.

Ram Kumar Shrestha urged the civil society to brainstorm on the kind of economic model the nation should follow with the solution of political problem.

Lalan Chaudhari said that fatalism had hindered the progress of the Nepali society. He asked the civil society to contribute to end the practices of favoritism and sycophancy hitting the politics, bureaucracy and even the civil society.

Sumit Sharma called for adopting the concept of welfare state. He also criticized the organizers of the programme for not making the participation of desired number of youths in the roundtable discussion.

Ganesh Mandal said that the civil society should bridge between the people and the government. "It must communicate the aspirations of the people to the government."

P. J. Shah said that the civil society had its tremendous role to play but it suffered from generation gap.

"The civil society needs to be practical and offer solution of the problems," he said and added that it should be effortful to be visible in the society to strengthen its role during transition.

Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
The information on this site is subject to a
disclaimer and copyright notice.