Replenishing the Roots of Civil Society
Organised by PRAGYA Foundation
27 March 2011
Ritu Raj Subedi
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
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
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
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
"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),"
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,"
Nyutan Thapaliya said that it was not time
to be pessimistic for the civil society, which he said, had
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 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
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
"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.