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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

8-9 November 2012

Kamalakhoch, Sindhuli


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised two day seminar on civic education and statebuilding at Kamalakhoch of Sindhuli District on 8-9 November, 2012. The programme was held at Kamala HS School at Hatapate. 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 140 participants of which half of them were female. The whole idea of this programme was to educate people 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 statebuilding by winning people's confidence on it which is at its lowest ebb at the moment. The seminar was attended by Keshav Acharya, CDO of Sindhuli District, LDO Dhruba Khadka, and DSP Kamal Shrestha from Armed Police Force and other civil servants based in the region also attended the two days programme.

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 have resulted in democratic deficit in political culture. 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. This kind of social contract between the state and its citizens need to be upheld for the political stability. But it appears that this 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. He also said that the modern state should also create an environment for the people so that they can enjoy full freedom (freedom from fear and freedom from want). He also said that Nepal will not become a failed state due to two of its strong neighbor as unstable Nepal will pose security threat to them as well. He also pointed out that Nepal is among one of the oldest state in the world with its huge cultural legacy and we should be able to use all these for statebuilding purposes. 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.

Speaking in programme, CDO of the district Mr Acharya in order to know the nature of the state one has to look at its civil service and how does it respond to the need of the people. We need to focus on developing positive thinking in our mind. There is no clinical mechanism to change human behaviour - its only through civic education and programmes like this can contribute a lot in statebuilding. He also said that we need to strike a right a right balance between rights and duties then only can we have society that can upheld the democratic political culture in society.

Three papers were presented in both the places wherein Dev Raj Dahal presented on Challenges of State-building in Nepal, Constitutional Expert - Kashi Raj Dahal spoke about legal and constitutional issues. He also 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

Bal Krishna Pokhrel (Language Specialist), asked about the overall objectives of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

Ujjawal Baral, Nepal Congress, was of the view that we need to adopt mixed system and there is clash of power between President and Prime Minister. Six Constitution in Sixty year precisely is the result of as who should exercise executive power of the state. The political system of Nepal could not give birth to right leaders.

Ram Adhikari, argued that we should get rid of proportional representation system from our electoral mechanism as it is only promoting clientalism across political parties. There has to be intensive discussion as who should be brought into the politics through such an electoral system.

Hem Bahadur Bhujel said that programme like this are good as it has tried to bring people from different background into a common platform. With regard to the federalism - he said big no.

Gobinda P. Pahadi said that we should not have ethnic-based federalism and we should not have more than 5-7 federal states based on geography, population and alike.

Kesha Baral Sir (Chair) asked why there are disagreements in deciding number of state federal states? what are the merits and demerits of federalism ? He questions whether Nepal lacks independent persons?

Tika Prasad Dahal asked democracy respects why decisions on issues like federalism secularism, republicanism were taken at haste?

Basanta Pokhrel asked how can we bridge the gap between the rich and the poor - the two dominant classes or our society. What we have failed to work this end ?

VDC Secretary asked to how can we decide issues at the local level so that no controversy arises. He also said that the CA members should return the salary for the entire period as they have failed to write constitution. We also have to mention educational qualification of our leaders. We are we holding CA election again if there is no guarantee that constitution will be written through it. Why President is still in the position since the CA has already gone and he was elected by the CA. Responding to this Kashi Raj Dahal said that its only the CA member who have lost their legitimacy not the CA as such.

Sanjeev Neupane asked whether the President carried the right to change the government or not ?

Keshav Baral citing the current decade that if this government goes, president will also go - under such a state of affairs who should govern - civil society or political parties?
Speaking from the Chair Keshav Baral said that the programme is grand success and it has given positive message in a society and we all came to know the importance of civic education. We feel that every should know about this and appreciate our history, culture, leaders, and forefathers. If we forget all these, we will lose our identity argued Baral.
He also agreed to include the component of civic education in the school curriculum in the days to come as civic education produces civic citizens. In the past we have attacked on that teacher who used to teach Sanskrit. This was a historical blunder committed by some of our political parties.

Conclusion

The programme in Kamalakhoch 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. They also agreed to include components of civic education in school curriculum that will generate some sense of civic responsibility with younger generation of society and will help to strike a balance between rights and responsibilities. Freedom within the framework of rule of law can contribute toward political stability, enhance constitutional behavior and promote democratic political culture. To achieve these objectives, the broader focus should lay on education, that too, civic education.

 
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