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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

9-10 July 2012 in Simara and 11-12 July 2012 in Barahathawa


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal Office has organised two day seminars on civic education and state-building in Simara of Bara district and Barahathawa of Sarlahi district on 9-10 and 11-12 July, 2012 respectively. Local political leaders, civil servants, teachers, members of civil society, journalists, students, and other stakeholders of the society attended the two-day seminar.

There were around 100 plus participants with significant numbers of females in both the places. Ganesh Poudyal from Nepal Rastriya Higher Secondary School, Auraha chaired the session in Simara while Shree Narayan Bahadur Amatya and Bisheshwor Lal Karna chaired the sessions in Barahathawa.

The whole idea of these programmes 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 state-building by winning people's confidence e on it which is at its lowest ebb at the moment.

The proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office welcomed all the participants and highlighted objectives of the seminars. During his inaugural speech Dev Raj 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 virtue of being the members of the state they enjoy certain rights from the state and also have duties towards it. That feeling seems to be lacking in our context both at the level of political class and at the citizenry level argued Dahal. The unaccountable politics is the product of this phenomenon said Dahal. How can we contribute to our society without effectively despite our different political alienation with different groups and political parties? How can we build up common orientation towards state and society to translate democracy in a real sense of the term? Similarly, speaking in the inaugural session in Barahathawa Chandra D. Bhatta said that there is an urgent need to restore capacity of the state in order for it to deliver it be a functional state. He further said that people need to be protected politically, socially, economically, and they should realise the benefits of democracy. Democracy can only be meaningful when it tries to address substantial issues rather than becoming mere ritualistic argued Bhatta. Equally important is to promote the notion of active citizenship across societal lines to mitigate conflicts.

Speaking in the inaugural session Kashi Raj Dahal, Constitutional Expert, said that no one has taken the responsibility of dissolving the Constituent Assembly (CA). It has, by contract, left to the citizens at large as to decide who is to be blamed. The main reason why constitution could not be written in time, as per him, is that there is a real crisis of ideology among political parties and none of the ideologies enjoy majority in the house. As a result all agreed constitution could not be drafted.

Three papers were presented in the seminar. Dev Raj Dahal, Head of the FES on state building in Nepal, Kashi Raj Dahal, constitutional expert on the constitution and Chandra D Bhatta on democracy and its elements. He also highlighted why democracy works in some countries and not in others.

Discussion

Bhivu Adhikari (News-24) wanted to know about the precise nature of our political leaders? He also blamed that big media houses of this country do not give space to peripheral issues and also that of public importance.

Keshav Raj Pokhrel said that we need to move ahead by preserving past achievements that came through series of discussions in the CA.

Deepak Bhatta and Ramesh Kaharel were of the view that nothing can be achieved in the absence of political consensus among political parties and the need of the hour is to build 'consensus' that can alone move Nepal's peace process ahead. Deepak Bhatta also said that since Simara is an industrial state - we also need to focus on the issues of labour who are virtually the backbone of our economy.

Surya Nepal, Amar Nath Giri and Rishi Kafle said that political leaders should elevate themselves from the partisan interests to move the constitutional process ahead in the country. Surendra Prasad Gupta also said that political leaders should rise above partisan interests and think about the nation. Political issues need to be settled before we go for any sort of election.

Anand Thami from GEFONT argued that Nepali citizens have become victim of absence of rule of law in the country. Perhaps, we should have invited police personnel in this programme as they are the one who enact the rule of law.

Shiv Prasad Wagle said that we have forgotten our responsibilities towards state and society when it comes to the point of building modern state. Our intellectuals try to interpret the law as per their suitability due to which the country is at the political crossroad. We have to realise the fact that while exercising rights - we should equally be careful about our duties as well.

Ganesh Prasad Sah suggested that we need to increase participation of people in politics.

Mohan Rayamaji criticized the trend of our political leaders who keep on signing the agreements but never implement them.

Ishwori Prasad Yadav (Teacher) was of the view that the current political deadlock is the product of diverse political ideologies of different political parties who lack national ideology. In addition to this, the domination of key political parties in the whole political process is another reason. This is primarily because they always tried to sideline smaller political parties.

Dilli Upreti (UML) said that the country is in peaceful particularly after Jestha 14. It appears that our political leaders have failed to understand sentiment of Nepali people. He also asked to furnish examples where the federal states-based on single identity have succeeded? He also enquired what would be good for Nepal - Federalism or Decentralisation.

Apurba Narayan Mahato (Teacher) advised that political leaders should work for the state rather than working for themselves. In the same vein, political activists and members of civil society should be honest towards state and society

Kumar Thin (UCPN-Maoist) was of the view that political leaders at large should understand as we launched movement in the past.

Devendra Mahato (Teacher) Political honesty is at the lowest ebb among political leaders due to which country is passing through multiple crisis.

Hira Lal Thin expressed his dissatisfaction primarily because the political parties and the key leaders have gone out of track.

Ram Bachchan Roy (Teacher) said that we need to work to reinstall the notion of rule of law in our society. We should immediately stop paying development fund to the parliamentarians as the same has been misused.

Dev Narayan Mahato (Teacher) blamed that there has been no place for independent persons in our society. One has to be affiliated with party for the upward mobility in society.
Vijaya Kanta Lal Karna/Ram Babu Mahato and Ram Bilas Roy said that in our country political leaders are super rich but whereas the 'country' itself is very poor. We need to promote the notion of nationalism in our society to come out of this dilemma.

Naresh Kumar Shrestha (Teacher) highlighted the importance of civic education in our society. Lack of civic education can result in undemocratic political culture. Perhaps this could be the reason among others why we have not been able to change our political culture despite repeated regime changes to reinstall democracy. He was of the view that if the CA is revived, the CA members should work without allowances (pay).

Raj Narayan Prasad Singh (Teacher) blamed that there is an increased tendency to form 'organisations' primarily to secure their own position in society.

Min Bahadur Shrestha (Teacher) advised that all of us should start loving our country.

Ram Babu Yadav (TMLP) said that there is no system in the country. Political parties merely have promoted networks to serve their own interests. There has been increased demand for ethnic state in Pahad (hilly region) however the same is not in Terai.

Mahesh Baral wanted the difference between unitary state and ethnic state. He also enquired why Nepali communists are promoting 'ethnicity' whereas their objective in principle was to promote internationalism.

Devendra Mahato said that we have to be careful while naming federal states. The particular focus should be paid on the fact that the purposed state should not generate conflict in society.

Shree, Shree, Shree 1008 Laxmi Maharaj Giri said that our political system should protect our culture. The main purpose of any constitution and model of governance should be to protect our ancestral heritage.

Kamal Nepal and Mohan Prasad Sharma enquired it is not clear whether our political leaders are fighting for nationalism or for their partisan interests? Due to this it is difficult to distinguish whether they are leaders of the political parties or that of the nation?

Shiv Kumar Sharma said that we need to promote the concept of nationalism and partisan politics should not make state hostage.

Thaneshwor Pahadi said that political issues should be taken to the people for discussion.

Ek Nath Subedi said that our leaders should be trained on statecraft so that they can become responsible towards state and society.

Narayani Rajayamjhi said that this is a very good programme and we need to expand it to the grassroots level.

Narayan Bahadur Ale Magar said that Federalism should be crafted with due recognition to ethnic states.

Rajendra Jammerkattel and Shishila Acharya said that our policies should promote equality in society.

Ishwor Khatri said that our political leaders do not think about people. They are more concerned about their own benefits.

Shrimati Kumari Chaudhary and Laxmi Dahal said that Nepali Children should not be denied from the opportunities of free education but the state if education in our country is deteriorating day-by-day. The good education has become expensive and is only available to elites. We need to break away from this trend argued Shrimati Chaudhary.

In the concluding remarks Kalpana Katwal and Madan Bahadur Khadka said that this is very good programme and it should be taken to each and every VDCs of Nepal so that people at large can benefit from it. The same remarks were given in Simara as well.

Conclusion

The programmes at the both places received good response. In fact the importance of civic education and its inclusion in school/college curriculum is must. Civic education can create the sense of spiritualism in society and which can alone unite Nepali state in a single thread. The discontents that are seen in different domains of politics need timely address by the political class. Failing to do so will create further fissures in our society. There is no way that we can have equal society but what we can do is create equal opportunity for all. That said democracy should work for all equally. The most important point that has to be borne in mind is that there is a great deal of aversion towards political leaders in Nepal. This has to be changed sooner the better.

 
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