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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

18-19 August 2012, Pachkhal, Kavre

Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised two day seminar on civic education and state-building in Pachkhal of Kavre district on 18 and 19th August, 2012. Local political leaders, civil servants, teachers from 14 higher-secondary schools, members of civil society, journalists, students, and other stakeholders of the society attended the two-day seminar.

There were around 124 participants out of which 30 were females. The seminar was held in the Sarba Mangala Higher -Secondary School and was chaired by its principal Damodar Adhikari. Speaking from the chair Adhikari said that state-building is an arduous task and can only be carried over successfully when the stakeholders work collectively and there is a sense of helping each other in society. He also requested that social activists should focus on positive issues, that is, rather than dividing the society - the attention should be paid on uniting it.

The overarching aim of this seminar 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 on it which is at its lowest ebb at the moment. Organising seminars by including teachers from different schools can help to increase multipliers which is needed to spread the message of civic education across different layers of society.

The proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office welcomed all the participants and highlighted objectives of the seminar. During his inaugural speech Dahal argued that active citizenship is important for enlightenment and only enlightened persons can judge what is wrong and what is right both for society and the state. This is so because enlightened persons are self-directed and cannot be used from outside forces. In that sense, it is only enlightened persons who can enjoy freedom in a real sense of the term. He also reminded that there is a connection between rule, rights, and duties and we need to find a right balance between three so that they can contribute in creating stable society. The unaccountable politics is the product of this phenomenon said Dahal. How can we contribute to our society without effectively despite our different political affiliation 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? These are the questions that seminar like this seeks to address.

Speaking in the inaugural session Kashi Raj Dahal, a constitutional expert, shed light on the political situation of the country and spoke on the reasons behind the constitutional crisis in the country. He pointed out that lack of responsibility among political leaders has put this country on a brink of collapse. And today, nobody knows who is to be blamed for such a state of affairs.

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

Hari Prasad Dulal UCPN(Maoist) was of the view that each political party in Nepal has prepared constitution of their own choice clandestinely but they do not want to engage collectively to draft the constitution. In such a state of affairs, it would be worthwhile to put all the constitution on referendum and find out their acceptability from the citizens, suggested Dulal. This will, to some extent, help address the constitutional crisis in the country, argued Dulal.

Krishna Pd. Baral said that we need to have executive president to control federal states and these states should be drafted on the basis of geography. With regard to election, we need to reduce the number of persons elected through proportionate system.

Ram Bahadur Bohara was of the view that Nepal cannot afford to have more than seven states and need to adopt presidential system (with executive power), mixed electoral system. The future political system of this country should duly recognise pluralism.

Ram Kumar Kandel (Teacher) argued that the future polity of this country should not be hijacked by few individuals for their personal interests. It should, by contrast, work for the benefit of broader society. Self-centered politics of yesteryear has created numerous problems in our society. In the same vein, the group politics merely to fulfill either partisan or individual interests has created a lot of fissures in society. Equally important is to bring revolutionary change in our economic aspect which can alone help to sustain this society. Kandel, however, was against the idea of going for the fresh election as it would prove expensive for the country. He also said that the current bourgeoisie educational system needs to be replaced as it does not serve our interests. With regard to the form of governance, Kandel was of the view that given the current state of political wrangling - it would be best in the interest of Nepal, if presidential system (with executive power) is adopted. We need to reduce the number of electorate from proportional representation as it is giving wrong message.

Yagya Bahadur Khatri was of the view that we need to move out of traditional ways of running the politics wherein few people and parties captures everything. He also argued that CA should be revived for 15 days

Ram Mani Sapkota rather than focusing on the key issues of Nepal's underdevelopment our politics in the recent years was dogged as whether to have unitary state or plural states. Even if we adopt unitary system, there are ways to introduce meaningful changes through it. The question here is whether we want to bring positive change or maintain status quo in society.

Shiv Prasad Upreti said that the main reason why constitution could not be drafted in time is that the political leaders could not build up required consensus among themselves on different issues such as federalism, form of government and election. He further said that we should focus on ways to overcome from poverty, insufficiency, and alike.

Rabinra Shivkhan argued that civic education should be included in the curriculum so that it can contribute in generating the sense of nationalism among youngsters. He was of the view that election to the CA is necessary but the number of CA members needs to be reduced drastically. He also emphasized that referendum should be held to decide on the highly debated issues such as federalism, form of government etc. He further said that we need to have federalism that gives due recognition to pluralism. With regard to the form of government - the presidential system (with executive power) would be more relevant for Nepal.

Shankar Kafle blamed that our political parties have worked together to weaken the state and its institutions. All the movements until now are designed against the state and we need to change this tendency. The external influence (particularly that comes from New Delhi) in different forms - sometime to patch differences and yet other times to address the conflict, have had heavy toll on Nepali state. Federalism that undermines Nepali nationalism should be discouraged and federal states should be drawn by taking factors such as history, geography, and cultural diversity into consideration. We don't need to focus too much on 'ism' (such as Marxism, Maoism etc) as this will not produce any tangible result. Our society is much older whereas all these 'isms' are recent inventions and there is no room for comparison.

Shuvadra Adhikari (RPP) argued that Nepal should not have federal states crafted on the basis of ethnicity. She also argued that farmers should be given seeds, fertilizer in time. She also blamed that women's rights just remained in the book and has not been implemented in a real sense of the term. We need to go for economic revolution and it would also address Nepal's social and political problems. Due to lack of opportunity people have placed different types of demand before the state. There is a great deal of importance of civic education at different layers of society.

Those who have lost election should not have been included in the constitutional process in the past. This, perhaps, was the biggest mistake that we have committed in the past argued one participant. He also said that the chairman of the constitution committee and speaker of the CA should take the responsibility of not brining out constitution in time.
Sarba Devi Thapa said that election to the local bodies should be held - sooner the better.

Madhav P. Dulal UCPN (M) suggested that Nepal should go for presidential system (with executive power) , reduce number of electoral from proportional representation system, and draft labour friendly policies.

One participant strongly advocated to restore monarchy, Hindu state and opposed the federalism based on ethnicity. He blamed that many donors are involved in spreading hate message against some communities in Nepal.

Speaking on behalf of participants Ram Sharan Luitel said that civic education should be included in the curriculum schools and colleges. With regard to the constitutional process, he was of the view that the political leaders failed to prepare a common vision for the country which resulted in the constitutional crisis in the country.

Conclusion

By and large, the programmes was well received. 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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