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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

6-7 November 2012, Beltar, Udayapur


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised two day seminar on civic education and state-building at Beltar of Udayapur District on 6-7 November, 2012. 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 125 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 state-building by winning people's confidence on it which is at its lowest ebb at the moment. The seminar was attended by Dinesh Bhattari CDO of Udayapur district; police inspector Chandra Bahadur Thapa, Inspector of Armed Police Force, Sudip Khatiwada and other civic servants based on the district 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. 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 Bhattarai stressed that we need to strike a right balance between rights and duties then only can we have society that can upheld the democratic political culture in society. What has been noticed here has that we enjoy rights but do not pursue our duties and this attitude has brought further problems in the transitional politics of the country argued Bhattarai. In the same vein, we claimed that the amorphous mass has hijacked the concept of the rule of law and unless we restore it - there is very little that we can expect from the change. Under such a state of affairs - programmes like this would contribute a lot in generating that sense of civic-ness among people.

Three papers were presented in both the places wherein Dev Raj Dahal presented on Challenges of State-building in Nepal, COnstittuional 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

Janak Karki, Teacher, said that we should have on three states, Koshi, Karnali, and Gandaki.

Dhruba Raj Rai, Campus Chief, was of the view that state restructuring should be done by integrating all three reasons (Mountain, Hill, and Plain). He also floated the idea of converting the existing five development regions into five federal states. We cannot have ethnic state, since the society is mixed argued Rai. National renowned symbols should be used to name the federal states. He also said no to prior-use right and right to self-determination.

Kailash Kafle said that we should combine ethnicity with nationality. He also questioned on the very objective of 19 days movement of April, 2006 as it has failed to work as per its original spirit. Kalfe argued that we should have 14 federal states as recommended by the State Restructuring Committee. He, however, said no to political prior-use rights and right to self-determination.

Kishore Tamrakar, Teacher, said that we should not look-back. The sentiments brought about by different societal groups have to be respected. We should have either 14 or 10 federal states. While naming the federal states, we should respect the local values. He also said not to political prior-use rights.

Ratna Thapa, Women's Activist, said that we should go for federal states but multiple identity should be respected. We should adopt integrative approach while crafting federal states.

Kedar Katuwal raised few points as follows:

  • What type of constitutions should Nepal need to have ?
  • Why nationalism becomes weak in Loktantra ?
  • What are the defects of the 1990 Constitution?
  • Why Mallik Commission was not implemented?
  • What is impact of armed insurgency on politics and economy?
  • What would happened under current state of affairs (while there is no constitution) ?
  • And why Interim Constitution failed to project about the current political deadlock? Was there any hidden motives

Ambar B. Khadka, Teacher, suggested that why don't you provide such trainings to political leaders as they are the part of the problem not citizens like us. He also said that everyone should respect rule of law.

Dandi Raj, UCPN (Maoist) said that we should not have more than four federal states but within those four states we should have 15 sub-states. Federal states should be named after the symbols of national importance.

Mahendra P. Rauniyar warned that we should ensure that Nepali state should not be put in danger in the name of federalism.

Kumar Khadka, Teacher, said that while naming federal states, we should respect our symbols of national importance.

Tek Bahadur Pokhrel said that if we really wanted to work for Nepali people then we should think about nationalism not about political parties. The movement were carried out for peace and prosperity of all Nepali not for political parties and political agendas such as federalism that challenges the very existence of Nepali state.

Jeet Bahadur Karki said that we do not have statesman, we have political leaders who just work for their own interests.

Kumar Singh Karki, Teacher, said that we have to translate decentralization into action and people at large should be engaged/consulted in the policy making process. We need to generated jobs within our country rather than being too much dependent on remittance.

Sita Rai expressed her dissatisfaction that all these 'tantras' (Prajatantra, Loktantra). They are merely serving the interest of few elites/leaders

Conclusion

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. The programme in Beltar 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.

 
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