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FES Workshop Report on Promoting Active Citizenship for Building Modern State

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

17-18 December 2012

Devdaha, Rupendehi District

FES organized a two-day workshop at historical site, the birthplace of Buddha's mother, Devddaha, Rupendehi District on December 17-18, 2012 where 133 participants including 32 women leaders, monks and priests, teachers, students, government officials, community leaders, media persons, journalists and representatives of local institutions took part.
Resource person of the workshop Kashi Raj Dahal, Chairman of Administrative Court of Nepal, said that good citizens is the lynchpin of democracy. He argued that a robust democracy requires active and enlightened citizens and leaders who know not only rule and rights but also duties. Intoxication by power caused the failure of leadership to draft a new constitution. The purpose of politics is to give choice to the people and enlarge their law-bound freedom, not a state of lawlessness and weakening the ability of state to enforce rules of the game. There is a nexus between payment of tax and quality of governance to expand public sphere. He urged the need for constitution drafting and constitutional behavior of leaders and citizens as it is precondition to stability, democracy and peace. Dahal expressed anxiety over the erosion of democratic values and institutions and suggested the need to hold next CA and local election to create the authority and legitimacy of leaders and the state. Protracted political instability is eroding both national identity and national capacity as politics is played on the basis of cost-benefit calculus which is corroding the voluntary sphere of Nepal. He observed that without resolving political questions first by political parties it would be difficult to draft a constitution. The exit from the current deadlock cannot be found in the constitutional articles but from the political wisdom of leadership to use constitution to build consensus for next CA election. In this context President R. B. Yadav should take initiatives in resolving contentious constitutional issues through the use of experts and find a mutually acceptable solution among the parties for national unity government.

Another resource person of the workshop Lalbabu Yadav, Associate Professor of Political Science at Tribhuvan University shed lights on federalism, governance, political parties, political culture and civil society. He explained the federal experience of many countries and expressed worry about local identity dominating national identity of citizenship. He added that political parties and civil society should imbibe the principles of democracy in their internal life and uphold human rights, internal party democracy and inclusion to expand the social base of democracy. Economic policies should also be suitable to climate change and capable of meeting the basic needs of majority of people. He said that civic virtues begin with home, gender socialization also beings from here. In this context, political leaders must be sufficiently democratic to support the realization of the rights of citizens. The success of democracy rests on realizing not only rights but also duties.

Head of FES Nepal Dev Raj Dahal welcoming the participants highlighted the values of FES, namely freedom, social justice, solidarity and peace underlined its activities in Nepal. He said that active and enlightened citizens are bulwark of democracy building. As one of the oldest nations of the world Nepal has gone into several metamorphoses with the change in international system and local balance of power. Modern state now requires a system of rule of law with the capacity to become autonomous from the dominant interest groups of society, social embeddedness and ability to achieve governance goals-national security, rule of law, voice, participation, service delivery and peaceful resolution of conflict in society. Dahal also laid out five factors for the transformation of informal society, economy and politics of Nepal through the synergy of education, economy, technology, organization and leadership. Active citizenship can build democracy from below and strengthen state-society ties through constant renewal and reformation of both as per the spirit of the age and needs of Nepali people. He also referred about coping with the post-state challenges and duties of Nepali state across the border.

Floor Discussion

Rudra Man Dhakal: suggested that the geography and culture should be taken into account while restructuring the state, not ethnicity. Economic viability is central to sustain the federal states. Therefore, in Nepal's context, we need to take into account the tax structure which is only 13 percent of GDP. Therefore, we should just convert five development regions into five federal provinces. He reminded the surge of communalism forcing the eviction of Nepalese in Assam and Meghalaya.

Prakash Aryal: observed that in democracy agradhikar (pre-emptory rights) to dominant ethnic group of the province is not compatible with democratic principle of equality. Federalism likewise should be based on vertical chains and right to self-determination does not mean stoking the feeling of separatism like in former Soviet Union. Electoral process must adopt 80 percent representation from direct election and 20 per cent from proportional ones.

Krishna Dhakal: argued that we must preserve the rationalistic tradition of the East and use this knowledge to resolve problems. Leaders also need to learn the sacredness of our tradition and values. The federal provinces must uphold identity of group. But it does not mean that we can guarantee 103 identity-based states. Raute demanded forests. Our main concern is how we are going to balance identity with minority rights and create justice based new Nepal.

Shayam Neupane: argued that economy is the pillar of the nation. But, without political commitment an economy cannot grow. Political will is therefore necessary for all round development.

Durga B. Chhetri: observed that FES program came here at a time when national discipline was lost. We have learned now that education is the prime goal than comes karma (good conduct). Democratic regime needs to satisfy the legitimate aspiration of people and election must be organized as soon as possible.

Khem Raj Adhikary: said that education must be able to change the attitude and behavior of people enabling them to see the connection human world with nature and encroachment of forests, public land and public property must be stopped by the collective action of people and reforestation and cleaning of our surroundings must begin by us.

Prakash Pokhrel: believed that we should commit in certain areas-switch off light during day time, stop careless use of drinking water, send children to schools in time, and stop public smoking. The deadlock of current politics, however, is high drama. We need to exert pressure on politicians to solve it. State restructuring issues should be taken to referendum.

Hemraj Tiwari: said that deforestation arising out of poverty can be solved but those for commercial profit is connected to power centers. Similarly, we should not make education and health dichotomized between the public and private which create two types of citizens where the loser will not have stake in democracy. Civic education is essential for self-governance. Foreign aid should be diverted to preserving the natural resources of the country.

Rajesh P. Panday: observed that state restructuring should be sensibly designed so that it does not generate conflict but optimally satisfy all sides.

Dinanath Aryal: argued that vulgarity has also eroded our culture. We need to develop a culture to save and invest in productive sectors. Civic education has to include this aspect of ethics.

Ganesh Prasad Panday: said that we should not go beyond five federal provinces based on identity and capability. On election 60 percent seats should be allocated to direct and 40 percent to proportional ones. Education should be function, not of Macule type to produce bureaucrats.

Ms. Sharada Panday: asserted that over partisanization of education damaged its quality exposing the students more to party politics than to education. Since civic education is praxis oriented there is a need to promote professionalism so that needed nationally sensitive experts are created. Teachers should not be recruited on partisan basis as it compromises the quality of education. In this same way, while drafting constitution only actionable rights should be included. Border control is needed to control foreign intervention.

Kamal Bahadur Thapa: argued that federalism is connected with ethnic groups' culture, identity and language. Ethnic federalism if properly managed cannot break the nation like Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, etc. If rights are denied then conflict is inevitable. Even the rights of Bahuns and Chhetris should be preserved in the federal structure to make it viable. Peace requires social justice.

Yam Lal Tiwari: Forestation should be encouraged in private sectors and forests should be classified into various categories. Forest Protect Act must be strengthened.

Ram P. Gyawali: observed that citizens should be strengthened with democratic and patriotic values while leaders should have the concept of statesmanship capable of standing the partisan interests and uphold wisdom. No more than seven provinces carved on vertical north-south axis should be accepted. Name should be based on multiple identity. Poor should be given scholarship for their upliftment.

Ganesh Prasad Panday: stated that civic consciousness is essential to awaken citizens and leaders from their deep snooze and enthuse with a sense of public responsibility.

Chandra Prakash Thapa: provided observations in a number of areas. He referred the need for seven provinces, multi-cultural names, 14 zones, upliftment of marginalized two chamber house-240 ower house and 48 member upper house and 14 member national court, etc.

Chairman Gurung: said that the program was very useful to know what democracy is all about and how to consolidate it.

Conclusion and Commitment

Two speakers one from male and one from female made final evaluation and demanded the multiplication of program in every village. Ms. Rama Devi Neupane stressed on the need to go beyond the word democracy to make it meaningful in human life while Prakash Aryal believed that participants became enlightened on many concepts and issues. Participants pledged to plant trees, keep the roads and water clean, while school teachers promised to offer civic education course and practice to their students. They also agreed to public hearing of VDC secretaries while newspapers and FM stations promised to relay the information regarding civic affairs.

Prepared by DRD.

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