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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

21-22 November 2012 (Khimti, Ramechhap)


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised a two day seminar on civic education and statebuilding at Tamakoshi Janjagriti Higher Secondary School at Khimti on 21-22 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 114 participants of which 32 were female participants. 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.

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 and its role in strengthening democracy and statebuilding thereof. He said that the lack of civic education have resulted in democratic deficit in our politics. He reminded intellectual traditions of our society that always used to respect rishis (sheers), gurus (teachers), and parents with right balance between duties and rights. People used to learn both moral and civic education from this tradition. But with the decline in all these traditions and rise of the education which is completely Western-oriented have brought number of challenges in our society. He also 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. 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 pointed out that Nepal is among one of the oldest state in the world with its rich cultural heritage, 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.

Three papers were presented 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

Gajendra Khadka, said that he doesn't have any information where CA election has been held more than one time and suggested that we should go for the election to the parliament. He also suggested that federal states should be crafted on the basis if current zones (the current 14 administrative units should be transformed into federal units).

Bharat Raj Khatri said that the debate on the CA election is stuck with the fact that under whose leadership CA's election should be held. He suggested that civil society should take the lead role to end the current political impasse and also head the government. If the current situation continues, the artificial politics would prevail in the days ahead. He also asked what is the natural law system ?

Birendra Dahal asked how can we categorize Nepali political leaders? Can we call them 'statesman'?

Pramila Sapkota, Teacher, asked how can we guarantee property rights to the women?

Upendra Pokhrel said that the constitution of 2047 (1990) was more inclusive and democratic in the sense that it didn't have any discriminatory provisions such as 'reservations'. The current interim constitution with the provision of reservation could be seen as exclusionary in nature as it protects certain groups at the cost of others.

Jantari Tamang raised some local issues which involved corruption committed by the people from the department of Land Reform.

Birbal Thapa, Teacher, suggested that we need to clean up political mess at the highest-level to purify our politics and our political leaders should be given these types of political/civic education classes. It appears that our leaders pretend not to know all these things. He also suggested that our democracy should make an endeavour to bridge the gaps between have's and have-nots. Democracy is not extractive system. He also raised number of issues related to prior-use rights, system of governance and federalism. He argued that Nepal needs to have directly elected President and Prime Minister. With regard to the prior-use rights, he said that social groups other than Brahmin and Chhetris should be provided to remain at the helm of power for two consecutive terms. While naming the federal units, Thapa argued that every attempt has to be made to protect individual identity and federal states should be named on different basis such as geography, identity, etc.

Bharat Dahal expressed his suspicions over the derailed constitutional process in the country and enquired whether India is behind this?

Upendra Pokhrel, Teacher, enquired how we can minimize the influence of foreigners in policy formulation. He suggested that we need to develop a framework to regulate foreign aid and it has to be explicitly mentioned in the upcoming constitution. He also thanked for teaching both about rights and duties as most of the NGOs come up only with their rights agendas. He also enquired about the provisions related to right to information He expressed serious concern (name withheld) about the role played by few individuals who claim civil society leaders in Nepal. Organisations rub by them (name withheld) are destroying relationship with our friendly countries as well putting our political problem in a tightrope.

Bhola Prasad Kaderia, Teacher, suggested that we should move towards democratic socialism. He also enquired whether political revolution has come to an end in Nepal or not ? The political revolutions so far have only floated the political agendas but have not worked as how these agendas could be materialized in a real sense of the term. That said we have not had any endeavour for economic revolution which would alone have provided a lot of respite to the people. He said that constitution is only means not an end in itself. Modern state has to be responsible towards its citizens and the government should not be merely controlled by the political parties. Government at the helm of power should work for all.

On the issues of federalism, secularism, and monarchy people should have right to decide and for that matter referendum should be held argued Kadaria.

Keshab Thapa, Teacher, while naming the federal states we should be careful in protecting multiple identities of the people as well as the region. In that sense the upcoming federal states should reflect the identities of all the people living in that region.

Pramila Sapkota asked about reservation for women in the upcoming constitution.

Speaking from the Chair Shree Pawan Raj Poudel said that every effort has to be made to strengthen democratic system in the country. Similarly, we should make every effort to protect multiple identities of the people while crafting federal states. He also thanked the organisers for organizing such an excellent programme where people from the peripheral areas have come to know about many issues that beset Nepali politics. He also committed that we will revisit our syllabus in the college/schools and try to introduce the components of civic education from our own level. He said that ideas expressed in the seminar are excellent and easy to understand. We will work as a pressure group in the region to implement these values in our society.

Conclusion

Two-days programme was chaired by Shree Pawan Raj Poudyal, Principle of Tamakoshi Janjagriti Higher Secondary School. Local political leaders, citizens, civil servant working in the area and schools teachers/lectures and students studying at the degree level in the surrounding areas benefited from the programme. 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.

 
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