FES Workshop Report Promoting Active Citizenship
for Building Modern State
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
15-16 December 2012
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office
organized a two-day workshop at historical place Triveni, Navalparasi
District on December 15-16 which attracted 126 participants including
35 female. They were political leaders, business persons, school
and college teachers, government officials, police, journalists,
civil society members and representatives of various people's
organizations. Representative of local Chamber Ramesh Chandra
Rauniyar chaired the first-day sessions while senior citizen Lok
Bahanur Thapa chaired the second day sessions.
Speaking on the occasion resource person
Kashi Raj Dahal, Chairman of Administrative Court of Nepal said
that power-oriented political culture led to protracted transition
of the Nepal's post conflict situation and continuous deadlock
causing the failure of constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution.
But, he added that constitution is a road map of governance
which institutionalizes the rights and duties of citizens and
defines the political game. Even without constitution citizens
can perform duties of production, exchange, security and safety,
trust building and cooperative action that mark the character
of good citizens at the local level and help the society to
become virtuous. Active citizens make the leaders accountable
to the mandate and strengthen the social base of democracy.
Constitution does not generate wisdom and knowledge. He added
that CA's life was limited by the Supreme Court's verdict as
leaders were transgressing popular mandate and extending its
tenure. Now the deadlock between the Maoist led government and
Nepal-Congress and CPN-UML led opposition have not been able
to unfreeze the situation and, therefore, President Ram B. Yadav
has to extend the deadline for building national unity government.
This has hampered the prospect for election and settles the
constitutional issues, such as federalism, form of governance,
election system, formation of constitutional court and power-sharing.
What is needed now is a political will for forward-looking reforms
and overcome the sclerosis of democratic values and institutions.
It is possible to settle constitutional disputes if parties
are capable of transcending their partisan interests and find
common ground for cooperative action.
Another resource person, Lalbabu Yadav,
Associate Professor of Political Science at Tribhuvan University
said that Nepali citizens and leaders require continuous education
about their constitutional and human rights and duties and knowledge
about the functioning democratic principles and practices. It
helps them to build national perspective which is essential
for settling conflicts and infusing democratic political culture.
Democratic citizenship is the key to consolidate democratic
values and institutions and creation of responsive leadership
in the country. He narrated comparative experience of federalism,
political system, political culture, state-society harmony,
party-building and suggested the need for political parties,
media, civil society and intermediary institutions to unfold
balanced and tolerant perspectives in attitude building and
behavior. Civic education fosters rationalistic and humanistic
political culture in the nature which is the key to peace and
social justice. Multi-stakeholders dialogues on civic education
therefore build trust among the citizens through socialization
and updating of knowledge to undertake civic initiatives and
action and make the society progressive, cohesive and democratic.
Head of FES Nepal Office Dev Raj Dahal
welcoming the participants said that civic education is an education
about enlightenment which is necessary in Nepal to make the
transition of country from violence to peace, enthuse the culture
of transparency and accountability in citizenship, improve state-society
ties and make the citizens cosmopolitan. Only enlightened citizens
and leaders make the state law-abiding, strengthens the social
base of democracy and remain self-directed. It is important
to balance the individual, group-based and human rights in behavior
and conduct. He said that modern state is a constitutional state
and to strengthen it requires abolishing the culture of violence
and promoting democratic values, principles and institutions
in public and private lives. Continuous reforms and rationalization
of society makes violence unnecessary and fosters ecological,
social, gender and intergenerational justice and reciprocity.
He articulated the comparative enlightenment tradition of Germany
The floor discussion was interactive
and lively as speakers clarified many contesting concepts associated
with democratic debate through legal cases and examples.
Govind K. Gautam: argues that
Nepal's traditional of moral and ethical education should be
included into civic education course. Many of Buddha's teaching
of compassion to all and moral stories can also become a part
of civic education as they are relevant to foster peace and
harmony in now divided Nepalese society.
Ram P. Acharya: Wanted to know
about the crisis of bourgeoisie democracy and success of social
democracy during financial crisis. To this resource persons
argued that social solidarity in Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark,
Sweden and Switzerland help them stem crisis of capitalism as
they foster not only civil and political rights but also social,
economic and cultural rights of citizens. Likewise, politics
shapes economic policies as per the priorities of people, not
Birendra Kumar Mahat: suggested
the need to carve 5 federal provinces on vertical Himal to Tarai
territorial basis like development zones while taking into account
the asymmetry of population size, social and economic status
and linguistic diversity. The proportional election system should
be meant for minorities and experts. PM should be elected by
the parliament while president by the people and constitutional
dispensation should be devised in such a way to strike a balance
and separation of power and integrity system of governance.
Ms. Yogita Sharma: inquired as
to why women's empowerment has not moved forward in concrete
sense despite progressive laws and trainings? Resource persons
responded that perhaps there is a need to instill citizenship
education and overcome gender gaps by removing obstacles to
women's participation and psychological insecurity complex.
Ms. Ranata Kafle: observed that
unless domestic violence against women is abolished it is hard
to bring women into public sphere and achieve gender equality
and democracy. Law alone is not sufficient unless there are
concrete measures to uplift them through socialization from
childhood and affirmative measures.
Dwarika Prasad Ghimire: asked
whether legal remedy exists against violence against women?
Should not the state play pro-active role and act as an institutional
safeguards? To this resource person explained that there are
both legal and institutional safeguards but what is most important
is education about gender equality and deepening of gender-sensitive
socialization at various levels of society and enabling women
to play active role in both soft social capital building and
hard institutions of the state.
Ram Prasad Devkota: asked why
leaders act arbitrarily and don't care about people's legitimate
aspirations? He said that referendum should be organized for
secularism and republican set up. The leaders failed to draft
the constitution therefore they should not be given chance to
recon-test new election. Otherwise, there will not reform in
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Yadav: Is
there constitutional provision to file cases against CA members
who have failed to draft a new constitution? To this resource
persons said that election is the best measure to test the legitimacy
Ramesh Chandra Rauniyar: said
that Nepal should be declared Hindu state as 81 percent of Nepalese
Shalikram Timalsina: said that
our people are civilized. Civic education is needed for central
level leaders as they communicate the message to their cadres
who are leader oriented, not governed by enlightenment. It seems
that we are only people, not citizens. Leaders also need to
be educated about the concept of duties are they parade only
rights and incapable of delivering justice.
R. P. Upadhaya: We should link
patriotism with democracy otherwise national identity will remain
weak. Therefore, civil education should be developed from the
self as "inner vigilance is the price of liberty."
Pradip Chaudhary: said that we
should promote democracy from the local ward committee and inclusive
measures be applied. Only them it can be extended to larger
Lok B Thapa: said that at this
hour we should foster social cohesion and national integration
to move the society to post-conflict phase. Let us start civic
education from the family, community, society, political parties
and local institutions and bring social change. Our better future
can be built from villages. This is the base of democracy.
Both schools and colleges were closed
for two days to allow students and teachers to participate the
workshop. At the end of workshop participants evaluated the
meeting. VDC Secretary committed to hold public hearing about
local budget, plan and programs, participants decided to clean
their villages once every month, remove stray dogs and cows,
and declared the village open-toilet free zone. Police decided
to control drunkards and drug traffickers with the help of youths,
and doctors agreed to provide medicine and treatment to those
engaged in voluntary service and campus chief decided to provide
civic education to all students and teachers of nearby schools
with the book support from FES. Participants invited the resource
persons again with different sort of program for women.
Prepared by DRD.