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FES Workshop Report Promoting Active Citizenship for Building Modern State

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

15-16 December 2012

Triveni, Navalparasi


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 and Nepal.

Floor Discussion

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 free market.

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 society.

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 of leadership.

Ramesh Chandra Rauniyar: said that Nepal should be declared Hindu state as 81 percent of Nepalese are Hindus.

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 sphere.

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.

Commitment

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.

 
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