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The role of the youth for a functioning democracy

Organised by FES Nepal

4 October 2013

By Saroj Gautam


On 4th October 2013, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Nepal (FES) organised a discussion program about the role of the youth for a functioning democracy. Around 27 participants from different organizations and individuals were present in the program.

Youth in the worldwide context is a leading factor for the major political and social changes. The major political changes around the world are the consequence of youth movements. Nepal is no exception to that phenomenon: from the movement against the Ranas in the 1950s to the abolition of monarchy in 2008 youth played the decisive role.

In the current situation Nepal going through multiple transitions as a consequence of the 10 year long conflict in the country (People's War). Youth plays a crucial role in directing the fragile transition. Youth can be easily mobilized for both peace and violence, so inclusion of youth in the peace process and policy formulation is mandatory. Youth is defined by the government as the age group between 15-40 years, accounts for 38.8 percent of the total population in Nepal. Given that the youth is the backbone of the nation from both - qualitative and quantitative perspective- it is necessary to include their capacity in the mainstream of the national development.

But youth in Nepal are excluded from both - peace process and policy formulation - which complicates the transition process. The ongoing political instability together with the high rate of unemployment creates frustration among youth. This eventually leads to the elopement of the youth to other countries in search of better opportunities.

Youth plays a vital role for a democracy to function effectively. Youths are generally taken as the tides to bring changes which can be both positive and negative. When the tide brings positive changes, the democracy is exercised effectively. Participation means taking part in decision making to build the future and making decisions means having responsibility to whatever the risk as the outcome of those decisions would be. Achievement of new spaces of political and cultural participation of youths, through their juvenile organizations, should play, in this context, a decisive role.

To protect the fragility of democratic transition in infant democracies it is paramount for youths to play key roles. Setting up and fortifying youth structures, which will be able to provide democratic perspective, foresight, education and empowerment to the youth population. So as to protect it from sliding into the dead trap of rebel factions who may want to frustrate the political evolution of that country.

Mounting a Coordinated Youth Front to provide a coordinated youth action and organized youth participation ensures the involvement of youth in democracy building process during and after the transition. Dialogue, trust and collaboration are the factors which underpins democracy. Therefore a youth front can serve as a provider of the relationship required to create an environment where both government and the civil society can interact and operate efficiently.

To initiate a coordinated youth organisation FES Nepal formed a network for youth named "FES Youth Network Nepal" whose aim is to give young people of Nepal a platform to raise their voices and discuss about political topics which they concern.
In the second discussion program of FES Youth Network Nepal a paper presentation was done by Mr. Pradip Pariyar followed by the comments of Mr. Yubraj Ghimire which led to the floor discussion.

Paper Presentation

The discussion program started with the welcome speech by Samira Poudel, FES Gender Coordinator and the formal introduction of all the participants. During the inauguration speech she briefly introduced FES. She also informed about the newly established Youth network of FES and its future course of actions.

Presenting his paper Mr. Pradip pariyar said the issue of the youth was first raised in 1960 after UN talked about the youth and it went ahead after the declaration of 1986-1995 as the youth decade by UN. But in Nepal it is taken as an issue only after the establishment of Ministry of Youth, sport and culture in 1995. He said finally after the dissolution and formation of many different committees and commissions in 2010 the youth policy is formulated. Further he added that after the long advocacy National Planning Commission has included it as youth chapter on its interim plan inside the part of social inclusion. He said in context of Nepal the donation from the donor agencies has increased after the clash between Youth Force and Young Communist League (YCL) for youth but except from that there are not so many youth centric programs. Talking about the youth oriented organisation and how they are working, there are three types of organisation existing currently in Nepal, one is student association likewise, one is political wings like YCL etc and the other one is social organisations which organises the youth focused programs like YUVA, ION etc. Among the people involved in the conflict and war most of them are youths said Pariyar. He said youths are ahead in the conflicts which is the threat to the social harmony. Youths are involved in every kind of job like peace rally, conflicts and many more but not in the peace institutionalization process. He argued that among many reasons of difficulties in peace institutionalization process it is also a reason. He also added that youths are used as an object, using when needed and throwing when the work is done. Due to the irrelevant definition of youth the program brought by the government is not succeeding which is the reason for the failure of democracy said Pariyar. He said the opportunities and incentives for the youth when the democracy is not functioning properly are given by the armed groups. Mr. pariyar argued that due to the uncertainty of the local election from the long time a huge mass of youths could not exercise the leadership and they are compelled for elopement in search of better opportunities. People see no hopes and future here in Nepal due to the instability in government and insecurity , so every day 1500-1800 Nepalese are flying abroad , which means democracy is not functioning effectively in Nepal said Pariyar. He said there is large number of youth population in Nepal which is the bonus population and this is the time to develop our country. He gave the example of Japan, Korea and Singapore and told that all of them were developed when they had bonus population. He said among the many reasons in functioning democracy inefficiently, lack of the implementation of the system is also a reason. Another reason for the low participation of youth and development is the lack of youth friendly government institution and the policies and the lack of budget is the blockade for the youth oriented programs. Eventually he said it's the time to challenge to make better Nepal.

Commenting and adding own view on the paper presentation Mr. Yubraj Ghimire said that the development in other developed countries is done as due responsibility is given to the bonus population but unfortunately it is not happening in Nepal. He said in Nepal, youths doesn't struggle for the rights of youths and students but follow the orders of other higher people to close the schools and to throw the stones. He then added if youths merge with the visionless leader who doesn't practice the values of democracy then they are not youths. In his word, there is no need of law for those who practice values of democracy and those self-conscious leaders doing accountable politics, they automatically give the representation of the composition of the society in the reflecting way. He focused that nowadays doctors and engineers want to come into politics not to change the course and values but to exercise the privilege of the politics. No youth has ever raised question about the inner party democracy and challenged the undemocratic leadership said Ghimire. He said that the democracy can only be practiced in a sovereign country but not in the colony, so to practice democracy a country first of all should be made sovereign. He said if the public policy is formulated by the foreign body then there will be string attached and it will be considered that the sovereign rights and responsibility is not being exercised. He argued that no youths from any political parties gave any kind of pressure on the government and political parties regarding emerging crime and ransoms. He said at the current situation there is a doubt that the judiciary is not functioning independently. He further added that there is the culture of denying space in politics and the space is given to the foreign bodies. He quoted that due to the geostrategic location, Nepal has become play ground of India and China and other western forces. Eventually he said that if the hope is not created then the critical mass will run away and the country will stagnate in terms of growth and development.

Discussions

Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal said absence of justice in democracy leads to the malfunction of the democracy. He said that the justice had to be established in four levels, i.e. ecological justice, social justice, gender justice and intergenerational justice. He further added to stabilize the democracy as framework to provide justice. Nepal in current situation has not gone totally in post conflict phase; it is still in pre-conflict phase. In the same way he said that the peace right now is cold peace and unless the legitimate framework is ready the peace cannot be sustainable. He said the ultimate target is the enlighment and inner vigilence is the price of liberty. When a country becomes weak then the democracy also becomes weak said Dahal. When democracy is lost it can be brought back by the struggle but when the nationality goes it can never be brought back. He said that the definition of the democracy is changed, now it is taken as the principle of the affected which means if we can take part in the process which effects us then it is democratic else undemocratic. He said that the law and democracy are made according to the need of the people of the country.

Following the discussion, Mr. Naresh Rimal said that youth is like a middle path of the cyclic process of life. Adding more on the topic he said if we see youth independently we will never reach any where so we had to talk about elders and children too. To support his view he relates a quotation of Nelson Mandela" The society which doesn't respect the children and elders is not the society which will grow".

He also stressed on the realization of the limits of rights and obligations. He said if we youth couldn't reflect the realization of the role model then that means there is fundamental flaw in our education and the education we are drawing is very exogenous. He also argued that while we are talking about rights we are losing it as well. While commenting on the paper presentation he said that democracy is not only cause for outmigration. Eventually in his words he said that the moment you are not independent from certain things you will never deliver independent ideas, Independent idea is the only one thing that is independent and which will create synergy.

Presenting own view Mr. Nayan Singh Mahar said it is the duty of parents to give right education to their children. He said a counselling of parents related to the child psychology must be done which help parents to provide them environment to learn and develop which in future shows effect in their youth age. By stressing he said the humanitarian education is lacking nowadays in people, everybody is thinking about them self only. Eventually he focused on the fact that many seminars were organized, many worksheets have been formulated but it is limited only inside a room, it is never followed and implemented.

Mr.Chauyen Lai Shrestha said that the public education of Nepal is below the standard and the said what can be expected from the youth by the country and society whose education is worse. He further added that every political party, student association and the social organizations should raise issues on this matter. At last he said the vast difference between privet and public education system must be eradicate for better expectation from the next generation youth.

Mr. chiranjivi bhandari a student of peace and conflict presented his views and questions on the discussion floor. He asked a question" what is youth?" is it an age group or the spirit. He said due to the uncertainty in local body election the leadership is not transferred which removed the opportunity of youths to exercise leadership. He said that if the leaders of political parties understand the psychology of the youth, what they want then the youth friendly policies could be formulated.

Mr. Lal Babu said that civic education, civic sense and civic culture is lacking in youths of Nepal nowadays. He said the youths of remote area cannot compete with the youths of urban areas; this brings frustration in youths who eventually become rebellious. Leadership emerges from the local level said Mr. Lal babu. Eventually he said there is no space given to the youths in education, social security and politics.

Conclusion

This is the second discussion program organized by FES Nepal Youth Network. In this program the role of youth for the functioning democracy is discussed with the paper presentation by the youth activist Pradip Pariyar and with the comments of journalist Yubraj Ghimire. Many personal from different organisation of different field and some students of social science were present in the program. Mainly the discussion was focused on the youth and the democracy. From this discussion program, one can conclude that youths play very crucial role in the formation, implementation and the protection of democracy and to make the democracy strong youth should be conscious and aware.

 
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