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Continuity and Transformation at the Local Level: Sharing of Nepali-German Experience

Organised by Sahamati and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

14 February 2013, Gaindakot, Nawalparasi

FES Nepal office in cooperation with Sahamati, a Nawalparasi-based NGO that operates in various parts of the country, organized a half-day interaction program at Gaindakot between the visiting German Parliamentarians Johannes Pflug, Foreign Affairs Committee, Karin Evers-Meyer , Defense and Budget Committee and Holger Ortel, Agriculture and Defense Committee and local leaders and representatives of NGOs, citizens groups, civil society, government officials and development organizations of Chitwan and Nawalparasi at Gaindakot.

Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, Head of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal office introduced the theme and narrated that Nepal sought to achieve transformation in five domains-context, discourse, issues, rules and actors. He said that Nepalese leaders and attentive public are using various terms social change, social transformation and revolution to describe Nepal's shift of regime power, for example, the political achievement of 1950 can be called political change as all forces--the king, Rana and democratic political parties coexisted in power following the dissolution of family oligarchy and inauguration of constitutional rule. The political change of 1990 sought to bring the accommodation of three forces-- the King, Nepali Congress and left forces. Political change of 2006 was transformational in nature as "change-oriented actors" have taken the lead while others are subordinated to it. Meanwhile, political leaders also announced sweeping super-structural change as Nepal is declared secular, federal democratic republic. Revolutionary change requires a break with the tradition, change in political culture, institution and new consciousness of modernity. In Nepal, however, these preconditions did not exist. It was, therefore, difficult to consolidate change as political leaders failed to transform sovereignty to people, make politics public and transform diverse people into impersonal equal citizens. Consolidation of change requires modernization in five key areas-education, economy, technology, organization and leadership behavior, accountability and responsiveness. Only transformational leadership, not transactional, authoritarian and personalized, is capable of sustaining the change underway and balance three groups of rights-individual, group-specific and human rights-and steer the nation's politics in responsive direction seeking to link rule with rights and duties and achieve self-governance. He said at the moment there is only governance, not elected government of the people at the local level. Active citizenship can help achieve local government elections and address the concern of citizens for education, health, irrigation, jobs and other daily necessities of life.

Hon'ble Johannes Pflug narrating the difficult days of Germany during Great Wars said that we three parliamentarians belong to different committees and are connected various lives of German societies. We are visiting Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal to take stock of political and development situation of these countries and understand the political challenges and difficulties to democratic transition. We have come here to express our support to the political parties and help them resolve their problems. We have recently visited Pakistan, China and Korea. Democracy thrives in moderate space. Afghanistan is still teetering under uncertainty. They destroyed the statute of Buddha and even children and women have hard times to get education and participate in public space. In Pakistan also, extremist forces are trying to weaken both democratic space and the state. In Nepal, political parties can play constructive role to make politics responsive and democratic and make social contract binding to all sides. We all three MPs have started our career with local politics and addressed the needs of local people for health, education, sanitation, jobs, infrastructural and development needs allowing people to harness their potentialities. National politics should have strong base in local politics, economy and society. We can fight in the German parliament for the possible support for Nepal's initiatives and take the funding to right place.

Mr. Chau En-Lai Shrestha, political leader: How can Nepal benefit from globalization? Nepal always remained transitional due to its inability to cope myriad problems of the people which is linked to global system. Are you satisfied with the work of German Development Cooperation or do you see the need to prioritize in certain sectors?

Mr. Padma Prasad Ghimire, Former Village Development Committee Chief, asked that how much Honorable MPs will extend cooperation to uplift the Gaindakot Village Development Committee to higher level of progress?

Hon'le Holger Ortel, said that for the development of your villages there is no need for you to become a member of any political party. You have to avoid extreme partisanship and overcome ideology. There is also no need to have higher level of education to become a leader. What is essential is common sense which is possessed by everyone. FES, GIZ and other development organizations should contribute to local development. These agencies can only show you the ways of development based on international experience, but you have to decide what is right for you. Local governance is generally based on the principle of subsidiarity, that is, decisions have to be taken at the local level who have to bear the costs and share benefits. FES and GIZ can help you. People should be the center of development and then the nation. You have to broaden the base of education.

Ms. Susma Bajracharya, technical team leader of Support to the Peace Process of GIZ, added that GIZ supports two kinds of peace initiatives-directly to eliminate the root causes of conflict and support to the peace process. We supported the cantonment management and community service around the periphery of cantonments in meeting the basic needs. We also supported to those ex-combatants who preferred voluntary retirement, helped them to create environment to be integrated in the community and Peace Trust Fund of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. To address the root causes we supported rural development, health, education, energy, job-creation and poverty alleviation. Only a development based on self-help can be stable. As a result of this we see tremendous transformation in the life of women. They are gaining more freedom but they should be encouraged to engage in politics.

Mr. Bhuvan Ale, teacher, revealed that a under German cooperation a school building has been constructed here facilitated by Sahamati. Hon'ble German MPs said that they started political career from the village level. Our leaders have also emerged from the grassroots but why we see the distortion in Nepalese politics ? The deadlock is the main cause. Nepali citizens want peace, justice and democracy. Can we bring the Maoists in these processes so that local democracy, development and peace can be consolidated?
Mr. Rajiv Neupane, political leader, when we see Nepal's history we see the struggle between real democrats and artificial democrats. Nepali Congress Party (NC) played a role to overthrow Ranacracy and Panchayat in favor of democracy. But, people's war of Maoists, price rise in essential commodities, corruption soared and impunity perpetuated. B. P. Koirala said that democracy is connected not only to freedom but also to the fulfillment of basic needs. But now we see discrepancy between the life style of leaders and ordinary citizens, even communists also degenerated and became bourgeoisie. Democratic NGOs are not getting support. Even EU became government oriented and supporting communists. How can then democracy flourish? It has become difficult for us to fight for democracy.

Hon'le Karin Evers-Meyer, who extended immense support to Sahaj Hospital said that Germany has a high level of affection for Nepal and the Nepalese people. I have also started politics from grassroots level. At that time villagers were facing scarcity of many basic needs. I tried to solve the problems of my community. Then I got elected at the district and became mayor. For Nepal also the urgent task for Nepal is election for the parliament and local bodies. Parliament monitors and directs the government, sees whether the government has performed assigned tasks or not and makes them accountable to the people. In Nepal also, people are very conscious of their rights. Therefore, you should focus on both national and local election as they provide legitimacy to rule and your representatives will help to solve your problems. Government is an instrument to improve people's living standards.

Mr. Laxmi P. Khatiwada, Principal of school, asked how Germany became powerful since the days of Otton Von Bismark, faced tumultuous period during interwar period, united two Germanys and developed high quality of education? Nepal lacks the necessary practical knowledge. Cooperation of the government to private sector education is nil while result is the best. Scientific and practical knowledge in Nepal is essential. He thanked Hon'ble Evers-Meyer for supporting the Sahaj Hospital.

Hon'ble Holger Ortel: We don't feel comfortable with certain periods of our history. You can create plan for development, rather than only draw picture in the paper. You have to hold election to elect your representatives. Let if form the government. People have rights to put their demands on the government. The earning classes have to pay the tax and the government should increase the budget on education from 10 to 15 percent of the national budget. Some of your development needs can be prioritized in education system itself as it is essential to revitalize the potentiality of Nepali people. It is also helpful to modernize your agriculture in a sustainable direction.

Ms. Radha Chapagain, social worker, I am working for women's NGO having 432 members. I am secretary of this NGO Women's Awareness Center. But we have not been able to work properly because of lack of fund. Both the state and international community are unresponsive. Is it because we are women's organization? There is no attitude change towards women even after political change. I am thinking to spread literacy. Is there possibility to get support?

Hon'ble Karin Evers-Meyer: I understand your problem. Women's have 50 percent population but their share in power is much less. You have to ask the parties what kind of support you are ready to give to us so that we vote for your party? Why should you vote for those parties which say that your responsibility is to look after only home and children? In Germany, my voters ask me questions through the internet what do you do for us after being elected? We have to respond to their questions. In our Social Democratic Party there is a sub-committee for women's affairs. The committee agreed to give 40 seats for women but it gave 50 seats. The voting of women should not be undermined. In Nepal also they constitute over 50 percent of population. Nation-building can be completed only when women play pro-active role in public affairs and politics and influence public policies.

Mr. Badri Nepal, member of civil society, How far you are satisfied with your cooperation with the government and NGOs? Are you satisfied with the functioning of political parties at the local level or see a disconnect between leaders and electorates?

Hon'ble Johannes Pflug, Big parties should support the smaller parties after election and tell them how can we help you and how can we work together. We would like to compromise. They should work together for the resolution of practical issues based on ground reality. Recovery of Nepal's post-conflict condition also requires extensive public works and creation of opportunities for youth, poor and unemployed for works. Ideology only operates at theoretical level which too is revised once reality is changed. On behalf of German MPs he expressed thanks to Nepali hosts for the warmness they have extended to them as well as enabling them to know the local condition.

Mr. Bhim Prasad Sharma, Chairman of Sahaj Cooperative Hospital, thanked the German parliamentarians for sparing their time with them and sharing their experience with the local people, supporting their initiatives and sharing concern for development.

Mr. Karun Sagar Subedi, Chairman of Sahamati, Nepal thanked the German MPs, FES, GIZ and all the participants of the interaction program from Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts and expected similar cooperation in the future.

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