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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

28-29 June 2014, Dolakha

CDB/FES


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Singate of Dolakha district on 28-29 June 2014. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. The seminar was attended by 100 plus persons out of whom 25 were females. The participants of the seminar came from various walks of life such as teachers, lecturers, political leaders, students, members of civil society, security personnel, local civil servants, other stake holders of the society, among others. The seminar was organised in association with Pratap Smiriti Campus and Kalinag Higher Secondary School. Puspharaj Kandel of Kalinag Higher Secondary School and Chairman of the Civil Society Groups of the Northern Region Chaired the two-days programme. The overarching of aim of this seminar was to revitalize the sense of civic-ness in our society and also educate local political leaders/civil society activists and teachers/students on issues pertaining to state-building and constitutional process in Nepal.

Proceedings

Shree Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal welcomed participants. During his welcome speech he spoke about the organisational goals of FES and emphasised the need of generating civic awareness in society along with the issues of national importance. He said that we are in the new political juncture and there are issues which needs broader discussion at the various levels of society. Nepal's political process has been stalled and number of issues could be held responsible for such a state of affairs. However, having said this, what is also important is that people at large, need to know about certain political terminologies that are being recently floated in our society and which have direct link with current state of Nepali politics. It is against this background that FES has chosen this topic where three different papers were presented. Mr Dahal also said that active participation of people and inclusion of their voices, visions and views increase legitimacy of politics with increased, people's ownership towards. Such an approach provides constitutional stability in the country and builds active citizenship rather than citizenship based on consumerism. In the past, Nepal never had constitutional stability.

Among three papers Mr. Dahal also talked about the state-society interface in Nepal. He said that Nepali society has expanded beyond its physical boundary. He also said that material well-being alone is not enough for development - spiritual development is also necessary as the latter can instill the sense of morality - the basis of civic education. He also highlighted the changing notion of democracy. Kashi Raj Dahal, as usual, presented his paper on constitutional dynamics and federalism in Nepal. Chandra D. Bhatta presenting spoke on building modern state and necessary components of democracy which needs to be incorporated in polity and upheld by all. He said that democracy in Nepal has been misunderstood and it has not been defined or practiced as per people's aspirations. Absence of all these factors has led to the manifold crisis in our society. Another presenter Yubaraj Ghimire, Senior Journalist also spoke about the role of media in satebuilding. He also talked about the duty of journalist - which is objectively informing people. Mr Ghimire also highlighted on the current impasse in Nepali politics and emphasised that democracy needs participation of people on the key issues which seems not be the case here. For these reasons there is a great deal of mismatch what we teach and what we practice.

Discussion

Ghanshyam Pathak asked what type of federalism and the system of governance would best serve the interest of Nepali state and citizen. This programme should also be conducted for our political leaders, requested Mr Pathak

Ramesh Basnet / Teacher said that there are numerous challenges in the education sector and one of them is making this profession more respectable. Compared to other sector, education sector in Nepal is not attractive and there is tendency to change the profession. Because of this, we have not been able to retain good teacher and there is an urgent need to address this issue.

Likewise, in the economic spectrum - we don't respect our own product and we don't feel proud on what we have. These factors are creating some sort of tension in our society.

Amrit Acharya / Teacher asked who is responsible for the sorry economic state of Nepal.

Kumar Khadka/Teacher said that the benefit of political awareness in the country has been hijacked by the political leaders and such an attitude has resulted in trust deficit in society.

Dill Krishna Malla / Teacher said that for the few years we didn't have statesmen in our country. We need to develop the notion of economic discipline for good leadership. The investment environment in the country has to be enhanced as it can also generate the sense of sovereignty among people.

Mahesh Malla was of the view that constitution will not be written because of the issue of federalism.

Yubaraj Khati - Student - Grade 10 - was of the view that Nepali political parties do not have their own vision and asked how civil society can address this issue. Where does law exist? Why did we include those persons in the election who had double citizenship asked Master Khati. Why we have not been able to develop sport in our country? What is our sports minister doing?
He also asked why political leaders get free medical treatment but not the poor people. Is it a democracy?

Lokraj Pathak argued that many NGOs are responsible for not having been able to write constitution in time.

Sundar Khadka said that rule of law is important for democracy and this can also help to strengthen democracy.

Sarita Tamang - Student - Cass 9 - The word Dharma Nirpekshata is not suitable in the case of Nepal. Gautam Buddha was born in this country and he has taught us about dharma not adharma. She also said that we should respect child rights; polygamy should be restricted by the law. She asked why Prachanda's son has many wives. Where is law for him?

Bipin Rawat - Campus Chief - The country is facing many challenges and one of them is commercialisation of agriculture. If we could do something in this area - we can stop our people going abroad for job. How long we will tolerate the situation of border encroachment asked Mr. Rawat. Whether federalism will move us towards prosperity - it is yet to be seen.

Ram Krishna Thami - Student - Class 9 asked why we let go criminals on bail. Can religion is 'foreigner' - why don't we have our own religion. Why companies from one country open their office in another country asked Thami. Why the current endeavours are not addressing the problem of poverty in our society.

Shyam Bhandari asked can we not run the state without constitution. There are enough laws in the countries that regulate our state and society? Why should we give too much time on it?

Sharada Thakuri - Student - asked who long time does it normally take to write constitution.

One Manju said that the upcoming constitution should be dalit friendly and poor friendly.

Kavita Khadka - Student - Class 10 asked how we can discourage the dowry system and why it has not been eliminated from our society. She also said that we need both practical and theoretical education.

Shri Krishna Prasad Shivakoti - Teacher was of the view that we need vocational education in the country that can alone address the problem of unemployment. He also said that tax ceiling should be strictly implemented.

Balananda Shivakoti was of the view that the existing five development regions should be converted into the five federal states. The upcoming model of federalism can create tension of various nature in society and we ought to develop mechanism to address the same.

Vikram Pariyar - Student - Class 9 said that we should not use dalit word anymore as it does not pay respect to the said community.

Hemanti Giri - how can media contribute in building modern state and what would be the role of social media with that respect.

Ayush Pariyar - Student - Class 9 said for the last so many year dalit in the country have been victimized by society and the state. This tendency has gone up with the arrival of modern NGOs (right-based). King Jayasthithi Malla came up with this idea for different purpose but today's political leaders and feudal are using it for various purpose albeit to meet their own interests. I have objection that we should not use dalit words anymore and should not be included in the constitution as well. Rather, we have to give them opportunity.

Prakrati Shivakoti - Student - Class 9 - what type of policies would serve best interest of Nepali people living from Mechi to Mahakali?

Conclusion

Statebuilding process in Nepal, in recent times, has met many obstacles. Such obstacles can be addressed with the promotion of civic education at various layers of society. This also helps to build civic political culture in society. Civic education cultivates knowledge and traits that sustain democratic self-governance. In recent times, many aspects of our civic life have become dysfunctional and there is an urgent need to revive them. This can also strengthen democracy and contribute harmonise state-society relations. The discussion above reveals that the even the school level students are very concerned about the state and its polity and there is a great deal o frustration against politics. This needs to be fixed-up for the better, prosperous and shared future. By conducting seminars in different parts of the country FES has been successful enough to in identifying the connectors of society.

 
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