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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

16-17 February 2014, Harion

CDB/FES


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Harion of Sarlahi district on 16-17 February, 2014. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 106 participants out of whom 26 were females. Among others, participants of the seminar came from various walks of like such as teachers, lecturers, political leaders, students, members of civil society, security personnel, local civil servants, other stake holders of the society. The seminar was chaired by Shree Rajkumar Upreti, Chairman of the Campus Operating Committee, of Chaturbhjeshowr Campus, Hariom, Sarlahi. 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

Speaking in the inaugural session Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal, highlighted the importance civic education and the role it can play in building democratic political culture in society. 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 transition is still problematic even after the election to the CA-2. He also underlined the need of people's understanding of various political issues that have recently stole political limelight in the country with direct link with current state of Nepali politics. It is against this background that FES has chosen to organise seminars in the peripheral areas so that people living in such areas also get acquainted with them. 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. In the seminars, three different papers were presented.

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 in Nepal. Associate Prof. of Tribhuvan University Shree Lal Babu Yadav presented his paper on federalism, and local governance. 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.

Discussion

Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, FM Radio, wondered how we can develop civic political culture in our society. He also asked we are in the process of declaring free defecation centre's but the question here is who will make toilets for the poor.

Raj Kumar Thapa - VDC Secy. - informed that we are declaring Sarlahi free defecation centre by 2073 and the government is coming up with a plan to provide employment to the people of these areas provided that they use toilets.

Indra Pal CPN-Maoist- he said that this progrmme is somewhat negative. The presenters of the seminar said we have lost many things after the big political movements. He reminded that its this society that gives birth to the political leaders. He also blamed that NGOs/INGOs have made our intellectuals their porter of ideas who only say negative things about our society. These lots talk more about rights but not necessarily about duties attached with it. He argued that the international organisations have spoiled our system.

Yamini Kumar Deb asked how can we promote the notion of governance in the present context.

Hari Krishna Bohara - Teacher - said that we have to modernize our policies as well

Ganesh Prasad Upreti asked is there any rules of the game in politics or not as everything else has its own sets of rules and regulations. He also asked why there is no provision of minimum qualification in politics.

Ramdev Mahato / Teacher said that our leader has become mere pawn in the geopolitical game. Under such a state of affairs who will do the statebuilding. When we draft policy we have to bear people's demand and aspiration in mind.

Dipendra Prasad Mainali said that most of our youths are working abroad - how can we build the state? Where do we get the builders from ?

Navaraj Prasai - teacher - asked the difference between Prajatantra (democracy) and Lokatantra (folk-democracy). He also asked the different between the Constitution of Nepal and Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal.

Sita Thapa expressed her concern about the rising number of cases of violence against women. How can we minimse such violence asked Mrs. Thapa.

Arjun Prasad Dahal expressed his dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs that exist in our education system. He said unless we don't improve it - there is no way that we can have democracy that is state and rule-based. We have two types of education system - private vs. public - we need to get rid of this model. He also asked whether the state of Nepal has right to self-determination or not when it comes to the point of developing policies or deciding politics for that matter.

Basudev Niraula asked whether we need federalism or not. If we needed what type of federalism would serve our best interest. The issue of right to self-determination will not lead us anywhere. This concept has disintegrated USSR and there are many problems in Nigeria. Ethiopia and Sudan. We have to bear all these factors in mind, said Mr Niraula.

Bidur Bhattarai asked although federalism as a system of governance exists in 28 states but what would be the key difference between their federalism and our federalism. I have a feeling that we do not need federalism. Why do we want to have secularism just because EU wants it? In the name of inclusion there are powers who are spreading the message of hatred if that is the case we also wanted to go for barnashram system which is one of the most inclusive and justifiable system of governance.

Md. Kamaruddin asked about the boundary of modern state. He also asked where do get the expert from. How do we generate the sense of awareness among people as this can alone help instill the sense of Nepaliness.

Ganesh Prasad Upreti said that federalism exists only in 30 percent of the total states in the world and in majority it does not. Why do we need to go for the system that does not guarantee political stability or anything else?

Dinesh Luitel asked why our political scientists have not their own ideas in terms of federalism or decentralisation - why they are running after political leaders and foreign experts. Such a situation has created crisis of confidence among Nepalese.

Krishna Prasad Khadka asked whether we are Madhesi or Nepali or Pahadi?

Bhimlal Devkota said that Terai is ruled by Indians and Hill area by the European Union's - where is Nepal?

Shanker Chalise said can we not stop federalism from happening as this will destroy Nepal as a sovereign state.

Sita Thapa asked why we need federalism. Who has decided secularism and why don't we have our own religion as the religion of the state.

Conclusion

Dinesh Ghimire CDO of Sarlhai district also put his remarks in the seminar. Ganesh Upreti said this is very good programme. He further said that such activities would help to promote common national identity which is essential for statebuilding in Nepal. With regard to the statebuilding process in Nepal, in recent times, it 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 here reveals that there is a great deal of frustration towards the current political issues and federalism and inclusion have become the major bone of contention. Sudden arrival of these issues for mere political benefit has radicalised Nepali society. 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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