Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
4-5 March 2014, Kailali
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised
a two day seminar in Lamki of Kailali district on 04-05 March,
2014. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship
for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 110
participants out of whom 24 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 Ganesh Neupane
of Lamki Multiple Campus. 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.
Speaking in the inaugural session Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES
Nepal, highlighted the importance civic education and 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 political process has been stalled by number
of issues. 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 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
the current impasse in Nepal and reminded that democracy needs
participation of people on the key issues which seems not to
be the case here. Under such a state of affairs, we can state
that there is a great deal of mismatch between what we teach
and what we practice. He also said that civil society and political
parties have failed to work as per their spirit after the political
movement of 2006. Democracy can work only in an independent
and sovereign state and it appears that there has been substantial
erosion on this part particularly after the political change
Tej Bahadur Thapa pointed out about the recent remarks
made by the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on Tanakpur.
Shivjraj Sangel said that what should have been the
role of monarchy in writing a constitution. If we look at the
history of other states who have gone through the situation
same as ours - wherein even the deposed political leaders were
given due space by the new political forces to move the political
process ahead peacefully. But we did not follow the same suit.
We treated the monarch who had substantial experience in running
the statecraft as an outsider. And outsiders as our own people
- we did not realise the fact that how they would know about
Nepali situation. I think we are paying the price of that now.
There was also concern expressed by participants about Indian
expansionism and unequal treaties signed between the two countries.
Ramda Shahi expressed about the religion and the problems
it has brought in recent times in Nepal. She was of the view
that this will have substantial effect in our polity in the
days to come.
Buddhi Pathak expressed his concern about the increased
influence of thugs in media. He was of the view that we need
to get rid of this situation. Failing to do so will create trust
deficit in our society towards media.
Kamala Mishra - Teacher - she wanted to know about the
case of Dil Sobha Shrestha who has been operating the Child
Care Centre in Kathmandu and recently blamed for molesting them.
Prem Raj Chaudhary said that politics is all about developing
policies of the state. In the absence of policy we cannot move
ahead. Why political science has not been made compulsory for
all in Nepal where the need of politics and policy is very high.
Ran Bahadur Bhandari was of the view that we need to
have federalism but we have to be clear about the fact that
why we wanted to have it in the first place - is it for the
development or merely serve the interests of political elites.
Jayaraj Bhandari said that federalism is all about added
responsibilities and such realisation can help achieve development
through it. Otherwise, it will become burden on the state and
Mukti Pathak was of the view that we need to have federalism
that provides equal right and opportunities. The federal states
need to have their own resources rather than depending on the
centre. He also opined that rather than having too many parties
in the country - we just need to have two parties and asked
how we can do that.
Tek Bahadur Shahi was in favour of cooperative model
Ishwori Prasad Devkota and Netra Bhandari have
asked about the basis of Nepali federalism.
Mrs Ganga Bhandari asked how is tax regime managed in
Lok Bahadur Deuba wanted to know the relationship between
federalism and secularism. The way both have come in the country
without proper debate in Nepali society will certainly create
trouble in the days to come.
Chet Raj Sharma was of the view that President and Prime
Minister should be elected directly. He further said that the
current electoral system is fine as it is more inclusive but
we need to set criterias for those who are coming from nomination.
The most important point is that we need to develop the mechanism
of democracy in our conduct of state affairs which is completely
Tek Bahadur Shahi said that with regard to the electoral
system - we need to have first-past-the post system.
Janmejaya Bhattarai was also of the view that - we need
to have first-past-the post system. The proportional system
does not bore responsibility towards society.
Prem Raj Chaudhary expressed his concern in the recent
election wherein many people could not vote - especially those
who were living outside of Nepal.
Dil Bahadur Saud asked about the role of FES in this
whole process of constitution writing in Nepal.
One Mr. Khanal raised couple of questions on the current
state of affairs including TRC. He was of the view that state
cannot have its own religion. He also wanted to know they way
to bring democrats and communists into the common platform as
it would help ease our political process. He said that we need
to have self-sustaining economy. He was also of the view that
federalism, secularism, and republicanism are approved by Nepali
people and we cannot have any further debate on this.
Tej Bahadur Thapa wanted to know as how does VAT system
works. Why did we increase the tax ceiling. During the kings
time it was only 10 percent but it has gone up after that.
Finally, Mr Ganesh Nepuane, from the chair, thanked all the
participants and FES for organsing such an event. He said that
this has been really helpful for them and also for the students
as well. 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 major focus in this part
of the country is on religion - there was mixed reaction on
secularism. Also on federalism. 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.