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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

4-5 March 2014, Kailali

CDB/FES


Introduction

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.

Proceedings

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 of 2006.

Discussion

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 people.

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 of federalism.

Ishwori Prasad Devkota and Netra Bhandari have asked about the basis of Nepali federalism.

Mrs Ganga Bhandari asked how is tax regime managed in federal system.

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 missing.

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.

Conclusion

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.

 
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