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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

2-3 March 2014, Kanchanpur

CDB/FES


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Belauri of Kanchanpur district on 02-03 March, 2014. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 150 participants out of whom 46 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 the Chairman of the College Operation Committee, Mr Dhaneshwor Pant. Mr Deepak Dhungana, Campus Chief of Mahakali Multiple Campus, Jai Singh Bista of Nepal Police, and Mr. Y R Bhattarai of Nepal Armed Police Force also participated in the two-day seminar. 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 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.

Discussion

Govinda Singh Thapa - Principal / West Point School said that there has been a great deal of tension between rights and duties in our society in recent times. There are more institutions who talk about rights but not necessarily about duties. Such a state of affairs has created multiple problems in Nepali society.

Ram Chandra Nepal said that this initiative of statebuilding carried over by FES Nepal has to be taken in other parts of the country as well. He raised couple of questions and was of the view that we need to create a situation so that our youths can stay in the country. He said that community schools manpower is merely used for the Gulf whereas the manpower from the private schools goes to the West. He also expressed his concern about border encroachment from the Indian side in more than 90 places. He further said that we have to discontinue the politics of negation is it is leading us nowhere. Federalism should be used to manage diversity in our society.

Pallav Raj Bhatta - CPN- UML - was of the view that education policy of Nepali state should be held responsible for countries backwardness and I wonder why our political leaders have failed to change it. We need to promote vocational education so that more and more people can get employment. He also expressed his concern about secularism.

Yadav Shamra - Principal - said that our education is information oriented; education in the past was more comprehensive. This education has not been able to fulfill the demand of society. We have experienced many changes even during the last two decades but nothing substantial has been achieved - both in politics and education. There is a problem of recruitment of teachers in the schools. And after 2062/03 it appears that we have adopted the policy of divide and rule. We are confused as what type of policy would serve our interest best in areas like health, education, and agriculture.

Dhanpati Bista also expressed his concern about education system of the country and said that the current education cannot solve our problems and our policy makers are confused. Our administration system is merely procedural and does not take initiatives to address the challenges that beset Nepali society. Given the current state of affairs - there is an urgent to revamp it.

Hridayaram Bajgai - Trade Unionist - asked whether we can move back from the current process of constitution writing or not since it has created more problems in the country. He said that religion is most important and we should protect it.

Sami Pokharel - said that there is an urgent need to introduce change in the existing chain of command of Nepali politics. He strongly suggested that conferences like his should be conducted in the centre as well. He also asked the future of journalism in Nepal and enquired how journalists are promoting the notion of justice in our society. He said that FM radios have destroyed our values. They are also not helping to promote local economy.

Bhawani Shekhar Regmi said that we need to introduce education system that teaches about nationalism and patriotism. He said that the current education system has to be changed. He also wanted to know the relationship between dharma and politics.

Jayalal Bista was of the view that in order to build a good state we need to have education that teaches about nationalism. He was of the view that civic education should be included in the higher secondary level course.

Ganesh Bhandari said why most of the people in Nepal are becoming political leader oriented. I think the need-based education can cut-down this too much dependency of common people on political leaders and this will also minimise corruption from our society.

Ram Bahadur Bohara complained that the education sector has been spoiled by the teachers themselves. There is tendency that permanent teachers most of the time hire people who can replace them temporarily while they themselves work in other places. This is the highest level of dishonesty from the part of teacher. He was of the view that Nepal cannot sustain federalism from the economic point of view.

Bishnu Bhakta Poudyal raised various issues concerning morality and he expressed his concern that it is in the declining phase. He said that Nepal is a devabhumi but the current lots of political leaders have made it rakshabhumi. The classic example, he cited, was that even the doctors are engaged in kidney business. Therefore to come out of such a pathetic state of affairs - we need to introduce education system that can promote morality and upheld nationalism. He also expressed his concerned about federalism and said that the current debate will develop communal feeling in our society which, in a real sense of the term, is antithetical to the very idea of democracy.

Taramani Neupane asked where on earth the idea of federalism has come to Nepal. He also asked how many federal states Nepal can sustain. He further asked the success and failure of Prime Ministerial system and what type of system would serve the best interest of Nepali state.

Lal Bahadur Rawat was of the view that parliamentary system should be given continuity though there are different opinions from various segments of society. I think that we have not been able to practice it fairly in the post. That said, we need to adopt a system that provides political stability in Nepal.

Narmada Rijal asked for how long our society will remain male dominated

Jai Singh Bista, Police Inspector - said that we should translate in action what we preach to the people.

Y. R. Bhattarai , Inspector - Armed Police Force - expressed his concern about the continuous border encroachment from the Indian side and said that we need to have common voice on it.

Conclusion

Finally, the organising committee in Belauri expressed their gratitude for bringing such a programme in their part which is normally neglected form the centre. Dhanpati Bista, in his concluding remarks, said that programmes like this would help to generate the sense of civicness in our society. 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 major concern here was on religion and the provisions of secularism be scrapped. 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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