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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

26-27 April 2014, Makwanpur

CDB/FES


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Bastipur of Makanwanpur district on 26-27 April, 2014. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from the below. The seminar was attended by 92 persons out of whom 45 were females. The participants of the seminar came from various backgrounds such as teachers, lecturers, political leaders, members of civil society, security personnel, local civil servants, other stake holders of the society, among others. There were head teachers from 35 schools of the surrounding area. The seminar was organised in Nirmal Multiple Campus and was chaired by Prabat Bidari, Campus Chief. The overarching aim of this seminar was to educate local political leaders/civil society activists 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 that the whole objectives of these types of seminar is to generate the sense of awareness in society about the issues of national importance. He said that we are in the new political juncture and there are issues national importance which needs broader understanding and careful attention from all strata of society. Nepal's political process has been stalled and number of issues could be cited for such a state of affairs. However, what is also important though is that, people at large, need to know about certain political terminologies that have recently floated and the current state of affairs of Nepali state which are also creating some sort of confusion to move the political process ahead. It is against this background that FES has chosen this topic where four different papers will be presented. Mr Dahal also said that active participation of people and inclusion of their voices, visions and views increase legitimacy, people's ownership towards it and provide constitutional stability thereby constructing active citizenship rather than citizenship based on consumerism. In the past, Nepal never had constitutional stability.

Among four 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 for the material wellbeing alone is not enough for development - spiritual development is also necessary as the later can instill the sense of morality - the basis of civic education. Kashi Raj Dahal, as usual, presented his paper on constitutional dynamics in Nepal, Prof Lal Babu Yadav on models of governance and federalism. 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

Navraj Dotel (Teacher) asked whether the new political dynamics can address the fluid political situation of the country. We need to have the provision of death penalty in our constitution on serious cases such as rape and murder said Mr. Dotel. With regard to federalism - it has to be done on the basis of geography and Prime Minister should be directly elected by the people.

Harisharan Upreti enquired where does state sovereignty lie in Nepal and how does it change in federalism. What power people will have?

Shyam Sundar Aryal (Teacher) was of the view that we should not have more federal states in Nepal and federal states should be drawn on the basis of geography. We can also convert current five development regions into five federal states, said Mr. Aryal. There is also urgent need to get rid of this proportional electoral system as this system has not been delivering properly. It was more leader-centric than people-centric. It does not necessarily uphold the idea of really representing those who cannot represent on their own. In terms of form of government - we need of parliamentary system of governance in place.

Jayaram Adhikari (Teacher) opined that both the current electoral systems are ok as they are meant for the CA election but in the future this process has to be discontinued. He preferred having Prime Minister directly elected by the people. What is the minimum educational qualification to become the Prime Minister of Nepal? Asked Mr. Adhikari. He also wanted to know about the consequences of 'reservation quota' in the future.

Abhadesh Kumar Chaudhary (Teacher) said that we need to have stable system of governance and federalism should be decided on the basis of territory (geography). We need to fix qualifications for the political leaders and there should not be too many political parties in the country. We should not have proportional electoral system and in a country like too many federal states are not required. What we really need is powerful President and Prime Minister in the centre. What would be the role of religion in our society will it create problem in the days to come given the importance people have given on it?

Pampha Dhakal asked why more women's were not included in the election process. Women should be respected both at home and outside argued Mrs. Dhakal.

Meena Sigdel (Teacher) said that there are some problems with the current model of inclusion. She was of the view that it has to be more scientific in practice which can only do justice to the women.

Radha Bastakoti (Teacher) wanted to know how the word 'dalit' came into being in our society as none of our literature on dharmasastra talk about this word.

Uma Sigdel (Teacher) asked why citizenship certificate is not given from mother's name.

Udaya Pathak - RPP-N - wanted to know about right to self-determination. He also wonwered does it mean (right to self-determination) the formation of independent state as well.

Bhola Thapa (Teacher) asked why democracy has not become stable in Nepal. He also asked a question on secularism.

Ram Mani Bartola (Teacher) asked is it good to have foreign investment in media. If the answer is 'yes' - to what extent we can go.

Meen Bahadur Adhikari, Chair - School Conducting Committee - asked what differences secularism and federalism on the basis of ethnicity will make in our society in the future.

Bishnu Hari Pidari (Teacher) asked how we can make our political parties transparent.

Uddhab Bidari (Teacher) asked what are the minimum qualifications to become the Chairman of the School Conducting Committee. We need to have something on this, said Mr Bdari.

Krishna Prasad Poudel (Teacher) wanted to know whether constitution will be written on time or not?

Geeta Adhikari (Teacher) said that during the breast feeding period - women should be given off from the duty.

Ram Hari Bista, Farmer, said that he came to know many new things from this seminar. He also came to know from the discussion here that Nepal is mobilised from outside. He also said that programmes like this should be conducted in other areas of the country where people would know about rights and duties in a democracy and particularly in a post-conflict situation.

Nirmala Bista (Teacher) - Nirmal Multiple Campus - she said that she came to know about many things that are required for statebuilding. This programme is too short.

Conclusion

Finally, the Chairman of the seminar thanked FES for brining such an important programme in their college. Democracy can only grow if the civic political culture is expanded and actors rise above the partisan interests and engage in collective works for the collective welfare. 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 towards state building process from below. As it is evidenced from the discussion herein, we can observe that there has been great deal of disenchantment against the current state of political affairs. 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 identify various pitfalls of Nepali democracy and politics. The issue ranges from foreign policy, democracy, development, and many more.

 
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