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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

12-13 April 2014, Khurkot, Sindhuli

CDB/FES


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Khurkot of Sindhuli district on 12-13 April, 2014. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from below. The seminar was attended by 118 persons out of which 43 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. The seminar was organised in Bhimjyoti Higher Secondary School and was chaired by Yagya Rai of Bhim Jyoti Campus. 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 stated that the programmes like this can contribute in generating the sense of awareness in society about the issues of national importance. They can also contribute in knowledge building from the local context. With regard to the politics, he said that Nepal is the difficult political juncture and there are issues that need broader understanding and careful attention from all strata of society. He said that issues like model of governance, economy, foreign policy, social policy, federalism needs rigorous deliberations. Democracy needs not only participation but the active participation of people which can glean their voices, visions and views and thereby include them into the future polity. Such an exercise increases legitimacy of politics in society as it enhances people's ownership in the decision making process. Consideration of these factors can generate constitutional stability in the country and also construct the notion of active citizenship in contrast to the citizenship merely based on consumerism. In addition to the welcome speech, Mr Dahal also talked about the state-society interface in Nepal during this presentation. He said that Nepali society has expanded beyond its concurrent 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 various issues related to constitution, models of governance, and models of federalism and highlighted on other legal issues. Likewise 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 speaker Yubaraj Ghimire, Senior Journalist also spoke about the role of media in satebuilding. He also talked about the duty of journalist - which is objectively inform 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

Dinesh K Bhattarai asked differences between democracy, loktantra (folk democracy), and ganatantra (republicanism).

Subhas Devkota inquired whether the decisions taken by the judges are always true in their spirit. Do they follow the concept of 'brahama naya' or provide their verdict on the basis of evidences for that matter. I am confident of the fact that the latter method does not necessarily provide justice acceptable to all. I have a feeling that the current model of delivering justice is entirely based on 'law'. If the laws are not correct or acceptable by all - how can one provide justice asked Devkota?

Dil Bahadur Basnet asked about the justice system of Jung Bahadur Rana

One anonymous participant asked what type of justice is 'abortion' - can it be justifiable?

Deepak Bohara (Teacher) asked what is Nepali nationalism? There are different approaches of understanding nationalism in Nepal - every political party has their own interpretation of nationalism. Are there any provisions in the international law to acquire the land (territory) that Nepal lost in the Saugauli Treaty asked Bohara. He also enquired why political leaders of Nepal are not serious on this issue. He said there must be some provisions in the UN Charter for that

Prakash Devkota (Teacher) enquired, in the context of Nepal, who are the state bearing political leaders

Dhan Bahadur Thapa said that the developmental works are not moving ahead in the country and suggested mobilising consumers committee to speed up the same.

Padam Lal Devkota has expressed his concern that we are destroying jungle, land, and water - how can we be happy under such a state of affairs.

Toyanath Devkota (Teacher) asked why Nepal has not been able to write a constitution despite the successful election of 2064 BS. This programme of statebuilding should have been brought then.

D. B. Rana wanted to know about civil code and orderly society - the interface between the two.

One participant asked why Rautes are not allowed to enter villages.

Rukmini Koirala (Teacher) asked who Nepal can sustain these 601 CA members. She also said that we are discussing about building modern state but at the same time we are engaged in sending our youths to abroad. Under such a state of affairs, how can we build our state? She also asked in our country women's are higher in number but they are less represented in the state mechanism including politics.

Chandrakala Devkota said that we had very little knowledge of politics but by participating in this seminar we came to know about many things about politics. This is my first participation in a programmes like this and I have feeling that these types of programmes are important for society as they help us to understand many things.

Finally Yagya Rai, Chair of the two-day programme, thanked the organisers on behalf of the participants. He said that programmes like this can help a lot to generate civic sense in our society and he wholeheartedly requires the organisers to come again.

Conclusion

Democracy can only grow if the civic political culture is expanded and actors rise above the partisan interests and engage in collective work 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 successful enough to identify various pitfalls of Nepali democracy and politics. The issue ranges from foreign policy, democracy, development, and many more. By and large, these pitfalls need to be addressed by the state only then we can think of building a functional state that stand for the people.

 
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