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A Brief Report On Foreign Policy And Changing Notions of Human Rights

Organised by FES Nepal

6 January 2014, Sanepa

On the 6th of January 2014 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES Nepal) organized an interaction program on "Foreign policy and changing notions of Human Rights" amongst its youth network members. FES Youth Network is a collective network formed by FES Nepal, connecting youths of different fields (students, campaigners, activists, professionals, etc.). It organizes monthly and sometimes quarterly interaction programs with its members, dealing with contemporary and important issues of governmental action and good governance. Guest speakers are invited to have interaction with the participants.

Ms. Samira Paudel welcomed the fellow network members and introduced FES Nepal as a foundation established in the name of late German Prime Minister Friedrich Ebert. Since 1995 FES is working in Nepal, doing research and promoting knowledge exchange on democratization, good governance policies, gender equality, and other development mechanisms of the state.

Human rights are an indispensable factor empowering the existence and survival of individuals in society. All citizens exercise different forms of rights in dependence to their national roots. Theoretically citizens of all over the world should have the same rights, no matter on which part of the world they dwell. However, it is well known that citizens of countries of the global south are not equally entitled with necessary rights. To interact on this issue, FES Nepal had organized a program with its youth network members. Mr. Yubaraj Ghimire - veteran media personality - was the resource person for the day. He highlighted and shared some of the major issues of the subject.

Mr. Yubaraj Ghimire, Media Personality

Mr. Ghimire started his session by giving brief information on the world historical background of human rights and stated that human rights liberalism emerged during the wars of religion in Europe, later followed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the 20th century World War. The United Nations have recognized five sets of human rights i.e. Civil Rights, Political Rights, Social & Economic Rights and Cultural Rights. However, merely exercising one own's right does not complete human rights ideologies. Later, a Right Based Approach (RBA) emerged as an important principle of human rights, stating that every right is driven by responsibility, accountability, transparency and respect. It is essential that one must be grounded with the basis of human rights and equally respect other's rights and values, irrespective of their national or ethnical origins. Similarly, there are different obligations of human rights that require to protect the freedom of people as defined by the state and the rule of law.

Out of all its inter-relation, human right are closely linked with democracy. Human rights cannot be properly exercised without having democracy. Vice versa democracy does not sustain lacking human rights. The notions of democracy are ever changing but accepting its core values is crucial.

In the context of Nepal, human rights and democracy do exist to some extent but too many times it seemed nothing more than written words, that are not being fight for. Due to the lack of civic education and accountable institutions, the full exercise of human rights and stability of good governance still needs to be achieved. After the decade of Maoist revolutions, an era of monarchy came to an end and led collapse the governing authority. Indeed the revolution brought many positive changes but with the end of monarchy, no authoritative body remained to control the new actors. This in consequence led external powers to influences Nepal's governance. Globally powerful countries define democracy in their own ways. They link democracy with country's economy, market strategy, military and nuclear power. They with their own theologies of democracy and human rights undermine the global south and therewith generate unequal dependencies. The global spirit of human rights would therefore be always threatened by the powerful. But human rights being an important facet of personal freedom should be adopted and respected in terms of responsibility and reciprocity. By signing a bilateral agreements, a nation is obliged with some sort of restrictions; however respecting the sovereignty of the state is essential.

Mr. Devraj Dahal, Head FES Nepal

Mr. Dahal stated that present human civilization is the result of past transition of civilization, from theocentric humanism, anthropocentric enlightenment-based humanism and colonial exploitation. The new dawn of humanism is based on the web of life of all living species. Along with human values, the notion of rights is also changing. Each country possesses its own proud history of democracy and humanitarians norms. Nepal in this context has its own history of sovereignty and unity despite of its tremendous diversity. Democracy of a state compiles of 1) national independence, 2) loyalty of citizen 3) immigration control and 4) national conscription which are crucial for the unified application of laws by the state in society. As the young generation of the nation, Mr. Dahal requested the participants to learn of the nation's history.

Foreign policy is analyzed through national, international and global aspects. A state develops its strategies in coherence of national interest and at the same time maintains in exchange with other states. The democratic state of nation requires to become sovereign. As a result, Nepal's governance system is moving its focus from the country to the people.

Some participants also shared their understanding and information about the topic and listed their queries with Mr. Ghimire and Mr. Dahal. Please have the excerpts of the open floor discussion below:

Mr. Chiranjibi Bhandari - Thanked Mr. Ghimire for addressing human rights through the upper level of understanding and information. From the time of its existence, human rights have been linked with principles of Federalism, Liberalism and Marxism respectively with their own different interpretation. Human Rights are directly linked to foreign policy but somehow the notions of foreign policy have been changing and at present human rights are dependant on geo-strategic actions.

Ms. Sumira Shrestha - Agreed with the opinion of Mr. Ghimire and the fellow members that human rights share close linkage to democracy and ultimately to foreign policy. But Nepalese leaders lack the essence of accountability and transparency, two of the most crucial subfigure of democracy and human rights. It is important that a democratic nation balances all of its functioning mechanism equally. As for the foreign intervention, check and balance principles should always be maintained. These will eventually help the nation to reach the state of good governance.

Mr. Nima Sherpa requested Mr. Ghimire to give his opinion on the situation of human rights after the 10 years long insurgency period of Maoist in Nepal. Integration and peace are commendable results of the insurgency but still vital issues are ignored and the insurgency is somehow responsible for present shortcomings. Mr. Sherpa furthermore states that leaders should follow the peace agreement, avoiding any kind of international intervention and show great effort to bring the country to new dimensions of development and sovereignty.

Mr. Raj Timilsina raised his concern over policy action and the seemingly unification of cultural diversity and the impact of powerful states on Nepal. The resource persons informed him that, with the evolving and overpowering global culture, a state and its people should have the capacity to assert their rights. Super powers treat other countries on the basis of their own interest. Especially in times where states are going through euphoria, powerful nations tend to be highly intervening and influential. Nepal has also followed different international declared documents in terms of human rights and respected the generalized concept of human rights. Nonetheless, being influenced and carried away would be two different ways of impact. A state should never let external powers to undermine its sovereignty.

After the floor discussion, Ms. Samira Paudel announced the closing of the program and thanked all the participants for their active involvement in the discussion. She also thanked the resource persons for their valuable information sharing. The program ended with the collection of evaluation of the participants regarding the program.

Prepared by - Swarna Rai

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