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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

17-18 April 2015, Dharapani, Dhanusha


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office has organised a two day seminar at Dharapani of Dhanusha district on 17-18 April, 2015. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 132 participants out of whom 17 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 programme was jointly organised with Mulabari Higher Secondary School, Dharapani. 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, political impasse, 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 in Nepal. Senior Journalist Shree Yubaraj Ghimire talked about role of media in statebulding. He said that for democracy to function, state needs to be free. He further said that democracy, nationalisms, and sovereignty are dependent on each other. Accountability plays major role in democracy but, in our case, Nepalese political leaders are not accountable to the people. In contrast, they appear to more accountable towards the internal community or foreign powers for that reason. Political leaders who have promised to deliver constitution have failed to do so and should have said sorry to the people but that has not been the case. Many of them chose to provide clarification to the outside world but not to their own fellow citizens. This has drastically reduced the trust between people and political leaders at large.

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.

Similarly in the seminar, District Education Officer (DEO) Shree Shankar Kumar Karki also expressed his opinion about the need of the civic education. He said, since the start of the Maoist insurgency in 1996 - there has been sharp erosion on our moral values. The exclusion of moral education and Sanskrit in the school and college curriculum has resulted in a moral decay in our society. He emphasised that state should take initiatives to this end as only civic education built on cosmopolitian values can enhance statebuilding process and enrich our outlook in the world. He opined that materialism is not everything as has been championed by many political parties of post-1990s era. He also highlighted problems that existed in our education sector. He also said that teachers should not engage in profession other than teaching as has been the extant cases here.

Discussion

Surya Narayan Yadav was of the view that federalism has been a major problem of this country but many of us still don't what is it all about, how can it be good and bad. We also yet don't know why federalism is required in the country - is it for development or for any other purposes. We don't see federalism in your banner as well. He also said that we should create equal conditions for all - be it in education, health or in other areas. Migrant workers are contributing heavily to the national economy but there is nothing for their children. They are not getting opportunity even to study in good schools. There is no problem between our two communities - hill and Tarai. It has been merely flared up by the political leaders for their own benefit. Corruption has been legalised in the country and political leaders are vying to the foreign embassies to become minister in their own country. This is the reality of our post 2005/06 politics.

Mahesh Thakur, Teacher said that the biggest challenge here in Nepal is to implement the agreements that were made in the past. It appears that if these agreements are not respected or implemented - this certainly will create a problem in the country. Most of the agreements are contradictory in nature as one contradicts with the other in many cases. He further said that having too many political parties signifies the culture of feudalism. When Communists parties were in power, in fact, they have been in power on rotation basis since 2006, but they have failed to work for the poor and powerless which the claim to work for.

Palsang Yonzon argued that P N Shah, the unifier of Nepal, has said that Nepal is a common garden that comprises 'chhar jaat 36 varna' but in reality only certain groups have flourished and it has created great deal of problem. Therefore there is an urgent need to change this practice.

Shradha Lama said that women's are behind in every respect all over the world and there is an urgent need to bring women out of the kitchen and for that we need to increase opportunities in the education and employment sector. This will also minimise domestic violence against women. State should play active role to this end and more awareness programmes need to be brought in.

Shyam Yadav asked the role of international agencies and foreign powers in the constitution writing process of Nepal. He also argued that the debate on human rights is pushing us behind. There are not human rights in China but the country is far ahead economically.

Shatrughan Shah said that political parties should have played a crucial role in drafting constitution but that didn't happen and we should collective boycott them. We have already had CA election twice and it should not happen third time.

Palsang Yonzon also criticised the role of political leaders. He was of the view that constitution should be written for all.

One anonymous participant said that why judiciary is not transparent in Nepal whereas everything else has to be transparent. Similarly, CA also needs to be transparent.

Shradha Lama said why there is no rule of law in our country and why rules and regulations are not implemented in the country. She further said that we need to have separate economic and social policy. Likewise, women should have fifty percent right in the property. There are widespread cases of rape in the country and there is an urgent need to change attitude of people.

Tej Narayan Yadav asked what the indictors to major poverty are. Voters need to be educated in Nepal. Only enlightened voters can elect good candidates which in turn will bring changes in our society. Why there is no discussion about economic democracy asked Yadav? Why agriculture is not priority in our country ? He further said that unless agriculture is not given priority - we cannot develop. Why the issue of secularism has been floated in Nepal as there was no demand for the same ?

Mahendra Yadav, Teacher, asked why there is a separate bus for women but not for the men.
Jogeshwor was of the view that we need to introduce age bar for political leaders as it will provide opportunity to the younger people in the politics. Equally important is introducing the provision of minimum qualification in politics.

Chakra Bahadur Biswokarma asked whether human rights are peace loving or prefer revolution?

Mahesh Thakur said that we need to introduce moral education in our schools as this will create an environment where materialism and spiritualism can converge. Therefore the challenge that lies ahead of us is how to boost up morality in our society. Teachers should be selected on the basis of meritocracy which has not been the case until know. He further said that there are too many 'organisations' in education sector but what we need is professional associations not the associations/organisations aligned with political parties which cannot necessarily contribute positively as they often advocate on behalf their party lines.

Ram Sagar Thakur said that we need to introduce some fresh methods in the education sector that can bring about positive change in our society.

Mohan Baral asked why government has not fixed rates for the sugarcane. This is badly affecting farmers.

Laxmi Narayan Mandal also expressed his concern that government is not serious on the demands of farmers - be it fixing the price of sugarcane or any other stuffs. He further lamented that political leaders are dividing our society which is, as of now, is in intact conditions even in the Madhes. He further said that there is an urgent need to have programmes like this in our villages which can alone change the society.

Jyoti Karna, Teacher, pointed out that many guardians are not sending their kids to the government run schools. They prefer private schools and private schools are located just close by the government schools.

Dil Bahadur, Farmer, suggested that meetings like this should be organised even in the rural areas as people can benefit a lot from it. He blamed that the farmers don't own agriculture land. It has been hijacked by land mafias. Rich people are exploiting everything (including nature) to make more money and this will have serious consequences in our society.

Conclusion

In concluding remarks Shree Mahesh Thakur said that there is an urgent need to inculcate positive thinking in our minds. This is a very good programme and should be continued in the future. Likewise another respondent also appreciated the programme. He further said that such activities would help to promote common national identity which is essential for statebuilding in Nepal. 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. By conducting seminars in different parts of the country FES has been successful enough in identifying the connectors of society.

Report prepared by CDB/FES

 
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