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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

8-9 June 2015, Patu, Mahottari


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office has organized a two day seminar at Patu, Mahottari district on 8-9 June, 2015. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 133 participants out of whom 26 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, local civil servants, other stake holders of the society. The programme was organized in Janjajagriti Higher Secondary School and was chaired by Shree Arjun Pokhrel, Principle of the School. This is the second programme FES has organized after the earthquake of April/May 2015. The overarching of aim of this seminar was to promote the confidence building measures among peoples of various strata as well as to revitalize the sense of civic solidarity across various societal groups which has been needed to reinforce community resiliency to address both political as well the problems caused by the natural disaster. Likewise, programme have had an objective to 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, at the outset, provided detailed information in relation to the earthquake and emphasized the need to rebuild more resilient and prosperous Nepal. Dahal said that the huge surge of goodwill and compassion of local communities provided strong inclination for national solidarity and unthinkable magnitude of forgiveness of past prejudice. He further said that volunteerism of many minority communities, such as Kamlaris, Sheikhs, Tharus and Teli society, just to name a few, helped Nepali society to heal and remove their social and geographical distance for the attainment of shared goal of human wellbeing. Dahal also highlighted the importance civic education can play in community mobilization and mobilizitation of the local resources for the post-quake reconstruction. This can also help enhancing the democratic political culture in society which is deficit in Nepali 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. The necessity of programmes of this nature has also increased primarily because there has been strong demand for the effective role of the state by the people during the time of crisis such as earthquake in rescue, relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction while media highlighted the not so positive role of political parties and other non-state agencies. 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 in the light of great earthquake. He also provided the current state of affairs of relief and reconstruction in various earthquake hit area.

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.

Discussion

Purnahari Subedi said that the upcoming constitution should incorporate duties of the citizens in addition to the rights in order to strike a right balance in society.

Kurmahari Subedi highlighted local problems (problems relating to the bridge that is to be built over Ratukhola). He pointed out that the Nepali civil servants neither tries to understand the problems nor do they take issues seriously. Their main job, over the years, has been to blame people, in one way or other, whereas they are the one who have been promoting corruption in Nepal society. He pointed out that civil servants (specially the high-ranking officers) are found to have been distributing citizenship certificate illegally (mostly in Terai) and there are many evidences to prove this claim. He also said that political leaders always prefer to stay in power and also think they know everything. Like political leaders, they do have a tendency to blame others and impose everything over the people.

Kurmahari also expressed his frustration that exists in our legal system and underlined the need to carry out overhauling of such a system for the swift delivery of justice for all.

Uddhav Bhattarai, UML, argued that the land use policy should be brought. In the absence of land use policy there has been haphazard urbanization process in Nepal. He also asked what provision are there in the upcoming constitution with regard to women's rights, that is, particularly the rights relating over the body of women which appears to have been misunderstood.

Kumar Dahal, NC, was of the view that, in recent times, there are women's who are found to have been performing multiple marriages merely for the property as they keep on divorcing one after another. How can we stop this asked Mr Dahal as it has created many social problems in our society.

Ganesh Basnet also highlighted the problem relating to the bridge over Ratukhola. He pointed out that why policy has not been constructed as yet despite commitments made by the people.

Ambika Bhujel, NGO Personnel, was of the view that there is great deal of necessity to change our existing education system which does not necessarily provide education that can help society to function peacefully. She has also argued that the role of women needs to be further expanded. She also asked as what civic education truly play to uphold the society together? What benefit can it offer to the people to the society? She also asked as which state can be stated modern and which not.

Sani Bhandari, Rastriya Sanskrit Vidalaya was also of the view that there is a great deal of importance to increase the quality of our education. She also said that if the society is educated the violence against women certainly will subside.

Adak B Baniya was of the view that we should fix certain educational qualification to become parliamentarians. He was also of the view that political leaders speak one thing and do another. For example they talk about equality with the people but they do not really try to make policies that promote equality when they got to power.

Sharada Thapa said that those who are found guilty of raping should be given maximum punishment and such cases should be dealt through fast-track.

Jaya Narayan Sharma said that in this programme we talked about so many issues but not really covered the role of the state. He also said that we need to bring necessary changes in our existing education system and there is an urgent need to include the component of civic education therein.

Doma Shahi Bista asked a question relating to citizenship certificate particularly in a situation when Nepali women marries the foreigner and children's born thereof.

Saraswati Chaudhary said that in the upcoming constitution should have a provision of have women candidates in each and every election as this ensure their participation on the politics.

Conclusion

In concluding seminar Shree Arjun Pokhrel thanked FES for organising this seminar. This is a very good programme and should continue in the future as well. 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 recent times, many obstacles have come up particularly after the earthquake. Such obstacles can be addressed with the enhanced community resiliency at various layers of society. This also helps to build civic political culture in the days to come. Civic education, the main theme of these seminars, also help 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 in harmonising 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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