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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

27-28 February 2015, Faparbari, Makwanpur


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar at Faparbari of Makawanpur district on 27-28 February, 2015. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 190 participants out of whom 66 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 seminar was held in the Shree Janata Higher Secondary School and chaired by Shree Jeet Bahadur Shrestha, Chairman, School Management Committee. There are teachers from 35 schools and two campuses. 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. Quoting German Philosopher Immanuel Kant he said that civic enlightenment requires the liberation of citizen and leader from family, civic and pious tutelages with the ability to think and reflect and exercise freedom in personal and public lives. 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. This is one of the backward region of Makawanpur district and very few such activities take place. 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. He underlined the importance of civic education and its role in building prosperous society.
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

Bhim Prasad Ghimire, Teacher, asked about free education and enquired how realistic would it be in the case of Nepal. He also asked the community forests are not working as per the interests of the community.

Bhakta Bahadur Rai, Teacher, said that state is not really helping people. In fact in many cases it has been working against the interests of people. There are examples of double standard from the part of state in many development related activities. Such double standard can be avoided if the state adopts integrated approach in its developmental activities.

Mithu Biswokarma, Political and Social Activist said that rules and regulations differ from VDC to VDC and this is creating problems for the people to avail services from the VDCs. We need to have some sort of streamlining.

Netra Acharya, Gramin Mahila Sewa Kendra asked how we can stop youths going abroad for their livelihood. He also asked it would be good if we could engage them into the social works. National Youth Policy should clearly come up with policies that can provide solutions to the problems of youth.

Shantbir Pakhrin, Teacher, was of the view that Nepal's current political process is dismantling the Nepali state that was united by none other than P N Shah some 250 plus years ago. He was of the view that political parties should refrain from such activities. He also highlighted some problems that exists in the education sector and requested that concerned authorities should address these problems immediately. He further said that although vocational subject has been introduced but it has only been introduced in some classes. It would be better if it is introduced in the entire classes of the high-schools.

Laxmi Maya Thokkar was of the view that we need to be guided by the philosophy of Lord Buddha and Buddhism needs to be promoted for the world peace.

Bhakta Bahadur Rai said that state need to proper mechanism to address the consequences brought about by the climate change. He was also of the view that we need to provide 'identity' to those who are demanding it. This will also minimize the conflict arising out of identity politics.

Dil Krishna Thapa, Teacher, asked from where the issue of secularism came all of sudden as it was not the agenda of movement of 2005/2006. He cautioned, while Islam and Christians are fighting among themselves - we should be proud of the fact that such fighting do not occur with Hindu-Buddhism faith vis-à-vis others. He also expressed his dissatisfaction on continuous attack on Nepali nationalism - he asked - is this what we wanted from republicanism?

Som Bdr. Yonzon expressed his dissatisfaction towards dismal performance from the part of community schools. We need go for a quality education. Similarly, the children of teachers and school administrative authorities should also study in the same schools which have not been the case until now.

Balkrishna Sangbang, Teacher, inquired about federalism and secularism. He said that the Social Studies Book of Grade 8 explains federalism as ethnic component alone. Is it true asked Mr. Sangbang? He further raised his concern about including Brahmin and Chhetris in 'other' categories. He was of the view that this will create problems in society and its gross exclusionary policy. Nepal should remain as Hindu state as it gives us broader identity. He also asked why should state pay to the CA members who have continuously failed to delivery constitution.

Shantbir Pakhrin asked can we have constitution from two-third majority. The current electoral system is faulty argued Pakhrin.

Som Bahadur Yonzon the biggest challenge for us is as how best to elevate the thinking of political leaders beyond and above their own political parties and small petty interests. He was of the view that we need to change in our education, health, and economic policies as an endeavour to create an egalitarian society. We need to change the system wherein the political leaders are offered to go abroad for their medical check-up whereas there is nothing for people.

Rajendra Won, Student asked about the education tour should be made freely available to all the students. The budget allocated for the same should reach to the beneficiaries.

Conclusion

In concluding seminar Ms. Mithu Biswokarma and Mr, Bhakta Bahadur Rai have put their opinion and said that this is very good programme and should continue in the future. Likewise another respondent said 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. The discussion here reveals that there is a great deal of frustration towards the current political issues and federalism and inclusion have become the major bone of contention. Sudden arrival of these issues for mere political benefit has radicalised Nepali society. 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 in identifying the connectors of society.

Report prepared by CDB/FES

 
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