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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

19-20 June 2015, Manigram, Rupandehi


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office has organized a two day seminar at Manigram in Rupendehi district on 19-20 June, 2015. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 120 participants out of whom 22 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, security personnel, other stake holders of the society. The programme was jointly organized with Rammani Multiple Campus and was chaired by its Chairperson Shree Gopal Bhattarai. 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 has 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 need to rebuild more resilient and prosperous Nepal. Dahal said that the helping hand extended to the earthquake victims by various communities' shows who resilient Nepali society is. He further said that the spirit of solidarity shown by the communities such as Kamlaris, Sheikhs, Tharus, Teli, and others is no less. Dahal also highlighted the importance civic education the role it can play in building resilient society for the post-quake reconstruction. He further said that this can also help in enhancing civic political culture in society which can alone contribute in shaping the democratic political culture. He said that we have landed in a situation where many issues need broader discussion and wider societal participation to move the nationbuilding process ahead. Necessity of programmes of this nature have also increased primarily because there has been strong demand from the part of the people that the state should play more effective role during the time of crisis such as earthquake in rescue, relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction at a time when media highlighted 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.

Welcoming the participants as well as the organizers Campus Chief Mohan Raj Sharma said that there is an urgent need to include civic education in our schools and colleges. He said that the intellectual environment in our country is declining and needs to be given a serious thought. He thanked FES for brining all the academics available in the district in the common platform and this will surely force to rethink our scholars and political leaders to reinvigorate the academic environment in our campuses. This will also generate the sense of civic solidarity among people said Sharma.

Speaking in the inaugural session Chief Education Development Officer (CEDO) Tek Bahadur Thapa said that we should all be responsible from our level and realise the fact that civic acts should begin from our own end rather than expecting it to happen from others.

Among three papers, Dev Raj 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. Mr. Dahal also expressed his concern that the regime oriented natures of our political parties have undermined the very idea of nation-state. Mr. 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 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

Shiv Prasad Poudyal expressed his concern that why we have failed to take action against those who have misappropriated materials that has been given to the conflict victims. He also enquired difference between civic education and civic consciousness. For him, while the former comes from the formal education the latter, for its part, can be achieved without going for the formal education. He further said that we have everything except the leaders to move this country ahead.

Lekhnath Pandey was of the view that civic education should be utilised for the transformation of self rather than making effort to transform others.

Yagya Gaire, Head Teacher, said that there is an urgent need to include civic education in the school/college curriculum.

Reshami Raj Gaire was particularly concern that the fragmentation of land should be stopped at any cost. He further said that in order to consolidate nationalism - we need to promote civic education in our schools. Civic education also contributes in addressing the problem that exists in our society. He made this point that many countries in the world have progressed with the help of their own culture. So he made the point that culture and religion has nothing to do with our backwardness.

Shree Gautam said that it is important to translate theories into action. Failing to do so will become like a story of bringing water from Melamchi to Kathmandu.

Kajiman Shrestha, NTUC, was of the view that it is important to provide civic education to those who are not in this room. More or less, those who are attending this seminar are aware of about civic education and have shown some sort of sensitivity towards society. But it is important that those who are sitting in the upper echelons of power should know about it. It is also important to provide such education to our children.

Chakra B Magar asked while building modern state - is it that we can provide states to each and every ethnic groups ? While it is important that we should include each and every group in the governance mechanism but despite having two-third majority, constitution has not been promulgated yet. There is a debate about religion - should Nepal returned to Hindu state or continue consolidating secularism. We have been struggling to establish the identity of Buddha with Nepal but we are not ready to accept Buddhism as state religion. This would have sorted out the dilemma of Buddha whether he was born in India or in Nepal.

Ganga Shahi , NC, was of the view that we should provide civic education to our children through schools/colleges. She asked what would be the role of workers in New Nepal. She further said that we should not bring those people into parliament through proportional representation system that has lost the election.

Tek Raj Aryal was of the view that political leaders have important role to play in building modern Nepal and for that they also need to be aware of civic sense.

Kul P Lamichhane said that it's not only about the people but it is also important that the institutions of the state have to be equally responsible towards their duty. Nepali state has not been doing justice particularly to the teachers. It signs various agreement(s) with the leadership of the teacher but such agreements never get implemented. Further, he also said that we need to be very careful about this.

Suresh Pariyar said that it should not be an issue that states has become poor, what really troubles us is that when intellectuals become pauper. Programmes on civic education (like this) should have been implemented by us rather than having it from outside.

Chandra Kunwar, School Inspector, apprised various issues related to school administration. He also expressed his concerned that civic education should be included in the school curriculum.

Meghraj Acharya, Head Teacher, said that there is a need to bring about changes in our education system and also to include the element of civic education in the curriculum.

One Participant (no name given) expressed his concern about the mismanagement that has taken in the distribution of relief materials. He also raised role of the donors. There is a huge gap between the pledge and the real delivery.

Shankar Acharya asked what steps are being taken for the civic education from the part of the government.

Gahnga Shahi raised the point as how can we reduce the gap in our education system. The private and the public dilemma is huge. The discriminatory policies that exist in our education system should be abolished. She also raised the issue of C K Raut - who has been openly using indecent languages against the women of Nepal (mainly the hill origin). She also wanted to know about the sixteen point agreement(s) and fall out it would have on our political process.

Gopal Panthi said that the reservation policy adopted by the state is against the law of the land primarily because there is a provision equality. But reservation does not necessarily promote the same.

Tek Nath Aryal wanted to know about secularism vs. Hindu state. The debate between the two has raged the country.

Tikananda Gautam said that our electoral system is not transparent and in order to avoid such discrepancies we need to have certain solid provisions in the constitution.

Ramchandra Shrestha has asked about the philosophy of Hobbes, Marx and other and their impact in our society. He also asked why there are only two parties in the developed countries and many parties in our part of the world.

Usha Lama said that we need to provide civic education to our children as well.

Surendra S Bishwakarma has raises serious concern about untouchability and underlined the need to completely abolish it from our society. The certification of dalits is creating more problems in society and such provisions should be discouraged.

Bhanubhakta Bhusal asked who we can become a developed nation when there is huge under spent on capital expenditure.

Chakra B Magar has advocated for the ethnic states.

Conclusion

In concluding seminar Shree Gopal Prasad Bhattarai thanked FES for organising this seminar. This is a very good programme and should continue in the future as well. Likewise Shree Guru Datta Gyanwali also should that we need bring real change n our society and for that civic education is important. He further said that organization of such programme itself is a success as they would help to promote common national identity which is essential for statebuildingl. 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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