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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

6-7 June 2015, Ranigunj, Siraha


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office has organised a two day seminar at Raniganj, Sarlahi of district on 6-7 June, 2015. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 135 participants out of whom 40 were females and it was chaired by Uttam Raj Ghimire. 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 was organized in Ishwarpur Municipality. This is the first programme FES has conducted after the earthquake of April/May 2015. The overarching 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 of Nepali society which has been needed to reinforce community resilience to address both political as well as the problems caused by the natural disaster. In addition to this the programme had broader 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, put forward 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 well-being. Dahal also highlighted the importance of civic education and role it can play in community mobilization and mobilisitation of the local resources for the post-quake rebuilding. This can also help enhancing the 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. 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

Shanta Rijal was of the view that we should not send women as migrant workers without building their skills and capacity. She also said that the state should not merely aim to send people outside of the country. We should rather focus generating job within the country.

Sitaram Karki said that our constitution talks about the fundamental rights but there is no opportunity available within the country to fulfill those rights stated in the constitution. There has been rampant corruption in our society and deep political instability. Poor people of this country cannot avail quality education. The ethnic politics have pushed poor people further behind in the social radar. Dalits have little opportunity. We need to identify the poor not jatis per se (ethnic community per se).

Ganesh Thakur said that poor people of this country have no or little access to the justice society. The justice system only serves the interests of the rich capitalistic class. He further asked are there any ways by which the poor also can get the justice in this country.

Meen B Karki asked whether inclusionary system floated in Nepal is in line with social justice.

Krishna Gautam, UCPN (M) also expressed his frustration with the existing state of political affairs and said that everything is moving towards reverse direction. The developmental approaches are leader centric. Agriculture is not in priority. Education is commercialized. Farmers are not getting the benefits from the state and its agencies to enhance farming and also to enhance their enterprising approaches. Civic education needs to be given to the people even those who are living in the rural areas.

Kedar Ghimire said that political leaders and people at large should move in tandem with the statebuilding process in Nepal. He also enquired why political leaders should not be required to have certain qualifications to become the parliamentarians. Why fundamental rights (32 listed in the interim constitution) but not really brought into the implementation phase.

Dhruba Gautam asked when P N Shah unified Nepal whether staebuilding or nationbuilding approaches are accomplished or not. What type of state should we envision now? He was of the view that the people who are in higher echelons of state affairs (including politics) badly need civic education. The rampant corruption that exists at the higher level needs to be eradicated and for that we need to adopt many methods including through the civic education as well.

Yog Raj Pathak asked what type of modern state is this where democracy is limited within the circle of political class only. We are not yet clear as what type of people should join politics. He said that there has to be license process to come into the politics. There is no uniformity in our education system. We say that education for all but the books for the same come from different industries (he was hinting the sharp anomalies that exists in our education system).

Bishnumani Ghimire asked who is running this state and what the limitations of CIAA. What is our own responsibility with respect to statebuilding, democracy promotion, and civic education.

Hem Gautam said that teachers of public school in this country are not putting their children in the same school where they teach. Instead they choose to send them boarding schools. We have to reverse this process. He further asked how we can increase the economic resources of the country.

Bharat Gautam was of the view that during the recent earthquake we found the role of Nepal army more positive and that of political parties and civil servant very hopeless and this has compelled many people to increase the number of army and reduce the civil servants. Nepal Army and other security forces should be involved in the reconstruction f this country.

Nareandra Pakhrin advised that we should not allocate quotas for dalits, janjatis, and madhesi. We should instead empower them through education. As the quotas allocated for them are hijacked by those who are already better off in society. The resources that have come from the international community and donors has also been usurped by the elites irrespective of their caste, class, and ethnicity.

Shova Shrestha said that state should pay urgent attention to the issue of women as there are increases cases of violence against women. The tendency to protect criminals should be discouraged in society as most of the criminals are protected by the parties and the groups closely linked with parties.

The Prinicpal of the school said that we need to adopt the democratic system that is suitable for our country and this certainly could be none other than social democratic model.

Yadav P Adhikari asked what type of education can help to build modern Nepal. While everybody (mainly the youths) are migrating from the country, who will built the state. So there is need to promote economy that can hold people back in the country.

Hridayanarayan Mahato said that the voice in favour of federalism was raised long time back by Ram Raja Prasad Singh , Gajendra Narayan Singh and later by the Maoists, Madhesis and Janjati. Therefore there is an urgent need to fulfill this demand by the state as it has been long overdue.

Amrit Chaudhary said that the provision of reservation is not really practical in Nepal and there is a need to reflected on the existing policies. Only those who have been historically left behind in many ways should be given reservations not the all. He also said that there is an urgent need to improve the quality of community schools in Nepal.

Harinarayan Shah said we need to be clear on education policy as its is importance to uplift people's living standard wherever they come from and whoever they are.

Asha Karki there are ascetic and religious persons in our society and there is need to provide religious education in our schools as well.

Deepak Dhungel appealed that the disable persons should be given special provision to lead their life with respect and dignity.

Prakash Mainali said that the Hulaki Rajmarga has been built for the security point of view and the state should pay attention to it. Likewise, we have been cheated in Tanakpur and now in Lipulek.

Muna Dahal Upadhyay thanked the organizers for bringing such an excellent programme even during this time of national crisis. She said that there is an urgent need to bring about positive changes in our political culture and it has not been changed over the years. Everything else has changed. Therefore there is an urgent need to change our school curriculum that can teach civic education which ultimately will help to build civic political culture.

Balram Polkhrel also thanked the organizer for the porgammed and said that the experts in this country are divided. There is an urgent need to promote economy so that we can stop our youngsters going abroad for job. He further asked why our Bank do not trust the labour who, at the end of the day, are the backbone of our economy.

Hemraj Gautam also asked about the need of land use policy in the country.

Babukaji Pradhan said that though Nepal is agricultural country but there are no marketing provisions to do the same. He said that there is no proper policy for agriculture in Nepal

Sansari Maya expressed her concern that as how best we can address our problems locally.

Bishnu Prasad Timilsina said that we all have to be morally very strong.

Conclusion

In the concluding seminar, speaking from the chair, Uttam Raj Ghimire thanked participants for their valuable time in such scorching heat. He further said that there is an urgent need to inculcate positive thinking in our minds and also our approach should change for the better. This is a very good programme and should continue in the future. 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 and the situation has further changed with the recent crisis brought about by the earthquake. Such obstacles can be addressed with the promotion of civic education at various layers of society as it will further enhance societal resilience. 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 to harmonise state-society relations. 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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