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Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

20-21 February 2015, Khopasi, Kavre


Introduction

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar at Khopasi of Kavre district on 20-21 February, 2015. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for Statebuilding in Nepal from Below. There were around 200 participants out of whom 78 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 chaired by Shree Nani Bahadur Thapa, Resource Person, of the high schools of the surrounding areas. There are teachers from 28 schools and two campuses. The programme is organized in Shree Ram Higher Secondary School, Kavre. 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.

Discussion

Jagannath Giri, Farmer, federalism has been already added in the constitution and speaking against it is unconstitutional. I think we have to convert five developmental regions into federal states. This is what Nepali state can sustain as well.

Basant Silwal said that rising number of municipalities in the country is not necessarily benefiting people which were not the case with VDCs.

Ramesh Dahal (Not real name) said civic education is important and it can help state to bring in the right track. We need to have constitution in time so that we can have political stability in the country. Do we really need new political power in the country? The biggest challenge for us is people tend to stay in the power for the longer period of time and this has to be reversed so that younger generation can be brought in. The employee of municipality do not behave properly with the service recipient and they acts like the Badahakim.

Ms. Sirjana Tamang (student) asked which one is good between unitary system and federal system, could you please explain in detail.

Rajan Tamang said that progrmme like this should have come earlier so that people would have known about various components of politics, constitution, and civic education. From my point of view, he argued, constitution cannot merely written by four people which have been the case here in Nepal. We should try to include all the groups and stakeholders in the process. He also asked a practical question as how to get citizenship certificate of the one who doesn't know about the addresses or whereabouts her parental house.

Prayag KC inquired as how judiciary and democracy can function when everything is dominated or influenced by party-politics that begins right from the appointment of the judges. How can we minimise the influence of executive over judiciary. This perhaps is the biggest challenge of ours.

Dwarika Das Shrestha said we have become a state without constitution. He also said that we need to write constitution with consensus as none of the parties enjoy absolute majority. We should not put people in trouble. In the future, we should not have too many CA members (601 - this number needs to be brought down). President should be directly elected by the people - this can also provide political stability in the country.

Rajesh Raj Maharjan, Teacher, was of the view that there are many reasons why constitution has not been written but the most important, among others, are the issues of federalism and the form of government. More importantly, he said, the civil society is also influenced by NGOs/INGOs. I am sure both political parties and civil society groups have clearly understood this fact that the increase influence of 'dollar' has created obstacles to move the political process ahead.

Ms. Chandra Shrestha, Teacher, asked what type of education system would best suit our politics that can provide stability in the country. Why Nepal is becoming weaker day-by-day. She further said that before the year 2043 BS the focus of Nepali state was on agriculture and industry which has not been the case now. How can we reverse this cycle - asked Ms. Shrestha ?
Bodh Bahadur Khadka asked whether state can have its official religion or not ? He also asked what secularism is and whether the upcoming constitution will have only space for religion or not.
There was one more question on secularism and religious tolerance from another participant who did not wish to disclose his name.

Dushyant Silwal, Teacher, inquired about the Puja Kumar's case (the alleged rape of Ms Puja Bohara of Baitadi district by two teen agers. This case has taken centre state particularly after the decision of appellate court. The court's said that it did not find not even a single evidence based-on which the action could be taken against the culprit).

Rajesh Raj Mahat, Lecturer, asked the role of Rana's in nationalism. He was of the view that Rana's did not have any love towards the country, whatever they did was to merely stay in the power. He also enquired about the open market economy's role in strengthening national economy.

Ram Chandra Satyal asked about the role of Raj Vidhya, Dev Vidhya, and Aasuri Vidhya. He was of the view that since Asuri Vidhya has dominated our society and under such circumstances there are no way that we can have peace in our society. He cited examples from Mahabharata about statecraft.

Rajan Tamang, Teacher, was of the view that Nepali people want peace and social harmony in our society. He asked whether the upcoming constitution can provide the same.

Dev Kaji Tamrakar also asked how can judiciary provide justice when it has been heavily dominated by those who area in the power. The politics have negation has become influential in the country and he cited the examples of late Ganesh Man Singh and Krishna P. Bhattarai. How have they been deceived by the party in their later life?

Samiksha Chapagaian, Teacher said that she is very happy to be part of this seminar. She asked what you mean by handicapped. How does law explains it?

Jyoti Kumar Sapkota wondered how we can have Press Freedom when most of the newspapers have become mouth-peace of political parties.

Lalita Acharya Koirala, Teacher, what type of education system be most suitable for the modern state?

Pradip Tamrakar asked about the some practical (personal problems) issues related with divorce cases.

Ram Chandra Dahal said that in many of our government offices the concerned officials do not stay in their cabin and this has caused nuisance for the people. He also said that please teach our political leaders about nationalism and the importance of civic education.

Bharat Raj Mahat, Former VDC Member, was of the view that the elected representative has become helpless. Political parties have become more dominant only in imposing their ideas but not necessary providing ideas that can address the ensuing political crisis in the country. He asked whether you have ever advised them if yes what type of advice you have provided to t hem.

Haribol KC said that our political leaders think themselves as the incarnation of god and this has to be changed. What is secularism asked Mr KC?

Rajesh Mahat inquired how secularism and ethnic state go can together as the one contradicts the other. He further asked why we are going to have more states in hilly areas and less in Terai.

Conclusion

In concluding seminar Ms. Samiksha Chapagai said that this is very good programme and should l 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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