Role of civil society post quake and statute
One-day seminar jointly organised by NEFAS
12 December 2016 (Kathmandu)
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
Dev Raj Dahal, FES Nepal office head
The state should have ownership of politics, law and development
policy. The people and state are sovereign but they have now
become weak. Quite the contrary, those institutions, which are
not sovereign, are getting stronger. The civil society has to
explore the middle ground to connect the divergent social and
political groups. It should be should be autonomous and enlightened.
Nepal's politics has left the public life unsettled and posed
obstacles to safeguard the human rights. Since 1990 the nation
has witnessed 23 governments, marking an erosion of the state's
legitimate power to create public security, rule of law, delivery
of public goods and services to the ordinary people. The nation
at the moment faced following challenging tasks:
- To implement the statute by bringing the agitating Madhes-based
parties on board and holding the three-tier elections within
the stipulated timeframe.
- To downsize the Cabinet as per the statute that sets a cap
of only 25-member cabinet and place governance on the right
track through proper coordination between cabinet, constitutional
bodies, public administration and security agencies.
- To implement the agreements signed with China during prime
minister KP Sharma Oli's visit to the northern neighbour.
- Another challenge is to deal with those radical forces that
are outside of the peace process.
- To promote post -conflict reconciliation, reconstruction
and peace and post earthquake resilient building of livelihood,
relationship and development infrastructures and cultural
sites and rebound the ailing economy.
- To maintain balanced ties with neighbours- India and China.
NEFAS executive director Ananda Shrestha underlined the need
for giving a fair crack of whip to the youth in the political
leadership so as to bring a viable change to the country. They
should come up for the socio-economic changes. The people should
be well-informed about the burning topic of politics, constitution
and economic development. It is necessary to change the electoral
process to bring fresh blood into the politics. There should
be the age limit for the politicians; the Prime Minister should
not be allowed more than two terms in office and one must be
a graduate to be a lawmaker.
The gist of Roshan Pokharel paper 'Democracy, Constitution
Democracy is a competitive political system that is accountable
to the people. It ensures the people's participation in the
political decisions and policy making. It reflects their aspirations
in the governance system and ensures their say in the matters
of public concern such as food, shelter, cloth, health education,
occupation, entertainment and physical security. The people
send their representatives to formulate public policies, run
government, make decisions on the important matters and implement
them. Therefore, it is the fundamental principle of democracy
that people are decision-maker and control over the public issue.
It has method to maintain balance between the citizens' voice,
welfare and respect. No individual's post or institution is
above the constitution no matter how powerful they are. In the
21st century, Loktantra is invariably linked with the rights
of state, good governance, development, pluralism, human rights
and social justice.
However, our democracy has been entangled into the game of
words - democracy, Loktantra, republic, and people's republic.
It has become bourgeois, ritual and donor-driven. Almost two
decades elapsed since the local polls have not been held but
the policy makers seem reluctant to conduct the elections. In
the name of civic supremacy, the political parties have imposed
their partycracy in the country. In the name democracy, a handful
of people have plundered the nation's resources and means. Nepal
has never lost its dependence throughout its history but today's
Nepali nationality and identity is in jeopardy. Politicians
have made the nation weak and helpless. There is government
but it is unable to respect the people's desires. It seems it
is working at the instruction of foreigners to meet their vested
interest. Owing to the partisan culture of bhagbanda (share
and divide) and clashes of interests, the nation has not gained
momentum in the post-quake reconstruction and statute implementation,
and failed to achieve peace and security and good governance.
The country faltered to internationalize the Indian blockade.
Political movements are supposed to give a way out to the nation's
problems but every political change added new problems to the
country, inviting foreign meddling and pitting the people against
each other. The new constitution could breed new lines of conflict
if the people failed to enjoy fundamental rights enshrined in
the new constitution.
Comments from the floor
Keshav said that the civil society has been unable to push
the national agenda and play a role in implementing the statute.
Lal Babu Yadav said that the political parties should be accountable
to the parliament. They failed to go to the people in the aftermath
of the promulgation of the new constitution and inform them
about its positive attributes. The role of civil society is
to connect the society. Ashwin Kumar Pudasaini said that the
role of civil society is not effective. Professor MP Lohani
said that it had become tricky to define the term 'civil society'
as it had been highly partisan and incoherent. They have been
affiliated with different parties. The Nepalese civil society
has not learnd from the activism of civil society of South Korea.
Indira Panta said that the vision of welfare state, enshrined
in the statute, is incompatible with the economic policies.
Dr Prem Sharma the discussions should be theme-oriented. Jit
Bahadur Chaulagai said that new constitution is vague. More
one reads it, more one is confused by it. It has guaranteed
many fundamental rights but the implementation status is almost
disappointing. Ajit Rai said that the statute risks being failed
if the constitutional rights are not ensured. It is necessary
to have robust economic development to implement the welfare
provisions of state. Senior journalist P. Kharel said that the
Nepalese civil society had been divided into different political
groups and, therefore, they were unable to play their effective
and independent role. It has become a challenge to find genuine
civil society. Krishna Acharya said that a welfare state is
possible even in a market economy. Lalan Chaudhari said that
it is imperative to examine whether the statute has given solution
to the crisis or created anomalies. Ram Chandra Upadhyay said
that it will not be sufficient by just mentioning the people's
rights in the statute. There should be enabling lawas, regulations
and directives. Chiranjibi Katuwal asked the civil society to
go to the nook and cranny of the nation to take the stock of
social reality. Jagat Kumar Mandal said that it appears that
our curriculum and statute are similar. It is necessary to amend
it to increase the people's faith in it. All want to take from
the state and no one is ready to contribute to it.
From the chair, former vice-chair of National Planning Commission
professor Gunanidhi Sharma said that Nepal is an ancient civilizational
state and its legacy is glorious. It is not based on one school
of thought. There has been a moot question: Did the West learn
from the East or vice versa? In the free market economy, individual
rights are given primacy over the interest of community and
society but society and state are bigger than a person. The
identity of the state will be in jeopardy if every ethnic and
cultural groups attempt to seek their own identity at the expense
of national identity. It is urgent to discourage the elements
that weaken the people and nation. The politicians have developed
a bad habit of not listening to the voices of grassroots people.
The state should bring programmes to redress the balance.
The gist of Naresh Rimal's paper 'Post Reconstruction in
Nepal: Civil Society Perspective'.
Understanding disaster dynamics of earthquake in Nepal offers
physical, social and psychological context that affected communities'
innate ability to rebounce from helplessness to helpfulness
and hopeless and hopefulness. These characteristics cannot be
disembedded from communities' experience of civil was complexities
for contextual learning about healing brutalities and developing
collaboration and solutions to socio-ecological chaos driven
by market-based social disorder, political instability and long
standing political stalemate with bordering India. Various studies
and even the experience of Nepal offer multiple disaster impact
narratives and survivors' ability to bounce back to their normalcy
on livelihood trajectory including the psychological well-being.
However, resilience characteristics are place bound and the
nature of healing process through self-help within community
is faster than large institutional support. The narratives indicate
that while national government were much help in mobilizing
immediate relief, longer term healing has been mostly possible
through communities' own network and familial and cultural support.
There is a need for meta-disciplinary public administration
and management for offering solution and readiness for disaster
risk minimization for community resilience. It also requires
mobilizing local natural and human resources for effective and
efficient outcomes. As Nepal is a seismically active region,
threats from earthquakes must be addressed by protecting people
with appropriate infrastructure development and urbanization.
Comments from the floor
Ajit Rai said that return to normalcy from the quake's trauma
is very significant. Jit Chaulagai said that the quake had left
serious social, mental and psychological impacts on the victims.
Social counselling is necessary for the quake victims who are
suffering from emotional disorders. Hikmat Chanda called for
immediately addressing the mental and economic problems of the
victims. Krishna Acharya said that the civil society is not
equipped with the required resources so it is not practice to
expect much from them. Lal Babu Yadav said that the Nepalese
society is integrated, and the volunteers from Parsa and Mugu
went to the quake-hit sites to provide relief material to the
people. Santosh Pariyar said that Nepali culture and religion
helped to be resilient during the quake. Ingina Panthi said
that even in the midst of social crisis, the norms of accountability
should not be undermined. Gunanidhi Sharma said that the resiliency
of Nepali society is rooted in culture but its growing dependency
on the West has damaged our power of resiliency. Our tilt towards
the market fundamentalism has dented it.
From the chair, Chuda Bahadur Shrestha said that most of the
damage is caused by the destruction of man-made structures.
The civil war had weakened the state. The disaster preparedness
should be carried out at macro and micro level. Information
centres need to be set up to ensure the response of community.
First aid, public awareness and rehearsal (drill) are necessary.
Preparedness, relief, rehabilitation, and recovery are interlinked.
In the absence of local government, many victims have been deprived
of relief materials and grants.