Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Elections are one step in a long-term peace process. Two years ago, Jana Anadolan II set the foundation for this change. With a new leadership, what role will Nepali people play in the determining the future of the democratic transition of the nation? The IPJ and MSBK-Nepal (see below) roundtable “Reaching Stable Peace: Roundtable on Reconciliation” held in Pokhara encouraged participants to identify and articulate some of the key challenges still facing their respective sectors.
Fourteen representatives of three political parties, eight civil society organizations and five security sector bodies contributed to the two-hour dialogue on their concerns about the peace process and the challenges and issues for those they represent, namely socio-economic development, rule of law, impunity, ending corruption and accountability of elected officials.
With a vision for the long-term nature of peacebuilding, one political representative stated: “Although there may be many disturbances along the way that act as hurdles, the main concern is in the process of establishing a republic. The second challenge is the social economic disparity that the country is now facing; there isn’t a lot of work being done to empower the people economically. If this feudal system ends, in 10 years time, then this period is an opportunity, and it will be possible for the resources to be distributed to the citizens and the power will be disseminated to the people.” “The most important thing is to maintain law and order,” another expressed. Adding to the discussion on rule of law, one participant stated: “I want to raise an issue related to the security field, there is a great challenge in the integration of the Maoist army and the National Army; there is little consensus on how to integrate the forces.” In addition, “everyone is talking about a federal system, but as we the security personnel see, no one is talking about the framework of the security personnel in that system and how that will be addressed.” Restructuring of the existing forces and incorporation into the evolving government structures were key concerns raised during the discussion.
One of the threats to ending impunity is the politicization of the security sector and the silencing of the victims and their families. “There are weak sanctions. Sometimes we [state security personnel] bring in the culprits, only to have pressure of the political parties to release them. The new constitution will have to have strict laws so Nepal is a more secure place and it is easier for us to work.” “No one discusses the disappeared and the murdered,” shared a civil society representative. Another cited lack of criminal investigations as one of the challenges; “compensation may be given to the victim’s families in some cases, but the investigation is not done.” One advocate concluded, “the real conflict is over, but the consequences of conflict still remain, like the conflict victims. There needs to be more policies to give attention to the conflict victims” and reminded the group of the provision for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Interim Constitution.
“One of the most dangerous things in Nepal is corruption and bureaucracy and until that is changed, people will not feel peace.” While corruption is rampant throughout Nepal, in the political realm, the “administration and bureaucracy only serve the parties, and the people are still suffering. The parties’ only agenda has become the political agenda, but we must focus on human dignity to reach sustainable peace and development.” A political party representative noted, “in the drafting of the constitution, 26 seats were reserved for intellectuals. Those seats have been mis-used; the parties have divided the seats among themselves, trying to make themselves stronger, rather than focusing on the people’s needs. Thus, there are no independent candidates that are fighting for the people’s needs in the cabinet. In the very first stage of the drafting of the constitutions, [the major parties] are making it about getting power.” One method to curb corruption is increased accountability of the political parties to those that they represent. As voters, “we have influence on the elected member, but the question is whether those people elected will be ultimately by influenced by the people or the party? If the party influences more than the people, then it’s no use.” The fact that many members of the CA are new, and perhaps less experienced, was seen as a two-edged sword: they might be more susceptible to pressure to follow the party line, or they might be more open to listen to the people’s concerns if they were voiced clearly. “In spite of political connections, there are still people [in the CA] who represent castes and other areas.”
Another aspect of accountability raised was the decentralization of power. While there was a heated debate on the value and practicality of federalism, there was consensus that the people of Nepal “are expecting decentralization. They want skills training in decision making to be enhanced so that they can make their decisions for themselves.” Regardless of the divisions designed in the new constitution, one step is to “empower the existing system of the government such as the mayors, village development committees (VDCs) and district development committees (DDCs).” Despite the many challenges addressed during the roundtable, participants reaffirmed their commitment to work for peace and security in Nepal. They emphasized the importance of working across party lines, as well as among the diverse sectors represented in the room, to achieve their vision for sustainable peace.
Manabiya Srot Bikas Kendra Nepal (MSBK-Nepal) is an NGO working in Nepal with the vision of ideal society building with effective mechanism to bring up human potentialities. Its main objective is to enhance capacities of the grass root NGOs and communities for the empowerment of disadvantaged section of the society. Currently MSBK-Nepal is working in 10 districts of Western Development Region in the areas of education, good governance, peace building, youth leadership development, ICT and capacity building.
Joining Aker and Taylor in facilitating the dialogue was Upendra Malla Tara, member secretary / director of MSBK-Nepal, who has worked in the field of development since last eight year. Upendra has served in Western Development Region in areas of good governance, peace building, education development and capacity building in partnership with various reputed NGOs and INGOs. As a coordinator, he has worked for peace radio project in 10 communities from 5 districts of Western Development Region in partnership with IPJ. The project was focused on facilitating community discussions on radio episodes broadcasted by Equal Access Nepal for peace building process.