Category Archives: Nepal

IPJ Travels to Nepal in Wake of New Constitution, Unrest in the Terai

Staff members Dee Aker and Daniel Orth were in Nepal in January to work with local partners of the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. Since the promulgation of a new constitution in August 2015, Nepal has been gripped by unrest in the southern plains region known as the Terai and home to the Madhesi people. Citing problems with the new constitution and historical grievances about political and economic marginalization, large segments of the Madhesi population, mobilized by political parties, have taken to the streets in protest and created a blockade on the southern border with India through which a majority of the country’s imports arrive. The state has responded harshly to the protestors and security forces have been implicated in the deaths of protestors and civilians, while police officers also have been attacked and killed.

Through conversations with a wide range of actors including police, political leaders, protestors, civil society, media, youth, women and violence-affected families, the IPJ team offered a platform for individuals to share their experiences and to feel heard, and in the process gained a deeper understanding of the current context for the IPJ’s future work.

Women members of Parliament speak about the challenges confronting Nepal and how women can help to solve them

Women members of Parliament speak about the challenges confronting Nepal and how women can help to solve them

With the help of local partners, Aker and Orth brought together more than 110 individuals at six roundtable discussions and one full-day workshop. From Armed Police Force officers sitting with protest leaders, to women from opposite sides — one who lost a child and one who lost her livelihood — these events offered the opportunity for individuals to hear from “the other,” reducing misunderstanding and beginning to rebuild trust.

The IPJ team also had the chance to speak with more than 40 individuals during several one-on-one interviews and small group meetings. They sat down with influential elites that included Nepal’s current Prime Minister, K.P. Oli, and two former prime ministers; U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Alaina Teplitz; more than a dozen members of Parliament; high-ranking police officials; and Madhesi protest leaders.

The risk of continued conflict remains high and ultimately the solutions will need to come from within the country; however the IPJ remains committed to creating opportunities for the people of Nepal to engage in more productive conversations to achieve a just and peaceful country for all citizens.

IPJ Director Dee Aker speaks with Prime Minister K.P. Oli

IPJ Director Dee Aker speaks with Prime Minister K.P. Oli

News in Review: Nepal – December 11, 2015

Nepal News in Review

This past week senior Nepali leaders spent time in India and London trying to resolve the border blockade and diplomatic tensions. While in London, Nepali Congress leader and lawmaker Udaya Sumsher Rana alleges that British officials told him it was inappropriate for senior Nepali leadership to show aggression towards India. Furthermore, Indian Minister of External Affairs told Nepali Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa the only barrier to trade with Nepal is Nepal’s own political situation. The political situation in Nepal is creating a humanitarian crisis as residents, and particularly children, are going without basic needs due to India’s border blockade and Nepal’s internal strife. Bangladesh and China are both working towards agreements with Nepal to meet some of the growing needs, but estimates suggest that millions of children are at risk.

Border Blockade

Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa met Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi early last week to discuss India’s border blockade with Nepal. Swaraj assured the prime minister that there were no hindrances to supplies from the Indian side and Nepal only need normalize their political situation to get the supplies they need. Meanwhile, Nepali Congress leader and lawmaker Udaya Sumsher Rana met with British officials in London during the International Leaders Programme, where they discussed Nepal and India’s diplomatic tensions and the growing humanitarian crisis.

Pkharel, Nabin. “Uk officials blame nepal’s diplomatic failure for border blockade.” The Kathmandu Post. Novembe 30, 2015.

Thapa meets Swaraj, India retells Nepal to normalise political situation to ease supplies.The Himalayan Times. December 2, 2015.

Humanitarian Crisis

The humanitarian crisis in Nepal is worsening as winter nears. UNICEF has claimed the crisis is putting millions of children at risk due to shortages of food and vaccines. The Accountability Watch Committee, a human rights committee based in Nepal, made submissions last Monday to the UN Special Rapporteurs on “the negative impact of unilateral measures on the enjoyment of Human rights,” asking them to intervene and stop the blockade so Nepali citizens can continue enjoying their human rights.

AWC seeks UN Special Rapporteurs’ intervention in ‘India blockade against Nepal’.” The Himalayan Times. November 30, 2015.

Nepal shortages put millions of children at risk, says Unicef.” The Gulf Times. November 30, 2015.

China & Bangladesh to Aid Nepal

China and Nepal have reached a tentative agreement on the long-term importation of oil from China into Nepal. Also, Bangladesh Ambassador to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams said his country would provide a transit facility for any petroleum products from third-party countries.

Bangladesh ready to provide ports to Nepal for fuel import: Ambassador Shams.” The Himalayan Times. November 30, 2015.

Khanal, Rajesh. “Nepal, China Reach ‘Tentative Pact.’The Kathmandu Post. December 1, 2015.

News in Review: Nepal – November 19

Nepal News in Review

Nepali leadership continues its struggle to quell unrest amongst the Madhesi people. Last week, former PM Madhav voiced concerns that Madhesi leadership are for their own benefit misrepresenting the issues to the Madhesi people. Furthermore, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon responded to India’s alleged border blockade with Nepal, calling for the countries to “lift the obstructions without further delay.”

Border Problems

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed concerns late last week over the continued obstruction of essential supplies on the Nepal-India border. Significant shortages remain, even with the increase in supplies coming into Nepal, forcing the Nepali people to cross into India to get basic essentials.

UN speaks about blockade, underlines Nepal’s right to free transit.” Kathmandu Post. November 12, 2015.

Bordering Indian market full with Nepali customers.”  The Himalayan Times. November 12, 2015.

Flow of cargo-laden vehicles from India increases.” The Himalayan Times. November 16, 2015.

Madhesi Unrest Continues

Nepali leadership have been critiquing the unrest in the Madhesi region. Particularly, Former Prime Minister and senior CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal late last week accused Madhesi political party leadership of creating conflict by intentionally misinterpreting the new constitution. Again Sunday, the leadership met to try to reach an agreement and once again failed to reach consensus and end the unrest.

Political parties in Nepal fail to settle internal differences.” Review Nepal. November 15, 2015.

Protest goes against Madhesis: Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. November 17, 2015.

News in Review: Nepal – October 29

Over the last two weeks Nepal has struggled to push forward in the midst of heightened unrest and violence. While the government has sought aid from China to meet a shortage of oil and petroleum imports, the Madhesi people continue to push for more equal constitutional representation. Meanwhile, Saturday was an important day for Nepal as the legislative party voted to hold elections for the presidency and vice presidency.

Oil from China

China is sending Nepal 1,000 metric tons of petrol as a subsidy to ease the fuel crisis. According to sources close to the Commerce Ministry, they have agreed to sign a deal to export petroleum products to Nepal in the future.

Nepal govt. decides to import petroleum products from China.” Review Nepal. October 25, 2015.

China to provide Nepal oil to ease crisis.” Gulf Times. October 24, 2015.

Conflict with Madhesi

So far action to address the grievances of the Madhesi have not succeeded, as the government failed to reach a deal with the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha on Sunday and the United Democratic Madhesi Front voted to intensify their protest program.

Talks with Madhesi bear no fruit.” Review Nepal. October 25, 2015.

UDMF protests turn violent in Terai.” Review Nepal. October 25, 2015.

Samiti, Rastriya Samachar. “UDMF cadres clash with police, half dozen hurt.” The Himalayan Times. October 24, 2015.

Border and Supply Problems Remain

Despite agreements with China to import many tons of petrol, scarcity persists as the Nepali regions bordering India remain “unofficially blocked” according to local residents. One consequence, among many, is an increase in the sale on the black market of petroleum products to try and quell the problem.

Government effortful to ease border problems: DPM Thapa.” Review Nepal. October 24, 2015.

EU calls on India to ensure essential supplies to Nepal.” Kathmandu Post. October 24, 2015.

Black marketing of petroleum products goes unchecked in Rupandehi.” The Himalayan Times. October 24, 2015.

President and VP Elections

On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, the Nepalese parliament held its first presidential election since the adoption of the new constitution and in a historic decision elected its first female president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari. President Bhandari is a longtime advocate for women’s rights and will join the Nepali leadership as it tries to overcome current unrest and usher in a new era with a new constitution.

Associated Press in Kathmandu. “Nepalese parliament elects first female president.” The Guardian. October 28, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Nepal – October 15, 2015

Unrest continues in Nepal as protests remain in the Madhesi and Tharu regions, people struggle with fuel shortages and Nepali police forces experience clashes with Indian border security. Despite these moments of unrest, the country is trying to move forward with the election of a new prime minister from the Communist Party of Nepal-UML, who seems hopeful and confident that the government will address the remaining political issues. Meanwhile, Nepali Police and the government are trying to assuage the gas shortages with the implementation of a free bus service around the capital city and one-time sales of four gallons per vehicle until the shortage is over. Trade with neighboring Bangladesh has also been disrupted.

A New Prime Minister for Nepal

Communist Party of Nepal-UML leader KP Sharma Oli has been elected prime minister. India has welcomed the new PM, but promises to ‘wait and watch’ whether he addresses the concerns of Nepal’s minority groups in resolving their constitutional concerns.

Sharma, Bharda and Ellen Barry. “Nepal Elects K.P. Sharma Oli as New Prime Minister.” The New York Times. October 11, 2015.

India Welcomes Oli’s Election as New PM.” The Kathmandu Post.  October 11, 2015.

PTI. “India to ‘wait and watch’ as new Nepal PM takes charge.” The Economic Times. October 13, 2015.

India-Nepal Security Forces Clash

Indian border security and Nepali police forces have clashed recently. In the most recent incident, Indian border security officers are alleged to have dragged a Nepali police officer across the border and thrashed him.

Indian SSB men drags Nepal Police officer into Indian territory and beat up.” The Kathmandu Post. October 11, 2015.

Shortage Remains Despite Open Border

Fuel trucks are now entering Nepal daily, but still only amount to about 6,000 tons a week, 24,000 tons less than they are used to having. Government and police are trying to combat the fuel shortage with a free bus service in the capital and additional gas sales from China, but so far Nepal is still coming up short.

Fuel tankers, cargo trucks enter Nepal from India via Sunauli.” The Himalayan Times. October 12, 2015.

Nepal Police Begin Free Bus Service in Kathmandu.” The Kathmandu Post. October 12, 2015.

Gurubacharya, Binja. “Border between China and Nepal reopens after earthquake repairs; gov’t allows some gas sales.” Star Tribune. October 13, 2015.

Trade Troubles

Nepal’s trade with Bangladesh has been halted for the last two weeks since India is accused of enforcing an unofficial trade embargo. Bangladesh exporters say they are concerned about dispatching goods to Nepal for fear they will be obstructed by the Indian customs police.

Nepal Bangladesh Bilateral Trade Halted.” The Kathmandu Post. October 8, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Nepal – October 5, 2015

Last Sunday, September 20, Nepal formally adopted a constitution, a process which has been in progress for nearly a decade. The weeks preceding and following that formal adoption have been filled with unprecedented violence, particularly in the Terai which the Madhesi and Tharu indigenous groups have called home for decades. The violence started in early August when the four major Nepali political parties reached an agreement to divide the country into six provinces. This plan would connect the Madhesi region in the southern plains to the Tharu region in the far western plains, a move which the minority groups say will hinder their political bargaining power and, moreover, empower local political elites to overtake their politics and erode their rights. India quickly responded, condemning the violence and closing their border with the country, restricting Nepal’s access to food and fuel imports, while the rest of the international community has voiced continued concern over the violence.

A New Constitution

Passage of Nepal’s new constitution has alienated many of the minority groups living in the Terai including the most prominent Tharu and Madhesi people who feel marginalized and fearful of the potential consequences of this constitutional agreement.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Plan to Redraw Internal Districts in Nepal Prompts Violent Protect.” New York Times. August 10, 2015.

Haviland, Charles. “Why is Nepal’s new constitution controversial?BBC. September 19, 2015.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Amid Protests, Nepal Adopts Constitution.” New York Times. September 20, 2015.

Pokharel, Sugam  and Salim Essaid. “More than half a century in the making: Nepal enshrines new constitution.” CNN. September 21, 2015.

UN Calls for End to Violence

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the level of violence taking place in Nepal and urged stakeholders to participate in open dialogue.

UN rights office calls for end of violence and dialogue in Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 23, 2015.

India Seeking Constitutional Changes

India recommended seven constitutional changes to Nepal’s political leadership including “delineation of electoral constituencies based on population alone, the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion, to allow naturalised citizens to hold highest offices both at the federal and provincial level.”

India sought changes in Nepal statute: Media.” The Kathmandu Post. September 24, 2015.

India’s “Unofficial” Blockade

Earlier this week, in response to the growing violence in Nepal, India blocked all traffic flowing across its Nepali border with officials emphasizing security concerns. While protesters are claiming responsibility for blocking some of the trade posts, India and Nepal are still debating who is at fault. India claims the problem is with instability and insecurity in Nepal and Nepal claims India is punishing the landlocked nation for passing the constitution last Sunday.

SLMM decides to block all entry points to Nepal from India.” The Kathmandu Post. September 23, 2015.

Nepali minority group blocks India-Nepal trade route.” The Himalayan Times. September 25, 2015.

Anti-India Protests

In the border town Kakadbhitta of the Jhapa district, locals protested against the ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by India.

Border locals protest against India’s ‘undeclared blockade’.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

Nepali Government Restricts Transportation

The Nepali government has begun rationing fuel and has restricted the movement of cars to alternate days based on license plate numbers. Even with strict limits on the sale of fuel to personal cars, buses, and taxis, the Nepal Oil Corporation says the country will run out of fuel in ten days.

The Associated Press. “Nepal Restricts Driving to Head Off Fuel Shortage.” The New York Times. September 27, 2015.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Nepal Rations Fuel as Political Crisis with India Worsens.The New York Times. September 28, 2015.

Government Talks with Madhesi Leaders

Leadership in the governing parties, including Nepali Congress leader and Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya, UML Chief Whip Agni Kharel and UCPN (Maoist) senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, met with Madhesi leaders including Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) Chairman Mahantha Thakur and the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Democratic Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. Both leaders presented a set of pre-conditions for ending the protests, some of which the government has agreed to and is currently working on implementing.

Three-party talks team meets Thakur, Gachadar.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.

Govt initiates talks with agitating Madhesi parties.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

India’s “Communal War”

While distributing prizes to the second-level futsal championship, Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party Chair Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that India was starting a communal and ethnic war and trying to disharmonize Nepali society.

India has begun communal war with Nepal: leader Bijukchhe.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

Border Point Reopens

The Nepali border point at Bhairahawa reopened on Monday, September 28 letting in as many as 40 vehicles including one petrol tanker. Two days later India resumed sending food and fuel into Nepal, but many more hundreds of trucks holding food, water, fuel, and medical supplies were still sitting on the India side of the border.

Border entry point at Bhairahawa reopens, 40 vehicles enter Nepal from India.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.

Associated Press. “India resumes sending food, fuel to shortage-stricken Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 30, 2015.

Former PM and UCPN-Maoist Baburam Bhattarai Chased Out of Janakpur

Former Maoist prime minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai, resigned from his party and parliament in an expression of disappointment over the new constitution. Following this resignation, Bhattarai went to Janakpur to address a mass assembly of largely Madhesi parties about the failures of the new constitution; however the stage was set on fire, and party leaders Ram Chandra Jha and UCPN-Maoist leader Ram Kumar Sharma were manhandled and beaten up and Bhattarai was escorted out and chased to Janakpur Airport.

Nepal’s former PM Bhattarai quits parliament, party.” The Daily Sun. September 27, 2015.

Bhaskar, C Uday. “Nepal: Will former PM’s resignation be catalyst for rethink? The South Asia Monitor. September 28, 2015.

Yadav, Brij Kumar. “Baburam Bhattarai’s stage set on fire, Ram Chandra Jha beaten up in Janakpur.The Himalayan Times. September 29, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

A Trip to Remember

From Nov. 8 to 22, 2011, IPJ Deputy Director Dee Aker and Nepal Program Officer Chris Groth traveled to Kathmandu, Birgunj and Pokhara, as part of the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. Aker and Groth were joined on this field project by Dr. Donald Gragg, a specialist in addiction medicine, who gave a training with Action for Addiction staff members of the IPJ’s local partner, Sano Paila. The IPJ team also conducted conflict resolution programs with members of civil society, the security sector and political parties. The following is a reflection from the trip by Dr. Gragg.  

It was my great privilege to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my first trekking jaunt to Nepal by accompanying Dee Aker and Chris Groth on a two-week program visit to Nepal. As we approached Kathmandu, the Himalaya Range was shown in full splendor – the best of all my flights into the area. Our arrival in Kathmandu was marked by a crowd of enthusiastic young Nepalis there to greet “Dr. Dee.” I discovered that this was to be the first of many such group greetings, some with large welcome banners greeting all three of us. This was Dee’s 20th visit to Nepal in the past 10 years.

A Maoist Constituent Assembly member presenting me with the TYA Excellence Achiever's Award

The next 12 days were filled with workshops, visits to groups and villages, TV tapings, many meals, much tea and a little sleep. I won’t try to recount all of our activities, but just describe a few of the more memorable ones.

Dee and Chris first conducted a mediation training session with young women from the armed police force, political parties and civil society before I joined them to visit the United Nations Development Program office. My impression was that of good people working hard, but unfortunately entangled in bureaucracy. Most of the next day was devoted to a visit to a college training students for work in hospitality and tourism, where Dee and I, together and separately, were interviewed for broadcast on Nepal TV. Today’s Youth Asia (TYA), a Nepali NGO and a partner in the IPJ’s Nepal project, is a multimedia training and production house. They have a regular nightly show on Nepal national TV, and our interviews were broadcast while we were in Nepal. TYA presented me with an Excellence Achiever’s Award and Chris with a Youth Leadership Award before we departed. These presentations were also slated for national TV.

Dee and I dancing with the children at Raksha Nepal’s school

One of the more unique experiences of the trip was a visit to Raksha Nepal (RN), a program for girls and women who have escaped from forced prostitution. RN has dormitory facilities, counseling programs and a school to teach basic skills and some vocational training. It also operates a school for the children of these women, and we had an opportunity to hear them sing Nepal’s new national anthem and even do a dance with them.

We took a 17-minute flight from Kathmandu south to Birgunj on the border with India (a rough 5-hour drive) where we again had a mass welcome. We drove the half-hour from the airport to our hotel in an SUV with a banner flying from the front fender like we were some major officials. We had two motorcycle escorts in front and behind us with their own banners. The banners were the flag of Sano Paila, the NGO that was hosting our visit to Birgunj and is doing some fantastic work in this depressed area. They initiated an effort along with the district police chief that resulted in many acres devoted to growing marijuana being changed to other crops such as rice, which was covered by Al Jazeera.

Participants in the Action for Addiction workshop

We spent one day in the remote village Nichuta outside Birgunj working with a women’s group to help them learn how to more effectively exert influence for improving their schools, roads and health care. The next day I conducted a workshop with 14 young and energetic volunteers who are developing a residential treatment program for intravenous drug abusers, while Dee and Chris worked with another group on ways to get a sugar mill back into operation to provide jobs and a market for sugar cane.

We took the short flight back to Kathmandu for an overnight at our hotel, The Malla, which is where I stayed 20 years ago. Before we left for the 5-hour drive west to Pokhara, we had breakfast at the home of a senior Nepali Congress Party official and his wife. On the way to Pokhara we stopped and visited three state schools that had libraries provided by Room to Read. It was refreshing to see these young children enthusiastically reading, particularly those at a school for the deaf who “read out loud” – signing with American Sign Language as they read.

Machapuchare (“Fish Tail”) from Pokhara

The most remarkable thing about Pokhara for me was the mountains. These were the mountains I hiked around 20 years ago, and the weather was so clear it almost seemed like you could reach out and touch them.  Unfortunately I had a cough and fever the whole time in Pokhara, but I still got to visit two village women’s savings and loan clubs.  The women deposited the equivalent of $1.25 per month and received 8 percent interest. One club with 200 members had $50,000 in equity and another with 300 members had $100,000 in equity. The money was loaned out at 14 percent interest to members to set up small businesses, such as buying a goat to sell the milk or a flock of chickens to sell the eggs.  While I ate soup and stayed in bed to attempt a recovery, Dee and Chris conducted another workshop for young leaders in the area.

Another bumpy 5-hour drive back to Kathmandu was followed by a night to repack, say goodbye to many wonderful friends and then depart on the long flight home. Antibiotics, soup and rest ultimately conquered my malady, which a subsequent x-ray showed to be pneumonia.

Talking with schoolchildren in Nichuta

There are two things that stick with me the most about the trip. The first is the enthusiastic, intelligent young people who are determined to improve life in their country. The second is the way that Dee and her program have offered help to these young people and influenced their development as leaders. The IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative has spread many seeds to prevent and/or resolve conflict. These seeds have fallen onto fertile soil in Nepal, and it is obvious that many of these seeds are prospering and having a positive influence on Nepal as it evolves into a new democratic republic.

Supporting Youth in the Terai Region of Nepal

“Dr. Dee, we must take you to Siraha. It will be a quick trip. Two hours. We will visit one village and be back in plenty of time for your flight,” said Santosh Shah, president of Today’s Youth Asia, an IPJ partner organization. Those infamous last words were spoken in January 2010 during Dee’s trip to Janakpur in the Terai region of southern Nepal. The “two-hour trip” turned into a six-hour adventure, which led to a missed flight and subsequent 10-hour overnight drive from the flat plains of the Terai, through the mountains of the Mahabharat Range back to the Kathmandu Valley.


While the numerous checkpoints, traffic accidents and mountain roads provided more than a few nervous moments, the journey was highly successful and marked a turning point for the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. It was the IPJ’s first expansion into the historically marginalized central and eastern Terai region of Nepal, as well as our first interaction with Kanchan Jha, co-founder and executive president of Sano Paila (“A Little Step”), a community-based, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization located in Birgunj, Parsa District.


Youth from Sano Paila during IPJ workshop

In the time since that initial meeting, the IPJ has developed a strong partnership with Sano Paila. We returned to Birgunj earlier this month to conduct two programs. The first – “Keys to Community Peacebuilding” – was a training workshop for 40 Sano Paila youth volunteers and members, ranging in age from 19 to 24. Kanchan and his colleagues have established a network of hundreds of youth volunteers, including many students, throughout Parsa District. The long-term goal is for these volunteers to mobilize themselves in awareness raising activities within their villages and schools. During our training, we focused on developing an “organized thinking model” to assist participants with planning and organizing in a systematic manner for future community programs, and spent time discussing communication skills, concluding the day with a simulated press conference to prepare the participants for future media outreach.


The second program – “Finding Common Ground – Building Whole Communities” – involved representatives from local government offices, the Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force, political party representatives, civil society leaders, journalists, lawyers and farmers. Participants were presented with a real-world challenge – the government’s closure of a local sugar mill and what it would take to re-open the facility.


While there is consensus among most citizens that re-opening the mill would be beneficial to the community, as its closure has caused great hardship to laborers and farmers in the region, there are widely diverging views on how to achieve this and what next steps need to be taken. While our program did not provide a quick solution, it did provide key stakeholders with the space to work together to determine the interests of key community members, share options for re-opening the mill and consider next steps moving forward.


A woman receives medical care at Sano Paila's "May Day Program"

During our stay in Birgunj, we witnessed the second annual Sano Paila “May Day Program,” which included a free health camp staffed by local doctors and nurses who volunteered their time; no-cost medications; the distribution of drinking water to members of the community; and an information campaign, including a “street drama” performance by Sano Paila volunteers, designed to increase community awareness about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The members and volunteers of Sano Paila are an inspiration with their motivation, commitment, energy and desire to change things for the better in their community, and we wish them continued success with their ongoing projects.



Dee Aker is deputy director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) and Chris Groth is interim program officer for the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. They were in Nepal from April 24 to May 6, 2011.


For more information on the IPJ’s work in Nepal, please visit:


Civil-Security Sector Engagement in Kathmandu

Although the IPJ has been working in Nepal since 2001, each trip is unique, and this most recent journey was no exception. While the number of bandhs (strikes) in Nepal has reduced dramatically over the past several years, there has been a recent increase as various groups try to pressure the political parties to move forward on the drafting of a new constitution, currently scheduled to be completed on May 28 (although the deadline will almost certainly be missed).


During our first full day on the ground, we were greeted with shuttered stores and quiet streets as the Newa-Tamsaling Joint Struggle Committee enforced a one-day bandh across the Kathmandu Valley. While the situation paled in comparison to the conditions on the streets in the mid-2000s, the threat of physical assault from protesters if citizens ventured into the streets still existed, and it was enough to restrict nearly all vehicle traffic – a strange site for the normally bustling and overcrowded streets of Kathmandu.


APF escort Eric Henry safely to the hotel

One of our colleagues, Eric Henry (managing partner, CMPartners, CMP), arrived that afternoon and needed to travel from the airport to our hotel. Although tourist buses are usually allowed safe passage around the protests, this can be a slow process. Our colleagues from the Nepal Armed Police Force (APF), who we worked with closely on this trip, offered their assistance and a memorable escort for Eric and our local partner, Santosh Shah (president, Today’s Youth Asia).


While the armed escort was a first, our partnership with the APF began several years prior, and during a meeting in November 2010, the IPJ received an invitation from Additional Inspector General of Police (AIG) Shailendra Kumar Shrestha to train a group of senior APF officers in communication techniques in an effort to deepen collaboration and build trust with members of the community. (The AIG is ranked second in the APF hierarchy.) The IPJ and CMP conducted a two-day program – “Advancing Security Interests – Gaining Community Trust” – that provided negotiation skills training for senior command staff.


APF officers practicing negotiation techniques

AIG Shrestha selected the participants – which included deputy inspector generals – based on their ability to train other officers in the negotiation techniques. The program focused on improving the “soft skills” of policing – negotiation and the power of language and persuasion – while emphasizing the use of force as a last resort. The IPJ/CMP team shared skills and international best practices while also engaging the participants in participatory exercises.


An additional request from AIG Shrestha was to include APF women officers in the programs. With the support of our local partner, Women for Peace and Democracy – Nepal, we conducted a one-day program – “Women Collaborating for Security and Peacebuilding” – with a diverse group of women leaders including 10 APF officers, 10 Nepal Police officers, 10 leaders from civil society, and 8 representatives from 4 different political parties.


Women leaders discuss common concerns during the program

This marked the first instance where women officers from the Nepal Police and APF were involved in these programs, and it was the first time that the security sector represented half of all participants at an “IPJ Women, Politics and Peace: Working for a Just Society Series” program. For most civil society and political sector participants, this was their first chance to have an extended interaction with officers, and vice versa. The program allowed the participants to not only work across sectors to explore solutions to a crisis simulation, but also for the women to discover that they shared common concerns – whether it be their own personal security, that of their children/family, or the completion of the new constitution – regardless of what sector they represented.


Dee Aker is deputy director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) and Chris Groth is interim program officer for the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. They were in Nepal from April 24 to May 6, 2011.

For more information on the IPJ’s work in Nepal, please visit:

Reaching Stable Peace

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.