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IPJ Shares International and Local Best Practices on Inclusive Peacebuilding

(Saurav J. Thapa, IPJ 2007 Summer intern, is a senior at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is double majoring in International Relations and Government and will graduate in May, 2008.)

The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) team of Interim Director Dee Aker and Nepal Program Officer Laura Taylor presented on the topic �Bridging the Gaps: Peacebuilding across Gender and Generations,� at the 2007 Association of Nepalese in the Americas (ANA) conference July 1, 2007. The conference was held at the Westin Los Angeles Airport hotel and was attended by an estimated 5,000 Nepalese and well-wishers of Nepal, making it the largest ever gathering of Nepalese outside Nepal. Aker and Taylor were presenting as part of the Nepal Forum where their fellow presenters included Deputy Speaker of the Nepalese Parliament Chitralekha Yadav, Terai leader Upendra Yadav and other Nepalese experts on the judicial system, democracy promotion, economics and Diaspora affairs.

In their concise 12-minute presentation, Aker and Taylor touched upon the contribution of women and marginalized communities to the success of the people�s power movement of April 2006 which saw the king surrender executive power to the democratic parliament.

Human security and peace cannot be achieved merely through the strength of a written constitution. For it to be a living document, the people must participate in writing their own constitution, not leaving the task to politicians alone. Aker and Taylor observed that broad participation and input from concerned actors�especially traditionally marginalized groups such as women, youth and ethnic minorities�in the Nepalese peace process was essential to achieving a durable and sustainable peace. Towards this end, the IPJ has engaged in robust efforts to support political party leadership and grassroots actors in rural areas of Nepal. Aker and Taylor identified best practices from their interactions with various stakeholders and disseminated these as part of the conference.

Deputy Speaker Chitralekha Yadav, one of Nepal�s top politicians, cited Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who said people should be able to live in a place �where the head is held high and the mind is without fear.� The deputy speaker said that the goal of politicians, civil society and the people of Nepal should be to work toward achieving a state where people can live under such conditions as described by Tagore. Commenting on the recent move by the government setting aside a 33 percent reservation for women in all state bodies, she called for a timetable to implement the quota for women. She criticized the make-up of the current cabinet where women constitute less than 10 percent of the total number of ministers. The deputy speaker called upon the cabinet to lead the way in implementing the quota and to greater gender parity and inclusion.
Madhesi People�s Rights Forum leader Upendra Yadav who has been at the forefront the agitation for the rights of the Madhesi people of southern Nepal said the monarchy has always been a threat to democracy and should be eliminated. He also warned that communist and ultra-left forces have a tendency to grossly abuse human rights in the name of a �dictatorship of the proletariat.� Yadav called for greater representation of Terai people in the Nepal Army and the state bureaucracy, where they comprise merely 1.2 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of the total workforce despite constituting about half the national population.

The issue of the need to declare an inclusive democratic republic that is deliberative in nature and to do away with the monarchy was taken up by other speakers. Nepali Supreme Court advocate Dinesh Tripathi, public policy professional Hom Raj Acharya, Diaspora activist Mukesh Kumar Singh, politician and indigenous rights activist Maiti Lal Gurung and economics professor Vijaya Raj Sharma each elaborated on various aspects of the aforementioned themes.

Tripathi raised the salient point that the military in Nepal, owing to its strong association with the monarchy, has always been a threat to democracy. He called upon the democratic multi-party government to move swiftly to bring the military firmly under civilian control to eliminate the threat it poses. Acharya cautioned that the bureaucracy should be better regulated to prevent entrenched interests from sabotaging the new found political momentum to create a more inclusive political system. Singh called upon the legal codes to be reconciled with the spirit of the constitution and especially for anti-discrimination laws to be enacted with haste. Gurung floated the idea that a United States of the Himalayas should be created with 12 autonomous states based on a lingual basis. Sharma advocated a similar proposal, albeit with autonomous states on an ethno-linguistic basis.

All nine distinguished presenters at the ANA, including Aker and Taylor from the IPJ, concurred with the theme of the Nepal Forum that Nepal is currently undergoing a critical phase of political transition where people�s expectations and hopes are high and the political landscape is fraught with risks. In this uncertain environment, the need to move swiftly to implement lasting changes that can make a positive socio-economic impact on the country was emphasized. The Nepalese people, however, must have a clear voice in this process of positive conflict transformation.