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Democratization

FES generally works with its partner organizations in social, economic and political areas, and executes all the activities it plans on an annual basis. The basic socio-economic and political objectives of FES are to promote democratic structures in Nepal and create dialogue between political parties. FES-sponsored activities, accordingly, aim to impart political information and knowledge in an impartial manner, stimulate communication between different political and social spheres and life-world and motivate the public to discuss complex social, political and economic matters emerging from the pressures of daily decisions.

The project objectives have been designed to:

  • create awareness about the role and function of political parties and other democratic institutions;
  • educate the young generation about their rights and duties;
  • analyze, discuss and debate the development policy of Nepal;
  • increase the rights of consumers; and
  • enhance awareness about gender equality to the ordinary citizens and the public.

Under the first project objective roles and functions of political parties, civil society, NGOs and private sectors were discussed in the public taking into account their legislative framework, embeddedness in society, accountability, legitimacy, transparency, institutionalization and democratization. Democracy assistance requires long-term efforts in re-ordering the state and non-state actors democratically and in enlisting the continuous and active participation of large sections of people in economic and political decision-making processes. It also requires some support to intermediary bodies like NGOs, civil society and academic institutions because they constitute a pre-condition for, as well as a complement to, the decentralization initiatives of the government to remove the problem of unequal access and solve the substantive problems of society. Under democracy, the associational ethos is expected to create a public space for civic activities and help in the formation of a democratic will essential to fight the feelings of silence, isolation and political apathy of citizens.

A short-term effort to get Nepal through a sudden take-off to democracy is not feasible. It takes years for the people to internalize the basic concepts, values and institutions of democracy and form a rich associational life for the genuine aggregation, articulation and communication of their interests. An attentive public and the citizens at large from all walks of life should understand the vision and details of the Constitution, help sustain the political culture of institutions they consider important and pin hopes on those organization for addressing issues they encounter. Without this, efforts towards the consolidation of democracy will remain incomplete.

In order to facilitate debates on the social, economic and political questions, FES has supported its partner organizations to initiate seminars on consensus building and coalition politics and to help them take stock of the state of progress of democracy in Nepal. FES along with the International Institute for Electoral and Democratic Assistance (IDEA), Sweden and DANIDA, was instrumental in facilitating the initiative of four Secretary-Generals of major political parties to establish the Center for Studies on Democracy and Good Governance (CSDG) in Kathmandu in the hope of initiating all-party dialogues and linking democracy consolidation to a wider area of national consensus.

CSDG in the year 2000 and 2001 and Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies (NCCS) in 1998 took the initiatives to involve the Secretary-Generals of the major political parties, Speaker, Chairman of Upper House, MPs, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, in a discussion on consensus building and conflict resolution (especially structural conflict with the Maoist Party, manifest conflict with major opposition political parties and latent conflict with the society and civil society forces) process on matters of vital importance to the public. They identified three areas: to develop common approaches towards democratic norms and procedures; promote institutional development of the central level public bodies; and formulate a politically neutral civic education course. FES has been able to achieve the last objective by executing civic education at schools and combining micro and macro approaches in programme implementation.

A number of conceptual areas, such as diffusion of democratic values, constitutionalism, good governance, formation of civic political culture, judicial reforms, the organization of functional interests, political institutionalization, electoral reforms, decentralization of power, empowerment of Dalits, disadvantaged and marginalized sections of society, in which FES is supporting its partner organizations in lending coherence to the objective of democratic consolidation. These are the areas in which partner organizations of FES have been continuously debating involving the major stakeholders of society and providing inputs to the policy makers.

Under the second project objective - educating the young generation about democracy in Nepal, their rights, knowledge about the transition of rights and duties at different ages, risks in the Nepalese society, knowledge about human rights and social justice and civic education - several workshops/seminars have been organized in the country and feedback has been collected to prepare a course on civic education for 10+2 students in co-operation with the Higher Secondary Education Board of His Majestyís Government of Nepal. Feedback on the seminars has been used to update the book and reflect the experiences on current and future activities.

Promoting democracy is a strategy for the enhancement of the system of fundamental rights and duties and participation of all citizens. Without the concrete realization of state rights, the inequality of wealth, power and status in society can easily disrupt the implementation of social and economic policies. In this context, in order to make civic education programme sustainable, FES helped in the preparation and publication of a new book "Contemporary Nepalese Society" upon the request of the Higher Education Board of His Majestyís Government of Nepal thereby initiating public debates in the five development regions of the country.

Sustainability of the post-transition process of democracy requires continuous socialization of young generation and inducing them to accept the democratic polity. Democratic practices can flourish only in the context of educated and informed citizens in society and making opportunities available to form their own organizations for the articulation of their needs and interests. The course on civic education must be taken as a long-term goal for the democratic constitution of the state and the real control of governmental power by the public. The quality of democratization and institutionalization may be affected by the quality of civic education, skills and dispositions and performance of the polity during the transition period. It is relatively easy to support a bottom-up approach to civic education, particularly because it is demand-driven and it is the only means to transform the people into citizens and citizens into public thereby helping them to assume social and political responsibility in their personal and public life.

Under the third project objective, FES supported its partner organizations to:

  • analyze, discuss and debate on the development policy of Nepal and help to sort out a number of questions and educate the public on the roles and responsibilities of public and private institutions working in the fields of democracy, human rights, good governance, civil society and various development practices existing in the nation. (Public debate on development policy covered many areas, such as indigenization of policy-making in Nepal, hydro-power development, environment and sustainable development, social economy, role of private sectors, social justice, different paradigms of development, such as the state, the market economy, NGOs, community organizations and civil society, sound industrial relations).
  • conduct seminars and workshops, and support the publication of books and policy papers on issues affecting Nepalís long-term development policy, national security, viability and survival. Other areas were Nepal in the International System, foreign policy and geopolitics, foreign aid, debt and trade, open border between Nepal and India, sub-regional cooperation on energy, Nepal and WTO, Nepal and SAARC, social charter, which are considered useful in informing the policy makers and the public about the implications of emerging international regimes and how policies should be devised to avoid negative fallout while reaping the benefits from the emerging regional and global co-operation and development. The strengthening of development policy requires an awareness of political decision-makers and the public towards global interdependence and the need to undertake global responsibility in the fields of development co-operation.

Under the fourth project objective - increasing the rights and duties of consumers and enhancing awareness about gender equality in the attentive public and citizens - FES co-operated with its partner organizations on the issues of building and disseminating knowledge about gender equality, women and development, social, economic and political participation of women, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women among the school and university teachers, lawyers, peopleís representatives, students and media persons. Accordingly, it supported the sensitization of gender issues among the newly elected women of selected Village Development Committees, extended financial co-operation in the preparation of manual in Nepali on the Nirbachanma Mahila Sahabhagita: Rajnaitik Sasaktikaran (Womenís Participation in Election: Political Empowerment) and helped in organizing workshops in the five development regions of the country. Moreover, FES also organized exposure visits of Nepalese women to different development projects in India and provided other similar opportunities to take part in regional and global debates on gender politics.

Similar programmes have been initiated with a consumer related partner organization, Pro-Public, which has been active in educating and informing consumers, raising issues of food security, taking case of adulteration to the courts and providing inputs to law enforcement agencies, including lobbying for the formulation of consumer friendly Laws and Acts. Additionally, it has been organizing the Nepalese consumers on many matters of public interests, pertaining to social, economic and technological and informational policies and their impacts on the lives of Nepalese consumers. Every year it prepares four to five briefing papers in Nepali language, distributes them among the media and consumer organizations and the citizens, and runs programmes on "Good Governance" in order to sensitize the workers, citizens and consumers on issues of public interests. There are other areas where FES has been instrumental:

  • Execution of research and study on the role and functions of governing institutions and institutions of democratic societies, such as political parties, NGOs, civil society, decentralization and local governing institutions.
  • Providing exposure, training and visits of Nepalese MPs, academics, politicians, business persons, students and journalists for the development of regional and international understanding.
  • Technical backstopping of NGOs, and different departments of Tribhuvan University and civil society organizations by providing material support such as books, computers, fax machines. Support is also given for organizing seminars, conducting scientific and academic research and publishing books in various areas of teaching and research, public and policy interests of the country.
  • Training on "Research Methodology Course" for Political Science Teachers who are teaching this course in various post-graduate campuses of Tribhuvan University Prof. John Scholz, a Fulbright Professor, in co-operation with the faculty members, conducted this course.
  • Arranging for teaching assignment.
  • Arranging short-term scholarships for a number of Nepali scholars to study in Germany and German students to study in Nepal.

Tables 1 to 3 show the types and number of activities in each field which were mentioned earlier.

Table-1 Development Policy
Types of Activities
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Total
Seminars
9
1
2
4
6
7
7
3
4
1
44
Workshops
-
3
6
7
6
7
-
2
2
4
37
Trainings
-
4
-
-
-
-
1
-
-
-
5
Studies & Publications
4
4
7
6
5
5
2
4
1
2
40
Study Tours
-
-
-
1
-
-
-
2
-
-
3
Material Support
-
-
-
2
1
-
2
-
2
-
7
Total
13
12
15
20
18
19
12
11
9
7
136

Table-2 Democratization
Types of Activities
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Total
Seminars
4
-
1
10
6
6
6
6
3
1
43
Workshops
5
12
11
6
7
8
3
-
6
6
64
Trainings
-
-
1
-
-
3
1
-
2
-
7
Study & Publications
-
7
3
1
2
2
4
-
1
1
21
Material Support
-
1
-
1
-
1
1
1
-
-
5
Total
9
20
16
18
15
20
15
7
12
8
140

Table-3 Women and Development
Types of Activities
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Total
Seminars
-
1
1
1
1
1
1
3
1
1
11
Workshops
-
-
5
7
5
3
2
-
4
4
30
Studies & Publications
-
-
2
2
1
-
-
-
2
-
7
Study Tours
2
-
-
-
-
-
-
2
-
-
4
Total
2
1
8
10
7
4
3
5
7
5
52

Through partner organizations FES has been able to institutionalize multiple fora for initiating dialogues among the three sets of partners: trade unions, consumer organizations and civic groups. FESís experience of working with the motivated partners has been encouraging. Public debates often anticipate new public needs, increase awareness of the alternative choices and their costs and benefits to the various strata of population, help improve the understanding of the implications, and generate input for the process of policy formulation and policy options to the government. If political development is to be sustainable, political issues should be subjected to debate in a fully democratic manner and a series of discourses should be organized on the introduction of democratic processes.

The strength of FES lies in its transparent operation, and its outputs from researches, seminars and workshops are publicly shared. FES and its partner organizations have considerable strength in their publications (see the list of FES publications subscribed in the University Curriculum, Appendix I). Many of the publications have been reprinted twice or thrice indicating their increasing relevance in the country. These publications, studies and seminars have remained not only cost-effective but have also offered academics and policy makers considerable outlets for, and opportunities in, pursuing locally relevant academic work and influencing policy dialogues. Moreover, the process of knowledge-building and knowledge-production has equally helped the students and teachers in updating their learning skills, knowledge and information as well as their teaching curriculum. It has to be observed that the development of civil society cannot be enforced from outside but must occur from within through open inter-political dialogues across the diverse ideologies, ideas and social actors at different stages of social, economic and cultural development.

Another area of FES strength lies in building interfaces. Programme activities are specially designed to facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas among the policy communities, academia, civil society and peopleís representatives so as to formulate a strategic overview of the various activities undertaken for creating, managing, and sustaining the social capital. The increasing interface which FES has fostered between the social scientists and policy community on the one hand and political parties and civil society on the other has generated valuable information to bear upon the choices of policy alternatives or even an evaluation of the likely effects of short-term and long-term policies. The various seminars and workshops held on Nepal and SAARC, Nepal and the World Trade Organization (WTO), Debt Trap and Its Management in Nepal, Inputs for Decentralization and Local Self-Governance Bill and Nepalís Foreign Policy: Issues and Options have been able to capture the realm policy-relevance. FES support to other bodies like the trade unions, civil societies, NGOs, media, womenís organization, Dalits, academia and professional establishment has been primarily designed to steer democratic awakening, education and knowledge-building, advocacy and exercise in support of democracy consolidation. These activities have considerable bearing on expanding the horizon of policy process on a country-wide basis.

Since the support to gender equality and Dalit uplift began recently, it will take time for tangible effects associated with gender-sensitization, advocacy, awareness and education to be more visible. The priority of Nepalese government arising out of its interest in and also of international obligations to place the gender question on the agenda for its active promotion will make good sense when women and Dalits can assume their rightful place in society and attain social justice. Re-education on democratic participation, control and decision-making is an educational challenge of enormous significance which the partner organizations of FES are taking to the grassroots. Legal Aid and Consultancy Center, one of the partner organizations of FES, has claimed that because of the gender sensitization programme introduced to the law professors and teachers, the concept of gender equality has been introduced in the LL.M. course under the title Private Law. Two national workshops on Dalits have inspired the World Hindu Federation and Pashupati Sena Nepal to take up the issue of untouchability and seek solution to this problem.

Increasing social and political awareness, and political education and discussion about the standards of democratic quality help in the democratization of society and the state. Public debate on political education of women, disadvantaged groups and Dalits is expected to provide opportunities for the reflection of "social reality" and promote the politics of protection, reach accommodation and provide scope for the articulation of interests. The alternative of denying even the minimum assistance to the civil society organizations working for Dalits, would hinder the democratization processes. With moderate support, civil societies and NGOs stand a better chance to develop institutional capacity and attract a popular constituency over time if they are professionally run.

FES helps the partner organizations in networking and solidarity building. In an age of globalization, co-operation and solidarity alone can offset the negative effects of internationalization, help prepare the people and the state to participate in the regional and international development processes, and identify and exploit opportunities from those processes. Here, FES is particularly active in three areas of regional cooperation through Coalition for Action on South Asian Cooperation (CASAC), South Asian Media Association (SAMA) and South Asian Watch on Trade, Economy and Environment (SAWTEE). These organizations have been operating as regional tanks for the provision of advice on the issues of regional cooperation Coalition-building, contacts and networking with these organizations have served as vehicles for gaining access to the much needed information in particular areas that the partners are engaged in. Besides this, FES has also lent support to the South Asian Economistsí Association (SAEA), South Asian Trade Union Council (SARTUC) and Non-Aligned Movement Media to organize activities in matters of mutual interests benefiting the people of the region. Access to the regional and global fora helps the decision-makers to adapt themselves to the latest thinking and the most advanced analytical tools to enhance international understanding and cooperation

FES encourages the partner organizations to assume the ownership of the programme thus making all the activities compatible with the vision embedded in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, Planning Documents, Local Self-Governance Act and the Priority Reform Actions set by His Majestyís Government of Nepal. Accordingly, it has supported the partner organizations to initiate, determine and sustain the programmes and bear the accountability arising from the ownership. A collaborative effort between the FES and partner organizations in formulating goals, strategies and activities can be said to be mainly responsible for achieving these objectives.

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