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Nation Building and Civic Education

Nation Building and Civic Education

Published Year: 2009

Published by: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Edited by: Kashi Raj Dahal

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 113


Nation Building and Civic Education, a collection of articles; edited by Kashi Raj Dahal; Published by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal office; Price not mentioned; Page 113.


Nepal's quest for a robust political system based on the parameters of the modern nation state has continued for more than sixty years. Following the second Constituent Assembly elections, the country is in the rigorous process of statute making from the hands of the elected representatives. Creating an inclusive and egalitarian state through the overhaul of key systemic components is now the primary focus of all- major and minor- actors. The political parties are bracing up for writing a federal, democratic and republican statute. In it, they will lay a theoretical foundation stone of new Nepal. Although striking a broader framework of consensus for the settlement of political, constitutional, electoral and judicial questions remains a bit daunting, this will in no way minimise the scope for the active civic engagement. The historic moment requires that the people have full knowledge and lively debates on the fundamentals of the supreme law of the land.

Realising this necessity, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal office has brought out a valuable book under the editorship of the noted constitution expert Kashi Raj Dahal to enlighten the people on a wide-range of constitutional matters. It contains three scholarly writes-up by Dahal himself, Dev Raj Dahal and Chandra Dev Bhatta. Written in a simple language, it is useful for the grassroots people and experts alike, who are desirous of contributing to the nation building campaign.

In his 'Modern State-Building and Nepal's Present Challenges and Possibilities,' Dev Raj Dahal scans the concepts and philosophies behind the formation of modern nations and provides his vision of the building of Nepali state. According to him, it requires four compulsory elements for the establishment of the state - land, people, government and sovereignty. In order to be the effectiveness of the state, there requires the state's monopoly on power, punishment and tax, and the citizens' loyalty and international recognition.

Dahal says that the globalisation has weakened the capacity of the state and, as a result, it has confronted conflicts not only on the class line but also at the level of ethnicity, religion, culture and for the resources, symbol, identity, socialisation and social unification. "In order to minimise conflict, manage transition and social transformation, the bond of the citizens with the state needs to be bolstered." He insists the Nepali politics has been made ambition-oriented and rights have not been linked with the rule and duty has not been connected with rights. Dahal presents four dimensions of civic education- socialisation (knowledge and responsibility about one's rights and duty); moralisation (habit of abiding by democratic norms and values, and constitutional law); active participation in public life (taking initiatives and responsibility in peace, reconciliation and development in the public life) and humanisation (realisation of international responsibility and complying with the humanitarian law. "There requires civic virtue, knowledge and skill for the political engagement. Such an education liberates the citizens and leaders from blind faith and takes them on the path of chaitanya (enlightenment)."

In his lengthy article 'Constitution and Nation Building,' Kashi Raj Dahal highlights important elements of modern state and the ongoing debates on the statute-writing and state restructuring. He lists the basic principles that the democratic states have incorporated in their statute. They are- the people's sovereignty, supremacy of constitution, guarantee of human rights, rule of law, free and periodic election, multiparty competition, separation, check and balance of powers, independent and capable judiciary, total press freedom and constitutional guarantee of independent institution for good governance. Dahal has analysed in details about state restructuring, electoral system, form of governance and judiciary, which are the most contested contents of new statute. On federalism, he writes: "Every country has its own experiences and characteristics of federalism. It is not an unfailing medicine to solve all problems. It is not solution in itself but a means to solve the problems. This is also sensitive and sentimental instrument to give legitimacy to the politics by protecting and recognising the various cultures and civilisations and increasing the people's participation in the state system." He notes that certain structures should be built to have cordial ties between the provinces and federation at vertical and horizontal levels. Dahal recommends some key bases needed to create federal units - social, cultural and geographical uniformity; the desire of the general public for the creation of provinces; the capacity of mobilising the economic resources and means; the capacity to mediate, share powers, coordinate and forge consensus between the local governments and the centre, and provisions to keep national unity intact. His theoretical concepts on federalism, form of governance and electoral system can be a fresh guide to CA members engaged in the constitution writing.

Bhatta, in his article 'Welfare State: Challenges and Opportunities,' stresses on providing social security and justice to the people. He argues that the country's socio-economic policies coupled with the widespread corruption, impunity, flight of capital and evasion of tax and revenues have led to the decline of the nation. He is against the skewed emphasis on real estate business and fiscal capitalism, which he says, do not benefit the larger portion of the population. "Economic liberalisation has disrupted the bases of taxes and fails to protect the social projects meant for the poor and the deprived. Politicians and businesses have created a never-ending cycle, in which one makes the other corrupt and take the state hostage." He suggests bringing individuals, firms and commercial entities that amass wealth in a large quantity to the ambit of tax and encouraging them to help the poor and powerless people. He asks the trade unions and social movement campaigners to be involved in the efforts to democratise the economic force of the market so that the poor and marginalised put their trust in politics. "To be qualified to be a welfare state, it must be able to free its citizens from fear and want. Only in that condition, the citizens can be able to enjoy human rights and individual freedom," Bhatta concludes.

Source: Friday Supplement, The Rising Nepal (4 April 2014)

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