ROLE OF YOUTHS IN LOCAL SELF- GOVERNANCE
Organised by Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
19 October, 2003, Kathmandu
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
initiated the civic education programme series several years
ago to play its part in strengthening democracy in Nepal. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
of Germany has been the main supporter of the programme series
under its 'democratization' initiative in the newly democratizing
countries. In that sense, NEFAS has been the forerunner in organizing
civic education programmes in the country and has already held
more than a dozen discussions with teachers, politicians, journalists
and people of various other walks of life in different parts
of the Kingdom, from the east to the west. Today, several other
organizations have started to work on civic education in Nepal
A text-book for higher secondary students
has already been developed and has been widely used by students
to fill the textbook void in their civic education curriculum.
The attraction of NEFAS programmes for civic educationists is
that their output has always been taken seriously and even published.
The textbook mentioned above has in fact undergone several metamorphoses
just to include as many suggestions as possible. Every edition
has incorporated the discussions of the seminars which has again
been taken to the teachers for additional inputs. That process
It is in this process that NEFAS organised
the discussion in the civic education series on 19 October,
2003 titled "Civic Education: Role of Youths in Local Governance"
in Kathmandu. This seminar is a milestone in NEFAS' attempts
to facilitate civic education in Nepal as it has begun to merge
sectoral concerns with the main topic. Local Governance was
chosen for this one. Since democracy is itself multifaceted,
future seminars will keep adding to the list.
Local governance experts, teachers, political
party workers and academicians were assembled in the capital
for the discussion. The discussions started without the usual
seminar fanfares with the executive director of NEFAS, Ananda
Srestha welcoming the participants and Dev Raj Dahal highlighting
the topic to be discussed. Ananda Srestha in his welcome address
said that the objective of the workshop was not to impose some
imported ideas on the participants, but to gather opinion of
people from different walks of life. He hoped that the traditional
values would guide the participants towards a meaningful discussion.
However, he welcomed other issues of socials importance if they
had relevance to the topic being discussed. DevRaj Dahal for
his part said that the objective of the seminar was to find
out ways to include youths in local self-governance. "Why
do we need to do this? Since a paradigm shift has taken place
regarding running the affairs of the state, from government
to governance, every section of people need to be included in
governance. Again, since youths make up a vital part of the
population, they too need to be accommodated in governance.
Only democratic governance tries to include all the sections
of the populace," he said.
After the brief addresses by the two, the
working sessions began to discuss the issues of the day. The
seminar was divided into two sessions, the first was chaired
by Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan, a sociologist. Ram Kumar Dahal
a political scientist, made his presentation on "Role of
Youths in Local Self-Governance".
"Role of Youths in Local Self-governance"
Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan: Chair
Presenter: Ram Kumar Dahal
Ram Kumar Dahal said that there were plenty
of roles for youths at the local level through which they can
make governance participatory, clean and sustainable. He listed
the tasks that youths could take upon themselves for the purpose.
He said that the Constitution and the legal measures adopted
for decentralization had opened the way for them to do so, but
that there were hurdles still.
Samira Luintel: The paper seems to
put too much burden on youths by giving them every public responsibility
that can be imagined while the paper itself says that youths
have not been given the right to participate by the Constitution.
Regarding conflicts, we see that youths themselves have been
involved in creating conflict. Still, how will they resolve
those conflicts and social problems. Just shifting the responsibility
to youths without telling them how to go about it, could further
the existing problems.
In terms of the interference by Bretton Woods institutions that
you mention, our priorities should be defined by our own government
and then allow external support to fulfill those priorities.
All our problems should not be blamed on the International Monetary
Fund or World Bank. You talk of social capital, but where is
that social capital?
Chet Pariyar: I feel that our country
desperately needs development and youths have a heavy responsibility
regarding that. Other minor issues can be ignored for the moment.
We need to rationalise our priorities regarding resource exploitation,
For example, in the water resources sector, the first priority
should go to drinking water, then irrigation and then power.
Secondly, regarding human resources, we see that the best students
take up the technical sector, while the lesser ones take up
the policy making positions. Similarly, the healthiest of the
youth are taken by the British Gurkha, lesser ones by the Indian
Gorkha and the leftover go to the Nepal army and then the police.
The paper should have talked more about discrimination in the
Sushma Acharya: We should think of
ourselves as all young. Youth is in the mind, not physic. Secondly,
are we producing manpower according to our need or are our plans
being led by others to meet their priority? Today's youth have
an inferiority complex which is one of the main reasons for
our backwardness. This, in spite of the economic backwardness
we are already entrenched in. Our textbooks should be able to
overcome the inferiority complex. Students are given theory,
but no practical skills to do anything. This is also the reason
for massive unemployment.
Anuj Mishra: You should not patronize
the youths and say that they have an inferiority complex, it
is the system that discourages youths from coming forward. This
patronizing culture has come from our ancient feudalism. Youths
have the capacity in every way. So the question is how to involve
them in national tasks. Politicians have been monopolizing power
and there is no entry for youths. Social scientists have been
involved in protecting their own small circles and entry is
not given to others sapping all life from it. They do not want
their own children to enter social science as it is not a vibrant
Usha Tiwari : We have people around
us who want to prove their intellectual capabilities or policy
makers or theorizers who do the same. We hear people criticizing
others in a negative way. For example, we see people criticising
politics for preaching intolerance, but we do not go to find
the reason why politics is like that. Probably the minuting
of all party meetings of the past 12 years may have to be studied
for that, but that has yet to be done. The paper appears to
be big on words and terminologies that are hollow in meaning.
I would have been more interested to see comparison between
the Panchayat and today's situations. We have been abandoning
the positive and taking up only the negative. The culture that
the media and textbooks are promoting does not show multiculturism
and democracy, but a monopoly of only one school of thought.
Rudra Upadhya: The paper is excellent,
but lacks an action plan which may not have been given understandably
because of time constraints. I agree that development should
be self reliant and youths should play their part in resource
management. Visionless, heartless, cruel and dead leadership
would be more appropriate than 'virtually dead' leadership that
the author uses to describe our leadership. Village Development
Committee buildings should be turned into multi-service centres.
VDC officials should be given a targetted plan and then appointed.
Planning officers of the village should think of the resources
available and how self-reliance can be achieved. Village tourism
has multifaceted benefits which could be used by villages.
Krishna Poudel: Youths need to be mainstreamed
in Nepal. The paper lists a lot of tasks for the youths, but
lacks a method for accomplishing them. Globalisation has led
to cultural encroachment and the vehicleused for that encroachment
are the youths.
Every profession has an age ceiling, but why not politicians?
Political socialization should also determine the age in which
the socialization should be done. Even children have been exploited
and brainwashed into politics or into militancy.
Sri Krishna Yadav: Instead of spending
energy talking only of the negative aspects, we can divert that
spirit to seek solutions. What is needed is positive attitude.
We need to talk of the process of bringing about that positive
spirit. This is not limited to youths only, but all individuals.
At least the Panchayat had taken the youths as a parliamentary
constituency. Even in a multiparty democracy we do not have
the youths as a constituency.
Parashu Ghimire: Youths need to be
given not only political and economic responsibility, but their
capacity should be defined in a multi-disciplinary approach,
not only political and economic. Please do not use the term
'culture' with corruption, e.g. culture of corruption. Similarly,
alienation and frustration cannot be used together. You also
say that civic education has nothing to do with politics, where
in fact every thing about civic education is politics.
Gunanidhi Sharma: Nepal's Constitution
has given due importance to youths, as 18 years has been defined
as the eligibility age for vote. Society, however, is not made
only of youths. When we talk of youths, we do not want to talk
just of any youths, but effective youths. There are also intergenerational
issues that need to be attended to. Most of the youths have
moved out of track and do not want to get into bureaucracy.
And, the most capable people need to be included in the bureaucracy
which means the curriculum and the entry tests need to be designed
to do so. Otherwise, the bureaucracy becomes lethargic. The
same logic holds true in politics as well.
Education is promoting the value of money as the only thing
that matters. This needs to changing.
Saket Bihari Thakur: If the figures
of youths working in the VDCs and DDCs were given, I would have
been happy. The paper should have also dwelt on the role of
youths in the People's Movement, their role in NGOs and their
contribution in bringing issues of the marginalised groups to
the fore. Should local governance units also be de-politicised,
just as you propose to do for youths?
Bharat Pokharel: The paper should have
not mentioned the Constitution that is lying in a coma. The
points listed should be done more methodically. Statistics are
partially and inconsistently used. For example, literacy rate
has been given a different figure each time it is used. Spelling
mistakes also occur giving different meaning to the same word.
Bretton Woods institutions should be linked to America, not
Britain. When the health science is a mistaken one, how will
an individual's health improve? When civic education is wrong,
how can you expect politics to be right?
Rajan Bhattarai: The paper assigns
tasks to youths, but does not mention whether the situation
exists for them to do those tasks. Even if politics has gone
off track due to lack of participation by youths, what about
other sectors that have gone off track too?
We should also try to find out why the students we taught are
going off-track today. Introspection would lead us to find solutions.
Ghanshyam Khatiwada: Two local elections
have already taken place. What was the kind of representation
of youths in the about 4,000 local bodies in the past 12 years?
Such issues should have come forth in the paper. If youths are
not included in local activities, soon an unthinkable situation
will arise. Already, only the elderly are left behind in the
village today. Youths are getting irresponsible regarding their
duties towards their elders. Local bodies are in a state of
chaos with many buildings destroyed. The decentralization Act
remains improperly implemented. Local representatives have been
shunned when selecting MPs. How will such a system promote the
role of youths at the local level? Even today, youths are not
being nominated when elections are not held. Only the old people
of the Panchayat days are being nominated today.
Birendra Shrestha: The paper suffers
from fallacies and intellectual slavery the author himself defines.
We are afraid to accept change but advocating mibilization of
youths. Our discussion has shown that we fear change. Democracy
is going the way it should. There is no problem with democracy.
It rather went against the interest of Girija Koirala and Surya
Bdr. Thapa. Democracy has not bucked its own trend.
Prem Sharma: The paper appears to be
focussing on politicising youths in the name of civic education.
A comparative study between two countries would have been more
contextual. Youths are not such an organised lot. Therefore,
how can we talk about mobilizing them so effectively. The paper
appears more subjective than objective. I know that the author
has always been prescriptive, not only today.
Many of the comments have been complementary
to what I have been trying to say. I will include the suggestions
in the paper later on.
Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan (Chairman's
remarks): Defining youth is a tricky subject. Every country
defines it in its own way. In Nepal a mere child starts early
job of herding animals and other household chores. These are
jobs for the adults. Cultural, linguistic and ethnic contexts
complicate the matter of defining youth further. But politics
and administration do need an operational definition.
Sons become adults as soon as they are born, from the inheritance
perspective, while daughters do not. Previously the citizenship
and voting ages were different. Regarding local governance,
the Autonomous Local Governance Act has been a means to misuse
decentralization. Right to self-determination (without cessation)
should be fulfilled by the Constitution, in spite of the Maoists
pledging to give the right of cessation as well. We need to
build a conceptual framework while discussing the role of youths.
I suggest that youths reclaim democracy, one that is inclusive.
And the role of the youths should be primary. We should move
towards genuine autonomy to avoid conflicts in the future as
"Civic Eduction for the Young Generation"
Ananda Srestha: Chair
Presenters: Khagendra Prasain and Shivraj
Khagendra Prasain made the presentation and
dwelt mostly on what had gone wrong with today's politics. He
blamed it all on lack of civic education which would have given
the political workers the right political perspective. He said
that the way parties are functioning today is by putting a lid
on political workers' faculty of critical thought. Civic education,
he said, would provide that critical faculty. He dwelt at length
on the subject provoking some heated reactions from the floor.
Prem Sharma: The paper should have
concluded with some recommendation for what the youths should
do. There should also be additional explanations of terminologies
and concepts presented by the authors.
Ram Kumar Dahal: The quality of leadership
that you have mentioned are not enough. Some more qualities
need to be added to suit the Nepalese context as well. Leadership
seems constituency oriented at the moment, without any national,
let alone global perspective.
Pushkar Gautam: The paper is confusing
regarding knowledge especially with its relations to politics
and political behaviour of politicians. I would have liked it
to be elaborated further. Since I have worked as a party worker,
I know the difference between party directives and practical
behaviour of political workers. If you do not obey party orders,
will not the party disintegrate? Whether you like party directives
or not, obeying orders is necessary as long as you yourself
cannot reach the position of ordering. If the soldier does not
obey, the army does not function. I think force is necessary
to make the state do what you want it to. It is one thing to
talk about deficient leadership but quite another to be able
to actually lead. You might be able to criticize the leadership
according to the knowledge you have, but leadership needs a
few qualities that knowledge alone cannot give. Why else would
knowledgeable persons go to these deficient leaders and beg
for public positions (to be sent as ambassadors etc.)?
Usha Tiwari: Human rights definitions do reflect bias forced
by circumstances. There should be a bridge built between the
layman and the intellectuals. The main weakness is in parties
themselves for not exercising democracy, not in workers who
are unable to defy party orders.
Parashu Ghimire: Civic knowledge, and
civic attitude need to be imparted by civic education. Since
attitude reflects knowledge, that component needs to be added
in the paper.
Tika Bhattarai: Papers are supposed
to list problems and then make recommendations for a resolution.
This paper looks like an exception. We see that people are still
against action against the corrupt. This is the type of civic
education we have been having.
Political workers need to accept party statute to remain a member
of the party. If they do not want to obey orders, they can leave
the party. The greatest challenge is to impart positive attitude
in people towards politics. We also need to make politics more
The larger parties still depend on nominations, not competitive
politics, to fill leadership positions.
Saket Bihari Thakur: The spheres of
influence of globalization, big powers, political parties, ethnic
diversity and money need to be taken into account while trying
to change behaviour. Can you fight these spheres of influence?
Added to this is a social hierarchy that is feudal. How can
a civil society that is so feeble fight all these odds? You
have raised fundamental rights issues, something the Constitution
has already made provisions for.
Bindu Pokhrel: Regarding poverty, people
have been forced to make compromises for their livelihood. How
will this problem be solved?
: If indeed there is no alternative
to democracy, what is wrong with our system? Gender gap, the
state's inability to come out with people-centred policies and
rampant poverty have not been addressed by the paper. Positive
discrimination is necessary to bring the marginalised to the
mainstream. The paper should also list the method of bringing
civil awareness with civic education.
The system should have an inherent hierarchy that promotes capable
people to leadership positions.
Why not have civic education at the university as well?
Bijay Karn: How will you contextualize
the concepts you have given for Nepal? The paper does not list
the reasons why civic education was stopped and restarted in
Nepal. It was there in the Panchayat days and was stopped and
again restarted recently. The whip is a system to bring the
Parliament to order. But whips are not strict during parliamentary
committee meetings where MPs discuss outside the party line.
Party orders should be obeyed and there should be provisions
for a forum for party workers to discuss outside the order as
Bharat Pokharel: I am hoping the paper
will help us resolve problems arising from politics gone astray.
Countries like Britain have been criticizing their prime minister
as foreign minister or ambassador of the US. We should strive
for such a capability to criticize.
Which of these is a greater internationalist- Che Guevara who
was born in Argentina, did politics in Cuba and died in Bolivia
or today's globalization?
Samira Luintel: The paper is unclear
on the kind of leadership and the type of critical thought that
need to be promoted. It only criticizes what is prevalent today.
Indeed, how do we get out of the traditional shackles in promoting
Min Bahadur Singh: I have not seen
a clear definition regarding civic education. Several organisations
are working to promote civic education and Jaya Prithvi Bahadur
Singh had defined it more than a hundred years ago. There seems
to be confusion regarding social studies and civic education;
there should not be as both are distinctively different from
Ram Karki: What is the change that
will result after imparting the civic education we are discussing
today? What do we expect out of it?
Bhuwan Thapaliya: The problems we are
facing today is largely the result of the practices of the thinking
class of the past. They were supposed to help us avoid all these
problems. A national perspective needs to be developed by the
intellectuals and impart moral education to students.
Critical thinking should not be hindered by
taking party orders as an excuse. Change is not possible without
Political party meets should allow all voices to discuss issues,
not just six months ahead of the party meet. Parties not practising
intra-party democracy cannot promote democracy.
Ananda Srestha (chairman's remarks):
We had planned to take the feedback from the discussion and
include it in the paper before going to other places outside
the Valley. That, we will be doing. Saket Bihari Thakur's contention
is that civic education appears to be covering too wide an agenda
at the moment. The problem we had been facing was how to initiate
civic education and we have done that. Now that it is done,
we can go on discussing the issues involved for a long time.