South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Dev Raj Dahal

Head FES Nepal Office

Good Governance:

In an “age of governance (usually understood as the multi-actor and multi-level configuration of policy actors), it is hard to see who exactly is to blame for negative results and how to locate a responsible actor” (Offe, 2011:457). A correct disposition of political power requires coordinated capacity of national state to make all constitutional bodies, public institutions, private sectors and civil society orient to collective goals of governance—national security, rule of law, voice of citizens, civic participation, social welfare benefits and peaceful resolution of multi-level conflicts. The implementation of these measures requires coherence in constitutional bodies at horizontal level and line agencies, DDCs, municipalities, VDCs and wards at the vertical level. The ideological crisis in Nepal has narrowed the political landscape of leadership and enabled them to cooperate on common grounds on ethical and realistic public policies. It has also allowed feedback loops where people and leaders can engage in dialogues to address interrelated ecological, social, economic and political problems. In this context, strengthening of democratic processes and institutions, rule of law and government’s accountability in effective service delivery can improve the conditions of human rights of Nepali citizens. The democratic framework for people’s participation can make the governance accountable for its action, inaction in its duties and even outright failure. It can also make its functions transparent, broaden partnership and exchange experiences and ideas.

Nepal has adopted three measures so far: stakeholders’ participation in development policy making, public engagement and participation in constitutional dialogue and inclusion of the right to information in the constitution. Intermediary institutions have a role here to play in policy mediation. Citizens’ right to information embedded in the Interim Constitution is instrumental for controlling corruption and ensuring transparency of decision making about public affairs. The six pillars of second Three-Year Interim Plan of National Planning Commission are: a) Achieve pro-poor and employment-generating, sustainable, and broad-based economic growth with the concerted effort of all sectors-the state, cooperatives, private sectors and civil society; b) Infrastructural development with due consideration to federal structure of the country and provincial economic growth; c) Social inclusion and social justice-oriented development for sustainable peace; d) Socio-economic transformation of the country by strengthening financial and social services so that fair pay, decent work, social and physical security and social mobility of workers and peasant can be guaranteed; e) Result oriented development works to support good governance and effective service delivery; and f) Strengthen economic growth and its sustainability by streamlining development of private and civil society sectors, industrialization, business, and other service areas in the national development.

Upliftment of the Marginalized:

Nepal’s entry into neo-liberal globalization has undermined the capacity of its democracy to represent the interest of diverse citizens especially those caught at the bottom of development hierarchy, minorities and unorganized. The representation deficit and erosion of the base of livelihood owing to cut in agricultural subsidy, privatization of public sectors and duality of economy, education, health and communication marked the beginning of radical politics and the return of the oppressed with the demand of redistributive politics. Ninety percent of Nepal’s workforce is engaged in informal sector. Priority to agriculture can beef up ecological resilience, the informal sector, cooperatives, small enterprises and artisans and alleviates the scarcity of food. The poor in informal sector needs access to land, water, credit, seeds, education, technology and information about markets. These are also the basic necessary condition for better exchange relations between urban and rural areas, and formal and informal ones for social transformation.

A basic reform in public revenue by progressive taxation with regard to the integration of informal sector workers in social security and access to education, health, employment and income of marginalized groups are essential preconditions to dynamize the informal sectors as they equally contribute to national economy like organized sectors, and mediate between the citizen and the state. The increased rights of women and their representation along gender equality will erode traditional institutions’ gender and caste biases, weaken the elite capture of resources and make local economy diversified and competitive in the future offered by topographic advantage. Adequate budgetary allocation to agriculture, coordination on agricultural trade, investment, and financial markets and increase in the productivity of farmers can lower consumer prices, and increase the income of rural population. The government is suspicious about NGOs and human rights organizations’ works. Despite huge deployment of resources in bonded labor, Dalits, workers and deprived people, their condition has not improved. Building state from bottom up is a long-term process of strengthening governance with the ability to outlive the perpetual dependence on donors.

Robust Local Governance:

The structures of local governance are the backbone of democratic system. The more these structures are strengthened at the entire ensemble of social relationships and made responsive to popular expectations, the better the ordinary people have access over development outcome especially in the project identification, planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring of projects. A bottom-up approach to state building requires strengthening active participation of citizens in the management of local resources, production function, decision making local bodies, non-state actors, community organizations, NGOs, civil society, cultural and communication associations and market institutions enthusing in them a sense of citizenship loyal to the central institutions of the state and enabling them to meet expectations of freedom, political order and essential public goods. But there is a need to make central institutions of bureaucracy rational, innovative and motivated to serve the state goals so that ordinary citizens do not feel the absence of state in time of need and can easily overcome free-rider problem. Similarly, institutional incentives and laws are needed to make home-grown local civil society, NGOs, small-scale industries and income-generating activities inclusive of social diversity and just correspondence to the spirit of the Age. The credit association, dhikuti, among Gurung, Magar and Thakali communities has built trust and reciprocity and fostered confidence. Parma, voluntary labor exchange, in the hill society still stands for community cooperation during cultivation of fields and harvesting of crops.

Source: Telegraph Nepal – 30.01.2014 –