South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The on 31 Dec. 2014 :: 

Nepal’s past politics recalled

The media generally reports news about political debates in the Parliament in summary and legislative information is available to citizens and the media. As the Parliament is the most effective avenue for citizens to be heard and heeded, parliamentarians’ role in political education is very effective. The Speaker of the House opines that in the parliamentary system, if political parties do not function as a teacher, all the sectors of the nation reflect incapacity. He has further noted that Nepalese MPs lack both legislative knowledge and skill. But, the government of the majority party often decides policies and the majority in parliament endorses them. The communication process between the majority party and their parliamentarians is significant not only to shape and control policy options but also to influence public opinion. Although the coalition partners dominate the parliamentary process in Nepal, present and pass the bills they like, the role of opposition in terms of critical debates cannot be neglected because it is the opposition that has pressed for justification and inspired for the amendment of the bill, whether it is the Tanakpur Agreement, or the Mahakali Treaty. Still, given the current size of the cabinet of ministers (Written long time ago: Ed). , the ability of MPs to influence the decision- making process has been greatly diminished. There are several aspects that provide some insights into how the legislature in Nepal contributes to the political education of citizens.

Parliamentary committee meetings of each party, and among the parties, offer a basis for resolving problems. The committee systems are increasingly being accepted in Parliament as a way to promote the policy-making process. In Nepal, however, except the Account Committee, all committees are ceremonial in function and are not able to serve as a counterweight to the power of the executive. Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliament have hardly contributed anything to the democratization process in Nepal.


In the development cooperation of Nepal, democracy and human rights have figured quite recently, only after the restoration of democracy. In the downfall of the Panchayat regime, international support played a substantial role. The growth of a critical mass of intellectuals, such as professional groups, students, human rights activists, etc served as a catalyst for political change in Nepal. This mass was vital in the transition of Nepal to multi-party democracy. International cooperation seems to be there in almost all areas of democracy and development in Nepal. A number of international organizations are involved in Nepal in the democratization process. Yet, consistent with statist preferences, most of the donor approaches seem to be top-down, with little genuine participation, empowerment, and self-reliance of the people.

USAID until recently had been supporting a number of organizations under the democracy project. USAID and Asia Foundation have been helping the Nepalese NGOs in conducting public opinion surveys, helping in the protection of human rights, women and development, public sector reforms, protection of minority rights and economic and legal reforms. The training of legislators in parliamentary procedures, policy formulation and the formation of a democratic political culture had also been the goal of Asia Foundation until recently. But, except economic reforms and gender projects, many of the Asia Foundation and USAID programs have ceased now, due to the shortage of funds. Similarly, the Ford Foundation is involved in the field of media and democratization in Nepal. It also appears interested in supporting initiatives for sub-regional cooperation.

DANIDA is mainly involved in electoral reforms, such as the introduction of voters’ Identity Cards, decentralization and local self- government, establishment of resource training centers in Kathmandu, Nepalgunj and Biratnagar to train Nepalese journalists, modernization of higher secondary education and training of public and police officials through seminars on human rights and democracy. Reforming the police also includes their training in professional areas as well as educating them on human rights and citizen rights. Besides, DANIDA has also been supporting the parliamentary secretariat in equipping the Parliament with modern audio and visual technology, to organize workshops and training programs on the roles and responsibilities of the parliamentarians, legislative procedures, and many technical matters of parliamentary interest. FINIDA has recently begun to take interest through the Institute for Human Development (IHD) to organize “How to Be Good Parliamentarians” involving the parliamentarians of all the political parties, minister for parliamentary affairs and the speaker.

Efficiency and accountability of public institutions seem to be the goals of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. One the one hand, these institutions are involved in reforming the higher education system in Nepal and, on the other, they seem to be oriented towards improving the climate for business, financial management and women and development. The World Bank, in particular, is also involved in the poverty alleviation scheme in Nepal. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has also been involved in poverty alleviation, sustainable development, good governance, local self-government, decentralization and gender issues. Its democratization components involve: political accountability and legitimacy, an independent judicial system, bureaucracy accountability, freedom of information and expression, effective and efficient public sector management and cooperation with NGOs and civil society organizations.

The German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) is primarily involved in rural development through self-help promotion, urban development through local efforts, environment management and promotion of small scale industries with the guiding principles of people’s participation, target group orientation, implementation of pluralism, transparency and accountability, decentralization, sustainability, innovation, women’s participation, local skills and conservation, program management and environment conservation. The recipients of German cooperation have to fulfill at least five preconditions: human rights, democracy, rule of law, market-oriented economic policy and development-orientation of state. The political foundation of Germany like Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), and Friedrich Naumann Stiftung (FNS) are focusing on decentralization and development in Nepal.

Particularly, FES has been active in the field of trade union education, media, parliamentary reporting, regional cooperation, civil society and NGOs. Its key consideration are: democratization of the political structure and political culture and supporting its partner organizations in initiating open dialogues on educational, social, political, economic, and environmental issues in Nepal. Besides, there are more than 80 International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) in Nepal involved in different areas such as political awareness, social reforms, welfare of indigenous people especially of Badi, Chepang and Tharu communities, child welfare, health, community development, education, sustainable development, etc. Their contribution to the democratization process of Nepal is indirect.

What can be done?

The role of political education lies here, in revitalizing the vision of a good society nurtured by social mobilization in which power and wealth are decentralized, social and cultural cooperation among the citizens are voluntary and mediated, and society is run through self-governing institutions.

Thanks POLSAN, Nepali Political Science & Politics, Vol. 5, 1996.