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Can Nepal unlock its potential? May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Sujeev Shakya

In April 2006, when the second people’s movement, popularly known as ‘Jana Andolan II’, brought an end to 240 years of the Shah monarchy, there was little planning to ensure the country’s rapid political transformation.

The 10-year insurgency that had claimed over 13,000 lives came to an end with the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN) joining mainstream democratic parties. Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic in May 2008 after elections to the Constituent Assembly, and the Shah dynasty came to an end in June when the last ruler, King Gyanendra, vacated the palace and his position without resistance.

The process of writing a constitution began after the election for the Constituent Assembly (CA). The drafting process was extended on three occasions, adding two years to the deadline to finalise the document, but the 601-member CA engaged mostly in intra- and inter-party fighting and failed to write a constitution. As a result, the assembly was dissolved on 28 May 2012. An interim government of retired bureaucrats led by the chief justice was formed in March 2013 to hold yet another election for the CA. (more…)

Freedom from hunger: privilege granted or acknowledged right? January 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan, South Asia - General , comments closed

Aly Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”

A recent publication of Rome-based UN agencies (FAO along with IFAD and WFP of the UN) aiming at global food security is worth a serious commentary for several reasons. One is the odious South Asian situation, which includes Pakistan, of socially imposed mass hunger and malnutrition, which affectsnot just women and men but also children. If there is a single issue that defines development, then it is the situation of children today and tomorrow (as UNICEF rightly underscores). Their under- and mal-nourishment leads to untimely death of hundreds of thousands before the age of five. Survivors face a cruel future in which both body and brain remain wasted and stunted. What then is the point of investing social resources in universal schooling? Avoiding hunger often leads to employment of children in distressingly hazardous conditions and at ruthlessly exploitative wages. Government commits funds for abolition of “worst forms of child labour” but what benefit can they have when their disbursement excludes full and productive employment of their parents?

A second reason is that the FAO retains an overwhelming influence upon sub-continental professional advisors as bureaucrats and consultants, even among those who are not obviously beholden to Washington. Thirdly, food security should be included in the post-2015 agenda for universal accountability of states and the international community to citizens. In fact, food security targets may well encompass necessary commitments in education and health.

This review summarises the FAO report – The State of Food Insecurity in the World  with an emphasis upon South Asian conditions. Its policy guidelines are to be examined critically in a follow up article, through a lens provided by another recent study – Alternatives & Resistance to Policies that Generate Hunger (by the Right to Food & Nutrition Watch.

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Constituent Assembly Election II in Nepal: Will it end the prolonged political transition? December 16, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

After 10 years of Maoist insurgency, Nepal faced two elections for the Constituent Assembly (CA) – one in 2008 (CA I) and the other in 2013 (CA II) to craft a new constitution by peoples’ representatives. Since the CA I was dissolved in 2012 for failing to deliver a new constitution, a CA II election was conducted to get the fresh mandate of the people on 19 November 2013. However, the recent election has produced landslide gains for some political parties and massive setbacks for some other parties, leading to a dramatic change in key players in national politics.  In particular, the Communist Party (Maoist), which had become the largest party in CA I, along with other Madhesi regional parties, has suffered a great loss in the recent election. The party has been advocating for a transformative agenda for Nepalese polity and society. Now, a critical question arises: have the people rejected the agenda for change? In this paper, we look at reasons behind the rise and fall of political parties in the contexts of CA I and CA II, and examine the implications for the political future of the country.

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The rise of Maoists in Nepali politics: from ‘people’s war’ to democratic politics March 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam

Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.

The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.

Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.

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International labour migration and the landless in Nepal January 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam

Nepali youth are migrating for work to the Gulf countries and Malaysia at an unprecedented level. Over 1200 Nepali workers leave the country for foreign employment every day. For many, labour migration is not just a means to overcome economic hardship and accumulate wealth, it is increasingly being pursued rather as a way of life and livelihood. Some analysts argue that migration has contributed to saving the national economy and improving the material well being of many people. And indeed this is true in a broader sense since it has protected the national economy from collapse, accounting for the ratio of remittances to GDP some 25 per cent. Rural places are being gentrified with rural lives becoming more urbane than before despite some social tensions and contradictions. Many families have been able to send their children to private schools. All thanks to the migrants who risk their own lives and who endure being away from their families. Among the plethora of migration-triggered changes, a far-reaching change could be that the poor and landless migrants are now purchasing land.

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Poor by definition June 7, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, South Asia - General , comments closed

Monika Barthwal-Datta

Security continues to be viewed in limited terms in the Indian subcontinent.

For hundreds of millions in the Indian subcontinent, daily life is a ruthless battle. It involves being assaulted brutally by insecurities arising from socio-economic, political, environmental and even military threats to their lives and livelihoods. Despite this, at the national level, the countries in the subcontinent remain stuck to a simplistic and narrow view of what security means, i.e. the safety of the state (or regime) from military threats.

It is a view which stands fundamentally challenged in the globalised, post-Cold War world. The case for a wider understanding of security is now well-established, and in many countries, regional institutions and international organisations, academic and policy debates are informed in this way.

For the subcontinent, the narrow approach to security is unhelpful in at least two ways. One, it makes it very difficult for a more people-oriented, holistic and inclusive understanding of security to emerge, despite it being highly relevant to the needs of its people. When thinking of security, policymakers continue to be driven by the limited, state-centric approach. Likewise, security analysts continue to look to the state when seeking expressions of insecurity, while ignoring other similar expressions at the sub-state level.

Two, it overlooks the importance of actors other than the state who are active in this wider security realm. It ignores their role as legitimate security practitioners, and the potential to learn from and build on their work from a policy perspective.

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Future unclear for Nepal June 1, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

At about quarter to midnight last Sunday night, fifteen minutes before the mandate of the constituent assembly (CA) he  led was due, Cinderella-like, to expire, Nepal’s Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appeared on television sets across the country to deliver a live address.  Nepali speakers can listen to the full address on YouTube.

Chipladonga Protest Photo: Amy Dowler

Bhattarai confirmed what was already clear: last ditch efforts by Nepal’s three major parties – the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN(UML)) – and the Madheshi Morcha (a confederation of parties representing people from the southernmost part of the Terai region who entered into a coalition with the CPN(M) to form government last August) had failed to bring consensus.  What was not clear was what would happen next.  Earlier in the week the Supreme Court quashed an attempt by the government to extend the CA for a further three months.  The NC and CP(UML) had been arguing that the constitution could still be promulgated by the 28 May deadline with outstanding issues  referred to the new, post-constitution CA.  There was talk of a constitutional crisis, of emergency rule.  Some ethnic minority groups claimed they would secede from Nepal and proclaim their own states should a satisfactory solution not be found by 28 May.

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Nepal: politicking without governing February 10, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

It was high farce on the streets of Kathmandu recently when Raj Lal Yadav attempted – unsuccessfully – to resign from his ministerial post in Nepal’s coalition government. Yadav is a member of the Madhesi Janaadhikari Forum-Republican Party, a junior partner in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN(M))-led coalition. His dissatisfaction with his post was due ultimately to its meaninglessness. Despite frequent and well-publicised expressions of frustration, he remained minister without portfolio four months after his elevation to the ministry.

Two weeks ago Yadav finally decided his role was never going to grow substance and scheduled an appointment with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to tender his formal resignation. Unfortunately, the date of that appointment coincided with a bandh. Bandhs, city or nation-wide shutdowns called and enforced by various interest groups, are a much used political device in Nepal. During a properly enforced bandh motorised transport is prohibited (except in the case of emergencies, or tourists).

Not to be deterred, Yadav, along with his aides, took to the pavement to walk to the Prime Minister’s office at Singha Durba, the seat of Nepal’s government. Upon arrival he however discovered his efforts had been in vain: while it could not stop Yadav, the bandh had acted as a deterrent to the PM who decided against venturing to his office that day.

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South Asia in 2011: a year of strained relations January 17, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

First published as  part of a special feature: 2011 in review and the year ahead, in East Asia Forum, 3 January 2012.

South Asia is a vast region encompassing eight nations (if we include Afghanistan) and over one-fifth of humanity. It is difficult to do it justice in this short summary of the year’s events.

Foremost among the region’s significant developments is the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid on 2 May. This is important not just for its effect on al-Qaeda, but because it made possible Washington’s claim that the US could now leave Afghanistan with its ‘mission accomplished’. By the end of 2014 there will be only a rump of about 20,000 NATO troops remaining.

At the same time, the raid also triggered a marked deterioration in the US-Pakistan relationship, already troubled by the Raymond Davis affair. The net result is that although the impetus on the US to leave Afghanistan has increased, the prospect of an orderly departure and satisfactory final outcome has declined.

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Inching closer to sustainable peace in Nepal November 4, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On the evening of Tuesday 1 November 2011, leaders from each of Nepal’s major political parties reached agreement on the integration of former Maoist combatants into the country’s military. The agreement resolves the chief outstanding issue in the country’s protracted peace process, and should allow the Constituent Assembly to turn its full attention to the task of constitution drafting.

The seven-point agreement, designed to provide a “detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process”, comes five years after the original peace agreement ending the decade-long People’s War, and three and a half years after Constituent Assembly elections, held in April 2008 (The Kathmandu Post). Since those elections – in which the Maoists received the highest share of votes but not an outright majority – Nepal has seen the back of four Prime Ministers, three of them arguably casualties of the former combatant integration issue.

Singha Durbar, Kathmandu

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