The Forum in Nepal
The Kingdom of Nepal was created in 1768 when Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the territory that comprises present day Nepal. In 1846, after many decades of monarchic rule, the royal family was subjugated by an aristocratic family, the Ranas, who created a system of hereditary Prime Ministers and reduced the power of the king. The Rana dynasty was subsequently overthrown by a coalition of democrats and the descendants of the original Nepali royal family in 1951. In 1959 the monarchy ended the democratic experiment by seizing power.
The development of a ‘People’s Movement’ (Jana Andolan) against the monarchy, which emerged in 1989, resulted in the establishment of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy under multi-party democracy. This stability was short-lived, however, as in 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) began an armed struggle demanding the establishment of a secular republican state. This led to the decade-long Nepal Civil War which claimed more than 13,000 lives. King Gyanendra used the government’s failure to control the revolt as a pretext to assume full executive power in 2005. In response, Nepal’s democratic parties allied with the Maoists to declare a pro-democratic movement (Jana Andolan-II), which led to the overthrow of the monarchy in April 2006.
A peace process brought about a political settlement in the form of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). As part of the terms of the CPA, signed on 21 November 2006 by both the government and the Maoists, the rebels agreed to disarm and became a mainstream political party. The terms also affirmed Nepal to be a secular state. In 2008 a “secular, federal democratic republic” was declared following elections to a unicameral Constituent Assembly in which the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest number of seats. The Constituent Assembly was tasked with drafting a new constitution for federal Nepal. Nepal remained politically unstable, however, as a series of governments collapsed between 2008 and 2012. The failure of the first Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution in the allotted time led to the formation of the Second Constituent Assembly after elections held in November 2013. Alongside serving as the Nepali legislature, the Second Constituent Assembly was responsible for drafting the new constitution of Nepal.
After a 10-year civil war, Nepal is undergoing a process of triple transition – towards democracy, towards federalism, and away from feudalism. All major parties have agreed to the creation of a new federal system.
Currently, the President is the Head of State of Nepal, although this role is largely ceremonial as the functioning of the government is managed entirely by the Prime Minister, the Head of Government. The Parliament (currently the unicameral Second Constituent Assembly) appoints the Prime Minister, and he in turn appoints the Attorney General. The heads of the Constitutional bodies (the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority; the Public Service Commission; the Election Commission; and the National Human Rights Commission respectively) are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council.
In September 2015 Nepal passed a new Constitution, creating a Federal country. This constitution replaces the interim constitution that has governed the country since 2007, and the new structure of government is now in the process of being implemented.
The Forum of Federations current program in Nepal, Consolidating Democratic Transition in Nepal is sponsored by Global Affairs Canada.
This program provides technical advice, training and outreach campaigns for the establishment of a decentralised system of government. It strengthens key stakeholders ability to engage in political discussions on Nepal formation and state structure; it enhances the capacity of elected official’s ability to design a new constitution for Nepal; and aims to increase the capacity of citizens to exercise their political rights and preferences.
Technical support to members of the 2nd Constitutional Assembly – Constitution building/ decentralised and federal governance: Training sessions investigate comparative transitional experiences of decentralised and federal countries in the constitution building process, providing comparative technical advice and support to members of the 2nd Constituent Assembly.
Intensive stakeholder trainings for political party leaders, media and representatives and civil society stakeholders: Training sessions cover: federalism, decentralization and devolution, fiscal federalism, natural resource management, intergovernmental relations, local government capacity building, and judicial reform. Trainings will highlight comparable international experiences from federal and decentralised systems of government.
Outreach campaign – Citizens forums: Citizen Forums targeting academics, students, civil society leaders, cover the following themes: principles of federalism, decentralization and devolution, power sharing and judicial reform. Trainings will highlight comparable international experiences from federal and decentralised systems of government.
Development of Nepal specific training material: The Forum is producing training tools containing analysis and comparative research in areas such as federal and decentralised systems of government, intergovernmental relations, judicial reform, fiscal federalism and resource management.
- Enhanced capacity of members of the 2nd CA to design and implement a federal constitution
- Strengthened ability of key stakeholders outside the 2nd CA, particularly political party leaders, to effectively engage in political discussions on Nepal’s state structure.
- Increased capacity of citizens, including women and youth, to exercise their political rights and to articulate their political preferences.
- Women and Youth
- Political Leadership from all major parties
- Constituent Assembly members
- Civil Society and Media
The Forum of Federations has been active in Nepal since 2008. Its work has helped to build Nepal’s capacity in democratic decentralised governance. Through its various programs the Forum has implemented training workshops, seminars, roundtable discussions, study tours, public forums and research projects, policy and training materials.
The Forum implemented the program, Design and Implementation Plan for a System of Fiscal Transfers in Federal Nepal, with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The program focussed on supporting Nepal’s federal transition to an effective and stable system of governance. The Forum provided expertise on the design and implementation of fiscal transfers crucial to effective governance. The project increased the knowledge and understanding of options and comparative practices in designing a system of fiscal transfers. Its significant output was a knowledge exchange for representatives of Nepali institutions, notably the Local Bodies Finance Commission as well as other government institutions and political parties. The Forum published its analysis in a comprehensive prescriptive publication on fiscal transfers in Nepal.
With support of the German Development agency Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Forum implemented a program in Nepal, “Empowering through Training – Aiding Nepal’s Civil Service to Implement a Federal System”. The program concentrated on the process of state transition and an effective and stable system of democratic federal governance by way of building and enhancing the capacity of the civil servants. It aimed to strengthen capacities of Nepal’s senior level civil servants in civil reform and restructuring so that they are better prepared for Nepal’s transition from a unitary to a federal system.
The Forum worked extensively with Constituent Assembly members assisting their efforts to draft a federal constitution. It familiarized political party leaders and civil society with federal systems and enhanced the capacity of Nepal’s educational institutions. The project undertook a comparative overview of civil service reforms illustrated by transition experiences of the United Kingdom, South Africa and Spain. The findings from this research were incorporated into a publication on Civil Service Reform in Nepal.