Forum launches Nepal program

Werner Thut speaks at the launch of the Forum program in Nepal. From right: Werner Thut, Nicole Toepperwien, Markus Heiniger, Horst Matthäus, Amitabha Pande, Krishna Khanal and Dominic Cardy.

The Forum of Federations launched its Nepali federalism-training program at a recent event in Kathmandu.

Nepal, which abolished its monarchy in May 2008 after elections for a constitutional assembly, is in the process of restructuring itself as a federal democratic republic. During this time, the Forum is providing experts and information on federalism to members of civil society and others requesting it over the course of the program.

Dr. Werner Thut, Forum’s Vice President for Development Assistance Programs, recounted the Forum’s activities over its nine-year history to an audience of more than 40 Nepali political, civil society, and media leaders, and representatives of donor and diplomatic missions. He also highlighted the role of federations in post-conflict countries.

The Forum’s program in Nepal has financial support from both the Swiss and German governments. Since the program began in August 2008, Dr. Nicole Toepperwien, the Forum’s lead expert in Nepal, has made several visits to Nepal. Dr. Toepperwien explained the evolution of discussions around federalism since the beginning of the peace process that brought an end to the country’s civil war in November 2006.

Markus Heiniger, representing the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, detailed Swiss support for federalism in Nepal and quoted from the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord, which laid the groundwork for federalism in Nepal. Dr. Horst Matthäus, who manages federalism programs for German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) in Nepal, made it clear that while existing federal states could provide some examples, Nepal would need to find a unique system to match its unique circumstances.

Amitabha Pande, who recently retired as Secretary of the Indian Inter-State Council Secretariat, which governs relations between Indian states and New Delhi, urged attendees not to forget that federalism and democracy are inseparable, and that the technical details of federalism should not obscure its true purpose. He spelled out the opportunities he sees for Nepal, and the readiness to embrace new systems. He raised the vision of Mahatma Gandhi, who had called for a federalism of villages and power in the hands of local communities.

Prof. Krishna Khanal, the well-known political scientist from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University, talked about the history of federalism in Nepal, pointing out some in the audience who had been part of that first, tiny, group that called for a federal system in what was then the Kingdom of Nepal. Prof. Khanal noted that it took a rebellion in the southern Tarai region, bordering India, for federalism to move to the center of political debate. Asia-Pacific Director Dominic Cardy closed the event with thanks for the participants, guests, and donors. The Forum’s Kathmandu field liaison office, which opened in August 2008, is run by Sanjeev Pokharel.

The event was held on December 3, 2008.

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