Forum President George Anderson made a presentation at a round-table discussion on federalism in Nepal at the Reform Forum in Kathmandu recently. The timeliness of Mr. Andersonâ€™s visit to Nepal was reflected in the very existence of the Reform Forum, a Kathmandu-based NGO which organizes a regular discussion series on federalism and related issues. Approximately 35 people attended, including the Minister of Law, Justice, and Constituent Assembly Affairs, Mr. Dev Gurung. Other participants included members of civil society, journalists, lawyers and students. In addition to discussing some basic principles of a federal system, including power sharing, fiscal arrangements, and ways of managing socio-cultural diversity, Mr. Anderson had some suggestions for success in creating federal country:
- Be careful when deciding the number and size of constituent units. In Nepalâ€™s case, a federal structure with a small number of constituent units is more practical because of Nepalâ€™s small territory and immense socio-cultural diversity;
- Fiscal provisions in the future constitution should clearly delineate the powers of collecting and distributing government revenue;
- While important, ethnicity is not the only dimension of federalism. Given that the socio-cultural composition of Nepal does not exhibit any division among the Nepalese people, Nepal has the opportunity to build a federal country which could serve as an example to other countries of the world.
The Minister of Law, Justice, and Constituent Assembly Affairs, Mr. Dev Gurung echoed Mr. Andersonâ€™s sentiments, arguing that federalism could be a means of developing Nepal as a peaceful and prosperous country. The oppressed and marginalized people should be the first beneficiaries of the state restructuring process, he adding, mentioning that they stand to benefit greatly from the right of self-government under the federal system. Mr. Anderson concluded by saying that while international experts can share the experiences of their own, it is the Nepalese people who will ultimately decide what type of federalism is most suitable for their country. The event took place on September 15, 2008, in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.