Thursday, October 30, 2014

Key lessons from Nepal’s peace process

In this blog, I am trying to reflect and jot down several issues on peace process in Nepal. This process has offered some important lessons. First and the foremost, political negotiations in Nepal depicted that a warring force could be peacefully brought into a democratic political mainstream. Albeit with a delay, the state army accepted civilian supremacy so that the king had to exit peacefully. Proportional election system created the most representative Constituent Assembly and the Parliament, which was exemplary in South Asia in terms of caste, gender, region and identity. During its initial years, peace process advanced with consensus politics (though this trend ended later).

Graphics: Safal Ghimire
The unique mandate to the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), its successes and controversies also provided important lessons. A domestic mechanism successfully handled integration and rehabilitation of former combatants into the state army and the society, though it was initiated by the UNMIN. Besides, Nepal has inspiring cases of maintenance of religious harmony when the country was secularised. The country also boasts of successful negotiations by the private sector, civil society and third party actors.

Pressing Issues in peacebuilding in Nepal:
Constitution writing, widely expected to institutionalise economic, political and social restructuring, is the most pressing issue of peacebuilding in Nepal. It is one of the major mandates of Comprehensive Peace Agreement-2006. Nepal's first elected Constituent Assembly failed to deliver a constitution even after four extensions of its term. It has remained a similar Herculean job for the second Assembly as negotiated settlements on key issues turned difficult. This process of legitimisation of change is important because the actors tried to accommodate negotiated settlements through a number of new agreements and amendments in the Interim Constitution.

The second crucial aspect is the transformation of actors, both domestic and international. It is insightful to look at how rivals turned into allies and vice versa; and how this change in power equation affected the process. Other vital issues are negotiation on federalism, regionalism, identity movement and representational democracy, which emerged during the war and spiralled exponentially in the post-war period. Nepal can ill afford federal restructuring and national integrity without untying knots in these issues.

Key focus for future research in peacebuilding:

In the twenty-first century peacebuilding, one should analyse international geopolitics, regional power structures and global political events that change the course of peacebuilding in any country. Notably, the changes in diplomacy by regional powers – China and India – affected negotiations in Nepal. The end of war unfolded some unnoticed issues such as disputes over forest and water resources, land distribution and territorial demarcation for federalisation. Hence, looking at not only the causes of war, but also the contesting issues after the war and discussing about possible negotiations is strategically important for future research in conflict and peace in Nepal.

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