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Sharing Danish Experiences in Nepal

Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) – DIPD’s partner in Nepal – recently conducted a four-day Training of Trainers (ToT) seminar in Kathmandu. The training was based on the Guide for Strengthening Political Parties at local level, developed jointly by Danish and Nepalese politicians.

Report by Shrishti Rana, DIPD Representative in Nepal

Photo: All the participants with the Nepali trainers and the four Danish facilitators.

Opening of the Programme

A brief opening programme was organized by the Steering Committee members of JOMPOPS before the formal training sessions began. Around 50 participants from major political parties of Nepal including JOMPOPS Steering Committee members attended the programme.

DIPD Chair Henrik Bach Mortensen and DIPD Director Bjørn Førde also visited Nepal to attend this opening. Moreover, four Danish politicians — Kisser Franciska Lehnert from the Liberal Alliance party, Leon Sebbelin from the Social Liberal Party, Rasmus Falck Ostergaard from the Red-Green Alliance, and Rolf Aagaard-Svendsen, from the Conservative Party flew to Nepal for the training.

During this programme, JOMPOPS Co-Chair Khimlal Devkota pointed out that political parties in Nepal are centralized and local branches are not empowered enough. He added that Danish experiences on strong local branches are useful in the context of Nepal especially given the upcoming local elections.

DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen addressing the opening session of the ToT seminar in Kathmandu.

DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen addressing the opening session of the ToT seminar in Kathmandu.

DIPD Chair Henrik Bach Mortensen highlighted the importance of local party branches in the Danish context. He argued that local party branches are the root of successful democracy. He also made the interesting note that while parties of course need ‘star-like’ politicians as leaders, our democratic culture really needs the local level active party members. This is also necessary for the national parties to be in touch with the grassroots level in order to make relevant policy proposals.

Similarly, the Governance Facility head Niels Hjortdal, who spoke on behalf of Danish Ambassador to Nepal, Kirsten Geelan, said that the Guide developed by Danish and Nepalese politicians together is like a “catalogue of ideas for inspiration.” And he appreciated that the Guide has been locally adaptable to make it relevant for Nepal’s political parties.

JOMPOPS SC members also presented cultural dance programmes reflecting Nepal’s cultural diversity.

Training

The JOMPOPS Steering Committee members with the support from external consultants developed manuals (Trainers and Participants) for the training based on the Guide for local party branches. The manuals focused on the four themes of the Guide: 1) The Importance of local branches 2) How to form a new local branch 3) How to organize a new local branch 4) How to campaign effectively.

One of the Danish facilitators, Kisser Franciska Lehnert, from the Liberal Alliance Party, is doing her presentation at the training.

The four Danish facilitators gave presentations in all the four themes.  Discussions on these themes were moderated by the Nepalese facilitators. JOMPOPS Steering Committee members commented on the presentations by the Danish politicians and emphasized on the experiences that are relevant to Nepal. The Nepalese experts covered a few sessions such as Facilitation Skill, Gender, and Social Inclusion.

Around 24 politicians from political parties in JOMPOPS attended the training. These politicians were members of parliament as well as district level leaders. A remarkable aspect was the presence of a substantial number of women. In the past, representation of women in such party programmes was found to be limited.

The most challenging part of the training was managing four days of time of the participants for the training because of their other poli

tical priorities. Despite that, all the participants attended the full training. This was only possible due to the firm commitment of the JOMPOPS Steering Committee members, who regularly came to motivate their respective participants.

The four days were a mix of presentations and discussions, and the participants were eager to learn as much as possible from the Danish facilitators.

The four days were a mix of presentations and discussions, and the participants were eager to learn as much as possible from the Danish facilitators.

Most participants said that the training was very practical and useful in their political life. The participants also appreciated the collaborative political culture fostered by JOMPOPS and said that there should be a platform for them also to communicate with each other. However, one major criticism by the participants was the lack of enough female trainers and facilitators.

Overall, the politicians in Nepal appreciated training based on Danish experiences. One of the participants has commented:

“I learnt a lot about good practices from Denmark on this training.  I was particularly impressed by the coalition culture and lack of corruption in Denmark. I have now understood that this was possible due to strong party branches at local level.”

Chairman meets political leaders in Nepal

During a week-long mission to the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) in Nepal, the DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen had the rare opportunity to meet several prominent political leaders who lead the political course of the country.

Report by Shrishti Rana, DIPD Representative in Nepal and Bjørn Førde, DIPD Director

From left to right: DIPD Director Bjørn Førde, New Force leader and former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen, and New Force party officer Khimlal Devkota.

Today, the politics of Nepal is largely defined by the promulgation of the new Constitution that took place in September 2015, after seven years of difficult negotiations. It is now about implementation in general, in a situation where not all parties were ready to agree on all parts of the constitution; and it is about the shape and form of federalism in particular.

This photo offers an idea of the devastation made by the 2015 earthquake. Many temples in the old part of Kathmandu were either destroyed or severely damaged.

This photo offers an idea of the devastation made by the 2015 earthquake. Many temples in the old part of Kathmandu were either destroyed or severely damaged.

It is also about the local level elections that need to come sooner rather than later, because Nepal has not had such elections since 1997. This is an area which DIPD is particularly interested in, considering that a key focus area in Nepal has been the development of a democratic culture in the local branches of the political parties.

Of course Nepal is also challenged by the lack of social and economic development. Citizens now expect the political leaders to address the issues that concern them the most – education for the children, employment for the youth, health for the poor, etc. – wholeheartedly, now that the constitutional business has been finalized. Politicians are also expected to ensure that reconstruction takes place in an effective manner following the devastating earthquake in April 2015.

Meeting Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Rawal

Right now Nepal is governed by the second largest party represented in the Constituent Assembly, the Communist Party of Nepal- Unified Marxist Leninist, with the support of several smaller parties. The Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Rawal is one of five Deputy Prime Ministers, and he also holds the portfolios of Defence.

The Deputy PM receives the DIPD delegation headed by the DIPD Chairman in his office in the government enclave. Some days earlier the European Union and India have come out with comments on the new Constitution that the government has seen as being critical. It is therefore not surprising that the Deputy PM starts by reflecting on the Constitution.

Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Bahadur Rawal explaining the challenges of the new constitution.

Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Bahadur Rawal explaining the challenges of the new constitution.

“Nepal is an extremely diverse society, and it should therefore not come as a surprise that it took seven years to negotiate a new constitution. But we can all be proud of the result, although all of us also can find issues we are not in total agreement with. We continue to work on the issues, and we are open for dialogue on the difficult issues, and as Nepali we can find ways of disagreeing peacefully.”

DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen agreed that constitutional processes often needed the time to ensure that it was inclusive, and he expressed his hope that time would heal the wounds and pain that some communities might feel.

“DIPD is not a large organization, and our influence is obviously limited, but we have been very happy with the commitment and ownership shown by all the six parties working together in JOMPOPS. Hopefully we can make a useful input also to the upcoming local level elections.”

Deputy PM Rawal ended by thanking DIPD for its valuable contribution to the deepening of democracy in Nepal, and he fully agreed that the local elections will be very important. He emphasized the need to empower local institutions, and to make sure that they can manage the substantial amount of resources in a solid manner.

Meeting with Nepali Congress President, Sher Bahadur Deuba

Nepali Congress is one of the oldest parties in Nepal. Recently the former Prime Minister and party leader Koirala died, and this resulted in a competition for the post of party President between two leaders. Mr. Deuba came out on top and is now the President of the party.

Just the day before the DIPD delegation met him, the party President had been engaged in yet another competitive election inside the party, this time for Parliamentary Leader of his party. He was up against Ram Chandra Poudyal who had challenged him for the presidency; again he won.

The DIPD Chairman therefore started by congratulating Mr. Deuba with winning both the post of President and Parliamentary Leader. He also made references to the traditions of political parties in Denmark, where you would also see groupings within a political party contest for leadership. This is only natural and should be seen as a sign of a healthy political environment.

Rather than focusing on the internal aspects of his party, Mr. Deuba pointed to the challenges that still lie ahead when implementing the Constitution. As the largest party in Parliament, the Nepali Congress is ready to take responsibility, and he himself is ready to provide leadership in moving forward. With a large membership and local branches all over the country, the party is well positioned to offer direction and leadership.

Meeting with former PM, Baburam Bhattarai

In the last 2013 elections for the Constituent Assembly, the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist ended up in third place, after having been the largest party when the first Constituent Assembly was elected in 2008. Mr. Bhattarai was then Prime Minister for a period of two years, and he is considered to be both an honest politician and a person who delivers on his promises.

However, in 2015 Mr. Bhattarai decided to break with his Maoist party and engage in the founding of a new political party, which has been called “New Force”. At the beginning of 2016, a newly established Danish party called “The Alternative”, which was voted into parliament for the first time in June 2015, decided to establish a partnership with New Force with funding from DIPD.

This meeting was therefore an opportunity for the Chairman to get a personal understanding of the reasons for establishing a new party in a country which already has more than 30 political parties; and also to get a sense of how the priorities of the new party would differ from those of the ‘old’ parties. Referring to the new Danish party, the Chairman said:

“Before the June 18 parliamentary elections in Denmark, I did not think that the Alternative party had any chance of being represented. We already had 8 political parties, and that could be seen as plenty for a country the size of Denmark. But they really took us by surprise. Maybe because they had an approach to politics which was both refreshing and needed at a time when parties have difficulty attracting new members, and politicians generally are not seen as trustworthy.”

Meeting with Chairman of Federal Socialist Forum, Nepal

The JOMPOPS platform is made up of representatives from 6 political parties – the three large parties, and three Madesh parties. The largest among the Madesh parties is the Federal Socialist Forum, led by the Chairman, Mr. Upendra Yadav, who was also a former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. This party is also the fifth largest in Parliament.

Considering that the issue of federalism in the new constitution has been strongly supported by the Madesh communities, it is not surprising that the meeting in particular focused on the weaknesses and deficiencies the Chairman and his party have highlighted in this regard. The Chairman of DIPD welcomed this by stating:

“In Denmark we have no experience with the kind of diversities that Nepal has to struggle with. Historically we have been a highly homogenous society, which undoubtedly make many things easier. To have to manage so many cultural, religious, ethnic and economic diversities must be an enormously challenging operation.”

In all the meetings, Nepalese leaders appreciated DIPD’s engagement in Nepal and emphasized the need for its continuity till Nepal’s democracy is fully institutionalized. DIPD Chair responded by stating that engagement in Nepal is mutually beneficial for Danish politicians as they get to learn a lot from Nepalese politicians particularly on managing diversities.

 

Enhancing voice and accountability

In the new political landscape emerging in Myanmar after the watershed 2015 parliamentary elections and the formation of a new government, DIPD recognises that both parties and the media will have a prominent role going forward. In particular, DIPD supports parties and the media to increase the visibility of citizen voices and promote the accountability of government.

To promote these objectives, DIPD collaborated with the Myanmar Journalism Institute to organise a seminar entitled “Voice and Accountability: How Media and Parties Can Cooperate to Promote Democratic Dialogue” on 29th-30th March in Yangon. At this seminar, representatives of 37 parties and 18 media houses and organizations discussed how they could work together as two of the pillars of democracy to enhance accountability of government and give greater opportunity to make citizen voices heard.

Both parties and the media appreciated that without each other the 2015 elections would not have been a success. Party representatives and journalists also indicated that both the media and the parties are still learning how to operate in an increasingly open and democratic environment.

Daw Aye Nu Sein, Chairwoman of Arakan National Party

Daw Aye Nu Sein, Chairwoman of Arakan National Party

The participants discussed how cooperation and dialogue can help the media and the parties work together in a more constructive way. U Thiha Saw, Executive Director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute, emphasised that if parties understand the context in which the media operates and the rules by which they operate, they will be able to provide more relevant and meaningful news to media houses. U Aung Shin of the National League for Democracy indicated that the NLD intends to pursue legal reform to establish a better environment for the media and also consider how the government can empower community media. Ma Thida Sanchaung, a leading writer and supporter of media freedom, proposed that parties and the media can collaborate to advocate for the freedom of information and the right to know, which will be the foundation for good governance in the future. U Nan Ri of Kayan National Party indicated that capacity development support for the parties’ public relations departments can help parties communicate more effectively with the media.

During the course of the two-day event, leading figures from parties, the media, and civil society inspired parties and the media to consider how they can cooperate to enhance citizen voice and government accountability. While both the media and parties recognised that the challenges ahead remain considerable, they were optimistic that they can make a significant contribution to an accountable and responsive government that improves the lives of the citizens of Myanmar.

Participants at the Voice & Accountability Seminar

Participants at the Voice & Accountability Seminar

More information

Read more about DIPD’s work in Myanmar, where we are part of the EU supported STEP Democracy Programme.

Contact DIPD’s Myanmar Country Coordinator, Khin Thazin Myint: ktzm@dipd.dk

Contact Senior Advisor at DIPD, Hanne Lund Madsen: hlm@dipd.dk