New Director in Nepal
In January this year, Rasmus Helveg Petersen became the new Director for DIPD, succeeding Bjørn Førde who had retired in December 2016. The new Director visited Nepal from 15th March to 20th March mainly to meet with the local partners and to understand the overall situation of the country.
The new Director met the Steering Committee members of the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) jointly. The SC members welcomed the new Director and informed him about the ongoing activities of the platform. Appreciating collaboration among JOMPOPS members, Mr. Petersen committed continued support to the platform. He also met with other members of the JOMPOPS parties to learn about the key political issues of Nepal.
Similarly, Mr. Petersen met with the Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal. The Chief Election Commissioner updated him about the preparations of the local elections planned for 14 May 2017. He also thanked DIPD for supporting the Commission on training women candidates at the local level. Apart from the Election Commission, Mr. Petersen met with the representatives of the Danish Embassy and UN Women. All these meetings aimed to foster good relations with each other.
One of the JOMPOPS members also took DIPD Director to visit the earthquake-damaged sites. The massive earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 had severely destroyed many buildings and old temples and monuments of Nepal besides taking lives of thousands of Nepalese people. The reconstruction process has not yet been complete owing to lack of necessary political collaboration. Interestingly, the JOMPOPS member who coordinated the visit of DIPD Director to the damaged sites has been recently appointed as the Chair of the monitoring committee of the earthquake reconstruction work in the Parliament.
Local Party Tour
On invitation of JOMPOPS member parties, the Director visited local party offices of two JOMPOPS parties. Strengthening political parties at the local level has been a key theme of DIPD’s engagement in Nepal. Visiting party offices at the local level gave an opportunity to the new Director to observe their local organizational structure as well as to learn about their regular functioning.
In one of the local party offices, the Director also interacted with the members of marginalized communities such as women, dalits, and Muslims who had gathered in large numbers. One of these participants also asked the Director to share about the Danish experience on addressing the issues of equal representation of women in politics.
The JOMPOPS Steering Committee members from all the six parties had accompanied the Director during these local party tours. And this can be considered as a significant achievement for the platform. Generally, it’s not common for politicians from other parties to attend internal party programmes of another party in Nepal. A few JOMPOPS Steering Committee members also felt awkward in the beginning, not sure if they should be part of the multiparty delegation.
Later on, they decided to go ahead with this expressing their commitment to the multiparty spirit. As one of the Steering Committee members Jitendra Sonal from the Terai Madhesh Democratic party put it, “If we have decided to be part of the multiparty platform then we should have an open attitude towards participation in such multiparty programmes.”
The local party members were clearly impressed by the presence of such influential leaders from different parties together in a programme. They expressed that such collaboration should translate at the local level as well.
Outcome of the Mission
During the visit of the new Director, the political atmosphere in Nepal was quite tense. This tension was triggered particularly by the death of five people in Saptari district, when police opened fire on 6 March 2017 at the Madhesi agitators trying to disrupt the ongoing campaign of the opposition UML party.
This incident resulted in more bitterness between the Madhesi Morcha (a joint alliance of Madhesi parties which also includes two JOMPOPS parties) and the three largest parties of Nepal. The Madhesi Morcha had demanded the passage of the Constitutional Amendment bill as a condition for participating in the local elections. The bill was not passed mainly due to resistance from the opposition UML party.
Therefore, supporters from the Morcha had tried to disrupt the UML’s campaign in the Terai area. Against this uneasy background, killing of Morcha supporters by the government inflamed the ongoing political tension especially by further angering the Morcha members.
Despite this difficult situation, all JOMPOPS members remained committed to multiparty dialogue and participated in the joint events during DIPD Director’s visit to Nepal. Undoubtedly, there was some hesitation and uneasiness but the JOMPOPS members nonetheless could rise above them. One of the Steering Committee members from the Madhesi party in JOMPOPS had shared:
“There’s a huge outrage among Madhesi people against the government due to the recent incident. If they see us sitting together with the members of the government parties then that could be perceived wrongly by the people with implications on our votes during the elections. Yet we participate in the multiparty platform because of our commitment to multiparty dialogue and collaboration.”
This continued collaboration even during tough political times can be considered as one of the significant outcomes of DIPD Director’s visit to Nepal. Even in such difficult political times, his visit could bring all the JOMPOPS parties together. And this opportunity also gave them space to understand each other and to informally explore solutions to mitigate the rising political differences.
Overall, the mission of DIPD Director can be considered as a success because he could reinforce trust with the local partners that has been the key pillar of DIPD’s engagement in Nepal.
Read more about DIPD’s engagment in Nepal.
Contact Senior Advisor at DIPD, Hanne Lund Madsen: firstname.lastname@example.org