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Posts from the ‘Previous events’ Category

Nepali leaders look to Denmark ahead of local elections

With the 2017 Local Elections approaching, leaders of JOMPOPS member UML seek inspiration in the Danish experiences with political parties at local level.

Thirteen kilometres outside Janakpur city – one of the cultural, administrative and political hubs of Nepal’s southern plains – local-level leaders of Nepal Communist Party-Unified Marxists-Leninists (popularly known as UML) gathered on 12 January 2017 to brainstorm for the next two days on “Sambidhan Karyanwoyanma Rajya Samrachana” (State Restructuring In Implementation of Constitution) following the passage of Nepal’s new statute in September 2015. UML is the second biggest party in the parliament.

In a first such gathering since the new constitution, some 77 key leaders braving the cold winter had come from 34 districts – some of which were as far away as two days of bus travel –  from three of the seven provinces that the new constitution has laid out the federal country that the 75-district Nepal now is.

Elements from the Guide

In drawing up the agenda for the two-day event, the organising unit of the party – Federal Affairs Department – had integrated some elements of modules of the Guide on “Political Parties at the Local Level: Danish Experiences for Inspiration”. The Guide was prepared jointly by Danish local politicians and Nepalese politicians in the six-party Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS), DIPD’s partner in Nepal, with support from both Danish and Nepalese political consultants.

State restructuring in Nepal’s present context also means party restructuring because of provincial and local level geographic demarcations to be followed soon by much anticipated first elections under the new constitution; therefore, in providing inputs to the agenda of the interaction, JOMPOPS Steering Committee members of the party decided to include elements of management of a political party, election campaign and gender considerations, based on the developed modules of the Guide.

By a coincidence that JOMPOPS Steering Committee member Parshuram Meghi Gurung termed “happy”, the venue happened to be a local organisation known as Life School Centre, built by Danida in 2010 as part of a watershed and natural resources project, and which now functioned as a resource and meeting centre.

The resource persons for the Janakpur event had travelled from Dang the day before after a two-day interaction there on January 9 and 10 on the same broad theme for some 65 top local leaders from districts covering the provinces 4, 5, 6 and 7.

In Dang, Mr. Gurung, who is a politburo member of the party and Head of the Federal Affairs Department, sought to familiarise his colleagues about Nepal’s federalism which has unique specialities and about what is the way ahead for the party in making federalism successful. The form and contents of Nepal’s future local governments was the topic on which federalism expert Mr. Krishna Prasad Sapkota spoke in detail. Dr. Deepak Prakash Bhatt, a security expert, gave a presentation on international relations, including regional security. Ms. Dhan Kumari Sunar, the party’s gender focal person who works closely with DIPD on various issues around one of JOMPOPS’ key areas of work i.e. women in politics, gave participants a tour of Nepal’s constitutional provisions on women’s rights, and discussed women’s participation and representation in politics and the challenges that the party should deal with in this context.

Awaiting Local Elections

Another resource person Federal Affairs Department Secretary Mr. Shiva Gurung – who is one of the trainers trained in the contents of the Guide at the four-day Training of Trainers that JOMPOPS had organised in April 2016 with participation of a group of politicians from Danish municipalities as resource persons – talked about how to be effective in local election campaigns and presented different aspects of Danish experiences and practices that he had learnt at the ToT. With the impending local elections occupying the minds of district leaders, Mr. Gurung’s presentation struck a timely chord with them.

Participants in Janakpur, 550 kilometres east from Dang, were equally interested in how the executive and legislative branches of local level units (now called Village Body/Municipality) would function, what new powers they had compared to now, and how the party should prepare itself for the upcoming elections, expected to be announced any day. They were eager to learn from the resource persons who seemed to have prepared well for the interaction to impress upon the participants how important it is for top local-level leaders to be oriented on how the federalism is unfolding at the local level.

So, when federalism expert Mr. Krishna Prasad Sapkota gave examples of how elsewhere the local governments function, including how Denmark’s local units have the authority to spend a large share of the national budget, it was clear the participants began to appreciate the road ahead where the local level units were going to have a number of powers in diverse fields like education (up to high school), health, cooperatives, local tax and a number of other services. They also heard from Ms. Sunar how they had the onus of preparing women to be effective in local politics and run for office, after she gave a rundown on constitutional provisions on women’s representation from the bottom to the top of state structure.

For Janakpur interaction, the organisers had asked DIPD Senior Adviser Murari Shivakoti to conduct the session on “Chunabma Safal Huna” (Winning Elections), also based on his experience as a media expert. Mr. Shivakoti in his presentation drew from the Danish way of tackling local elections, as contained in the Local Guide, starting with how a systematic planning, well in advance, was vital to build a political strategy. But he focussed mostly on campaign activities and communication means as employed by the Danish parties for local elections, contextualising them where possible with Nepal’s practicalities, and giving examples from the mediascape of Janakpur municipality.

Message and Medium

In a quick feedback later, participant Mr. Sudhir Shah, a local youth leader, said the message he took away from the session was how proper planning was key. “Competitive politics require meticulous preparations, step-by-step”, he said. “There were inspirations from Danish practices on how to do it, and do it creatively.” Mr. Sabin Bahadur Thapa, another youth leader, thought the session was interesting because he learnt of the elements of a successful election campaign. “I also saw how social media tools can be useful in targeting particularly youths, and dealing with media in general”, he said.

As the interactions came to a close, top provincial-level leaders like former minister and member of parliament from the district Mr. Shatrughan Mahato and Province No. 2 Deputy Head Mr. Nagendra Chaudhary in one voice said the two-day event was very beneficial and more such training needed to be conducted in different districts. That seems to be in the cards of the party. JOMPOPS SC member Mr. Gurung had earlier at the opening of the training on the first day had announced that the interactions in Dang and Janakpur also marked the initial launch of what he called a “School of Federalism” that the party will continue to work on for a formal establishment.

More information

Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

Thousands gather to promote marginalised women in politics

On 7 January, nearly 3000 people primarily from the Dalit community gathered in Kalaiya in the southern plains of Nepal to discuss and promote women’s active participation in politics, in order to overcome the massive discrimination still facing Dalit women.

The Joint Mechanism for Political Parties Strengthening (JOMPOPS) — DIPD’S local partner in Nepal — has been running a campaign on promoting women in politics since April 2013. As part of this campaign, JOMPOPS parties organize both multiparty and intraparty programmes at the central level as well as at the local level to promote participation/representation/recognition of women in politics.

In early January 2017, one of the JOMPOPS members, Tarai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP), organized a mass public meeting to empower women from one of the most marginalized communities in Nepal: Dalit. The Dalit communities, treated as untouchables, are still socially discriminated and are considered among the most deprived in terms of access to resources and power.

According to a Dalit-based organization, almost half of Nepal’s Dalits live below the poverty line and their life expectancy and literacy rate are way below the national average. Despite constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination against Dalits, they continue to face multifaceted discriminations in practice, such as prohibition to enter into religious places or to touch water in public places.

Women from the Dalit community face additional discriminations, as they have been deprived from access to education, health and other resources. Often, it’s Dalit women who are victims of accusation of practicing witch-craft. Such women are often tortured and even killed. Last December, a Dalit woman called Laxmi Pariyar, near the capital Kathmandu, was beaten up, fed feces, and finally killed on accusation of witch-craft.

In this context, JOMPOPS Steering Committee member from the TMDP party, Jitendra Prasad Sonar, came up with a proposal to empower Dalit women to participate actively in politics so that they can influence the political process. DIPD decided to provide some technical support for the event in partnership with other local organizations.

Promoting women’s participation

On 7 January, nearly 3000 people including nearly 50 per cent women particularly from the Dalit community gathered in Kalaiya in Bara district in the southern plains of Nepal. TMDP President Mahanta Thakur was the chief guest of the programme and his presence gave a strong message for the importance of men to engage on women’s issues.

In addition to political speeches appealing women to participate actively in politics not just as voters but as leaders, two successful women leaders shared their personal journeys, talking about the key barriers they faced and the ways they overcome those barriers. The main objective of this sharing was to inspire Dalit women to strive for leadership positions.

Among the two key women speakers, one was Ms. Sheikh Chand Tara. Ms. Chand Tara is the former Chair of the National Women’s Commission, appointed from the quota given to the political parties.  Ms. Chand Tara emphasized on education and appealed to Dalit women to prioritize education. She also pointed out that gender equality is the cornerstone of overall economic prosperity.

Another speaker was a local woman community leader, Ms. Pinky Yadav. She shared her experiences and said that the situation for Dalit women has remained the same despite massive socio-political reforms in Nepal.  She concluded that Dalit women should come forward and take active participation in politics than just be voters.

In addition to sharing the personal stories by women leaders, the programme also focused on emphasizing the need for men to engage on empowerment of women. Both the Steering Committee members from JOMPOPS, Jitendra Prasad Sonar and Suresh Mandal, said that Dalit women should be empowered. They also spoke against the caste system and appealed to Dalit women to come forward without any hesitation.

Since very limited political party programmes focus on marginalized groups such as Dalit women, this programme generated a lot of enthusiasm among the Dalit women in the area, and which found expressions during the programme.

More information

Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

 

Reporting on Peace and Conflict: Enhancing People’s Voice and Accountability

In its first eight months, the newly elected government of Myanmar and the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has made the peace process its top priority and invited more of the country’s ethnic armed groups to join new talks. Still, fighting has continued in the country and in some places grown considerably worse.

Shan State is one of those states, which has experienced growing instability and political unrest over the past few months including the recent fighting between the country’s army and northern alliance group members. In Shan State, the press freedom is becoming a threat and the media and reporters are frightened off to do the reporting on peace process and ongoing conflict situations in the area.

Myanmar: Shan regional political parties and media dialogue - December 2016

To respond to the emerging need to promote the importance of press freedom and better reflect ways to enhance people’s voice and accountability in peace and conflict, DIPD’s Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme in partnership with Myanmar Press Council held a regional dialogue seminar on “Reporting on Peace and Conflict: Enhancing People’s Voice and Accountability” on 15-16 December in Taunggyi, Shan State. The dialogue seminar was also an opportunity for parties and the media to identify challenges in reporting on the peace process and ongoing conflict, and develop solutions to address those challenges.

Shan regional political parties and media dialogue - December 2016

 “One should remind yourselves with A, I, R (Accuracy, Impartiality, Responsibility) when reporting for security. Next, avoid in reporting about conflict by glancing and picking the headlines from online and social media. Media can prevent conflict situation by going and taking news to the ground”, presented by U Thiha Saw, General secretary of Myanmar Press Council in the section of media ethic in reporting on peace process and conflict situation. The participants discussed the challenges and security of news sources, public, journalists and political parties’ coordination on reporting process.

 “To enhance the public voice, there should be mutual trust and respect between political parties. By cooperating political parties and media can effectively help in accountable reporting of real management conflict situations”, reflected by U Myint Kyaw, members of Myanmar Press Media Council Committee. Total of 39 participants from 15 political parties and 16 media from Shan State attended during the two-day dialogue seminar.

Shan regional political parties and media dialogue - December 2016

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

Justice and Equality Conference: Review and Reflection

In the late December 2016, the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee (SJHR) of Nepal’s Parliament organized a meeting to review and reflect on the International Conference on Gender Equality and Social Justice. The meeting also discussed the strategies for implementing the recommendations of the Conference.

Around 75 participants including the members of the SJHR Committee, Steering Committee members of the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) as well as parliamentarians from other parliamentary committees attended the programme.

Background

On 22 and 23 September 2016, Social Justice and Human Rights Committee had organized an International Conference on Gender Equality and Social Justice in partnership with JOMPOPS, DIPD’s partner in Nepal. The two-day Conference was participated by over 120 parliamentarians, political leaders, and gender and social inclusion experts from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Denmark. Relevant representatives from NGOs and international organizations in Nepal had also observed the programme.

The conference saw about two dozen speaking slots/sessions with more than 40 speakers, moderators and chairs contributing their views, perspectives and remarks on specific topics or themes related to gender equality/women in politics. Presentation sessions were followed by theme-wise discussions aimed at exploring practical solutions on the key challenges to gender equality.

Once the final report of the Conference was published, a review and reflection meeting was held to assess the Conference as well as to chart the future course of action.

Nepal: Justice & Equality Conference 2016

Opening Session

The programme started with welcome remarks from Sushil Kumar Shrestha, the Chair of the SJHR Committee. The Chair pointed out that the mere increase of women in Parliament is not enough, it is equally important for those women to have an influential role. In Nepal’s particular case, more needs to be done to enhance the influence of women in politics. He also emphasized that Nepal’s new Constitution has made remarkable progress towards gender equality compared to the situation in the past. However, political parties are still far behind to embrace the essence of the new Constitution which ensures at least 33 per cent representation of women in all state bodies.

The Chair further added that women’s special needs owing to their responsibilities in the family have to be taken into consideration when organizing political events/meetings. It would be easier for women if political meetings are not too early or too late. Another issue, the Chair raised was the importance of promoting women at the local level. The new Constitution envisages a significant number of women in the local level elected bodies. The Chair therefore concluded that promotion of women at the local level is crucial.

Presentations from DIPD

Murari Shivakoti from DIPD, who wrote the Conference’s report, shared the highlights with the participants, summarizing the essence of each session. Drawing particularly from speakers Om Kinley from Bhutan, Cherry Zahau from Myanmar, and Chaya Jha from Nepal respectively, he stressed the following points:  1) Women need coaching and mentoring to be successful leaders. 2) Women should not only look for role models from the elite background, a new type of role models for leadership is required. 3) There should be gender mainstreaming in all committees of the political parties at all levels.

His conclusion was:

“If the enthusiastic participation in the conference of Nepalese parliamentarians and other political and civil society leaders; thoughts of speakers and panelists from Bhutan, Myanmar and Denmark, remarks from invited guests and dignitaries, audience participation during question and answer sessions; lively deliberations during plenary sessions, the practical recommendations from the participants at the five parallel sessions in the last slot of the conference; or the letter and spirit of the Kathmandu Declaration – are any indication, the conference was largely successful in achieving its objectives, and in setting up a conducive atmosphere for the necessary follow-up by the SJHR Committee to push for further reforms.”

Similarly, Shrishti Rana from DIPD presented the main conclusions of the Conference drawing from the discussions during the sessions. She highlighted five key points: 1) Engagement of men is indispensable for gender equality.  2) Women need special support/programmes for building leadership skills. 3) Women should have influential role inside political parties to be effective leaders in the Parliament and in the Government.  4) Experiences from Bhutan/Myanmar point out that they are better than Nepal when it comes to the social status of women but Nepal is better in regards to political representation of women. 5) Parliament and political parties can play a very vital role in ensuring gender equality in practice.

Nepal: Justice & Equality Conference 2016

Review, Comments and Reflection on the Way Forward

The SJHR Committee member as well as Steering Committee member of JOMPOPS, Asta Laxmi Shakya presented a few assessment points of the Conference. She said that the good part of the Conference was that it covered a wide-ranging topics pertaining to gender equality within a short time. The Conference also managed to involve good experts and influential speakers with noteworthy participation from the parliamentarians and political leaders. Sharing of experiences from other countries including Bhutan, Denmark and Myanmar also added an interesting flavour to the   Conference. She said that it could be concluded from the Conference that women’s issues are not only a national issue but they are a global issue concerning all the countries.

Ranju Jha, Chair of the Women, Children and Social Welfare Committee said that even though she could not attend the Conference, it seemed like a great opportunity to share the achievements made by Nepal on high political representation of women. She also emphasized that now political parties should reform their internal structures and practices according to the spirit of the new Constitution.

Likewise, most commentators pointed out that the Conference brought out contradictions between high female political representation and low social and economic development of women in Nepal. MPs stressed that these contradictions must be resolved.

Finally, the SJHR Chair announced that the SJHR Committee will set-up a task committee to implement the relevant recommendations of the Conference. The Chair also informed that the Committee plans to submit the major recommendations to the Speaker of the Parliament as well as to the Prime Minister for the necessary follow-up action.

Overall, the conclusions of the review meeting can be summed up as follows: The International Conference on Gender Equality and Social Justice was a great opportunity to learn, to share and to inspire. However, the real success of the Conference will depend on the implementation of the major recommendations generated during the Conference.

Nepal: Justice & Equality Conference 2016

More information

Contact DIPD Representative for Nepal, Shristi Rana: shristi@dipd.org.np

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

Friends and colleagues bid DIPD Director Bjørn Førde farewell

At a reception in the Danish Parliament on December 15, friends and colleagues alike thanked Bjørn Førde for his efforts through 40 years in international development cooperation and for his 6 years as Director of DIPD.

As 2016 turns 2017, Bjørn Førde retires as Director of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, after leading the institute through its first 6 years of existence. After 35 odd years in MS ActionAid and UNDP respectively, Bjørn was named the first director of DIPD upon its formation in January 2011. Before handing over the Director’s chair to Rasmus Helveg Petersen on January 1st 2017, friends, colleagues and partners took the chance to celebrate Bjørn in the heart of the Danish democracy, Christiansborg.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 e

Former minister Eva Kjer Hansen congratulating Bjørn Førde after delivering her speech.

Here members of all the Danish political parties, former ministers, colleagues from the development community and lifelong friends gave him a festive goodbye and offered testimony of the friendly democratic culture that Bjørn has formed DIPD around:

“Under your leadership, DIPD has in many ways been the bearer of the best aspects of the cooperating Danish democracy. Who would have thought, that the Socialist People’s Party and the Liberal Party could run a joint project on youth engagement in Malawi? And who would have thought, that the Danish People’s Party and the Red-Green Alliance trustfully could cooperate on how to best utilize tax payers’ money on democracy support?”, Chairman of DIPD, Henrik Bach Mortensen said.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 b

DIPD Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen thanking Bjørn Førde for his 6 years as Director of DIPD.

“Bjørn’s loyalty has not been pledged to one party, but to the democratic space, where political parties can form and unfold. And thereby to all democratic parties, both in Denmark and in all our partner countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

“We thank you and we will miss you”, Henrik Bach Mortensen concluded.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 d

DIPD Director Bjørn Førde at his farewell reception at Christiansborg.

A born globalist

At the end of the reception, Bjørn thanked his guests and all of DIPD’s partners in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, for their part in his career:

“When I applied for my first job at Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (now MS ActionAid), I had no idea how privileged a professional life I would embark on, getting the chance to travel and work all over the world, meeting so many wonderful and inspiring people”.

“I was born a globalist. With a Danish father and Norwegian mother, in the aftermath of the Second World War. This is the place from where I have met the world. And I remain a true globalist.”

The DIPD secretariat, our partners and colleagues wish Bjørn Førde all the best in his retirement.

Bjørn Førde reception 15/12/16 a

All smiles as DIPD Director Bjørn Førde gives his farewell speech.