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Posts from the ‘Nepal’ Category

Local Elections in Nepal

The first-phase of the local elections in Nepal took place on 14 May 2017, with enthusiastic voter turnout of around 71 per cent. These elections are considered as an important step towards implementing the newly drafted Constitution of Nepal; the new Constitution stipulates all three elections namely local, provincial and national need to be held within February 2018.

Around 300 women politicians in the seven provinces were trained to contest the local elections by the Election Commission of Nepal in partnership with the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) and with technical support from the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy and the UNWomen. Many of them were able to secure nomination as candidates in the elections and have contested the recent elections.

Context

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, Nepal held local elections for the first time in 1992. Once its five-year term got over, the second local elections took place in 1997. However, the next elections could not be held as due in 2002 as a result of the ongoing protracted “People’s War” started by the Maoist party in 1996.

In effect, there has been a vacuum of elected representatives at the local level since 2002. The civil servants had to carry the burden of the responsibilities of the elected representatives. The delivery of public services at the local level was also understandably affected. People at the grass-roots could not experience democracy directly.

In the new Constitution, local elections as mentioned above were stipulated to be held within February 2018. Therefore, local elections are an important part of implementing the new Constitution of Nepal. There were many challenges to holding these elections. The notable one being insistence from the Madhesi-based parties to address their demands for the constitutional amendments before they agree to go for the elections. This was challenging because the second largest party in the Parliament was opposed to the proposal and without its support it was difficult to get a two-third majority required to pass the constitutional amendments as demanded by the Madhesi-based parties.

When the effort to pass the constitutional amendments did not seem likely to get the required votes in the Parliament, the government decided to hold the elections in the two-phases. The first-phase covering provinces 3, 4 and 6 were scheduled for 14 May 2017 and the second-phase covering provinces 1, 2, 5, and 7 are scheduled to be held on 14 June 2017.

On 14 May 2017, the first-phase of the elections have been successfully held, participated by all the major political parties of Nepal. Voters also turned up in large numbers, surpassing the turn-out in the last national elections.

DIPD’s Contribution to the Elections

When the draft of the local election bill stipulated 40 per cent women’s reservation at the local level, political parties felt that they do not have enough women willing to contest elections. Participation of women in politics in Nepal is generally low. Male dominated leadership structures and a lack of gender friendly practices inside political parties of Nepal deter many women from joining politics. Women who join politics are perceived negatively in most places in Nepal which equally discourage women. Hence, it was difficult for political parties in Nepal to find enough women willing to contest elections.

In this context, the platform of Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (DIPD’s partner in Nepal) conceived of a local level orientation programme for women essentially to inspire them to contest local elections and also provide them with necessary technical knowledge related to standing in the elections.

JOMPOPS chose a different modality of implementation for this orientation programme. Instead of implementing directly, it decided to request the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) to implement the programme. The ECN is the constitutionally mandated body to implement such programmes. Equally importantly, ECN has fully functioning local offices in all the 75 districts of Nepal which meant that the local level orientation programmes could be smoothly implemented in all the 75 districts.

Once the ECN agreed to the request, JOMPOPS requested DIPD to provide technical assistance to the planned orientation programme. Following the request from JOMPOPS, DIPD secured the partnership from other relevant international organizations namely the Governance Facility and UNWomen on the project and moved ahead with contributing technical support to the potential women candidates for the elections.

Multi-Party Training for Women at the Local Level

As the first-phase of this programme, the Election Commission of Nepal conducted an Orientation Programme for its district election staff in Kathmandu in January 2017. The main objective of this programme was to sensitize the ECN staff on gender and also to provide them with the necessary training skills so that they are willing and competent to implement training programmes for women at the local level.

Around 30 ECN staff participated in this Orientation Programme with 21 from seven districts representing the seven provinces. In addition to attending sessions on gender and facilitation skills, the district level ECN staff also formulated action plans for the local level training with inputs from the Gender Coordinators of the JOMPOPS platform.

In the run up to the elections, the district election staff trained in Kathmandu implemented multi-party training for women at the local level in the seven districts (Panchthar, Bara, Nuwakot, Palpa, Syangja, Kalikot, and Bajhang) representing all the seven provinces of Nepal. Around 300 potential women candidates were oriented on various crucial information about the local elections such as the local level structure (the legislative and executive branches of the rural  municipality and municipality, and the functions of district assembly and district coordination committee), roles and responsibilities of the elected officials who will be exercise 22 powers at the local level unlike the mandate exercised by previous local bodies, how to file a candidacy;  the training not only provided them with necessary understanding but also all the necessary reference materials that could be used to further enhance their understanding.

What was most remarkable about the programme was that women turned up investing their own money on the logistics costs such as transportation. Equally remarkably, the majority of training participants were from remote villages, not just from the district headquarters, and many of them had to travel long distance, by bus or foot, to reach the training venue. In many cases, the participants had to juggle with their house work and political party work in order to be away for the training for nearly two days. Despite these challenges, local women politicians came for the training and committed themselves to both the days because, as they shared, this was the first training that offered them knowledge about contesting in the upcoming local elections. No such training had been earlier conducted either by the Election Commission or any international or national organization in all the seven districts.

The following conclusions can be made drawing from the evaluation forms, direct interviews with the participants as well as comments from the participants during the training sessions: 1) Most of the  nearly 300 local women trainees felt inspired to contest the upcoming local elections, even to stake their claims over important leadership positions at the local level 2) Almost all of the participants – most of whom were at least a member of the district committee – did not have any knowledge about the crucial information related to the local elections 3) Nearly 300 women got trained to file their candidacy in the local elections and felt confident about tackling all the necessary technical processes related to the local elections.

Currently, the counting of the votes is going on and the preparation for the second-phase elections have started. The Prime Minister of the current government representing the third largest party in Parliament has already announced his plans for resignation to make a way for the new government. This has been part of the agreement among the major political parties before the new elections. Once the new government comes into power, the main challenge would be to conduct the next-phase of the elections with broader participation of all the political forces in the country. DIPD will continue to support multiparty dialogue and promotion of women in politics through JOMPOPS in this given political context.

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.

Meetings

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.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen, during his first visit to Nepal as Director of DIPD.

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.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen during his first visit to Nepal as Director of DIPD.

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.

More information

Read more about DIPD’s engagment in Nepal.

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

DIPD’s Work on Youth in Politics Is Rated as Promising Practice

In an independent review of more than 76 global programmes in support of youth, DIPD’s engagement in promoting youth in politics is considered promising practice that can inspire both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and other organisations.

The Danish MFA undertook the review to inform the Ministry on how to optimize and operationalise Denmark’s new development cooperation strategy and its particular focus on youth.

In the new strategy Denmark has committed to give young people “… the opportunity to enhance their participation and influence in society as involved, committed and equal actors with the ability and opportunity to take developments into their own hands.” The strategy outlines that these objectives are to be achieved through various measures within policy, programme and partnerships. The review was undertaken in view of these two main strands.

Minister for Development, Ulla Tørnæs, presents a review of MFA’a youth engagements.

While DIPD’s youth programmes are not directly part of the MFA’s youth portfolio, DIPD’s method of work was included by the review team, discussed by the international youth panel involved in the review and rated as promising practice:


Promising practice: Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD); strengthening youth involvement in the political parties through inspiration and exchange between political parties’ youth wings.

DIPD supports democracy through support to political parties in developing countries with funding from Danida, partly through the Danish political parties and partly through direct support to multi-party democracy initiatives. DIPD has identified the strengthening of youth involvement and participation within the political parties in developing countries as one of a limited number of areas where Danish support can add specific value. In cooperation between DUF and DIPD, a guideline on ‘how to build a youth wing’ has been developed by young Danish youth wing members, used as training and inspiration material. Exchange activities between the young members from Denmark and Egypt, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Palestine, Myanmar, Bhutan, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya and Bolivia has been implemented. DIPD has both directly implemented and funded a number of projects, through Danish political parties, their youth wings and youth members in developing countries to increase focus on and strengthen youth as political actors. A recent evaluation found that ‘project activities gave the young participants new skills and self-esteem, particularly among young women in traditionalist societies’.

Extracts from: Youth Leading the World 2030: A review of Danida’s Youth- Related Engagements, Final Report, 2017, p. 12


Danish and Egyptian youth share experiences on the Nile.

DIPD employs a systemic approach to working with youth in politics that engages party leadership and agenda setting through advocacy, focuses on party structures and processes that facilitates or hinders youth engagement, and finally capacitates youth and facilitates multiparty youth dialogues and platforms.

With this approach the institute and the Danish political parties together with youth and partners are very well placed to initiate and facilitate change relating to several of the main recommendations in the review. The recommendations, which DIPD can make a particular contribution to, are listed below:

  • Unleashing young people’s agency – Support formal and informal youth-led organisations, networks and movements to lead, initiate, design and implement their own initiatives – Several of DIPD’s programmes are supporting leadership development of youth and the establishment of youth wings or youth platforms that can take independent action and agency.
  • Prioritise youth-to-youth exchanges between Denmark and developing countries, particular between youth-led organisations and movements. In DIPD’s work exchange between party youth in cooperation countries and party youth in Denmark is a center piece. Mutual learning and peer dialogue has taken place with youth in Egypt, Malawi, Kenya, Myanmar and Palestine – just to mention a few.
  • Support linkages between youth and gender movements, and promote the nexus of the two – In several of DIPD’s programmes – for example in Malawi and Myanmar – the strategies on youth involvement interact with measures to involve more women in political parties. Often the agenda setting work is focused on both youth and gender.
  • Champion Youth priorities in National Policy Dialogues with Governments in Priority Countries – while it takes time and concerted action to facilitate youth dialogues on national policies, it also takes national opportunities for policy input to make it fly. In Myanmar the current formulation process of the National Youth Policy is an ideal opportunity for DIPD to facilitate input from the youth through the DIPD supported Multiparty Youth Dialogue Platforms. In several other countries, such as Kenya and Malawi, similar processes are or have been underway.

In DIPD’s updated Global Strategy for 2018-2021 Youth in Politics will continue to figure prominently.

Danida report on youth engagements.

More information

Read more about DIPD’s youth engagement in Myanmar.

Read more about DIPD’s youth engagement in Egypt and watch FUTURE DEMOCRATS – a film about the Danish-Egyptian Youth Network.

Read more about The Socialist People’s Party and the Liberal Party’s joint partnership in Malawi.

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: maps@dipd.dk


 

International Women’s Day in Bhutan – The fight for gender equality transcends international borders

The struggle for gender equality in Denmark dates back more than a century; in other parts of the world the fight has just begun, but what remains common across the globe is that gender equality is an urgent issue worth fighting for. The transcending character of International Women’s Day is apparent in Thimpu, Bhutan, where DIPD is co-hosting a regional conference on how to improve female representation in politics.

 

Firm determination for change

International Women’s Day symbolizes what has been achieved in regards to gender equality across the globe. And there is much to celebrate. But the 8th of March is also an opportunity to discuss what is yet to be accomplished.

This is exactly what is happening today in Thimpu, where politicians from Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan are gathered at the 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics, co-organized by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD). And the goal is crystal clear: the political parties express firm determination to bring more women to the forefront of politics to be given political opportunities and to take political responsibility.

As Dorji Choden, Minister of Works and Human Settlement in Bhutan, says:

“Women can no longer stand at the sideline – CSOs, Government, political parties and private companies must work together to bring positive change.”

The commitment to deliver on gender equality and bring change is reinforced by Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay:

“When you die, what happens? We believe in rebirth. Would you like to be reborn as a women or as a man? In this light we all better ensure that gender equality prevails,” says the Prime Minister.

 

The parliament of Bhutan, where only 7 percent of MP’s are women. But there is a strong will in the country for this to change.

The Danish experience

Also attending the conference in Bhutan is former Danish MP Gitte Seeberg, ready to share experiences from the Danish struggle for gender equality:

“The development has been ambiguous in Denmark, where we for example have seen a parliament without women in important councils, and where women still are underrepresented in the business world and have lower salaries than men.”

Although the fight for equality is still underway in Denmark, Gitte Seeberg believes that the experiences from Denmark can contribute to the democratic development of one of the world’s youngest democracies, Bhutan:

“It has taken Danish women 100 years to get to where we are today. It is absolutely necessary that we help women in Bhutan in  gaining the tools to move faster than we have done.”

And much suggests that Bhutan’s political development will move at a much faster pace than in Denmark. Democracy was not introduced in Bhutan until 2008. Since then the positive development of democracy has been confirmed with free parliamentary elections in 2013 and local elections in 2016.

Yeshey Choden from the People’s Democratic Party of Bhutan is encouraged by the latest elections, but there is still a long way to go – only 7 % of the elected MPs are female.

“We hope that the debate and renewed attention to gender balance on 8th March during the 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics in Bhutan will provide a drive for more fundamental change in the future,” says Yeshey Choden.

DIPD Director Rasmus Helveg Petersen on his way to a meeting together with the leader of the political opposition in Bhutan.

Real change takes place 360 days a year

As important as the 8th of March is in creating awareness of the urgent issue of gender equality, DIPD Director, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, stressed that the day should never stand alone:

“Although it is great to be celebrating the achievements made today, it is important to remember that the real change takes place 360 days of the year.”

 


The conference on women in politics from March 8th – 11th is organized by Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) in partnership with DIPD with participation by DIPD Director Rasmus Helveg Petersen and DIPD Senior Adviser Hanne Lund Madsen. Professor Drude Dahlerup and former MP Gitte Seeberg are also attending.

 

More information

Read more about DIPD’s partnership with Bhutan Network for Empowering Women and DIPD’s work in Myanmar and Nepal.

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

 

Women lining up for democracy

In anticipation of the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March the political parties, participating in the multiparty dialogue in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, expressed firm determination to bring more women to the forefront to take political responsibilities.

Maran Ja Seng Hkawn, MP from Kachin Myanmar (KDSP), is eager to share experiences with colleagues from Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal and expresses commitment to make more women line up for democracy:

“Today there are many different types of barriers – some changes require firm action from current political party leadership, but other changes are in the hands of women themselves to initiate”.

In  Nepal, a stronger position of women is both due to the prolonged political struggle that has made the crucial role of women visible, the efforts of the women’s movement, the joint and concerted efforts of the multiparty platform JOMPOPS, as well as legislative measures such as quotas.

DIPD director, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, held a key note speech stressing the need for cooperation and not just competition among political parties to bring about changes.

Colleagues from Bhutan are encouraged by the increase of female representation in the last local elections in Bhutan, but the overall result was still too low to ensure gender balance in the governance of Bhutan.

“Many of the agreements made by political parties and related stakeholders in 2014 still await implementation – including mentoring programmes for women candidates and MP’s, gender reviews of party manifestos and an increase in party nomination of women for political positions,” as expressed by Yeshey Choden, Peoples Democratic Party, Bhutan.

Maran Ja Seng Hkawn, MP from Kachin Myanmar (KDSP) and Yeshey Choden, Peoples Democratic Party, from Bhutan in talks with DIPD Senior Adviser Hanne Lund Madsen

“But we hope that the debate and renewed attention to gender balance on 8th March during the 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics in Bhutan will provide a drive for more fundamental change in the future,” says Yeshey Choden.

The multiparty dialogue seminar was organized by Bhutan Democracy Dialogue and Election Commission Bhutan in partnership with DIPD with participation by DIPD Director Rasmus Helveg Petersen and DIPD Senior Adviser Hanne Lund Madsen. Tomorrow at the 8th March celebration Drude Dahlerup and Gitte Seeberg will also share their experiences with Women in Politics.

 

 

 

 

More information

Read more about DIPD’s partnership with Bhutan Network for Empowering Women and DIPD’s work in Myanmar and Nepal.

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