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Posts from the ‘Nepal’ Category

JOMPOPS – An Extended Political Family

This week DIPD’s country representative in Nepal, Shrishti Rana, is visiting the secretariat in Copenhagen. On the agenda for her Copenhagen-visit is, among others, exploring the possibility of future engagements of Danish political parties in Nepal. To kick-start the process Ms. Rana met with representatives from the Danish Socialist People’s Party, the Alternative Party and the Social-Liberal Party to reflect on Nepal’s recent political development, achievements and existing needs. DIPD currently has a programme in partnership with the multiparty platform JOMPOPS, consisting of the six largest parties in parliament, as well as a party-to-party programme between the Danish Alternative Party and Nepal’s Naya Shakti Party. The meeting aimed at reflecting on a more innovative and joint approach to DIPD’s work in Nepal, exploring how to engage more Danish parties and conjoining  the multiparty and party-to-party programmes to harvest potential synergies.  

Looking to Nepal for Inspiration
The political development in Nepal has been vast and fast-paced since DIPD and JOMPOPS entered into in partnership in 2012, with the aim of increasing the capacity of Nepalese political parties in order to consolidate multi-party democracy and enhance the effectiveness of the political system at all levels of society. The ambitious 2015-constitution has promoted democratic reforms, including a commitment to increasing female representation at all levels of politics – a commitment which was recently reflected in the first-phase local elections where a large number of female candidates were elected to office, including the election of a few female mayors and many deputy mayors. This result is considered a remarkable achievement for the overall representation of women in leadership positions, not just in the Nepalese context but in a global perspective. DIPD’s work with JOMPOPS is one of the institute’s first multiparty programmes, and Nepal’s evident commitment to deliver on key objectives like strengthening multiparty collaboration and increasing female representation, makes the country an inspiration for multiparty projects in other parts of the world.  Elaborating on some of the key results achieved in the DIPD-JOMPOPS partnership Ms. Rana says:

“One of the recent and very important achievements has been the empowering and training of women at local level prior to the local elections. It is enshrined in the Constitution that at least 40 percent of elected local officials must be women, and it has thus been important to train and capacitate female candidates. 20 percent of the women, who received training through JOMPOPS, were chosen as candidates, and 40 percent of these candidates got elected to office.

Besides DIPD’s engagement in JOMPOPS, the Danish Alternative Party has initiated a partnership with Nepal’s Naya Shakti Party in early 2016. The project seeks to contribute to the development of Nepal’s democracy by providing support towards strengthening the capabilities of the newly established party Naya Shakti, particularly with a focus on alternative means of communication that involve youth, women and minorities and creates transparent access to decision-making within the party.

During the meeting both Ms. Rana and representatives from the Alternative Party highlighted how DIPD’s multiparty programme can inform party-to-party partnerships, just like direct engagement between Danish and Nepalese parties can benefit the multiparty platform. There is thus important synergies to capitalize on, and the meeting raised the idea that all existing parties in JOMPOPS should have the opportunity to be part of a collaboration with a Danish party; maybe not in a classic “twinning” between ideologically like-minded parties but rather through innovative engagements moving beyond ideological affiliation, taking its point of departure in common thematic needs rather than party identity.

Beyond Twinning: An Extended Political Family
As the meeting went on and knowledge of the Nepalese political context was shared, ideas began to develop around a format where Danish parties, through DIPD, engages with Nepalese parties through JOMPOPS, in a set-up where parties engage, cooperate, contribute and benefit across political ideologies.  As Ms. Rana highlighted a number of relevant themes for Danish and Nepalese parties to engage on: “Definitely training in areas such as coalition building and multiparty culture, but also on how to engage and give voice to women and youth in politics.”

Based on an open courses approach, demand from the Nepalese parties could be matched with experiences and strengths of relevant Danish parties, establishing a cross political extended family, harvesting synergies between the multiparty and party-to-party engagements. As this meeting was set up as a first step to explore the possibility of establishing a more joint approach to DIPD’s work in Nepal, it will be interesting to see what these initial ideas materializes into.

More information
Visit our country page to read more about DIPD’s work in Nepal.
Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

Informal Gathering of JOMPOPS Members

As the second phase of the local elections in Nepal has been scheduled for June 28, Steering Committee members of JOMPOPS are staying outside Kathmandu, preparing for the elections at local level. It has thus not been possible to organize a formal SC meeting of JOMPOPS, which on June 11, led the chair to hold an informal gathering of the JOMPOPS SC members to address the decision of Rashtriya Janata Party–Nepal to only participate in the elections if certain constitutional amendments, committed to by the NC-Maoist alliance, are delivered on. 

New Political Developments
As per the political agreement, Sher Bahadur Deuba, President of the Nepali Congress (NC) – the largest party in Parliament – was sworn in as the new prime minister on June 7, succeeding Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal from the Maoist party. This NC-led coalition government will be supported by the Maoist party which is the third largest in the Parliament and a group of smaller parties including the Madhes-based parties. Essentially, this government is supported by five JOMPOPS member parties, making the Unified Marxist Leninist party – the second largest party in the Parliament – the only JOMPOPS member party in the opposition.

The new prime minister has announced that the main priority of the government is to complete all three elections, including the second-phase of the local elections within the deadline of the new Constitution i.e. February 2018. The immediate priority is to complete the second-phase of the local elections in Province One, Two, Five, and Seven.

The key challenge to this objective is that one of the major Madhes-based parties, Rashtriya Janata Party–Nepal (RJP-N) has decided not to participate in the elections unless certain constitutional amendments, committed to by the NC-Maoist alliance, are delivered on. Earlier, the NC-Maoist alliance has been unable to pass the constitutional amendments due to its inability to garner a two-third majority in Parliament, required to pass the constitutional amendments. Other demands of the RJP-N, such as increasing the number of local units or allocation of its new election symbol, have neither been fulfilled by the alliance as committed.

To address this situation, the JOMPOPS Chair organized an informal SC meeting to explore various alternatives to ensure the participation of RJP-N in the local elections. All the JOMPOPS SC members are senior and influential leaders inside their respective parties. Hence, they can play a significant role in finding resolution of current political problems.

A Unique Avenue for Exploring Political Solutions
The chair started the meeting by congratulating Jeetendra Dev, who had recently become the Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation. The Chair said that JOMPOPS is delighted to have a minister among its members. Mr. Dev thanked the Chair and all the JOMPOPS members for their kind words and expressions of support, and said that he would endeavor to make JOMPOPS proud as a Minister. He also shared his political journey with other JOMPOPS members, emphasizing that patience is the key in politics.

Soon, discussions on the current political situation began. Most SC members expressed concern about RJP-N’s unwillingness to participate in the elections, which could lead two other Madhes- based parties – Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal and Nepal Loktantrik Forum – to also boycott the elections. It was made clear that it would be unfortunate for the country if such a situation was to pass. Hence, the members decided to explore various alternatives to ensure the elections with the broader participation of all the major political forces in the country.

The SC members agreed that it was useful to have such informal interactions on crucial political issues because JOMPOPS offers a unique avenue to the major political parties to come together and explore solutions to political challenges.

 

Training Newly Elected “City Mothers” in Nepal

On May 14, Nepal conducted the first-phase of the country’s local elections, following a gap of nearly 20 years.  Women have been elected in significant numbers and the Steering Committee members of the multiparty JOMPOPS platform, DIPD’s partner in Nepal, are now taking initiatives to support the newly elected women with necessary training to ensure that they can fulfill their leadership roles effectively.  On June 2, a Steering Committee member organized the first round of trainings for newly elected female deputy mayors along with a few other elected female representatives.

Increasing Female Representation at Local Level

The new Constitution of Nepal, a result of the country’s peace process, has brought a number of governance reforms, including state restructuring. Nepal now has three tiers of government: national, provincial and local. The Constitution has also empowered the local level of government, which now has many important rights and responsibilities such as those related to education, health, infrastructure and cooperatives, among others.

The leaders of Nepal envisaged increased representation of women in the new governance structure, particularly at the local level with the Constitution guaranteeing around 40 per cent female representation at this level. Moreover, the Local Elections Act, finalized on the eve of the elections, requires that one of the candidates for mayor or deputy mayor has to be a woman.

The first-phase of the local elections resulted in the election of a large number of female candidates, a few women have become mayors and many have become deputy mayors. This is considered a remarkable achievement for the overall representation of women in leadership positions – also in a global perspective.

 

 

Energizing the Representatives

A JOMPOPS Steering Committee member from the Unified Marxist-Leninist party, Asta Laxmi Shakya, is the Vice-President of the party as well as in-charge of Province 3, covering a number of districts. Shakya strongly promoted election of female candidates in her province during the local elections. Now, she is keen on energizing and empowering the newly elected women to ensure that they are effective in their new leadership roles.

Shakya organized the first of such trainings on June 2, targeting the newly elected deputy mayors, who are directly elected in and will function as acting mayor in the mayor’s absence. In Nepal, deputy mayors also have special power as they are heads of the Judicial Committees in their municipalities, settling disputes under their respective jurisdictions.

Due to the busy schedule of the newly elected representatives, the training programme was a one-day session. Nevertheless, the full-day training covered important topics such as roles and responsibilities of the elected representatives, the legislative-executive-judicial structure of the local government, relevant legal frameworks, communication and networking.

DIPD’s Senior Adviser in Nepal shared Danish experiences on effective local governance, particularly drawing on practical insights from the locally elected representatives in Denmark and the Danish municipalities’ approaches and measures to serving the citizens. DIPD’s Representative to Nepal gave a presentation on various dimensions of leadership, emphasizing the importance of women in leadership positions, particularly at the local tier, where the deputy mayors will have to lead many initiatives to ensure service delivery to the Nepalese citizens.

The participants rated the training as highly useful, but also highlighted that future trainings should be longer. All the participants are soon beginning their work in their municipalities as “city mothers”. There is no doubt that these female leaders are likely to make unprecedented impact in the lives of ordinary Nepalese people, long denied the presence of elected representatives in their communities.

 

More information

Visit our country page to read more about DIPD’s work in Nepal.
Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

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