The recent monsoon has caused a massive flooding in Nepal particularly in the southern belt known as the Tarai where most of Nepal’s population dwell. This disaster has reportedly affected nearly six million people jeopardizing their fundamental human security.
The Steering Committee members of Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS), DIPD’s local partner in Nepal, met last week to explore collaborative multiparty initiatives which could be implemented immediately to help the disaster-affected people.
Floods and Political Challenges
The Monsoon season that generally lasts from June to September frequently causes floods and landslides in Nepal. This year, relentless downpours caused the worst floods in decades, seriously damaging 13 districts in the mainly Tarai region. Most of these districts, eight of them, fall in the Province 2, where the final-phase of the local elections are scheduled to take place on 18 September.
A coalition of the Madhesi-based parties dominant in the Tarai known as the Madhesi Morcha had boycotted the earlier phase of the local elections because their demands which include more representation and re-demarcation of federal provinces were not met. The Morcha had been agitating against the government with these demands since the promulgation of the new Constitution.
One of the major agendas of the present coalition government led by the Nepali Congress was to sort out the differences with the Madhesi Morcha to bring them to the election table. In late August, the government tabled a bill relating to the constitutional amendments for a voting in the Parliament. Even though the bill was not passed due to opposition from the second largest party in the Parliament, the Madhesi parties decided to participate in the elections. Yet, the recent floods have added new challenges to the planned elections.
Around 150 people have been already killed by the floods. Millions have been displaced from their homes including small children. Due to a disruption in the communication system, many people stranded in remote areas are not rescued yet. There’s an acute shortage of food and drinking water.
The government’s response has been inadequate. Nepal is still in a political transition and given the focus of the government on dealing with the political issues, the governance structures in Nepal have not been boosted to respond to these kinds of challenges. In effect, Nepal is facing a grave humanitarian crisis.
Deepening Multiparty Collaboration
The six major political parties in the JOMPOPS platform have been collaborating with each other since 2011 on a broad spectrum of issues such as promoting women in politics and strengthening local branches of the political parties. In 2015, when a massive earthquake of nearly 7.8 magnitude struck Nepal, the SC members decided that they should tread beyond their regular areas of work and offer assistance collectively to assuage the ongoing crisis.
JOMPOPS decided to release a joint press statement appealing to the central and local level party leaders and cadres to deepen multi-party collaboration in times of crisis, which encouraged political parties at the local level to collaborate with each other during that national emergency.
JOMPOPS had also requested for DIPD’s support on this initiative arguing that such crisis situations offer an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of multiparty collaboration. And DIPD should not only rely on formal training and workshops to promote multiparty culture.
As the country was confronted with yet another difficult natural disaster this year, JOMPOPS Steering Committee members again decided to meet immediately to explore multiparty initiatives that could help in this national crisis. That meeting was also an opportunity for the political leaders to discuss about the upcoming final-phase of the local elections.
In that meeting, the Steering Committee members from the Tarai region informed about the ground situation in the flood affected areas. One of the Steering Committee members shared that in some parts the survivors had a difficult time even to find a dry piece of land to burn or bury the dead. Another Steering Committee member informed that hundreds of homes have been destroyed rendering thousands of people homeless.
Finally, the SC members decided to provide at least some symbolic relief support jointly by coordinating with the local party workers from all the parties in JOMPOPS essentially to manifest the significance of multiparty collaboration during the times of trouble.
The Steering Committee members also decided that they would play a supportive role inside their respective parties to mitigate the impediments to the remaining local elections and to ensure that the elections are conducted successfully.