NEW YORK, April 24, 2008 - Nepal’s Constituent Assembly election on April 10th has ushered in a new era in the country's political history. In what has been hailed as the "people’s mandate," the former insurgent Maoists who won a majority have been charged with leading "New Nepal's" transformation. Partnering with the Institute for State Effectiveness and the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), the Asia Society hosted a panel of experts to discuss the implications of this groundbreaking election and offer suggestions for building an inclusive, democratic, and peaceful Nepal. The program was moderated by Sanjeev Man Sherchan, Senior Program Officer, Asia Society Policy Programs.
Despite the unexpected election results, the panelists concurred that the government must now move forward collectively to address the dual challenges of governance and rewriting Nepal's constitution. According to Rhoderick Chalmers, voters there have rejected politics as usual, and the new government must now respond to and reinvigorate its relations with the people at a grassroots level. Chhaya Jha argued for a new economic model that can overcome systemic barriers to benefit those historically marginalized. Citing grim statistics for women’s literacy, she urged the government to address lingering inequities based on gender, caste, ethnicity, and religion.
In one engaging highlight of the program, the panelists debated the role that an official Truth and Reconciliation Commission might play in beginning to heal the wounds left from decades of unresolved violence. Jha argued that such a process is necessary to bring any sense of justice and closure, while Raghav Raj Regmi expressed concern that a TRC not take the form of an externally-led effort, but rather draw from indigenous resources for conflict resolution. Deepak Thapa cautioned that the TRC clause was included in Nepal's recent Comprehensive Peace Agreement without public consultation, setting a disturbing precedent for facilitating the process in an open and inclusive way.
Rhoderick Chalmers, South Asia Deputy Project Director, International Crisis Group, (via teleconference)
Chhaya Jha, Director, Human Resource Development Centre (HURDEC), P. Ltd., Nepal
Raghav Raj Regmi, Sr. Consultant and MD of Development Consultancy Centre (DECC), Nepal, and Chair, Visioning New Nepal (VNN) process steering Committee
Deepak Thapa, Director, Social Science Baha, Kathmandu; and author, A Kingdom Under Siege—Nepal's Maoist Insurgency, 1996-2003 (via teleconference)
Excerpt: Trauma and Reconciliation in Nepal (9 min., 5 sec.)
Listen on Demand (1 hr., 30 min.)