(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

Post-Conflict Peace-Building in Nepal: the Role of Civil Society

Summary of research carried out: 
Post-Conflict Peace-Building in Nepal: the Role of Civil Society

The pro-democracy movement jointly launched by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) witnessed a shift in the political landscape of Nepal, bringing an end to the decade-old Maoist insurgency as King Gaynnendra stepped down on 24 April 2006. This transformation was accompanied by the formation of an eight-party interim government which now includes the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), and the adoption of an interim constitution to pave the way for the Constituent Assembly (CA) election scheduled to be held in November 2007. Nevertheless, this peace-building process is already showing its fragility and its potential to make Nepalese politics volatile again, which might lead to delay in holding the Constituent Assembly election and to violence.

In fact, peace-building is not an easy task when a society is marked by severe impoverishment, deep cleavages and political mistrust. Success in peace-building depends on the commitment and motivation of the parties concerned, mechanisms to resolve differences, and institutional transformation (Jeong, 2006:12). Peace-building needs to enhance public safety, promote general economic recovery and create scope for public debate (Causens, 2001). In this regard, what strategy the parties concerned will follow and which actors will be pivotal in building peace is very much context-specific and determined by the political reality of the country.

In the case of Nepal, the causes of the Maoist insurgency that began in 1996 are manifold and can be classified broadly into two categories: failure of governance and political economic perspectives. A political economic explanation of the causes of insurgency concentrates on the class dimension of the conflict and the Spatial-Horizontal Inequality1 in Nepal (Pahari, 2003; Morshed and Gates, 2005). The peace-building process in Nepal requires not only improvement in communal relationships but also psychological transformation to correct the damage and loss inflicted upon the victims of oppression and violence (Jeong, 2006:10). The danger remains that peace-building might become fragmented and power might again become concentrated among political parties that failed to deliver positive outcomes in the past. In this regard, civil society can fill the vacuum and play a vital role in smoothing out the process of reconstruction and reconciliation, two pillars of the peace-building approach. Since partisan politics is devoid of such capacity, it will be very difficult to give affected peoples trust and confidence in peace and progress without nurturing and ensuring the role of civil society.

Methodology: A questionnaire was used to interview officials of the NGOs concerned and victims of the Maoist insurgency and government atrocities, and to examine the role civil society organizations will play in future peacebuilding. On the basis of the interviews, relevant strategies were proposed in that regard. This research makes an original contribution to the literature on peacebuilding since not much progress has been made so far in the study of civil society’s role in peace-building in Nepal.

1 Indicator of discrimination against well-defined groups based on ethnicity or religion living in a particular regiion of the country.