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Crisis of Governance and Modes of Conflict Resolution in Nepal

Dev Raj Dahal**


Crisis is a situation of dangerous point. It is a condition in which the focus of political decision-making shifts from decentralized institutions and practices to the cabinet-- the most centralized and dynamic institution. In a situation of crisis, the scope for decentralized governance lies in conforming only the central level initiatives. The declaration of a state of emergency in the country and its extension recently shows that crisis in governance has reached its highest point. Governance and crisis escalation, by definition, are anti-thetical. Good governance implies not only democratic governance, conceived as the capacity to maintain the political system's stability and credibility, but also in the sense of resolving conflicts and achieving sound development performance. Governance explicitly includes government institutions. But, it also comprises voluntary, non-state, non-government and market institutions operating within the private and public sphere. This implies that governance must be inclusive for the citizens upon which it exercises political power and seeks to achieve their collective welfare.

The Hindu-Buddhist notion of dharma (institutional duties) laid stress on virtuous conduct of leadership for the well being of citizens. It embraced the desire to promote "common good" and the conception of higher law as opposed to self-will and self-righteousness. The power of self-interest and the idea of rational choice derived from dominant social science disciplines perverted this notion of dharma. As the notion of governance became impersonal science, it lost its ethical appeal for a balance between the purpose of governance and the means it applies. Governance thus failed to remove political and ethical anarchy-the unrestrained will of political actors to self-interest orientation devoid of purposive rules and Constitutional norms. The governance structure thus replaced duties with rights, co-dependency by competition and conflict and political ethics by secular laws. As the government of Nepal embraced many of these features it's traditional notion of governance suffered chronic rationality deficit. The crisis in governance in Nepal is, therefore, generating social, economic and political instability in the country. It has increased the likelihood of conflicts one after another from economic decline, border encroachment and violent conflicts to Bhutanese refugees thus deliberately exposing the state and society into a quagmire having its fronts of vulnerability wide and innumerable.

Syndrome of Structural Crises

The first structural cause of this crisis is rooted in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 as it failed to become a "consensual document" among the political parties of various spectrums and draw the support of social and political minorities for coherence in governance. The uneven level of support to the Constitution and the dissimilar socialization and mobilization functions Nepalese political parties pursued not only lodged enormity of problems for collective action but also fuelled the perennial source of structural conflict. Similarly, its winner-takes-all type of electoral system made political game highly zero-sum to the minorities and smaller opposition parties. This motivated them to detach themselves from the governmental structures and look for a new counter political space for activism.

The second structural cause of crisis is rooted in the political manifestos of each political party, as they evoked and provoked the aspirations of people without any solution of their problems in sight. In the log-term basis, it created credibility gap of the leaders. Likewise, each political party in its manifesto claims itself to be best and others the worst and, consequently, instrumentalizes its adherents against the supporters of other political parties. Moreover, Nepalese political leaders have been tendencially instrumentalizing the cultural differences of the nation, hitting the fault-lines of the nation-state and producing a "fundamentalist gap." There is no respect to genuine democratic opposition as each claims that if it is in power democracy is safe; if others come to power democracy is threatened. Such an attitude undermines any respect to the views of minorities and the tolerance of dissent in democracy. It thus provoked multiple forms of political opposition--parliamentary, extra-parliamentary, extra-constitutional, anti-systemic and revolutionary. The diverse nature of political parties and social groups indicates that there are more often conflicting interaction patterns in the political and social spheres than a sense of shared responsibility. As a result, the task of seeking loyalties of people for governmental action has become very difficult. The government is now facing a cycle of recurrent crises and tensions at the state, society, market and international regime levels, whose fundamental origins lie in the inability of governing institutions to respond.

The third structural crisis is rooted in the stagnation of production structures --in agricultural, industrial, service and informational sectors. The radical economic policy of neo-liberalism pushed by post-1991 governments smashed the intermediary economic structures-- small-scale industries, indigenous means of livelihoods and social economy producing what a critic calls "failed development" of Nepal. A failed development, by definition, is the product of a failed regime. The post-1991 economic policy reforms--privatization, denationalization, deregulation and globalization--without attendant creation of institutional capacity of economy only fomented social disintegration, poverty, unemployment, inequality, dependency, deprivation, marginalization and rebellion. The excessive dependency of the state, the market and civil society--the three vectors of governance--on international regime for their survival and development produced a "denationalized constellation," rather than nationalism thus posing difficulty for the Constitution to domesticate the loyalty of leaders and citizens to Nepalese nationhood and consolidate Constitutional patriotism (the decision of government and political parties on Tanakpur, relaxation of labor act, citizenship act, work permit for non-Nepalese and the passage of the bill on off-shore financial center smashed the spirit of Constitution).

In this context, mainstream donors attached "market reforms, democracy, human rights and good governance" as conditionalities for financing the development of Nepal and the Nepalese government submitted itself to the unilateral Structural Adjustment--a policy prescription of the famous "Washington Consensus." If one sees the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992-97) document of the government one can clearly perceive the then government reading of "rolling back the state." Independent studies point out that the effects of privatization, denationalization and deregulation policies on the life-support system of people remain devastating. Slashing of subsidies in agriculture and selling of industries for rent-seeking and free-riding by the political party or parties in commanding height not only generated crisis in production but also undermined the economic base of the nation. It also unraveled the backward and forward linkages of Nepal's agriculture to industry and trade and trampled Nepalese people's right to work embedded in the vision of the Constitution of Nepal. Subordination of democratic governance to global market radicalism in the face of massive poverty, inequality, unemployment and social ills in the nation served as combustible material for class, ethnic, human rights and civil society radicalism nation-wide often resorting to anti-state discourse. It, however, did not help to expand the space of market in the country due to its segmental nature. The retreat of the state from society followed the withdrawal of market penetration and terminal decline of civil society especially the migration of intellectual class in the periphery. Owing to the centralization of power and opportunities in Kathmandu and a few urban nodes, the critical change agents of society left their social roots. It, therefore, did not solve the problems of scarcity of goods and services in the periphery of hills and mountains.

The overriding weakness in the mechanisms of public power in Nepal, such as the government, political parties, media, NGOs and civil society is that they have not established a process of identifying themselves with the state and its representative institutions and link citizenship to nationality. This has not only made the state institutions weak but also created disharmony between the state (ruler) and society (ruled). And the government is caught in a spiral of conflict between aspirational politics played by politicians (also a number of right-based organizations), its own neo-liberal radicalism and the scarcity of the state resources. Since 1991 the state power has been reduced to governmental power, privatization and denationalization of state industries weakened the power of the public and made the government an instrument of certain powerful interest groups of society dominating certain factions of political party. In fact, a lack of "ownership" of incumbent political party in its own government often made it look like "sectoral" rather than "national" and, consequently emasculated its political will and capacity to formulate and implement rational public policies benefiting the majority of people. A successful government tends to be pro-active in building confidence with its own party and the rival parties, facilitating dialogue and negotiation and in breaking a deadlock on a series of issues. It constantly seeks the knowledge required to reposition itself within the dynamics of conflict and resorts to safe adaptation. Ironically, however, Nepal's governing mechanism appeared simply reactive owing to its perennial problem of survival and, therefore, could not regulate either democratic competition or solve the problems of collective action.

Patterns of Conflict in Nepal

The government is the only democratic instrument of people's power to work for the interests of public and solve their problems and conflicts. The purpose of government is to protect "weak against strong," manage common pool resources, settle conflicts and provide justice to them. But, due to a lack of its public role and the problem of efficacy Nepalese government is producing more problems rather than solving them and becoming a cause for the growth of anti-political sentiments and conflicts. The possibility of conflict is consistent with the breakdown of public institutions due to their increasing polarization and politicization along partisan lines. The patterns of conflict in Nepal can be systematically grouped into three levels-structural conflicts, manifest conflicts and latent or repressed conflicts.

Structural Conflicts: The pattern of conflict between the government and the Maoists in Nepal is adversarial, mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed to one another as both pursue incompatible goals, means and payoffs. Their politics spirals into structural conflicts- anarchy, despotism, demands, threat and increasing resorts to violence. Both parties apparently desired dialogue and held negotiation up to three rounds, the objective and interaction of their efforts produce institutionalized hatred, confrontation, general deadlock and violent confrontation weakening the social fabric of the nation. Constituent Assembly, inter alia, became a bone of contention between the establishment and the Maoists. The Maoists clearly exhibited a tendency of the structural de-coupling from the political system and its institutions causing system instability at the level of policy, control and penetration thus creating fundamental crisis in governance. The behavior of ruling and opposition parties and their bleak performance in service delivery immensely contributed to transform latent or repressed and manifest conflicts into the structural ones. Violence has largely been enlarged into a national scale, escalated, expanded and dispersed. Solution of high-intensity structural conflicts, by definition, requires structural transformation of public sphere and building up of trust, norms and values that underlie reciprocity and cooperation for the promotion of common good and shared destiny. Premier Sher Bahadur Deuba's initial efforts to accomplish this transformation through land reforms, right of paternal property to women, abolition of untouchability, entitlements of rights to poor and fairness in elections were very appropriate but they were aborted the half-way.

Manifest Conflicts: The conflicts between the government and all opposition political parties-Communist party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), Nepal Sadbhana Party (NSP) and smaller left-wing parties-- are based on competition, cooperation and consensus. They, therefore, represent manifest conflicts, which are less antagonistic with the opposition espousing peaceful agitation, strikes and demonstration. Their immediate goals differ, but they share a common commitment to the preservation of the multi-party political system. Currently, however, the opposition political parties of all the hues also find a rationality deficit in governance and set preconditions--constitutional amendments and socioeconomic reforms to the government for their support and legitimation to the declaration and extension of the State of Emergency. As they feel growing in-discipline in the governance of ruling Nepali Congress party, there is a tendential unification of opposition political parties to construct the resonance of crisis and achieve concerted action through what the leaders of different political parties call "Broad Democratic Alliance." Upon the pressure of mainstream opposition party-CPN-UML the government has agreed to "amend the Constitution" so as to establish the "integrity of the governmental power," by means of establishing strong anti-corruption mechanism, introduction of electoral fairness by means of constituting electoral government to conduct elections, establishing a representative process of the government and initiating broad-based social and economic reforms. The solution of manifest conflicts, by necessity, requires drastic reforms in the style and substance of governance. This means institution of governance must perform and accomplish their goals. This, however, requires the development of an effective system of penalizing the economic and political offense and anti-constitutional and anti-national tendencies. The challenge of power politics cannot be solved with the weapon of science but by political wisdom, reason and statecraft.

Latent or Suppressed Conflicts: The patterns of conflict between the government and societal forces triggered by women on property rights, ethnic, indigenous and regional groups on a number of entitlements and opportunities, minorities and regional forces on political representation, Dalit organizations on upliftment, trade union, press union, human rights organizations, etc on professional prerogatives represent latent or repressed conflicts as these forces only call for the realization of their years of unrealized rights under Constitutional bounds that include power, resource and identity. Any consideration of preferences of people can be justified to prevent potential conflicts erupting into acute crisis proportion. The challenge for leadership is to deal with conflict-formation process in the incipient stage and containing simmering social fissures by discovering a common ground and setting aside the differences. It requires the construction of a civic culture that can provide benefits to the general public rather than its party clients, sustain community engagements in local governance, build informal networks and associations and strengthen the social capital for cooperation, reciprocity, trust and communication to solve the general problems of society.

Irresolution of repressed conflicts arising out of repression of their demands, exclusion, penetration, fragmentation and marginalization transforms themselves into manifest conflicts in the medium-term and structural conflicts in the long-term. The tendency of marginalized, unemployed, Dalits, ethnic and indigenous people to join Maoist people's war indicate this fact. These conflicts constitute fundamental challenges to the integration and adaptation of the political system in society and consolidating the social base of politics. The greater the difference between the modes of resolution, the higher the possibility of system change. The Nepali Congress government is now locked in a deadlock with all these three types of conflicts and, therefore, seems desperate to break the deadlock at the least possible cost in order to survive and move forward.
What are the societal demands that generate conflicts? In a condition of increasing poverty, social and economic inequality and exclusion in Nepal there are differential rights for differentiated people despite the implementation of the Constitution for more than a decade. As a result, each social class in Nepal is experiencing uneven phases of human rights struggle--- bonded labors are clamoring for liberation from oppression and bondage. They are severed from their history and culture, from family ties and a sense of community. Children, aged, disabled, minorities, etc are demanding individual rights for all the citizens; and Dalits, women, indigenous and ethnic groups, poor and deprived are asserting for entitlements to education, property, health care, economic opportunities and political participation. These entitlements are essential to enable upward mobility and connect them to the broader world of nationhood. The articulate sections of society are claiming their rights on social opportunities (expansion of freedom as a cardinal means of development for all the citizens) and transparency guarantees (a lack of corruption) from the government so that they have the right and access to decision-making on the fundamental questions of public importance. These rights are deemed essential for their greater degree of individual freedom, self-realization and self-esteem. Many of the human rights provisions being non-justiceable and non-actionable have embellished the issue of distributional conflicts in the forefront of governance agenda in Nepal.

The requirement of system survival proscribes the deadlocks of indefinite duration. Ironically, the variety of forms of conflicts in Nepal has grown steadily in recent years. Therefore, no single strategy will be effective in resolving the multi-level conflicts. Success in resolving conflict at one level does not necessarily assure in resolving conflict at another level. What is common among these conflicts is that in the beginning they were driven by grievances, which inherited the seeds of contradictions of their own, added to propensities toward crisis tendencies and eventually intractable conflicts. An element of urgency-the need to achieve tangible progress in every aspect of people's life-- can be a step towards conflict prevention, peace-keeping, peace-making and peace building. The cardinal questions then become what new mechanisms, rules and procedures are to be devised to contain and resolve the growing conflicts? In societies threatened by growing suspicion and mistrust escalating into violence and chaos, what are the best measures of effective governance to maximize the incentives for preventing, containing and resolving conflicts among the various actors and promoting peace and reconciliation?

Patterns of Governance

The governance we talk about today is not the sole prerogative of mono-centric or unitary government alone. Nowadays, government does not have absolute monopoly to unilaterally define the parameters of decision making regarding domestic and foreign affairs. Non-state, non-governmental and private sectors increasingly share the policy space with the government. The increasing dependence of the government on foreign aid, initiative and ideas has been well reflected in the purpose of organizing Nepal Development Forum and sharing with emerging global norms, networks, procedures, initiatives and institutions. Likewise, conflict is not confined to the inter-state level where the state possesses absolute monopoly over collective problem solving and conflict resolution. There is increasing incongruence between national society and the national state.

The people of Nepal have entered into polycentric regimes of governance, such as environmental regime, human rights regime, democracy regime, South Asian Regional Cooperation regime, World Trade Organization (WTO) regime, the UN, etc at the horizontal level. The extra-state grids of power, institutions and practices require polycentric governance to settle conflicts and negotiate peace and cooperation. The intensification of globalization resurrected the relevance of regional and international institutions. But, they weakened the base of nationalism, national cohesion and centripetal forces provoking reactive re-tribalization and incoherence between the political space of democracy existing in the nation-state and global participation of their social, economic and political forces forging cross-border transactions, communication and solidarity. Global institutions, however, are not cohesive enough to manage regional and global interdependence. Both the state and non-state agencies of Nepal are, therefore, networking with their counterparts abroad and sharing knowledge, information, enterprise and opportunities. Their interaction is based on solidarity, internationalism and common standards. In that sense, polycentric governance is oriented to the functional needs of society, market institutions and the state and the resolution of conflict in each layer requires the management of change across each level and perspective. The role of government as a central player lies in concerting action, that is, monitoring, communicating, coordinating and integrating the activities of all the stakeholders of society and maintaining at least a modicum of harmony among them. Obviously, governance (public order) comes before service provision. It purports to organize rules for settling conflicts of all types, mobilizing resources and relating those resources to rule-enforcing and distributing mechanisms.

The process of governance is also layered vertically into global, regional, national and local levels. Each layer has different norms, procedures, institutions and practices to govern the life of people. The multi-level structure of governance covers all the dominant actors of society-the state, the market, civil society and international regimes at the horizontal level and Districts, municipalities and villages at the vertical level. The multiple layers of institutional arrangements are operating under a myriad of competitive resources and constraints. The diffusion of power and authority in multiple poles and layers created a corresponding loss of control of government in public affairs. This loss, however, did not contribute to the strengthening of local self-governance and its capacity to resist the challenges posed by extra-Constitutional forces. Counter structures, processes and programs created by some donors and the government itself at the local level further weakened the capacity of local bodies in governance. In contrast, the membership of Nepalese people to various governing regimes expanded.

The Nepalese people are simultaneously the members of the state through their citizenship and they are the members of the market as both consumers and producers of public and private goods. They are the members of civil society, as they participate in many of the intermediary institutions between the family and the state, and finally, they are members of international regimes as the government of Nepal is a signatory of many international instruments on the basis of which citizens are claimants of universal human rights, the highest reaches of human achievements. The challenge of multi-level governance is to adopt policies that make these imperatives converge at the nation-state level assuming that there is no alternative to working with the politics of national constellation and consensus for consolidated statehood embracing the attributes of national identity, mobilization of human and non-human resources and the realization of the goals of governance as well as managing them for the interests and priorities of people. A strong state enmeshed in hard institutions and soft social capital is crucial to strengthen its resolve to its institutional capacity to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. Just as conflict in Nepal is multi-faceted, so too must be the solution to it.

Goals of Governance as Modes of Conflict Resolution

The fundamental goals of governance for Nepal at the moment are four- national security and stability, rule of law, voice and participation and provisions of public goods and services. The first three goals pertain to its protective and promotive functions while the last one refers to its productive role. A brief analysis of each of these governance goals is given below:

The first goal of governance is national security, that is, prevention of external and internal threats to citizens and the state. A sound security system rests on the mutual trust of the state and societal elements, subduing chaos and creating public order acceptable to all the actors of society. The element of security thus constitutes the creation of necessary subjective (freedom from fear) and objective (freedom from want) conditions for building a national community capable of resolving conflicts at various layers peacefully. The growing weakness of centralized political authority (government) in Nepal has precluded the attainment of security goals. Internal security caused by Maoist insurgency has thus emerged as a major national problem in Nepal. Thus after a decade of the dominance of politicians, police, bureaucracy and businesspersons, the government brought the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) back into a central role because it is needed to address their collective failure and fulfil its fundamental role--the provision of security of Nepalese citizens. The government has already mobilized the RNA in cross-border smuggling, providing security coverage to Integrated Security and Development Plan (ISDP), strengthening civilian defense, protecting the headquarters of the districts and important development sites and disarming the Maoists. Article 118 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal provides the RNA's involvement in National Defense Council and empowers it to help maintain peace, security and stability in the country. What is still required is that the instruments of security must be effectively coordinated so that the RNA does not become a disjointed part but becomes a coherent whole.

The second goal of governance is the rule of law. This includes provisions of fundamental rights, citizen equality before the law, limitation of state authority and separation of powers. But, the authority must exist in society before it is limited. Law enforcement agencies must be strengthened to prosecute all types of crimes so that it can facilitate business and investments. Ironically, in Nepal, democracy has been combined with corruption of economic reforms, law and political institutions and the establishment of a culture of impunity. In the face of the dysfunctionality of politics and public institutions, the RNA as a part of an organic whole with the state has additional responsibility in strengthening the hands of rule of law and civilian defense making them capable of maintaining, monitoring and enforcing internal security especially breaking the nexus of criminals with regulative institutions of the state. Effective intelligence system is the first line of public defense against criminals. Constitutionalization of social, political and economic forces and the institutionalization of their needs, aspirations and behavior are crucial processes to achieve a modicum of political stability.

The third goal of governance is giving voice to and participation of all the people constituting citizenry. Due to the growth in awareness of their rights, Nepalese people are insisting upon participation in decision-making affecting them. A sense of collective national identity of citizens and their right to participation in decision-making affecting their life, liberty and property are essential to reduce their alienation and make their leaders accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, the conflicts of sub-systems of society, particularly ethnic, gender, linguistic, regional and religious groups, is fomenting constant tension between the integrative and adaptive functions of the political system. A constant civic education and cultural action is needed to make political acculturation processes effective. This is the way to transform people into Nepalese citizens and then citizens into an attentive public. Social cohesiveness can also be strengthened by common Hindu-Buddhist values, accumulation of horizontal social capital especially by coordinating the energies of the state, the market and civil society and making their collective action effective. The voice and participation areas belong to media, civil society and political society including the state. The RNA can play a role in creating civil authority at the local level, engage the people in sport and recreation, social trust creation and exchange of ideas thus enabling the local authorities to respond to voice and participation needs of people.

Finally, the fourth goal of governance is the provision of public goods and services. It involves equity goals-promotion of ecological balance, economic development, social equalities and justice. The best hope of good governance lies in the fact that social justice precedes law and order in the strategy of governing institutions, a justice that can also create a stable public order, peace and the advantages of collaboration. The more resources are allocated to conflict, the less resources are available for development. The RNA is playing a role in relief operation, service to the needy, rehabilitation and protection of people from both exploitation and violence. At the social level, the RNA can revive the family structure and neighborhood cooperation. At the religious level, it can encourage people to celebrate festivals and visit their relatives and religious shrines. At the political level, it can try to create new civic authorities who are real representative of people. And at the economic level the RNA can provide security backdrop for the exchange of goods and services. A minimum level of state security can help penetrate the market and civil society and bring the life of people into normal condition.

Conflict resolution through governance requires an analysis of all the relevant actors that fuel the sources of conflict, realization of the importance of their common interests, communication among the conflicting parties, coordination and non-violent and creative handling of conflict. In democracy, conflict is seen as a dynamic process with different phases and various degrees of tensions in society. Good governance and conflict escalation are antithetical: governance rests on the creation of public order legitimized both by the constitution and will of the people while conflicts rest on the incompatibility of values, interests and goals of two or more conflicting parties. Since conflict is seen as an essential but not necessarily destructive element of democratic competition, the main approaches to conflict resolution are: imposing the will of legitimate actor, creating a shared stake in the negotiation, crisis prevention through the mobilization of the market and civil society, conflict transformation into peace and third party mediation. Intermediaries or peace facilitators can also mitigate the undesired aspects of conflicts by mediation, thus facilitating communication and providing face-saving options.
After the dawn of multi-party democracy in the Spring of 1990, Nepalese people have been able to attain civic freedom, right to organization and articulation of demands in public life. General political consciousness has increased. So does the growth in their civic organizations and institutions. But, these factors have little or no impact on public policy in improving the quality of life of the Nepalese people. It is because mainstream political parties acted as "organized interest groups of society" and have shown little interest in either functional representation of diverse groups of society or execute social transformation. Divided along geopolitical lines their relations with the society is characterized by: power orientation minus democratic values, communication minus civic engagement, election with weak representation, articulation minus little effects on public policy and leadership minus institutionalization (personalization).

Especially, at the leadership level, there is very little moral consciousness of their power and authority. His Majesty the King recently in an interview has clearly pointed this out. Evasion of responsibilities created irresponsibility of power. And their authority legitimated through victory in elections has been tarnished as they continue to encounter difficulties in leading people toward an ordered civic life. The non-attainability of many governance goals underlined above is, therefore, causing continued social indiscipline, democratic deficit and the crisis of governance. Absence of "good governance" has been also underlined by Commander Chief of Royal Nepalese Army in a recent interview to NTV, frequently debated by civil society and even articulated by donor community. Unless the state maintains legitimate monopoly of force to maintain internal security, autonomy and rule of law, it is likely to encounter hard times in the secular execution of public policies. How can the public claim ownership over the policies made not by them and their representatives? How can the government seek rationale for taxation (resources) unless it upholds a high degree of public interest orientation? How can the government deliver goods to the citizens in general when the state's monopoly of force has been exploited for private purpose and the service delivery agencies are largely partisan?

Good governance sets the immediate priority of the government in action while bad governance postpones it. One such case requiring immediate attention is the controlling of Maoist People's War and bringing them to negotiate peace. By breaking the state's monopoly on the collection of tax and legitimate monopoly of violence, the six-years' of Maoist People's War continues to expose the Nepali state's weakness. The retreat of the government and public agencies from society (public schools, banks, police posts, cooperatives, post offices, development-related agencies, etc) is creating political vacuum of authority, which is being filled in by the Maoists. Social stability requires the deep penetration of the state in society and integration of citizens in the mediating structure of the polity. The stumbling block in the process of democratic legitimation of governance was the regime's inability to cope with the political alienation of the right and the left parties, social alienation of Dalits, economic alienation and poverty-induced migration of the poor and the marginalized, cultural alienation of linguistic and indigenous groups, increasing social movements of women, ethnic communities, civil society and professional groups and armed rebellion of the Maoist party who are systematically hitting the faultlines of the polity and provoking parochial loyalties. The solution of these alienation, movements, migration and rebellion is clear: establish an inclusive governance in which all groups are represented and they feel that the governance belongs to them. This requires a change in the Constitution and election system.

The structure of conflicts is embedded in the structures of the polity, society, economy and institutions and, consequently, their solution cannot be found in a simple "actor-oriented" negotiation the Nepalese government is now hoping for in settling various types of conflict. Reform is required in the "process," "institutions" and "political culture" of governance actors. Conflict resolution, however, becomes temporary if each conflicting party is not itself properly in control of its force and the rival actors' expectations do not converge in mutual benefits. Every step taken towards achieving a broad-based participatory regime is a step towards crisis prevention because it promises the process of sustaining peaceful change and balances the aspirations of the periphery for nation-building and the governance of post-national constellation at the centre.


Studies on conflict management show that conflict resolution has been successful in cases related to ending colonial rule, border strifes, sharing of resources, industrial disputes, etc but not in cases where conflicts are ideologically and racially charged and there seems little exhaustion of strength from both sides. The ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is a case in point. With the mediation effort of Norwegian ambassador to Sri Lanka an agreement for cease-fire was signed in February 2002 between Tamils rebels and Sinhalese government after 18 years of bloody war. If mediation efforts are taken seriously by both the parties resolution of conflict would be possible. In February 1990, the free and fair elections held in Nicaragua brought the civil war between the Sandinistas and the Contras to an end. In Cambodia and El Salvador, the peace-building efforts of the UN contributed to the maintenance of political stability. In October 1992 the Community of Saint Egidio, a Rome-based Catholic non-governmental organization, helped to end more than a decade long civil war in Mozambique.

Conflicts become intractable if they are rooted in some permanent basic structure of both the conflicting parties, the number of victims grows and their family members and relatives are willing to contribute to the process of force recruitment. The best prospect for resolution thus lies in addressing the underlying needs of the society that support the demands of the conflicting parties. Conflict in society arises from the unmet needs and rights of people, deprivation and marginalization. The explanation for this is that People's War started from the most deprived areas of the country, such as Rukum, Rolpa, Jajarkot, Salyan, Gorkha and Sindhuli where government and the mainstream political parties showed total neglect of the pre-existing inequalities, feudal exploitation, growing death by hunger and discontent that roiled the region with explosive tensions.
The immediate task for the Nepalese leadership now is to realize step by step four governance goals-- national security, rule of law, voice and participation and the provisions of public goods. It should try to create the confidence of people and the political parties of various spectrums in leadership and enter into negotiation with the Maoists to resolve the conflicts.

This task is not completely beyond the realm of historical possibility. But, it has to include the mobilization of both internal and international political will, resources and humanitarian and other interventions to prevent the conflict from assuming acute crisis proportion. Maintenance of the national integrity system in fighting corruption, establishment of a culture of accountability and internal unity between law and politics are equally essential. Development of overlapping policies among the political parties is essential so that politicians cannot instrumentalize the cultural differences of the nation and create a crisis of governance. Politics is the art of possible, not a perfect game of science. Therefore, even a slight progress in the resolution of conflict and the peace building process can be considered a political wisdom and strength of leadership, a precondition for good governance. The best hope of peace lies in creating a stable order by introducing instruments of peace into the negotiations which are to provide incentive for political order.

** Dahal is Associate Professor of Political Science, Tribhuvan University and author of Challenges to Good Governance in Nepal (1996) and Civil Society in Nepal: Opening the Ground for Questions (2002).

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