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Post-conflict Reconstruction In Nepal

Dev Raj Dahal

It is hard to say whether Nepal has entered into a post-conflict phase. The government's inaction is allowing different groups to engage in violent activities and challenging the writ of the state based on the Westphalian system. Violence is the politics of a pre-modern era. Modern politics is executed by non-violent action for the achievement of common good.

The Nepalese public is aspiring to reduce cleavages and low-intensity conflict after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Numerous interventions have been designed to arrest the drift of inter and intra-societal conflicts and prevent a relapse into civil war. Responsible political leaders, academics and policymakers are seeking to ensure enduring stability and peace. The international community has also begun deploying knowledge, resources and institutions to address multi-layered conflicts, their multiple causes and consequences.

The increased attention on various aspects of the conflict process has enriched the level of understanding about the conflict system. But there are critical impediments to implementing ideas because politics in Nepal is often played on a zero-sum mentality, and the dominant actors often indulge in mutual accusation rather than assuming collective accountability to build this nation. The suspension of the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections again and again illustrates this fact.

Nepal's conflict dynamics

To understand only the power of self-interest, not the peril of anarchy that has hollowed their ability to maintain countrywide peace and security, will be costly for the citizens, majority of them live below the poverty line. The obvious reason for this state of affairs is the incubation of a neo-patrimonial regime. It has sapped the political will necessary to alter the policy and strategic development vital to transform the root causes of conflicts in Nepal and establish a well-organised virtuous state.

The existence of high political dynamics in Nepal, created by the ruling parties, movement-oriented social, cultural and ethnic groups and armed non-state actors, indicates the low level of constitutional and state stability, new bargaining environment for potential and left out actors and limited scope for complex reforms, especially those involving long-term institutional restructuring and short-term policy interventions. In a fluid political climate, it is hard to enlarge development space other than relief and humanitarian supplies.

Post-CPA entails having all responsible Nepalese work to overcome the challenges that the country faces in delivering the overall reform and development agenda of the Tenth Plan. They include rural reconstruction, effective public service delivery and rapid development impacts through decentralisation, empowerment of the local communities and larger reproduction of the learning from the successful community-based approaches to recovery of the societies from the war wounds. Building rural infrastructure and income and job-generating projects, rehabilitation and demobilisation of conflict-affected communities and reconstruction of destroyed public assets and infrastructure and basic social services - education, health, sanitation, water supply and relief - are identified as the key areas for public investment.

But without setting up other pillars of peace, such as the establishment of Local Peace Councils (LPCs), a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Commission on Enforced Disappearances (CED), Peace and Rehabilitation Commission (PRC) and State Restructuring Commission (SRC) - it would be difficult to create governance capable of transcending exclusion, partisan loyalty and parochialism.

In the absence of any comprehensive political understanding among the key drivers, actors and stakeholders of the conflict and peace, these goals remain unfulfilled. Efforts have to be made to make the conflict resolution mechanism and institution, such as the Ministry of Reconstruction and Peace, more strategic to strike a balance between achieving the conflict prevention objective and responding to the changing contexts, actors, rules and political priorities in conflict resolution.

The works of the Nepal Peace Trust Fund in the reintegration of ex-combatants, rehabilitation of conflict displaced people, CA elections, law and order and peace process must be scaled up, and a critical mass should be mobilised to impact on the drivers of the conflict and recapture the domain of popular sovereignty.

Any stabilisation programme must be grounded in a sound knowledge of the local, regional, national and geopolitical context to identify the maneuvers of potential spoilers, determine the appropriate sequencing of activities to check them and articulate the collective vision of the connectors of society into the public sphere. An improvement in state-society ties helps to build viable security, political consensus and engage in development.

The widespread presence of the state is a precondition for improving security. The architecture of security assists in the disarmament, demobilisation and readjustment of armed opposition, building effective and accountable security forces to subdue anarchy, contain the spoilers of peace and the security desired for the efforts of legitimate actors in strengthening the rule of law and protection of human rights.

Political engagement guarantees a workable inclusive resolution of the root causes of multi-dimensional conflicts. This helps to win the consent of the people for the political parties in securing legitimacy of governance and coordinating each other's goals and behaviour.

Development support enables the state to penetrate its authority into rural periphery, facilitate public communication, civic participation, market exchange and charitable spirit of local civil society. It also synergises sustainable development actions of the state, market, civil society and international community by supporting basic infrastructure, rebuilding broken ties, institutional innovation and service delivery. These measures help to ensure a shared understanding of the drivers, actors and stakeholders of conflict and levers for resolutionary change.

Aid co-ordination of government-donor practices has become particularly important in Nepal especially to engage both sides in abolishing the historical practice of clientalism and paternalism, building trust on each other's role and engaging in multi-sectoral aspects of peace-building, such as transport, communication, energy development, education, agriculture, rural development, water supply, finance, governance, health and sanitation, urban development and good governance. Conflict-mitigation projects should involve rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and internally displaced people, rural reconstruction and eradication of the root causes of mal-development, which triggered the cycle of conflict.

Priority

Sustainable development does not often involve the electoral rationality of reinventing new infrastructure without sustaining the old. In an aid-dependent country like Nepal, there is a limit to this luxury and often aid is conditionalised to other areas of donors' interest. Priority to development must begin with those related to the livelihoods, local formal and informal institutions and strengthening the crosscutting bond of social capital. Rebuilding them is the combined responsibility of the government, development partners, civil society, private sector and development agencies. Only an order based on justice can achieve a stable and positive peace.

Equilibrium of power between the powerful actors might create stability, but not positive peace because the concept of power balance largely rests on the hegemony of the powerful actors over the less powerful ones -potential, left out and marginalised and does not make them stakeholders of the political system. Strong individual or group impulse for empire building, hegemony, monopoly and domination blunts the moral consciousness of power and acknowledges no rule of law and morality beyond its strength. Democratic peace requires normative value orientation and the principles of collective good. The project of reconstruction is a project of rebuilding peace and justice.

Note: This article was published in The Rising Nepal (29 October 2007)

 
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