Published on 2013-10-23 (My Republica)
The founding father or architects of the nation had perhaps never in their wildest of dreams imagined that the Nepali democratic system would one day become a forged democracy. Nepal is currently undergoing through an extraordinarily and challenging circumstances – a de-escalating national conflict, lack of security, unusual price hike, massive human rights abuses, large number of internally displaced people, civil society organizations working under pressure and vulnerable to extortion and threats, students and youth taking up violent protests and the second Constituent Assembly (CA) election hot on the anvil.
Constitutional reforms have always been an exclusive domain in Nepal till date. Almost all the constitutions that have been written till now – some five of them – have very little inclusiveness. Exclusion, one of the major problems in the Nepali politics and bureaucracy, has always been reflected in the framing of the constitution.
Nepalis had high expectations of prosperity and development with the restoration of democracy in 1990. Similar hope was fueled after the end of 10 years of people’s war, but no hope has been materialized yet. People have now come to realize that without an active and informed citizenry, democracy is unresponsive to citizens’ needs.
Due to the dismal state of democracy in the last 15 years, many people, especially the youths, have lost their faith and belief in the principles of democracy, and its norms and values. They now appear indifferent and not much involvement or participation can be seen on their part in the day to day workings of the government or the governance of the country. I believe that unless this apathy is stopped and measures are taken to rectify it and build an informed, aware and proactive citizenry, then the hard won New Nepal by the people after the revolution will also fail and collapse into a state torn apart by war, violence and strife, violation of human rights, halted development, and lack of the basic tenets of good governance and democracy.
Most governance initiatives often focus on the top level political leaders, excluding the vast majority of social actors, an influential number of whom are youth. 60 per cent of the general population of Nepal is believed to be below 25 years of age. The vast majority of youth, in communities and towns across the country, feel largely powerless, not knowing concretely what they can do or how they can contribute to bring about the change they are looking for. The only way they know how to make their voice heard is through large scale street protests and other violent and aggressive means. But the time is now ripe with opportunity to enable, empower and mobilize the youth towards a constructive path in the politics.
I feel that empowering and mobilizing youth for the documentation of their aspirations and objectives will help create a new era in the Nepali politics that is inclusive and addresses the needs of the citizens. Also, having them participate in the process of documenting their wants and needs for the Constituent Assembly will help to create an informed, aware and proactive youth group who understand the meaning of citizenship, politics and government, and acquire the skills to voice their concerns and hold the system accountable.
Allowing youth to be a part in the current political scenario and ensuring their representation in CA-2 through election means putting into the practice the democratic norms. By doing this, we will create a culture of democracy through the promotion of democratic behavior and values among the young citizens. In most established democracies, youths have the opportunity to absorb democratic beliefs and practices while growing up, with and without the direct observation. However these preparatory experiences are missing in the youth of the newly emerging political system of Nepal.
Thus, the youths are usually unaware of the opportunities or responsibilities that exist for advancing their interests at the local or national level developmental politics. In order for democracy to develop and endure, the youths must take ownership of the system by becoming an informed participant. Informed participation occurs only when the youth understand the meaning of citizenship, politics and government, and have acquired the skills to voice their concerns and hold the system accountable.
Educating youth about the democratic processes and their rights and duties in a democracy is the first and critical step in creating a culture of democracy through the promotion of democratic behavior and values among the young citizens. Ensuring youth participation and representation in the upcoming Constituent Assembly to actively document the voice of the youth will be an opportunity to prove the democratic exercise. This will have huge benefits as it will ensure the sense of ownership of the final constitution to be promulgated, by the youth.