Leaders come together for a confidence building exercise

Opposing leaders come together for a confidence building
District level political leaders from opposing camps work together to solve a puzzle while former Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel, a key facilitator, looks on

April 5 2013, Bardiya: Kailali district in the Far West region of Nepal had been the epicenter of recent political and ethnic tension in Nepal. The district remain shut for 31 days in April and May last year as disagreements over federalism spiraled into hostilities and rival protests between different communities living in the district. Although the situation seems to have normalized after the dissolution of Constituent Assembly (CA), the underlying tension remains with a potential for a violent breakout.

As Nepal prepares for another election, federalism remains a contentious issue that divides communities, pitting them against each other over how federal states should be carved out.

For the first time since the massive rival protests of last year calling for a unified Far West and a Tharuhat state, major political actors who were part of opposing camps sat together in a confidence building exercise as part of UNDP’s Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue (CLD) initiative. The event, organized in the first week of April, was supported by prominent facilitators of Nepal’s peace process, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, Daman Nath Dhungana and Bhojraj Pokharel, who shared their experience in bringing together government and the insurgents to the table and holding the CA elections – inspiring the leaders to think beyond their immediate party and ethnic loyalties.

District level political leaders, and the Chief District Officer and Deputy Superintendent of Police, who participated in the dialogue said that they were initially skeptical about the outcome of the initiative, but once they sat through the sessions, they said it helped to open up to each other.
Participants said that lack of informed debate on federalism had whipped up both fear and frenzy among proponents of different kinds of federalism during the rival protests – suggesting that they would have more nuanced debate and discussion in the future.

Padma Ratna Tuladhar, a key facilitator between the Maoists and the government during the insurgency, spoke at length about challenges they faced in bringing the two opposing sides to the table. “A negotiation, let alone an agreement, seemed impossible between the Maoists and government in the beginning,” said Tuladhar. “Many said we were deluded, but our perseverance and several attempts to bring the warring sides to the table did pay off.”
 In deeply entrenched conflicts, peaceful resolution may seem difficult and unimaginable at the start but you would be amazed by what can be achieved through dialogue and negotiations, the facilitators told the participants.  

As the participants sat through different sessions that focused on encouraging the participants to open up and work in teams, they said they were much more confident of providing leadership during crises and steering their respective sides away from violent confrontation.

“After attending this dialogue initiative, we are now very confident of avoiding violent confrontation to resolve our conflicts,” said Birendra BK, a CPN-Maoist leader in Kailali district.

CLD has been bringing together local leaders from political parties and civil society who represent different viewpoints and explore common grounds that unite them so that a foundation for resolving conflicts peacefully can be built.

UNDP’s Conflict Prevention Programme identifies potential conflict hotspots while supporting stakeholders to build their capacity to create environment for dialogue. It inspires leaders to resolve disputes peacefully and encourages them to stand tall during crises.