What comes first, peace or constitution?

24 Sep 2009

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The debate on, ‘What comes first, peace or constitution?’ continued for over two hours between the members of the Constituent Assembly, representatives of the civil society, NGOs and media during the panel discussion organised by the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue (CCD) and UNDP on the occasion of International Day for Peace. In 249 days, the new constitution has to be drafted and it is a Herculean task to incorporate all the issues and shape up a final document that meets every citizen’s expectations. Until the new constitution is drafted, the peace process still looks fragile.

During the panel discussion, the participants discussed that the peace process has been delayed due to lack of trust between the political parties. The representatives from the civil society argued that the citizens are still denied of their basic rights to live in peace. The deteriorating security situation, violence and protests taking place everyday show no signs of lasting peace being restored in the country. Due to lack of opportunities and insignificant representation in all major decision making fora, the youth still feels left out from the whole process yet 58% of the population is under 29 years old.

Some CA members indicated that lack of trust between the parties was the biggest challenge to bring peace to the country, while some trusted that only a new Constitution which ensures the rights and representation of all sections of society can guarantee peace.

Emphasizing on ‘non-violence’ as the key theme for the peace day celebration , the Chair of the Constitutional Committee, Mr. Nilamber Acharya reminded that all parties should abide by the 12 point agreement as outlined in the Comprehensive Peace Accord and be accountable to consolidate peace in the country.

Ms. Sarita Giri, CA member representing the Nepal Sadhvawana Party said that the reintegration of the Maoist Army was an important step but not a solution for peace. She added, “Power sharing issue has to be addressed equally.”

Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit, representing the media stated that the term ‘peace’ is very broad and needs to be narrowed down. “To bring the peace process to a logical end, the first and foremost step is to bring an end to the 10 year old conflict and as long as the cantonments remain in the country, the process is incomplete,” he said.

Highlighting the need to identify the core and constructive issues in the constitution making process and the need to communicate the challenges and progress to the public, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Robert Piper said, “the extent to which people feel ownership of the new constitution will depend heavily on the extent to which they feel they have helped write it. There are real concerns at this time that the critical consultation phase will be compromised under the pressure of time.” Further emphasizing the need to maintain peace, he underlined that, “strong mediation skills are required at the local level and the Local Peace Committees must urgently become fully operational. National leaders need to set the example of the art of negotiation and compromise.”