Democracy Dialogues for an inclusive Constitution

09 Sep 2010

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Over the last 18 months, the UNDP village-based "Democracy Dialogues" have been an important means to receive suggestions on the new Constitution from Nepal's remote and isolated rural population. These Dialogues have also been an important channel to remind Nepal?s political leaders about laws and policies that have been passed -- but never implemented.

Recently, in a Democracy Dialogue organised in Bara district, in the presence of local Constituent Assembly (CA) members, 24 year-old Pushpa Lama strongly argued that the new Constitution should ensure third gender rights.

"I am deprived of my identity," said Lama, "even though the Supreme Court in 2007 already gave instructions to the state to recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as third gender." Although Nepal is the only country in South Asia to recognize the rights of LGBTI people, in practice, discrimination is still widely prevalent.

Similarly, Budana Devi, a recent widow in her 50s, asked why widows have to wait until they are 60 to be entitled to an allowance. In the discussion following the question session, attending CA members agreed there is a need to address and revise policies such. A majority of the locals of Bara district were also vocal about needing to revise the criteria and the age limit of CA Members and government ministers.

UNDP's Support to Participatory Constitution Building in Nepal (SPCBN) project has been working with a wide variety of NGOs since early 2009 to undertake Democracy Dialogue outreach programmes. These have raised public awareness on the constitution building process, thus ensuring significant input from the population at large, and particularly from marginalized groups, into the constitution making process.

In 2009, over 2,000 submissions were made to the CA Thematic Committees for review and inclusion into their reports by 17 NGO federations supported by UNDP. 

During last year, SPCBN has supported these 17 consortia of grassroots CSOs that mobilized over 90 NGOs to conduct 2,233 "Democratic Dialogues" in 1,538 VDCs which were attended by more than 120,000 people.

Similarly, in 2010, 18 NGO federations are implementing a second phase initiative of civic education which has covered all 3,915 Village Development Committees and currently reaching all 240 constituencies of the country. Over 90 Master Trainers and 1,300 facilitators have been trained across the country. 

By the end of September an estimated 450,000 people will have participated in these Democracy and Constituent Dialogues nation-wide. By the end of October 240 constituency-level reports detailing these discussions and findings will officially be submitted to the CA.