Statement delivered by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Robert Piper on the ocassion of the opening of the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue

19 Jan 2009

Statement delivered by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Robert Piper on the ocassion of the opening of the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue
January 19, 2009

Opening of the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue
Kathmandu, 19 January 2009
Remarks by Robert Piper, UN RC/HC

Rt. Hon. Nembang, Hon. Members of the CA, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for honouring us with your presence and welcome to the launching of the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue (CCD).

Today, all eyes are on the Constituent Assembly to lead the next, crucial, phase in Nepal's historic transition. It is an onerous responsibility but an equally extraordinary opportunity. To articulate a national identity that will bind Nepalis together for generations to come. To map a new state structure that will respond to the needs and aspirations of its people. To define a new social contract between state and citizen that will hopefully usher the country into an unprecedented era of stability and prosperity.

In the past, constitution making was thought to be a job only for lawyers and politicians. But today we have come to understand that a constitution is more akin to an autobiography of a nation. And who best to write that autobiography than the people themselves. For social and political aspirations can only be defined on the basis of public dialogue. Today more than ever, Nepal needs a strong culture of inclusive dialogue, where grievances and debate can be aired peacefully and constructively. Indeed, a successful constitution-making process will depend on it.

As Nepal's friends we appreciate that Nepal will find its own road, will define its own social contract, will articulate its own identity, on this historic journey. For constitution-making is a profoundly national endeavour and this autobiography can not be written by any ghost-writer. We can and we will bring the experience of the world to Nepal, so that Nepal can learn from the successes (and the failures) of others. We can and we will support the process itself, in any way we can, so that resources and facilities do not hinder. We can and we will provide whatever moral support we can muster, when called upon to do so. But we hold no blue-print from outside and claim no 'silver bullet' for Nepal's constitutional destiny.

However, in the interest of full disclosure, for our part the United Nations' can not claim to be entirely impartial in our support to this historic process ' our values, the values our Member State's have hard-wired into our own constitution, require us to ensure that the consultations ahead reach the hardest-to-reach citizen. That the softest voices are amplified. That the challenges of the 'last engineering mile' are overcome.

This Centre for Constitutional Dialogue is intended above all to serve as a resource for the Constituent Assembly ' as a forum for dialogue, as a neutral space where CA members and civil society can meet. As you can see, the Centre has been deliberately equipped with a library, an audio visual room, expert corner, training room, meeting spaces and other resources for this purpose. The Center will also be a vehicle through which expert advice will be available for CA members; expertise not just from the UN but from Governments and NGOs, not just from international experts, but equally from Nepal's wealth of national experts. The Centre will offer support to CA members, from equipment to language and media training. It will assist with convening workshops, seminars and discussions to move the constitutional process forward. Likewise, the CCD will provide opportunities for civil society to engage closely with CA members on the drafting and consultation process. As you can see, the new Center is located close to the CA in order to make it accessible to CA members with busy schedules.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is Martin Luther King Day. In his time, Dr. King was a great champion of social inclusion and social justice. He demanded changes in the constitution, the legal system, in public policy, and in peoples' attitudes to attain a better, more inclusive reality for his country. His vision of justice and inclusion, and his determination, changed the lives of generations that followed. He has left a lasting mark, not only in his own country, but around the world. Today we thought it appropriate therefore to hold an exhibition at the Center to honor the contributions of Dr. King, and to commemorate Nepal's signature, on 30 January 1971, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Center will, in time, commemorate other historic landmarks of Nepal.

I wish the Center all the very best and truly hope that it succeeds in its objective to serve CA members and the people of Nepal as they draft a new constitution. May this Centre serve as a vibrant 'Chautary', where, in the true Nepali tradition, consensus may be forged over cups of Chiya and genuine discussion.

Allow me to take this opportunity to also extend the UN's gratitude in particular, to the Governments of the United States of America, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland for their support in getting us this far. To our Non Government partners, particularly the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and the many national NGOs, who have worked with us so closely to make this launch possible today. I acknowledge the tireless efforts of the Assembly Secretariat under its able Secretary General. And I thank my UN colleagues in Nepal and beyond. {Intro of NY HQ visitors}

Ladies and Gentlemen, a constitution is not only about capturing a moment in a country's history. It is even more about harnessing the future, for the benefit of all. The UN stands by you, to support and assist, in this historic endeavor.

Thank you.