Nepal: Training promotes peace and gets political parties talking

13 Mar 2012

Leadership training in Nepal is helping political factions engage with each other in a more productive manner as the country works to draft a new constitution and reconcile following its decade long civil war.  

Over 250 leaders of political parties, human rights organisations, local peace committees, government ministries, student organisations and the media have been learning how to better collaborate through a series of UN Development Programme (UNDP) supported workshops, as Nepal goes through a transition to democracy.    

The training is already having positive results for Nepal’s fractured political landscape, according to UNDP Country Director Shoko Noda.

“While the work has focused on medium to longer-term change, one can already see changes in the attitude of party leaders at a national and local level. For example, following the training, the District Party Presidents of Dhanusa organised a forum and have started discussing ways to better deal with corruption, health and education issues,” she said.

This is something that might have been unheard of before. The country’s politics has been characterised with strikes, shut downs and violence rather than constructive negotiation since the 1990s. Political disputes came to a head in Nepal’s decade-long civil war, which ended in 2006 following the Comprehensive Peace Accord.

This political discord has been reflected in a prolonged peace process, which is hampering efforts by the Constituent Assembly, elected in 2008, to draft a new national constitution.

But political leaders who have participated in the UNDP training scheme say that it is helping them to better listen to those with opposing viewpoints. 

“In the past the representatives of the seven parties in Dhanusa were generally unwilling to listen to each other in meetings, but following the training, the leaders now pay close attention to the issues raised during the meetings,” said Surendra Kumar Mandal, District President of Madhesi People’s Rights Forum, one of the political parties represented at a recent workshop. “It has not just helped rebuild trust among the parties but also increased public trust on the parties, further enhancing the image of the political parties in the local level.”

“Through dialogue I was able to convince the political parties and change the leadership of the Local Peace Committee which was vital for the credibility of the institution,” said Prakash Upadhyay, from NGO Himalayan Human Rights Monitors, who also attended the training.

Political party leaders admitted during recent training sessions that party division is adversely affecting the peace process. The training programme aims to overcome this by teaching leaders in a time of democratic transition how to constructively compete and collaborate in order to bring the country forward.

The ‘Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue’ training operates under UNDP’s Conflict Prevention Programme, which helps to set the pre-conditions and strategies for successful dialogue during a period of democratic transition. The programme aims to reach out to all 75 districts in Nepal.

In 2012, dialogue training is also expected to be extended to members of Nepal’s civil service through the Nepal Administrative Staff College.