Citizen-centric Peace Building
Dev Raj Dahal
The restless labour of Nepali citizens for positive peace has found its resonance in their peace building activities. But now this trajectory is encircled by unsettled problems. As a result, peace in the nation continues to compete with other endless claims, such as sharing power, capacity building of provinces and local bodies, flexible citizenship, proportional inclusive representation, controlling social vices, fulfilment of basic needs and satisfaction of identity- mania of scores of political and social actors. Negotiation and fixing of these competing claims into a legitimate public order is a precondition to fulfil an ardent desire of Nepali public for respect, esteem and peace.
The signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) indicates that Nepal is not remote from the centre of human civilisation. The battle of Nepali leaders and citizens now lies in realising a rational approach to education about it and adjusting their conduct to goal-directedness. The central responsibility of Nepali leadership lies in peace-oriented activities affirming rational human nature, entrenching liberal norms in a highly impulsive politics and balancing the need of Nepali state for national security and societal needs for freedom and self-governance. The reason of Nepali state presumes to protect leaders and groups from their own propensity to commit evil acts and the state of lawless freedom they want to exercise without the justification of good public reason.
The moral awareness of the government about its own power orients it to practical measures for the creation of a liveable human condition fit for all Nepalis and enables adversaries to seek a common social, political, economic and cultural ground for conflict transformation. Nepali citizens’ roles in multi-level elections have been well extolled but their roles in peace building have not been sufficiently discussed either in knowledge building or policy analysis. The slight interest is partly due to the confusion connected with their self-unimportance because of stress on great men politics, partly due to overblown polemics about pacifism and ritual invocation of perfect bliss articulated by spiritual organisations, partly due to their fragmentation into different camp of leaders, mass media, sub-national organisations, civil society and rights-based NGOs which hardly treasure social learning and partly due to more aspiration and less outcome that public discourses of enlightened citizens have generated to the Nepali policy makers overshadowing the role of citizens in building peace.
The notion of peace is bound up with a constitutional order based on mutually agreed principles for the behaviour of all actors in their dealing with each other. In this order, they can defend themselves and pursue their legitimate goals without having recourse to sadistic means of violence incompatible with the goal of peace. Stacking values in binary code such as democracy versus the state, human rights against security responsibilities, professionalism versus partisan alliance, tradition versus modernity, men versus women and one class, caste, ethnic group or race against the other have only unfolded blindness about overlapping interests and, therefore, could not resolve the multidimensional conflicts of Nepal. These antimonies have defied the hope of unified public action for peace. Any attempt to project conflict along this code implies that there are active interests to repress Nepali citizens’ scream for the promotion of long-term peace. The conquest of certain inner and intra-party rows in Nepal is vital to evolve civic culture and resolve the condition of unstable power equation.
It is essential to alleviate the fear of government holding either simple majority or two-third majority support from abrupt collapse thus leaving the tasks of governance teeter. This tendency of politics has often opened space for each other to negotiate for absolute gain rather than mutual advantage and put the Constitution in a trap of lawless combat. Nepali citizens are, therefore, less satisfied with mere preaching of the politically correct words by their leaders as they see the surge of battles at all levels of governance leaving the agenda of peace, prosperity and happy life woefully tantalising. They want their leaders improve the moral quality of their life and constructively engage to foster peace norms with the right deed. It can stifle aggressive behaviour overtaking peace building task. Positive peace is the goal of Nepalis’ life and, for this, they aim for ethical virtues that avoid political extremes, classical norms of hierarchy, patriarchy and status quo and reconcile free will for social change against the domination of deterministic politics.
Peace building as a practical area involves a set of goals, policies, strategies and programmes which aims to foil the eruption of armed conflict, evades structural and direct violence and seeks to set up a legitimate political frame for all the stakeholders to peacefully participate in ecological, social, economic and political life of the nation. It provides a keyhole for an analysis of the root causes of conflict in Nepal and an examination of the transformation of troublesome links between structural injustice and the cycles of violence and counter-violence setting a downward spiral of security, democratic and development processes. It is possible to establish stakeholders’ solutions if each actor of Nepal comes out of its institutional, ideological and personality frames, understands each other’s legitimate concern, begins to communicate public purpose, recovers the balance of state-society coherence and offers peace building a remedy for the security of all Nepalis. Rebuilding the state is a precondition to the success of any national initiative-security, order, service delivery, mutual dependence and acculturation to national life.
It has become an imperative for leaders and groups to moderate the lingering habit-driven thinking and keep grievances within the bounds of optimal order donned by Nepali Constitution. Legitimate order means the leadership has to forget about “imperial peace” to resolve internal conflict by inviting external powers and facilitating oneself to rise to power in Kathmandu with their support. The success of decolonisation moves has ended the utility of this approach. Only a few satellite states, under the penumbra of great powers’ footsteps, follow this path. Similarly, they should also relinquish the idea of “muscular peace” that resolves conflict by rendering opposition forces to impotence. In a country of diversity like Nepal this sort of peace cannot last long as it fosters structural injustice, opens societal fissures for divide and rule politics and creates various kinds of opposition-both extra-constitutional and anti-systemic.
The “hegemonic peace’’ is power equation-based which too did not sustain constitutional stability and foster social, economic and political development in Nepal. In this model, powerful actors impose the rules of the game over the less powerful against their wish and stir up multiple resistances, peaceful protests and rebellion. Peace based on human nature stokes fear of domination and denial of basic needs. It is dubbed as negative peace.
A “democratic peace,” based on human reasons and norms, transcends imperial, muscular and hegemonic styles, ensures the citizen’s ownership and participation in peace dividends, upholds human rights and social justice and creates the circle of more winners by expanding constitutional and institutional bases of rights, power, resources and recognition. It is a negotiated one and, therefore, citizens, as stakeholders, pin resolute hope in its sustainability and demand transitional justice to conflict victims considering it important to bridge the dichotomy between CPA and its honest execution, help leaders stay truthful to their promises and enable them in general and conflict victims in particular to realise their inalienable rights, dignity and social harmony.
The level of overall progress in the state determines the efficacy of citizens and civil society to spur national aspiration of democratic peace. The public realm of intermediary associations where women, conflict victims, children, youths, Dalits, Aadibais, Janajatis, Madesi and all groups of citizens at the grassroots are engaged in restoring the broken relationship, building enterprises of production, distribution and exchange and rebuilding the general life of Nepali society. They uphold realism of precise conviction, rather than ideologically and emotionally conditioned stance, to weave the web of peace. It is a conviction which remains unwavering even during shifting balance of political power in Nepal. Ordinary Nepalis perceive the sterility of violence as a tool of politics.
A correct disposition of Nepali leaders’ will can place constitutional checks on power, entice contesting groups to overcome adversarial situation and shape the perfection of shared future. Essentially, peace building by Nepali citizens is rooted in the sense of peace community formation: in the rationality of peace education, mediation of grievances, appreciation of the preservation of human rights, execution of transitional justice and promotion of human values, enterprises and reciprocity that avail basic needs for all and eliminate future sources of illegitimate conflict. An integrated strategy for conflict mitigation, post-conflict reconciliation, peace building and renewal of democratic spirit helps ensure predictable financing for early recovery activities. An economics of peace, undisturbed by any passion and instinct, in Nepal rests on collaborative efforts of entire drivers, actors and stakeholders and their general compassion for improving the human