The national discourse on various aspects of 'nation-building' had long been diverted by the absence of peace and democracy. The deferred demand for sincere discussion and debate is now being suddenly released following the People's Movement. The national confidence that it represented will generate country-wide debate in the days to come. The decibel level will be high but instead of the sound of gunfire we will be hearing din of discussion.
Nepal's society and economy must leapfrog to make up for lost time. For this the first requirement has always been political stability. Fortunately, the road is now clear with the return of citizens' rule, the bilateral ceasefire and plans for dialogue between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The time is right to nationally address the recovery process and to set the course of overall national development.
There will be many parallel and cross-cutting forums that will help us plan for tomorrow and one such forum will be the National Conference on Peace, Reconstruction and Development, scheduled for 9-11 July 2006. The Government of Nepal is not only going to be a full participant in the event, it is providing financial support as well.
Peace: The conference will address the issue of 'immediate peace' vis-?-vis the Maoist rebellion as well as the requirements of 'long-term peace' such as inclusive democracy and restructuring of state. The 'peace' heading will also include transitional justice, discussing the ways and means of ensuring accountability for past crimes and promoting the process of national healing. In addressing the excesses committed by state actors to suppress the People's Movement, we must not forget the crimes of the decade of internal conflict.
Reconstruction: The situation demands an immediate program for restoration of the human spirit and rehabilitation of the physical and development infrastructure. There are many victims of violence amongst us today: unprecedented numbers of orphans and young widows, the internally and externally displaced, traumatised schoolchildren, victims of torture, and rebel fighters in their teens. Their physical, social and mental needs must be addressed, in particular those who exist outside the circle of development delivery.
Rehabilitation of infrastructure includes the rebuilding of suspension bridges, health and police posts, school buildings, and VDC offices. Reconstruction would also include revival of the economy and development programs, as well as revitalisation of the government bureaucracy.
Development: The impetus generated by a successful reconstruction phase must lead to a stable and sustained development process. We must have a paradigm shift from bikas as understood in the past, to an indigenously generated process of social and economic transformation. Since a large inflow of support is expected from a supportive international community, the national conference will be a useful forum to discuss financial requirements, priorities, goal setting, monitoring and evaluation.
Some 200 people will attend the conference by invitation, representing four streams: political parties, civil society (including academia), development professionals (national and international) and the bureaucracy.
The conference is being organised under the aegis of a Steering Committee made up of six members of the Seven Party People's Movement Coordination Committee will be organising the conference. The committee has been chaired by Subhas Nembang since before he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Social Science Baha, with scholar Rajendra Pradhan as its chairman, has been named the secretariat of the conference with the task of ensuring that the gathering develops as a forum for reasoned debate.
The logo of the conference has a map of Nepal, and the slogan, Naya Nepalko Kalpana (Imagining a New Nepal).
Kanak Mani Dixit is convener of the National Conference on Peace, Reconstruction and Development