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South Asia Peace Initiative

Rebuilding Trust in Nepal's On-Going Peace Process

Kathmandu, Nepal - The consensus at the eighth South Asia Peace Initiative (SAPI) conference, held in Kathmandu on May 20 which brought together over 150 participants, was that Nepal’s peace process must be reborn and this time wholly owned by the Nepalese people. By coincidence , on the morning of the same day, the “Mt. Everest Expedition for a New Constitution and World Peace – 2009” reached the summit of the world's highest mountain.


Nepal was facing turbulent times as the withdrawal of the largest political party, the Unified CPN (Maoist), led to the collapse of the government on May 4. Following this, efforts were under way to reform the government cobbling a coalition of as many as 22 parties together.

Against this background, UPF-Nepal saw an urgent need to organize a program on the theme, “Rebuilding Trust and Reconciliation in the On-Going Peace Process,” held at the Hotel de l'Annapurna in the capital.

 

Dr. Kishor Kumar Rajbhandari presented an overview of the SAPI programs that began with the first seminar in Lumbini in 2005. Throughout the past four years UPF’s peace initiatives have, by design, paralleled the on-going peace process.

In fact, they were both born on the very same day — November 22, 2005. This was the day the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists signed the 12-point peace accord in New Delhi. It was also the day Father Moon spoke at the International Convention Center in Kathmandu, televised nationwide, to launch the Universal Peace Federation in Nepal.

Next Ambassador K.V. Rajan, former Indian ambassador to Nepal and several other nations, praised Nepal for the birth of democracy. “You are trying to telescope into a few years what took other nations hundreds of years to accomplish,” the diplomat said.

He recalled the birth of democracy in India in 1947 which divided the country, cost over a million lives, and left millions more homeless. He went on to say that the political inclusiveness of democracy in Nepal is perhaps the widest network of ideologies among all South Asian nations.

Dr. Robert S. Kittel focused on the sixth and seventh points of the original 12-point Memorandum of Understanding. These two paragraphs called for both the Maoists and the SPA to begin the peace process by “undertaking self-criticism and self-evaluation of past mistakes.” If the peace process was to be restarted, this would be a good place to begin, Dr. Kittel emphasized.

The next session invited five commentators to offer their views on the need to rebuild trust and reconciliation among all political parties.

Hon. Indrajit Rai, MP and Member of the Army Integration Technical Committee, began by thanking UPF-Nepal for its role in supporting the peace process. He then offered one of the most humble and honest assessments of the peace process today.

From his perspective as a member of the committee which must oversee the integration of two armies, Hon. Rai admitted that there are very serious and sometimes confusing issues being dealt with. A large part of the misunderstandings, he surmised, comes from the conflict arising between the interests of the political parties and the interest of the nation. In the end he called for a new agreement, a new Memorandum of Understanding, but said this would “depend on the trust of the leaders.”

Senior Nepali youth leader and current MP Hon. Dhan Raj Gurung reflected on the loss of trust and hope among the people. He too called for reconciliation to relaunch the peace process.

Mr. Biswo Kant Mainali, President of the Nepal Bar Association which has over 10,000 lawyers as members, suggested that Nepal is not in a post-conflict period. “The conflict is not over,” he said at the beginning of his remarks. He went on the say that the Constituent Assembly has many challenges ahead. With so many ethnic groups, languages, and political parties, coupled with the urgent need for development, politicians must draw on “the good nature and heart of the Nepalese people,” and work for “the glory of the nation.”

The Secretary-General of UPF-Asia, Mrs. Amala McLackland, was the final commentator. She reminded the audience that “trust must be earned… it is a gift others give you.” She highlighted UPF’s top-down and bottom-up approaches to building trust and reconciliation. The peace foundation’s “Reconciliation Picnic” which had high-level leaders from different political parties and different ethnic groups reconcile publicly was an example of the top-down approach. This was model other leaders could see and should emulate.

Service for Peace projects in Sarlahi that worked to rebuild communities through voluntary service — literally rebuilding roads, schools, community centers and libraries while at the same time rebuilding inter-ethnic harmony — was a bottom-up model.

The final session was open to the floor. Participants who offered their thoughts included: Mr. Sudip Patnak, President of Human Rights Organization of Nepal; Mr. Keshav Chaulagain, Secretary General of the Interreligious Council Nepal; Dr. Shree Krishna Yadav, former member of Nepal’s Public Commission; Gen. Tika Dhamala, retired Nepal Army officer; and one former Maoist combatant.

Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, Chairman of UPF-Nepal, offered the Closing Remarks. First, he thanked everyone for taking time to attend the eighth SAPI and making such valuable observations and insights. Then he reiterated one point — the need for leaders to put the interest of the nation above party politics.

Using the model of the family, Hon. Dhakal explained, “Just as individual members live for the sake of their family by putting the well-being of the family above personal concerns, so too, in order to create harmony and prosperity in Nepal, leaders must be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the nation.”

In addition to being the day when the eighth UPF peace conference was held in Nepal’s capital city, this day has special meaning for another reason. At 8:45 in the morning, three Nepali climbers reached the summit of Mt. Everest carrying the “Mt. Everest Expedition for a New Constitution and World Peace – 2009” banner.

The banner was signed by the heads of all political parties, government leaders, and religious leaders. Even the UPF Founders, Father and Mother Moon, along with their youngest son, Heung Jin, and his wife had signed the banner.

It was meant to be a symbol of national unity and reflect the spirit of nation-building. If Nepali leaders inherit the same heart and courage of the summiteers — namely, to work day and night as a team with a single-minded focus at the risk of their own lives — then the current challenges can be overcome, the peace process can be reborn, and it can move forward towards its natural conclusion.

For a description of the expedition to Mt. Everest, click here.

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