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E.N. Dhakal: A Call to Good Governance

Statement by the Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, Member of Parliament of Nepal, on the occasion of the International Leadership Conference in Abuja, Nigeria, July 2011

“I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is a quote of an African hero Nelson Mandela. Then how Africa can attain such peace with itself? We need responsible leadership and good governance to accomplish it.

What is disturbing our peace and good governance today? What are the major problems here in Africa and globally? The desire for peace is universal, but its attainment is not simple. Basically, there are several major issues that need to be addressed: the clash of political views or ideologies, environmental degradation, financial chaos, moral confusion, terrorism, and corruption.

Each area has unique aspects that must be addressed by experts in those respective fields. At the same time there appears to be common elements to all of these critical issues. UPF’s founder, Father Sun Myung Moon, identifies the common elements as a rise of extreme individualism. This means there is an overemphasis placed on the individual, putting the individual above all other social institutions that promote the common good.

Let’s see how this idea applies to the six global dilemmas mentioned above. In Nepal, and I’m sure this is true in other nations too, peace gets side-tracked repeatedly because individual political parties put the agendas of their own party above the well-being and long-term future of the nation. Environmental pollution and the global recession have arisen because short-term gains are given a higher priority over long-term investments and sustainable development.

The moral crisis is fueled by people putting personal pleasures above the traditional values of the family. Terrorists use violence and senseless murder to justify the establishment their own utopia. Finally, corruption occurs when people in public office put aside the public trust and responsibility for immediate gratification (usually financial or sexual).

Because there is a common thread to many of the global problems, to solve them and re-direct humanity towards a secure future we must find a universal value system. We must have good leaders and good governance. This is absolutely essential. It is the need of the hour.

Leadership is not fundamentally about charisma, popularity, or boldness, though it can sometimes be enhanced by these qualities. It is fundamentally about taking responsibility and the commitment to live for the sake of others. To bring peace or contribute to peace, a leader must first be a person of peace, a person with harmony of mind and body, and a person who follows his or her original conscience with integrity and an attitude of service.

In order to realize our dream of a prosperous world of mutual interdependence, peace, harmony, and good governance, we must have a value system that is universal and addresses the escalation of extreme individualism. We must find a system of universal ethics and morals that are accepted globally. Mother Teresa told us that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Without this our dream is only a dream.  

Where, then, can we find this value system? First, let me ask some questions. What is the most fundamental or most universal institution of human society? What institution has out-lasted all ancient civilizations? What institution is found globally? What institution transcends religions of both East and West? What institution is found in both the communist and democratic societies?

It is the family. The institution of the family is everywhere; it is in our past, it is here today and will be with us tomorrow. What then are the ethical values and social norms of the family that are applicable to our societies, nations, and the world today? Let me focus on a healthy family as a model for the good governance.

I’ll begin by making a definition: ethics is the study of human behavior as an individual. Morality is the study of human relationships, the interaction between people. Lord Buddha, who was born in Nepal, said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

A system of universal ethics must be drawn from the family, which is our most universal social institution. What then is the ethical behavior learned in the family that can address run-away individualism? In the family we learn to put the interests of the family above those of the individual. This is vitally important.

If every member of the family insists on his or her views and priorities all the time, placing them above everything else, then the family will be torn apart. Simply put, it is in the family that we learn to make sacrifices; in fact, in a healthy family we literally love to make sacrifices. The synonym for sacrifice is love. Love without sacrifice is like a tree without leaves and flowers.

Similarly, universal moral values must be derived from the family. People who are older than us are like our parents or grandparents. Those who are a similar age are like brothers and sisters. Younger people are like our children. Purity prior to marriage and faithfulness in marriage has been shown to be the healthiest and most beneficial lifestyles for parents, children, and society. There is a mountain of scientific data to back up this statement.

A true leader or good parent must maintain strict standards of purity and fidelity. A true leader must care for all persons within his or her realm of governance as a loving parent would care for his or her children. The rights of any person should never be violated. The heart of others should never be hurt by careless actions.

A true leader never misuses public money or material things but always serves the well being of the whole. The capacity to become such a leader requires training, sacrifice, and even suffering in the effort to develop the kind of virtues, character, and wisdom so basic to good leadership.

Good leaders are first and foremost good persons and good spouses. Good leadership requires not only knowledge, experience, a strong intellect, and well-developed organizational and social skills. It requires most of all good character with attributes such as a loving heart, honesty, loyalty, compassion, self-control, courage, wisdom, and good judgment. Leadership based on only on ambition, cleverness, social skills, intellect, experience, etc., but lacking in character will always give way to corruption. True leaders are the foundation for good governance.

The concept of governance applies to any realm of human relationships, from the family to voluntary associations, corporations, religious institutions, and the nation. Good governance seeks to fulfill the mission in any given realm and to bring about peace. Good governance is centered on a good purpose. In particular, the purpose should not be self-centered but should be oriented toward the well being of the whole community. As in a family, governance should not bring advantage to one while bringing disadvantage to another. Thus, governance should never be exclusively self-centered.

Governance grounded in parental leadership is one that is analogous to the governance of a good family.

Let me conclude by making three points:

The first point is that in the family we learn the value of sacrifice.

Chief executive officers are parents to their company; mayors are parents to their cities, presidents and prime ministers are parents to their nations. The role of the parent is to sacrifice for the well-being of children. This is the transformation in leadership that is required today. We must overcome selfish individualism by becoming parents of goodness at every level of society.

Secondly, in the family parents are the first teachers.

In school, there is no such thing as a silent teacher; it makes no sense. In the same way, parents must do more than just feed, shelter, and clothe their children. Parents need to teach the basic values of right and wrong. Parents are the most powerful and effective moral educators. But that message needs to be repeated by other parents too. Martin Luther said that “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”

Our business leaders, mayors, lawmakers, presidents, and prime ministers are our social or national parents, so they too must educate society concerning universal ethics and morals. When this happens at all levels of society it becomes an effective educational tool; it is called ‘buzz marketing’ in the business world, but it starts in the family.  

Thirdly, in the family we learn responsibility.

When the well-being of the family is placed above the individual, it actually protects individual members. When the stability of a nation is put above the desire for a bank or financial institution to earn a profit through high-risk investments, then everyone’s assets are more secure. Polluting and exploiting our environment at any costs simply cannot continue; we are all put at risk. When governments work together to fight terrorists everyone will be safer.

In summary, we must put the collective good above the individual at every level of society, without jeopardizing our human rights. This is not impossible. But it cannot be done with force. It also cannot be just ignored or swept under the carpet in the name of humanism. The answer is self-empowerment through education which begins in the family and extends throughout society. Mahatma Gandhiji told us “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The family is the best and most inclusive model upon which to build universal values. As Aristotle said “It is better for a city to be governed by a good man than by good laws.” Good governance is essential for universal peace to prevail in Africa and the world.

Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal was born on 1974. He graduated from Tribhuvan University followed by higher studies in the Philippines and Korea. Dhakal was elected to the Nepalese Constituent Assembly and Parliament of Nepal on 2008. Since then Dhakal has served on the Constitutional Committee of the Constituent Assembly and the International Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Parliament.