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Grass-root Intervention for Dialogue and Participation in Democratic Processes

Executive Summary
Country: Nepal
Sector: Human Rights and Good Governance
Title of Programme: Danida Human Rights and Good Governance Programme
Component: Election and Democratic Processes Component
Title of Project: Grassroot Intervention for Dialogue and Participation in Democratic processes
Cooperating Agency: Media Initiative for Rights, Equity and Social Transformation
Location: 25 districts of Far-West and Western Development regions
Duration: 15½ months
Starting Date: 15 March 2007


These days Nepal is going through a crucial transition phase. The People's Movement of April 2006 gave voice to grievances against the state machinery felt by many people in Nepal. Behind the request for democracy were deep-seated demands for social and economical justice as well as political inclusion of the marginalised groups of the Nepali society. It is now clear that strengthening of the still fragile democracy and completion of a constitution-making process are crucial for ensuring peace and unity in Nepal.

Previous governments' elite driven plans and policies never addressed the gross imbalance between the power holding elites and the rest of the citizens. Instead, they made a stark divide between the centre and the periphery perpetuating a system of division between the marginalised poor and city populace, who was enjoying the resources. Since the successful culmination of the People's Movement II in April 2006, the situation of marginalised people has not yet changed. Their status largely remains untold, untouched and unexposed. The old order of inequalities and socio-political exclusions are still prevalent in many forms and manifestations. This needs to be changed - rapidly. Also, there is a widespread perception that there have been lesser or no improvements in the areas of governance (such as accountability and transparency), decentralisation and devolution, service delivery, law and order and human security.

The goal underlying this project is to create an inclusive, peaceful and democratic Nepal, where marginalised groups (such as women, Dalits, Janajatis and people in remote areas) are able to participate on equal footing with everyone else in the governance of the country. To achieve this ultimate goal, the project has underlined the need for enhanced grassroot communication for meaningful participation of marginalised groups of the Far-West and Western development regions in the democratisation and constitution-making processes. If the marginalised groups do not find a peaceful way to voice their frustrations, or even find ignorance, within or outside the current political system it may lead to violence endangering the peace in Nepal.

The recent violent movement in the Terai region is a glaring example. The exclusion of political and social groupings other than the Seven Parties Alliance (SPA) and CPN (Maoist) in the interim constitution-making process has led the Madhesis to revolt in the Terai. The Madheshis form one of numerous excluded groups that have long been underrepresented in the decision-making processes. Therefore, marginalisation must be addressed urgently by equipping marginalised people with necessary knowledge, incentives and tools to navigate within a democratic framework and by facilitating the necessary space for everyone to participate within the established framework. The idea is to garner people's views on inclusion and revitalise dialogue amongst political actors/parties and policy-makers to help address the fundamental fissures causing systematic political exclusion of the marginalised groups - and thereby open new avenues for the establishment of a sustainable and 'real democracy'.

Responsible mass media are important wheels of democracy. However, most of the corporate media in Nepal do not cover issues concerning democratic rights of the marginalised people or even common urbanites or, if covered, it happens with great bias and stereotyping. This project will provide a media forum for the marginalised people to express their opinions and simultaneously make them aware of political developments taking place at local and national level. The initiative will focus on how people in remote areas wish to see an inclusive, peaceful and democratic Nepal unfold as it emerges from the debacle of violent conflict and political instability. The initiative gives high priority to field-based activities and will promote and invigorate participation of marginalised groups. Through 'Partners-in-Change' (P-in-C) an advanced sense of ownership and membership of the activities will be infused at the local level.

The initiative will establish a mechanism for distribution of copies of the 'Red Book' (official book related to government's budgetary allocations) in connection with activities focused on capturing the voices of the people, so that people become more aware of and informed about issues of governance and accountability. This will equip people to hold their local bodies and any future representatives accountable.

The initiative builds on lessons learnt from previous interactions with rural people and marginalised groups in the Far-West and Western development regions. The initiative is based on a two-way communication approach - horizontal and bottom up - that innovatively uses multiple media and cross-media techniques in places where there is no established systematic information system.                                                                                                              


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