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Youth in Nepal Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Mariya Petrova, Bulgaria Jul 21, 2006
Child & Youth Rights   Interviews
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Youth in Nepal Dipendra Tamang is the Director (Programs) at the Alliance for Peace - Nepal, a non-partisan , non-profit NGO working to enable and empower the youth of Nepal. He has been working in the development sector for over 6 years now. Read his essay about the situation in Nepal and the need for youth participation in the new constitution, followed by an interview by Mariya Petrova.

Participation of Youth in the Constituent Assembly
By Dipendra Tamang

Nepal is currently undergoing extraordinarily challenging circumstances: a de-escalating national conflict, massive human rights abuses, large number of internally displaced people, civil society organizations working under pressure and vulnerable to extortion and threats, students and youth taking up violent protests and the process for the formation of the Constituent Assembly hot on the anvil. Constitutional reforms have always been an exclusive domain in Nepal till date. Almost all the constitutions that have been written till now –some five of them- have none or very little inclusiveness in them. Exclusion, one of the major problems in the Nepali politics and bureaucracy, has always been reflected in the framing of the Constitution, which in turn is reflected in its articles and directive principles.

Although many Nepalese had high expectations that we would experience prosperity and development with the restoration of democracy in 1990, people have now come to realize that without an active and informed citizenry, democracy is unresponsive to citizens’ needs. Due to the dismal showing of democracy in the last decade and a half, many people, including students and youths have lost their faith and belief in the principles of democracy and democratic values. They now appear indifferent and not much involvement or participation can be seen on their part in the day to day workings of the government or the governance of the country. I believe that unless this apathy, especially among the youths and students, is stopped and measures are taken to rectify it and build an informed, aware and proactive citizenry, then the New Nepal, hard won by the people after the April Revolution will also fail and collapse into a State torn apart by war, violence and strife, violation of human rights, without development, Rule of Law or the basic tenets of good governance and democracy. Most governance initiatives often focus upon top level political leaders, excluding the vast majority of social actors below, an influential number of whom are students and youth. Sixty percent (60%) of the general population of Nepal is believed to be below 25 years of age. The vast majority of students and youth, in communities and towns across the country, feel largely powerless, not knowing, concretely, what they can do or how they can contribute to bring about good governance and sustainable development in a democratic Nepal. The only way they know is through large scale street protests and other violent and aggressive means. But the time is now ripe with opportunity to enable, empower and mobilize the youth towards a constructive path in the formation of the Constituent Assembly. I feel that empowering and mobilizing youth and students for the documentation of their aspirations and objectives will help create a new Constitution that is inclusive and addresses the needs and wants of the citizens, a vast majority of whom are youth. Also, having them participate in the process of documenting their wants and needs for the Constituent Assembly will help to create an informed, aware and proactive youth group who understand the meaning of citizenship, politics and government and acquire the skills to voice their concerns and hold the system accountable. Allowing youth to participate in the formation of the Constituent Assembly and ensuring their representation means putting into practice the democratic processes. By doing this, we will create a culture of democracy through the promotion of democratic behavior and values among the young citizens.

In most established democracies, students and youths have the opportunity to absorb democratic beliefs and practices while growing up, both within and without the schools. However these preparatory experiences are missing for the youth of newly emerging democracies such as Nepal. Thus they are usually unaware of the opportunities or responsibilities that exist for advancing their interests at the local or national level. In order for democracy to develop and endure, the youth must take ownership of the system by becoming informed participants. Informed participation occurs only when the youth understand the meaning of citizenship, politics and government and have acquired the skills to voice their concerns and hold the system accountable. Educating youth about the democratic processes and their rights and duties in a democracy is a first and critical step in creating a culture of democracy through the promotion of democratic behavior and values among the young citizens. Ensuring youth participation and representation in the Constituent Assembly to actively document the voice of the youth will be an opportunity in just such a democratic exercise. This will have huge benefits as it will ensure the sense of ownership, of the final Constitution to be promulgated, by the youth.

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Mariya Petrova

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