Briefing to Diplomatic Community in Kathmandu by Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kamal Thapa, May 11, 2016
Right Honourable Prime Minister,
Friends from Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your presence here.
One year has passed since the devastating earthquakes hit our country causing huge loss of life and property and heavy setback to economy. Two weeks back, we marked the first anniversary of the tragic event. It has also been over 6 months since the promulgation of the Constitution.
During this period we have witnessed many new developments on political, social and economic fronts. This briefing today is meant for sharing our observations and thoughts on some of these developments.
We are grateful to the Right Hon’ble Prime Minister for his gracious presence on this occasion.
It took us some time to extend due focus on post-earthquake reconstruction. Building legal and institutional set-up took a while. And in the meantime, we had to face an uneasy situation at Nepal-India border points with interruption of supplies.
A little late though, now we have intensified reconstruction works with sincere commitment and determination. You may recall that the Right Honourable President and the Right Honourable Prime Minister had begun the mega reconstruction initiative a few months back, coinciding the date of the biggest ever earthquake in Nepal’s history in 1834. Now, I am happy to share that all necessary legal and institutional frameworks for the reconstruction have been established. Priorities have been determined; action-plan has been finalized; and, implementation has been already initiated.
Our valued development partners made generous pledge during last year’s International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction. We have already concluded framework agreements with most of our partners specifying the modality of utilization and allocation of the fund. Specific list of projects have been communicated to some of you and to others we will do so very soon.
National Reconstruction Authority has made a positive decision on and approved guidelines for the involvement of non-government organizations in reconstruction campaign. NGOs can undertake reconstruction projects after signing tripartite agreement with NRA and local stakeholders. Since Chief Executive Officer of the Reconstruction Authority will share with you in details about the progress made so far and the plan ahead tomorrow in a separate programme, I do not want to go into details.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While visiting different countries, I have felt that there is still misperception and misunderstanding about our Constitution. There is a perception that the constitution is not complete, inclusive and broad-based. The fact of the matter is that critics have either not studied the Constitution fully or they do not want to assess its content fairly and objectively.
We have not claimed that our Constitution is hundred percent perfect. Nowhere in the world such perfection is possible. But to judge by any fair standard, it encompasses the main features of a democratic and inclusive polity. The Constitution guarantees human rights and fundamental freedoms to all citizens without any discrimination. State policies are aimed at uplifting the overall status of all section of society.
Concrete measures have been devised to promote inclusive representation in all levels of governance.
In terms of process, it was broad-based, consultative and participative. In terms of content, it is comprehensive, inclusive and substantive. And, in terms of orientation, it is forward-looking, progressive and dynamic.
Then, how can we still say that this constitution is not inclusive and broad-based?
We can also make an honest comparison with other constitutions developed under similar circumstances to demonstrate that this constitution is truly inclusive, forward-looking and progressive.
The Government of Nepal has made it clear that based on experience gained through its implementation, improvement can be made in the Constitution. The fact that we made the First Amendment of the Constitution within 4 months of its promulgation reflects how flexible and accommodative document it is. The Government is ready to resolve all issues through dialogue.
The Government has constituted a high level political committee, which I am heading myself, with a view to finding an acceptable solution to the remaining issue of demarcation. The Government is committed to give full shape to the Committee and deliberate for addressing genuine concerns of the agitating parties within the framework provided by the Constitution. You may be aware that just earlier this week the Government officially communicated to the agitating parties invited them for talk.
The Government’s focus is now on implementation of the Constitution. In this process, we have already amended 193 laws incompatible with the Constitution. Additional 138 laws will be enacted within a year and this will provide legal foundation for the full implementation of the Constitution.
For the implementation of federalism and administrative restructuring, a High Level Steering Committee at political level and a Coordination Committee at administrative level have been constituted. For the restructuring of the local level, the Commission constituted to determine the number and boundary of Village Bodies, Municipalities and Special, Protected or Autonomous Areas has been working.
Local bodies have remained without elected representative for the past 14 years. It may still take some time to determine number and boundary and legal basis of local level as per federal structure. So, the Government has decided to hold the election for the existing local bodies within November/December 2016 as provided in the new constitution. This will help ensure democratic exercise at people’s level, rule of law and leadership of people’s representatives in local development and end the condition of absence of people’s representatives at local bodies.
The Annual Policy and Programme of the Government revealed just the other day states that the Government will work with a motto: ‘Implementation of Constitution: Socio-economic Progress of Nepal and Nepalis’.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Nepal’s commitment to promotion and protection of human rights is unwavering. There is hardly any country in the world, in similar level of development as Nepal, which has so comprehensively participated in international human rights instruments and mechanisms.
We are just a least developed country but are a party to all but two core human rights conventions – quite a heavy set of obligations compared to any developing country standard.
We are among the few least developed countries that has a robust and broadly mandated National Human Rights Commission accredited ‘A’ by the International Coordination Committee of National Human Rights Institutes.
What more can one would expect from a least developed, land locked country in a very preliminary stage of development?
I, therefore, submit that while commenting on Nepal’s human rights aspects, the long strides it has made in institutionalizing the culture of human rights be duly appreciated.
Comments have been made about transitional justice.
When decade-long armed conflict ended in 2006, we all, including the international community, celebrated the journey towards peace and start of Nepal’s home grown peace process.
We all know that transitional justice is an integral part of the peace process as envisaged in the Comprehensive Peace Accord. Institutional mechanisms – Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission for Investigation of the Disappeared Persons – are working as per the mandate provided in the respective laws.
I want to make it clear that work by the transitional justice mechanisms is not meant to undermine our commitment towards human rights. Nevertheless we all have to accept that transitional justice has its own complexity. We cannot completely ignore the complex character and dynamics of the whole peace process. We are mindful of the fact that rigid legality should not lead to an unravelling of the progress we have so far made in transforming society from conflict to peace and undermine our efforts to sustain peace. Our policy is clear on this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In our external relations, we pursue the policy of friendship with all.
In neighbourhood, our consistent effort is to maintain cooperative and friendly relations with the two friendly neighbours – India and the People’s Republic of China.
Both our neighbours are making tremendous progress in economic growth, infrastructure development, science and technology and in transforming life standards of their people. We are inspired by their progress. Situated between them, our legitimate desire is to benefit from their prosperity and this pragmatism is guiding our deep and comprehensive engagement with them.
Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister paid State Visit to India on February 19-24, 2016 and official visit to the People’s Republic of China on March 20-27, 2016. Both of these visits were successful. We have concluded a number of important agreements with India and China including on transit, connectivity and infrastructure development during the visit and our focus will be on timely implementation of these agreements.
Since I last interacted with you in this format on January 12, the uneasy situation at Nepal-India border points have been resolved and trade, transit and supplies have been normalized.
We attach importance to our bilateral relations with all SAARC fellow member states and are actively engaged with the process of greater regional integration and cooperation. We also attach importance to our relations with member states of BIMSTEC.
Our relations with development partners, major powers and other friendly countries are important for us in many ways.
We enjoy solidarity and cooperation with developing world and we continue to work collectively for the advancement of common interests.
We do not compare our relations with one country with that of the other. Bases and factors determining friendship and cooperation different for each country and each bilateral relation is unique.
Nepal continues to remain a responsible member of international community and participate actively in international efforts to make the world better.
We have contributed to the best of our ability to make the world safer, more peaceful and prosperous. We are a significant contributor to the UN Peacekeeping and have been strong supporter of all international efforts for disarmament and arms control. We have condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and have supported the call for a robust international instrument against terrorism.
We signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change – I myself had the privilege to do so on behalf of the Government of Nepal. We are committed to implement the deal. We continue to advocate for the cause of LDCs’ development and will have high level participation in the review process of the Istanbul Programme of Action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The achievements we have made so far in empowering people, institutionalizing democracy and promoting an inclusive society have not been an easy take. What we have achieved may not be complete but behind these, there is already a saga of struggle and sacrifices.
Nepal had its first test of democracy six decades back. However, we could not institutionalize the democratic achievements in our political system It was difficult to bring democracy and more difficult to sustain it. We do not want to lose this time what we have gained. We have remained thankful for the high level of support and solidarity received from the international community in every step of the peace process and constitution making. The same level of support is needed now more than before as we step into the stage of implementing the Constitution.
We are glad that international community has shown so much interest on Nepal’s constitution and peace process. We would expect similar interest in other aspects of Nepal’s critical needs, particularly our developmental needs like vital infrastructure and trade and productive capacity.
We are confident that your support in these areas would yield a more concrete result in transforming our society and making people’s life better. Our development will ultimately be in your interest as this will mean less ‘burden’ on the development partners.
Finding fault alone will not help. True partnership means support, solidarity and appreciation of what has been gained and encouragement for continuous improvement.
With political issues now resolved, Nepal wants to fully focus on economic agenda. We need your concrete support not only in the form of development cooperation but also in encouraging your private sectors to invest in productive areas in Nepal.
With a conducive political and constitutional foundation, we are now ready to take off on the path of development and prosperity with your strong support.
Thank you for your kind attention.