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Threat to Democratic Peace

Dev Raj Dahal

Following the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), many people assumed that Nepal has entered post-conflict phase. But, the unending bargaining by incumbent political parties for more power and state positions, movement-oriented social, economic, territorial and ethnic actors for representation and armed non-state actors acting at their own free wills indicate that politics is totally at liberty from the rule of law.

In a condition of security vacuum neither peace building nor democratisation process can proceed. The government has also failed to outlaw violence as Nepali citizens increasingly realise that even the state of no-war-no-peace they have enjoyed so far was a fragile thing.

The open-ended nature of Nepal's conflict and its geopolitical milieu are reinforcing each other's propensity for escalation. Many autonomous conflict actors are stacked on macro actors—the SPA and CPN (Maoists) on a scale of cooperation, competition and conflict depending on their interests and setting the dynamic cycles and counter-cycle of violence in motion.

An open conflict system does not help much to maintain the stability of the state, its polity and policy executing agency, the government. This demonstrates that Nepal's conflict system is moving from state-centric conflict to society-centric. This has made it more complex. As a result, political transition in Nepal is in a state of perpetual imbalance.

The tendency of monopolising power by a few political elites has made the heterogeneous actors of society non-stakeholders of peace accord. In a condition where every actor is fearful of its rivals, it is difficult to entrench security, property and dignity of citizens and expand the development space other than just relief and humanitarian supplies.

Breaking the conflict trap, requires not just the escape routes and shifting responsibilities to others, but a concrete political measure to break the trap of poverty, fast economic recovery and coordinated behavior in the implementation of the polices of peace accord. Is it possible without the transformation of political parties and democratisation of civil society from personalised to mass-based? How can synergies of these two be captured for stable state-party ties?

The Nepali government has lost its unified sovereignty due to its incapacity for governance, inability to compress the growth of competitive violence, unrestrained birth of a neo-patrimonial culture and erosion of policy sovereignty. The interim constitution, without enforcing power, is but words, and of no strength to secure human rights of Nepali citizens. As long as this state of affairs prevails and anti-political deadlocks remain unresolved, the government cannot bring the forces of reaction, reform and revolution into a framework of peace.

Social learning of actors of conflict is a must to know the successes and failures of various policies and changing nature of context, issues, rules and actors. It allows producing and distributing policy-relevant knowledge to various national and international actors who are engaged to overcome peace building challenges and examine non-violent option.

The role of civil society and various political parties in promoting security should be critically analysed to see whether they contribute to human security or are engaged in anti-state discourse that fosters lawless frontiers to penalise the weak, poor, women and children. Integration of various sources of feedback including the role of women and victims of conflict is central to change the structures, behavior and beliefs of actors of conflict.

For any peace-building activity to be successful those in national leadership positions and the society at large must have to play an innovative role for constructive change because timely change in political process makes conflict redundant. But, support of international stakeholders for their capacity building is a must to build the foundation of sustainable peace. The growing crisis of governability can be resolved by changing the power relations from monopoly and control to reconciliation and coexistence.

Peace building is more than signing peace accord. The honest execution of the provisions of peace accord helps the government to understand which policies work best under various changing conditions. Peace building in the context of high political dynamics requires extensive discussion of the various aspects of the peace-building process, rules and institutions and the critical challenges to addressing them. Four strategies are crucial to a peace building in Nepal:
Firstly, in a heterogeneous society, balance of interests of politically significant groups rather than monopoly of power by a few organised interest groups can contribute to political stability. The role of international community as high-leverage actor lies in balancing act, that is, taking the side of weaker ones and enlisting their stake in peace.

Secondly, cooperation of heterogeneous actors in peace requires the optimisation of interests of all actors rather than maximisation of a few powerful ones. Combined value generated by all is more powerful to prevent the collapse of state and enable it to perform basic state functions on governance. To achieve peace, powerful actors should not annihilate the less powerful ones but should provide incentives for cooptation into the established order.

Nepal's historiography reveals that it is a country of minorities and there are no institutional mechanisms to prevent minorities becoming a majority in the future. A balance between the government and opposition and minority and majority is a prerequisite to maintain peace and stability.

Thirdly, establishment of a mechanism to foster overlapping interests of all for the invention of a common ground is important for the coordination of goals and means of various actors. Lastly, acquisition, use and transfer of power must follow democratic principles so that opponents trust the rules of the game and pin a hope on the possibility to return to power non-violently. This helps to establish a culture of peace. Sustainable peace can be achieved by peaceful means tied by general will of all for the common good.

Note: This article was published in the News Front Weekly( 15-28 October 2007)

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