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Dr. Arjun Karki on coflict resolution in Nepal

Saturday, 02 October 2004

By Arjun Dhakal – Reporting from Katmandu, Nepal

Katmandu, 03 October, [Asiantribune.com]: Dr. Arjun Karki is the President of NGO Federation of Nepal and head of one of the largest development NGOs, Rural Reconstruction Nepal-RRN in Nepal. He had published books and research papers on the issues of insurgency in Nepal and conflict resolution. The recent publications by Dr. Karki are: People War in Nepal: Left Perspectives and Whose War? – Economic, Socio-Cultural Impacts of Maoist-Government Conflict in Nepal. Excepts:

Asian Tribune: How have you been analyzing the present political and economic situation of the country?

Dr. Arjun Karki: The present political scenario of Nepal is very unstable – some political parties, namely, Nepali Congress, United People’s Front and Nepal Workers & Peasant’s Party, are still in the streets protesting the King’s “regression” of October 4, 2002. At present, Nepal has a coalition government comprising of Communist Party of Nepal-UML, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, Nepal Sadbhawana Party and Nepali Congress (D).

Lack of unity exists amongst the constitutional forces i.e. the king, government and the political parties.

On the other hand, the Maoist rebels display active presence in more than 80 percent of the geographical areas of the country.

The government plus the constitutional political parties have come under pressure to withdraw themselves from the remote areas of the country.

In reality, the government is functional only at the district headquarters and the capital. So, in a sense, all constitutional forces have been crippled by the present conflict. In terms of present economic situation, all development activities mainly by the government have come to a standstill.

Hence, basic infrastructure such as hydropower, transportation and communication systems, agriculture and forestry, public institutions and the like have been severely affected.

Unemployment, displacement and/or migration is prevalent and this definitely shows an adverse effect on the economy.

In some related developments I/NGOs are forced to withdraw from the villages as they are forced to comply with certain terms and conditions of the rebels to continue their work.

The conflict is in its eight year running and to date, it has taken a toll of over 10,000 lives.

 

The whole nation is going through difficult times; the gap between the rich and poor has further increased and the lives of the poor have unfortunately worsened.

AT: As a civil society leader, have you seen any light at the end of the tunnel under this present political situation? If yes, what is the way out to reach in peace?

Dr. Arjun Karki: Yes, there is no other choice left than a negotiated settlement. The dynamics of conflict proves that military solution doesn’t work and is not effective. Only negotiated settlement paves the way for democratic and sustainable peace which is so imperative for the country and its people. And, this peace process should address the structural problems that cause conflict in the first place – structural problems that create and perpetuate poverty, unequal social relationship, existence of inequality since hundred of years in the name of caste, gender, ethnicity, religion and regionalism.

At present, the government, rebels and other political parties are interested to go for a peace dialogue, however, there is a fear amongst them that the outcome of the peace process would have a contrary effect on their respective existence, influence and future.

Therefore, the primary challenge now is to come up with means and ways to address this fear that make the key actors reluctant to enter the peace process.

AT: Are you agreed on the role of foreign communities for creating conflict and for peace building process as well?

Dr. Arjun Karki: Yes, the role of foreign communities is partly responsible but we should not sit back and play the blaming game. It’s a fact that the constitutional forces, political elite and the civil society have failed to play their respective roles. Absence of shared understanding and interests among these players leaves room for manipulation by foreign forces.

Hence, there is an urgent need to rise above vested interests to save the nation.

Some members of the international community, like the US and its allies, believe in military solution – instead of addressing the root causes of the conflict, symptoms are taken into consideration.

Arm dealers are certainly gaining from the conflict and to them, the present political instability and armed violence is definitely to their advantage.

So, it can be analyzed that some international members are perpetuating the conflict rather than building peace.

On the flip side, some international human rights organizations, civil society organizations and the UN are expressing a positive role.

AT: How the Nepalese NGOs are tackling the present development challenges and political instability to work for a quality of life of the Nepalese?

 

Dr. Arjun Karki: Given the present context, Nepalese NGOs are sadly entrapped between the government military and the Maoist rebels, two equally unacceptable choices.

The military is under the false suspicion that the NGOs are in league with the rebels or something to that effect and hence, do not allow them to work.

On the other hand, the rebels impose their own terms and conditions on the NGOs. They are required to sign an agreement under the rebels’ “People’s Government” which the NGOs refuse to comply with as by doing so, they would be inviting various difficulties in the further implementation of their projects.

Hence, NGOs are pressurized to withdraw especially from those rural areas where the poorest of the poor live.

Development needs have undoubtedly increased but again, increased political tension has hindered humanitarian outreach.

Civil Society feels that with the absence of the government in those heavily poverty and conflict stricken rural areas, they have all the more important role to play.

AT: On the basis of your past experiences and involvement for peace keeping, do you think the future dialogue between government and the Maoists leader for peace restoration, will be concluded positively while they have been talking from quite different ideological ground?

Dr. Arjun Karki: As I mentioned earlier, we have no choice but dialogue for peace. And negotiated settlement implies getting rid of respective ideological and philosophical constraints by each conflicting parties to save the nation from further political disaster.

One lesson learnt from our past peace process failures between the government and the rebels, was the exclusion of key political parties including the civil society in those instances.

The next dialogue should inevitably be a multilateral dialogue involving all key political actors, civil society and the King’s representative – this move forward will bring a solution.

AT: How are you working, these days, for peace restoration on behalf of civil society, and providing basic services to the poor people in the absence of government?

Dr. Arjun Karki: Civil society is working towards reviving the peace process by facilitating to create a conducive environment whereby all key players of Nepali politics can come together on a common platform to share their concerns and needs.

The civil society has been engaging in talks with rebel leaders, the prime minister and other significant political players. We’ve adopted demand-driven, transparent and pro-poor service delivery and/or development approach. We’re encouraging the target beneficiaries to ensure their ownership and defend projects and programmes from both, the rebels and government interference.

Source: Asian Tribune [2004-10-03]