Oped

For one another

  • Victims have recently formed a common platform to address their transitional justice concerns
- Ram Kumar Bhandari
For one another

Sep 17, 2014-

Eight years after the end of the armed conflict, there are still no signs of addressing the myriad violations perpetuated during the war. Conflict victims continue to suffer and there is still insufficient public acknowledgement of the needs and challenges victims face. Simultaneously, victims remain largely excluded from the policy-making process and the ongoing transitional justice debate, which takes place largely in Kathmandu, driven by the elite and controlled by political leaders as well as state officials.

Motivated by this exclusion and by the victims’ desire to become change-makers in the conflict transformation process, existing victims’ groups and their leaders have come together in an effort to create a common national strategy that will drive Nepal’s transitional justice process and refocus it from a victims’ perspective.

Victims’ groups have long understood the need to create a common platform that would bring representatives and families together and facilitate the development of victims’ expertise to ensure their capacity to act in any process meant to address violations that happened during the conflict. The Victims’ Common Platform aims to create a more relevant and sustainable transitional justice process, one that works first and foremost for the people of Nepal, and among them for those most affected by the conflict. The groundwork will be laid for a stronger victims’ campaign characterised by the participation of victims.

Speaking for themselves

Realising the need for a unified forum for victims’ groups, the United Nations Residential Coordinator’s Office (UNRCO) expressed its commitment to the victim-centred process and by doing this, conveyed a positive message for further engagement and collaboration to strengthen victims’ initiatives. The agenda put forward by the Victims’ Common Platform envisages a regular consultation and engagement within victims’ groups as well as a series of meetings with the UNRCO. It is high time to work with an approved Victims’ Common Platform, designed by victims for the victims, in a coordinated effort to address transitional justice holistically. This victims-led initiative will create a foundation for sustained peace and restore victims’ dignity.

Over the past eight years various non-governmental agencies have used victims for project implementation.Furthermore, the state and political parties have manipulated victims for their political objectives. All these actors failed to address the victims’ needs and demands. They instead played a role in dividing victims’ groups and prevented the formation of a more coherent victims’ movement.

The successful creation of the Victims’ Common Platform, therefore, is an important step, both symbolically and in practice, towards changing the course of Nepal’s transitional justice process and towards challenging the traditional power structures governed by the elite.

Working on consensus

Victims’ groups are developing a strategy based on common understanding as well as on consensus, enhancing mutual confidence and collaboration. To begin with, the Victims’ Common Platform will focus on concerns of advocacy, on collective programmes to support victims’ organisations and families on a local level, and on capacity building for the victims’ leaders and families to empower them to lead the process in a bottom-up approach. The alliance of victims’ groups is willing to run the Transitional Justice Resource Centre, breathe new life into it after its failed approaches in the past, and intervene in the policy debate as a national common voice of the victims.

The Common Platform will play a role as a coalition building and coordinating body to create a space for all types of victims, both individuals and associations. Following its national coordination meeting on Sept 5, the recently formed ad-hoc leadership committee will develop a collective agenda for mobilisation, while respecting the autonomy of the range of people and associations represented. This does not mean that all members will agree on every issue, but that all action will be taken on a consensual basis. Representatives from victims’ groups from all geographic regions have collectively agreed on the ad-hoc committee leadership, mandated by the representatives’ open discussions and a transparent voting process. The committee comprises members from organisations that represent victims of state and then-rebel Maoist violence. Such victims include marginalised women, Janajatis and Dalits and victims of disappearances, killings, torture, injuries, displacements and sexual violence. The Victims’ Common Platform will appeal to the court to support victims’ justice and provide potential support and intellectual input in their battles.

Bridging the gap

The Platform will also act as an open forum where its members can find support and solidarity for their own initiatives and needs. Its first initiatives were to develop a partnership with potential agencies for a victims’ resource centre and to use existing resources to support its members in their rights struggle. Through the Common Platform, victims’ groups will be able to engage critically with state processes such as the formation of the Commission of Inquiry into the Disappearances and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Common Platform will fill the gap between state mechanisms and victims’ families and contribute to the process of truth seeking, justice, and reparation provisions. Over the next few months, the Common Platform is planning to host regional coordination meetings and to further engage victims’ groups throughout the country. Leadership will be restructured and the victims’ common agenda will be re-focused as we move forward.

Bhandari is coordinator of the National Victims Alliance (victimsalliance@gmail.com)

Published: 17-09-2014 08:18

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