- Eight years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, political leaders have little to show
Dec 15, 2014-Research estimates that about 40 percent of post-conflict countries relapse into conflict within 10 years. Despite being highly vulnerable to further turbulence and instability, Nepal recently completed eight years since signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006. For the last eight years, our leaders have focussed more on the political and less on the economic front. But the progress we have made so far on both political and economic fronts is not inspiring at all.
The CPA in 2006, followed by elections in 2008 to a constitution-making assembly, generated hope that ‘New Nepal’ might bring political stability and socio-economic development. Despite the historic political changes we went through, it seems that the problems that existed before and during the conflict have not disappeared. As a result, the optimism of the people for a new and prosperous Nepal is rapidly waning.
Since the CPA, a dozen or fewer male political leaders have become the dominant drivers of the peace process—something we are proud to say, since it is unique and has largely been domestically driven. However, even after eight years of political negotiation, the leaders have been unable to reach agreement on issues that matter. This has always made our war-to-peace transition fragile and reversible.
Despite pitfalls, it is important for these leaders to get visible recognition, a say in the decision-making process, and more or less equal share of privileges. Examples from other countries have shown that the exclusion of powerful elites from accessing privileges may manifest in a resumption of conflict. It is assumed that inclusive elites bargain for favourable peace and stability and can therefore be expected to be more conducive to economic development, which will then lead to lasting peace.
However, the lengthy and indecisive practices of our leaders have constrained the country’s economic development and have had a devastating impact on our economy, industries, and job creation. Daunting challenges, like poverty, acute power shortages, massive unemployment, the widening gap between rich and poor, and corruption, have remained unaddressed. That too despite Nepal having great resources and tremendous potential.
Nepal shares borders with both India and China, emerging global economic powerhouses. Our neighbouring countries have been able to lift so many people out of poverty, but unfortunately, we seem to be stuck. The UN estimates that about 40 percent of Nepalis live in poverty. Nearly 60 percent of Nepal’s development budget is financed by external actors. Nepal’s imports have been constantly overtaking exports. Now, the trade deficit, which is getting worse every year, has become so massive that even funds through foreign grants, loans, and remittance combined may not be enough to pay our import bills.
Given this situation, our political leadership should build consensus right away for sustainable economic development. However, they should keep in mind that stability and economic growth will not be durable without lasting peace and that peace will not be sustainable without economic development. Similarly, international friends, including India and China, should be more generous while doing business with Nepal while helping to promote inclusive economic growth.
Economic improvement is essential to reverse and transform adverse conditions and reduce the risk of a relapse to violence. Due to diminishing and limited economic opportunities at home, nearly 1,500 young people from Nepal go abroad daily for employment opportunities. If these young people were properly trained or educated and incorporated into the workforce here in Nepal, our economy could really take off.
It seems that our political leaders and policymakers have little idea how to manage the youth. Young people are deemed the future of any country and can easily become a harbinger of prosperity. Nepal so far has been unable to realise this potential. Instead, it seems to be facing a new generation of unemployed youth, who can increasingly be seen as at risk of conflict or instability.
Nepali people have seen or been a part of so many political struggles and changes; what people now want is peace and development. While everyone agrees that Nepal now needs to focus on the economy, the current political culture is not helping. However, we have no other way to go forward.
The legacy of our conflict has been devastating: death, destruction, population displacement, social breakdown, brain drain. No one wants to go back to that route again. So it is high time that we complete the task of writing the constitution and focus on economic development. This will make our locally-led peace process a successful and productive one.
Bogati is Chief Executive of the Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative
Published: 16-12-2014 09:26