|STRATEGY FOR 2011-12|
A. INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
On the surface, Nepal appears to be an open society thanks to the historic people’s movement in 2005/6; in fact, it is a closed one structurally. Social division, inequality, regional disparity, caste differences, marginality are all very much evident creating structural impediments in realizing open society goals. Recent political changes have allowed various voices to come forward and articulate concerns and frustrations with the status quo; however, these voices are not finding a receptive audience for their concerns.
Some of the major challenges to an open society in Nepal include: the prevalence of internally displaced people (displaced during the insurgency) that are still finding it difficult to return to their home villages. Maoists and other armed groups are also failing to return the private property of individuals confiscated during the decade-long insurgency and transition period.
Proliferation of armed groups is another indication that open society values are threatened. A government report released in July, 2009 revealed that there are more than 109 armed groups of all size and orientation operating in Nepal.
Open society principles such as rule of law and due process are also being undermined in the name of political comprise and expediency. An example of this is the hand of politicians and parties protecting criminals and corrupt officials. There are also flaws in the application of existing laws, lawlessness due to the weakness of the state mechanism, and gaps in access to the judiciary and fair process, all of which have major ramifications for attempts to address crimes against humanity, transitional justice and impunity.
In terms of ASD’s four focus areas, namely human rights, media, education and women, the challenges are great, and have been exacerbated by the ongoing political, social, and economic crises plaguing Nepal.
1. Human rights:
The political impasse has naturally overshadowed issues of human rights and rule of law. State functionaries including security agencies have failed to maintain law and order; as a result, the situation of human rights has deteriorated. Maoist high-handedness and the security agencies’ reluctance to step in along with the various political-criminal groups taking advantage of the political instability have contributed to this state of affairs. People live in a state of terror in many parts of Nepal. In addition, the excesses committed by both the Maoists and the security forces during the insurgency have not been tackled leaving the culture of impunity loom large.
Journalists continue to face intimidation from various quarters and are being compelled to adopt the culture of silence and self-censorship because of a lack of security. The media have protested strongly against the government’s reluctance to take any action against perpetrators. The media also suffers from a lack of professionalism that would be detrimental to a free and democratic society. Journalists are partitioned towards various political parties, and this partisanship colors most of the reporting in the media.
Education is a major national issue in Nepal receiving considerable funds from the government and donor agencies yet issues of quality, equity, management, access and inclusion still remain. One of the greatest challenges to Nepal’s education system is the need to ensure that access to quality public education systems is inclusive for all groups of students and to reduce the achievement gap between students of different economic circumstances, caste, ethnicity and gender. Another major obstacle is improving the quality of education as lecture style teaching and rot learning is still prevalent in schools and colleges. Teaching children to think critically and develop presentation skills will require major investments in teacher training, and classroom and teaching material development.
Despite the fact that the people’s movements saw the engagement of large numbers of women, the current peace building processes have largely excluded women from participation and decision making. Women have been disproportionally affected by years of conflict whether through compulsion of replacing men as household heads or through loss of family members, property and most importantly through acts of violence. In addition, the treatment of “women as a category of gender” by existing patriarchal institutions (family, community, larger society and the State) play a pivotal role in the general status of the “exclusion of women” and the present status of their underdeveloped human capability.
Challenges and opportunities
Nepal is in the process of drafting a new constitution with expectations running high from diverse sections of society. The question of state restructuring is directly linked to these expectations. But there are other fundamental debates about social, political and economic rights that go beyond the structure of the state itself and even beyond the workings of democracy itself. These debates present an opportunity for ASD to promote dialogue on emerging concepts such as identity, federalism, local autonomy, gender rights, equal participation, political liberalism, citizen sovereignty, and social economic rights. The challenge is then to look much further than the present situation of flux and address the underlying theoretical and practical aspects of creating an inclusive, representative, participatory system of government that rejects institutionalized neglect and exclusion of the past as well as the present.
ASD believes that the best way to achieve this is by engaging in efforts to promote dialogue within Nepal on a variety of issues, including but not limited to the promotion of democratic values and institutions in Nepal. ASD will work to promote participation and access of different stakeholders in the constitutional process by linking diverse views and expertise to the process itself.
Many international donors are working in peace building and conflict transformation areas. They bring lots of resources in terms of ideas, expertise and strategies. One of the concerns we hear in various discussions that the intervention that the international actors bring needs to be critically looked at. However the capacity of civil society groups and individuals to critically evaluate international programs, strategy and their usefulness is greatly lacking. ASD can enhance civil society’s capacity to understand international programs and make them more locally relevant.
Role of ASD
As its name suggests, ASD promotes social dialogue as a means towards greater public participation in social and political affairs in what has traditionally been a highly hierarchical, top-down society. The following are the main roles ASD envisions for itself:
i. Policy platform initiatives to consolidate the democratic process and strengthen institutions in transition
ASD functions as a platform to facilitate the discussion of policy issues in contemporary Nepali society. For the upcoming year, ASD will continue its platform initiatives and promote policy debates through social dialogue, policy briefs, and policy networks. ASD will conduct programs at different levels and work with different social groups, political actors, people working on policy issues, constitutional experts and citizen groups on important and critical issues of transition, including the debate on constitution and accountability of public institutions.
a. Social dialogue (issue-based platform initiatives)
ASD encourages open dialogue among stakeholders. Dialogue opens up space for deliberations so that public reasoning can take place. Through deliberations, stakeholders will be able to weigh the costs and benefits of various policy options in order to inform their choices and decisions. To stimulate the process of social dialogue, and to map the situation on the ground, ASD organized various dialogues throughout the country during last three year, and has planned a number of platforms for upcoming year. The promotion of social dialogue will be taken as a method to improve accountability in the transitional period when traditional problem-solving methods have been questioned, preventing any one group from imposing its definition of the problem or solutions on others
b. Policy briefs
ASD is developing policy papers and engaging in policy debates in the areas of education, human rights, media and different issues of political transition. In 2011/2012, ASD will identify policy gaps in its five thematic areas and formulate policy briefs on relevant issues. These briefs will cover contentious issues, oppositional views and examine the current roles of various stakeholders within these areas. The briefs will also explore the role and potential of civil society and other stakeholders to revise policies and programs.
ASD will use the briefs to promote dialogue among key stakeholders and interest groups of the chosen themes. The briefs will help civil society and policy makers to understand the current gaps, challenges and promote possible solutions and strategies.
c. Policy networks and alliances
In 2011 and 2012, ASD plans to increase its collaborations and partnerships with issue based policy networks. For this, ASD will identify short term partner organizations and individuals to support ASD to develop policy briefs. It is expected that working with different organization will help to produce briefs on important issues in the stipulated time period.
In order to reflect on national experiences of policies and actions, and to promote the involvement of local and regional stakeholders at the national-level policy framing debate, ASD facilitates the building of networks and alliances among issues based national stakeholders.
ASD will also encourage civil society and the media to take an active role in the peace process and constitutional process by enhancing their capacity to engage meaningfully in the debate on various issues of constitutional, political and economic transitions.
ii. Facilitating OSF Grant-making in Nepal
ASD has been facilitating OSF’s grant-making at the local level in Nepal. ASD works with local organizations to develop innovative proposals and strategies within ASD priority areas that have the potential to advance concepts, policies and programs and generate long-term solutions to local problems and challenges.
The role of ASD is to bring all OSF/ASD grantees under a single platform and to encourage them to link their work on crosscutting issues. Through this process, ASD will facilitate the exchange of ideas, challenges, gaps and ways to maximize the impact of small grants. ASD will work with local organization to increase their capacity and impact at the local and national levels. In upcoming years, the ASD will support innovative OSF grantees to share their experiences with other stakeholders, grantees, and policy makers.
iii. Cooperation with Open Society Network Programs
Cooperation between ASD and Network Programs (NPs) is a key element in OSF’s modus operandi in Nepal. ASD will help OSF Network Programs to identify potential partners and develop funding priorities in Nepal. As in the previous year, the ASD will bring all OSF grantees onto a common platform in the form of a grantee gathering to promote the involvement of stakeholders at national policy debates. This platform will help to review OSF’s impact and interests in Nepal.
Generally, OSF Network Programs support Kathmandu-based organizations working on national policy issues and advocacy. In this context, ASD will facilitate reviews of organizations relevant to Network Programs in Nepal to assist in their grant-making and strategies. Lately, ASD has also been striving to help relevant NPs extend their grant-making for local projects outside of Kathmandu where the perceived need is the greatest.
Among ASD’s four focus areas, three have direct counterparts among the NPs – Media (NMP), Education (ESP and HESP), and Women (IWP). In the fourth focus area, Human Rights, there are some prospective partners within the OSI network, but none of them focuses on Nepal as of now. So far, the bulk of grant-making in Human Rights has been funded by the Nepal-Bhutan Initiative (NBI), and Presidential Grants.
In 2011 – 12, we expect the current mode of collaboration between ASD and NPs to continue in a similar fashion. In all partnerships, existing and prospective, ASD will offer assistance and cooperation in these areas. See Strategy outline for collaboration with Open Society Network Programs for detail.
B. STRATEGIC PRIORITIES, GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
ASD has identified the following focus areas for its work:
1. Political transition
The major strategic areas for this intervention are constitutional-legal transition, security & peace, rule of law and accountability of political institutions
ASD will support democratic actors, including constitutional/ legal experts, civil society groups, members of political institutions to take active roles in the constitution and peace process. ASD will work with political parties, civic groups and youth leaders to promote debate of accountability of political institutions including party reform. ASD will continue discussions on the diverse social-political issues and link the constitutional debates with regional and local debates and develop a policy briefs to provide feedback to the centre. Programs will be conducted to facilitate the public monitoring process of the transitional government, the political parties and public institutions.
ASD will work with constitutional and civil society groups- working on issue of peace and accountability issues, and develop a policy network. Through the policy network experts it will support enhancing capacity of citizen groups and promote debate of legal reform.
Migration and political transition: Since 1990 Nepal has seen a rise in both external and internal migration due to economic circumstances and conflict. ASD is working to understand the dynamics of conflict, migration and social change through consultation, workshops, meeting and media added discussion and debate. In this way, ASD hopes to contribute to policy regarding migration and its impacts. ASD is looking forward to a potential partnership with OSF’s International Migration Initiative in 2011/2012.
2. Human rights
The major strategic areas are accountability, transitional justice, social justice/inclusion and human rights education.
ASD is working on reflecting national human rights experiences on policies and actions, and promoting the involvement of local and regional stakeholders in the national-level policy-framing debate on human rights. To achieve these aims, ASD facilitates a review of existing policies and actions to identify gaps and supports innovative local initiatives in the field of human rights. It also facilitates the preparation of policy and strategy recommendations by supporting dialogues among stakeholders working to promote and safeguard human rights in Nepal. ASD also supports local organizations in implementing their innovative programs at the local level. Similarly, at the national level, it supports a loose network, called the Accountability Watch Committee, made up of prominent human rights activists, lawyers and journalists to carry out advocacy on issues of accountability and transitional justice; the Committee also supports academic fora to promote human rights education and develop a repository of human rights knowledge in Nepal.
The major strategic area within media is to prepare Nepal’s media to meet the emerging public information needs that will lead to a democratic, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Nepal.
In a transitional situation, creating the pressure to guarantee total freedom of the press is essential. Other important issues include the professional capacity of journalists, content of the media, a code of conduct for journalists, and social inclusion into the journalistic profession. ASD supports local organizations to implement their programs, facilitate dialogue, conduct research and provide advanced media trainings.
ASD works in close cooperation with the NMP in London. A joint strategy planning session was held in Kathmandu in March 2010, with detailed discussions with all major stakeholders. Outcomes of this session informs ASD and OSF strategy for 2011 – 2012.
The major strategic areas for intervention within education in Nepal are quality, access and management.
The most important strategic intervention in education is to improve quality, access and administrative management in the education sector. ASD will support local innovative initiatives that work on our major strategic areas for intervention, quality, access and management. ASD will promote the involvement of local and regional stakeholders to help in improving the quality of education by holding discussions sessions with Parent Teacher Associations, School Management Committees, students, District education officials, Student unions, Retired teachers, Government education agencies, Policy think tanks, and local civil society organizations. Depending on the platform activities and research, policy briefs will be prepared on pressing issues related to the education sector.
To address the challenges of women issues, ASD is facilitating the International Women’s Program’s grant-making to support national organizations working in the following areas:
Both ASD and IWP have concluded that the greatest need for resources lies outside of the capital, as Kathmandu-based organizations already receive substantial support from numerous foreign donors active in Nepal. In the coming year, ASD will provide its local expertise to identify potential grantees outside Kathmandu and into the provinces of Nepal.
Goals in each program area:
Specific objectives to be achieve in each program
Strategy outline for collaboration with Open Society Network Programs
Cooperation between ASD and Network Programs (NPs) is a key element in OSF’s modus operandi in Nepal. ASD facilitates OSF grant-making by identifying and developing worthy project ideas, primarily outside of the capital, Kathmandu, where resources from other donors tend to be scarce. For bigger projects on a national scale, ASD solicits expertise and funding from Network Programs. In principle, ASD directly facilitates OSF grant-making for local projects outside of the capital, and indirectly assists the NPs with grant-making on a national scale. Lately, ASD has also been striving to help relevant NPs extend their grant-making for local projects outside of Kathmandu where the perceived need is the greatest (more on this below).
ASD has identified four focus areas for grant-making: Human Rights, Media, Education, and Women. ASD Program Officers (POs) are responsible for maintaining communication with the respective NPs in these areas active in Nepal. The POs are guided by their respective Subcommittees composed of ASD Board Members active in those particular fields. Two NPs (Youth Initiative and IWP) have embedded their own POs inside ASD to operate a labor-intensive project on the ground and to extend their reach outside of the Capital to rural and more remote areas.
Among the four focus areas, three have direct counterparts among the NPs – Media (NMP), Education (ESP and HESP), and Women (IWP). In the fourth focus area, Human Rights, there are at least three prospective partners – Justice Initiative (JI), Human Rights and Governance Grants (HRGG) and Special Initiatives (SI) – but none of them focuses on Nepal as of now. So far, the bulk of grant-making in Human Rights has been funded by the NBI and Presidential Grants.
Strategy for cooperation with individual NPs active in Nepal
A. International Women’s Program (IWP)
IWP has worked in Nepal in close cooperation with ASD since 2007. Up till now, IWP has mostly supported national-level, Kathmandu-based projects, while ASD has supported smaller women’s issues initiatives in the provinces through its Human Rights program. IWP has designated Nepal as one of its focus countries and assigned significant resources for projects there. Both ASD and IWP have concluded that the greatest need for these resources lies outside of the Capital, as Kathmandu-based organizations typically already receive substantial support from numerous foreign donors active in Nepal. A solution was thus sought on how best to combine ASD’s local knowledge with IWP’s resources and expertise to bring IWP outside of Kathmandu and into the provinces of Nepal.
B. Youth Initiative (YI)
In 2008, Open Society Youth Initiative began to work in closer coordination with ASD on youth issues in Nepal. As a result, the Youth Program is supporting the following programs in Nepal. ASD and the Youth Initiative are expected to continue to develop these programs in 2011.
1.Youth Action Fund (YAF): The Youth Action Fund (YAF) was launched by OS Youth Initiative in cooperation with the Nepali NGOs in mid-2008. ASD has been providing guidance on the project and encouraging Nepali youths and youth organisations to apply. A three-member proposal evaluation and recommendation committee has been formed with two members from the OSF and one from the ASD Secretariat. From hundreds of proposals, 87 projects have been approved to date. The Fund’s activities and output are currently being evaluated by external reviewers. A new strategy will be developed from the evaluation process.
2. New Media and Debate Workshop (Youth in the 21st Century: Debating & Producing Media):A two-week ‘media workshop’ was conducted in July/August 2010 in Kathmandu with ASD guidance and administrative support. Conceived as the beginning of a longer project involving youth and new media, the project’s next steps will be determined after the workshop’s evaluation. Potential follow-up projects include localization of training content for continuing the project on a regional level, developing a small media project fund that applicants can apply, and linking participants with existing media projects funded by NBI and the Media program.
3. Debate Program: ASD and the YI are discussing implementation of a small-scale debate pilot project, starting with support for an informal platform of debate trainers and interested youth organizations under the guidance of ASD and YI. The platform will serve to launch the debate program in Nepal by devising an organizational framework for the program, preparing materials, and identifying media outlets to promote youth debates and expose the project to the public. The debate platform will also be utilized by providing instructors and trainers for the program.
C. Network Media Program (NMP)
While Nepal’s media is generally considered to be free and robust, the media sector still suffers from numerous problems, including over-concentration of the media in the Capital, little investigative reporting, self sensorship, poorly trained journalists, and a weak news market that results in poorly funded media. Local Nepali media, with the exception of local FM radio stations, are underdeveloped in Nepal. Even the relatively high standard of local FM radio stations in Nepal is largely due to support from several Kathmandu-based community radio satellite networks and content providers.
In March 2010, ASD organized a Strategy Planning Session (SPS) for media development in Kathmandu which brought together ASD, NMP and numerous Nepali media practitioners and experts. The session helped to focus OSF’s work on media in Nepal by identifying the following focus areas:
D. Higher Education Support Program (HESP)
HESP’s major intervention in Nepal has been the establishment of the Nepa School of Social Sciences and Humanities. The Nepa School has been set up to serve as a model institution of higher learning in Nepal with the two-pronged goal of bringing about a shift in the teaching and learning practices in Nepal, as well as to attract well-trained faculty into the teaching profession and retain them to teach and conduct academic research. For the first couple of years, as the Nepa School assembles a core group of faculty members and works on matters such as seeking affiliation, devising a curriculum, etc, the School will offer a program called the Graduate Diploma in Social Sciences. Thereafter, Master’s level courses will be offered although it has not yet been decided what disciplines will be on offer since such subject matters will in large part be determined by the availability of teaching faculty. Part of the goal of the Graduate Diploma is also to prepare students who have undergone undergraduate or higher studies in Nepal for the Master’s program to be offered by Nepa School in the future.
Another immediate intervention planned with HESP is a faculty development program for autonomous colleges that have been selected for support by the World Bank through the University Grants Commission as part of the Second Higher Education Project (SHEP). Selection into SHEP involves the infusion of grants up to USD 2.5 million which itself is tied to various performance parameters along with the stipulation that a matching portion of that amount be raised by the colleges themselves. SHEP itself was conceived by recognizing that Tribhuvan University cannot be easily reformed and that the only way to improve the quality of higher education in Nepal is to help its various constituent and affiliate colleges by either becoming autonomous or by strengthening their institutional autonomy. It is hoped that the proposed faculty development program will help these colleges make better use of the funds they will receive through the SHEP.
E. Education Support Program (ESP)
ESP’s major activity in Nepal has been the Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Program (RWCT), an implementing program currently steered along by ASD together with Social Science Baha and in close cooperation with the National Center for Educational Development (NCED), Nepal’s Ministry of Education, the Government of Nepal, and the Faculty of Education at Tribhuvan University. An advisory committee comprising representatives of NCED, the Faculty of Education, the Ministry of Education, and non-affiliated experts provides guidance to the Critical Thinking (CT) Program in Nepal.
A total of five CT trainings for in-service and pre-service teachers have been held: in July 2009, November 2009, April 2010, July 2010 and December 2010. It has been agreed that the CT Program will be spun off to be run as an independent program with the certification of Nepali CT trainers. After consultations with the major stakeholders, the CT program is now being implemented by Goreto Nepal, a Nepali NGO in coordination with ESP.
In addition to the CT program, ESP has also expressed interest on issues such as education and federalism, and on the privatization of education in Nepal. ASD plans to facilitate ESP’s work in these areas in Nepal by helping identifying partner organizations. ASD has decided to limit its focus on the education sector in three areas: access, quality and management. Since part of ASD’s function is to facilitate grant-making for OSF, it has been receiving many proposals from local organizations wanting to work on these issues. ASD seeks technical support and advice from ESP on how the proposals can be improved and interventions streamlined further.
F. Partnership Beyond Borders (PBB)
ASD and NBI partnered with the PBB for a study visit by Dalit leaders and activists in India, a project that led to the first representative Dalit conference in Nepal in June 2010, supported by the NBI. After analyzing the outcome of the conference, PBB may continue to support further efforts of the Dalit community for international outreach and exchanges.
Another project planned for late this year and 2011 – 12 is an exchange program with post-conflict societies in Latin America to enhance peace building efforts in Nepal and bring in relevant experience in post-conflict know-how. The program will start with a small pilot in Guatemala, and possibly El Salvador. Specific plans for follow-up are to be concretized on the basis of the pilot’s results.
G. International Migration Initiative (IMI)
IMI has so far only been involved in Nepal in planning stages through a conversation with Social Science Baha on beginning a project on migration in Nepal. The importance of migration to Nepal can be gauged from the fact that remittances reportedly contribute nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP and that labor migration is viewed both by the government and the ordinary citizen as the form of employment most viable to young people. Yet, very little is known about the migration process itself apart from the number of migrants which is generally derived from government sources but do not account for the many who migrate ‘illegally’ or cross the open border with India and their contribution to the national economy also suspect since this also relies only on official figures. Nepal is a country that exports a significant proportion of its youth as laborers to wealthier parts of the world but does not have the clout to protect its citizens and neither are there any mechanisms in place to inform potential migrants of the do’s and don’ts in the destination country, which adds to their vulnerability to being abused and exploited.
While the value of the research project cannot be underestimated, especially in the absence of any systematic documentation, ASD is planning a number of interventions to bring migration and its impact into popular discourse on a more immediate time scale. Among the activities planned are the use of documentary films on migration as a means of generating dialogue at the local level and the production of briefing papers on the state of migration based on the information currently available. Since Social Science Baha has already begun research on the state of migration in Nepal, it will serve as one of the partners in this planned outreach while other partners will also be sought depending on the nature of activities conceived over time.