Adurable peace is a prerequisite for an inclusive, democratic and prosperous Nepal but the country’s homegrown peace process is moving with occasional hiccups. What the nation requires today is an active engagement of connectors of society to heal the wounds of conflict and boost the peace building initiatives. Realising the need of the intellectual stuff to enlighten this overriding discourse of transitional stage, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Nepal office brought out a useful publication ‘Building Bridges of Peace in Nepal’ that focuses on the indigenous as well as modern institutions, which serve as the bridges of peace. Nepal’s political movements, democratization process, and the role of civil society and media in conflict resolution have been widely discussed in the book that contains five long writes-up of four experts.
German scholar Dr. Christian Wagner and Nepalese political scientist Dev Raj Dahal have made their joint contribution in the write-up ‘‘Building Bridges of Peace in Nepal’ that makes a critical assessment of post-conflict society. They argue that the domination of political sphere, from the capital to the villages, by certain parties has excluded other genuine forces from the mainstream spaces, thereby slowing down the democratic, reconciliation and peace building courses. "The mechanism of power-sharing by the all-party committees lacks a spirit of democratic pluralism turning Nepalese democracy into party rule that smacks of syndicated regime, based on the oligopoly of power which cannot spread the message of distributive justice to stabilize the post-conflict state building," they note. Dr Wagner and Dahal emphasize that building bridges of peace across the geopolitical, horizontal and vertical divides of the nation through social capital and confidence-building measures would prevent the temptation of various actors to free ride and act opportunistically against public interest, which can certainly help in resolving the security dilemma.
‘Local Conflict Resolution Mechanism as Bridges of Peace,’ another piece written jointly by Dev Raj Dahal and C.D. Bhatta, makes a historical survey of the indigenous and modern ways of dispute resolution in the Nepali society. They discuss the importance of traditional institutions such as Panchakachahari, Purohit, Dharmadhikar, Guthis, Birtawals etc in conflict settlement. The writers have taken Local Peace Committees as viable instruments of peace building at the local levels. Such committees aim to include all sides including the victims in the reconciliation processes, provide relief to displaced people and build up public opinions to constitute a more peaceful democratic environment.
"LPC can perhaps cope with the multi-faceted conflicts if strategies are based on justice, inclusion, participation, and change by mobilizing the critical mass."
They rightly underscore that transitional justice in Nepal must involve not only truth telling but also judicial accountability of perpetrators, financial compensation, legal, educational and development support to victims and addressing the root causes of conflict. The writers strongly criticize the current approaches to conflict resolution, which they say, are confined to ‘the maintenance and replication of system patterns’ and do not seek to address the grievances of Dalits, Janajaties, indigenous people, bonded labour and other marginalized groups for freedom, justice and identity in the real sense.
Yuva Raj Ghimire and Dev Raj Dahal in ‘Mass Media as Bridge Builders of Peace in Nepal’ calls on the Nepalese media, as one of the key stakeholders in the ongoing peace process, to unveil the root causes of conflict, consolidate democracy, and pursue an effective state building exercise. They caution that sectoral perspective of the media tends to absolutize the differences, breeds conflict and does not grasp the wholeness of the issue. Media can inform how the spoilers of peace are operating and inform decision makers in a larger context about options to minimize their negative role and impact in the peace process. However, the writers do not examine how the Nepalese media contributed to peace building in the last five years as the nation entered into a rocky peace process.
Bhatta’s Civil Society: Agent of Regime Change or Peace-Builders criticizes the civil society organizations for being unable to be ‘an engine of democratization’ in post-conflict society while ‘Ordering Public Goods in Nepal: Challenges of Putting the Governance in Track’ by Dahal asks the political leaders to act with a public-minded spirit and connect themselves with the values and experiences of common people.
The book has been published in an appropriate time to provide valuable insights to all the stakeholders of peace building. The ideas suggested in the collection can be applied well even after the nation formally concludes the peace process and starts the real task of peace making at the grassroots.