Dr. Johan Galtung suggests for revision of constitution
Published May 22nd 2003 in People's Review, Nepal

For Dr. Johan Galtung, Professor at the University of Peace Studies, Hawaii, the prerequisites to peace are building a just and equitable society.

Speaking at a talk programme on 'Transformation of Conflict: Human Rights Approach' on May 19, he said Nepal needs and cultural and social revolution, and recommended building an equitable society through proportional representation and fixed quota system to uplift the downtrodden.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Galtung said of the three suggestions made by many - constitution amendment, constitution revision and new constitution - he favoured the second option, saying the problem that Nepal is facing is not a problem of a certain group. But, the frustration of any excluded group could have violent repercussion.

He said it is important to switch attention and move from negative to positive, and added that it was equally important to go beyond what the political parties have been saying and not to mistake ceasefire with peace. "Solutions are expected through ceasefire. When that does not happen and parties see no light at the end of the tunnel they become frustrated. That tends to result I regrouping, consolidating allies, brining in more arms, and could lead to unmitigated disaster," the professor said.

At the programme, organised by the Nepal Council of World Affairs, UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Henning Karcher said he found Dr. Galtung theories about direct, structural and cultural violence very convincing, and would agree that Nepal's society is characterized by structural violence in many forms.

He said, "While the conflict in Nepal has political, ideological and even geo-political dimensions, its main root causes are social and economic, related to frustrated expectations that came with the advent of democracy, related to abject poverty that persists for a large percentage of the population, related to poor and inefficient delivery of social services in areas such as education and health, and related to inequality, exclusion and discrimination."

The UN Resident Representative said that one of the greatest challenges lies, therefore, in addressing the structural element of violence in the current peace, the nine-tenth of the iceberg, which are not as clearly visible as that over 8,000 people who have lost their lives through direct violence.

Dr. Karcher said that unless and until all stakeholders make an honest effort to jointly analyze and jointly address the very root causes of conflict, which lie in inequality, exclusion, discrimination, poverty, unemployment and inadequate governance, the deep and festering wound of the conflict would continue to be there and make itself felt again and again.

He said although it is generally accepted that peace and development are two sides of the same coin, he said he believed that without respect for human rights there can be no peace and without peace there can be no observation of human rights.

He said that his main message was that as the peace process advances, human rights should not be seen as an optional extra. "In the case of Nepal today, we, in the UN System, are convinced that the promotion and protection of human rights are the key to strengthening the broader peace process. "Without this, the prospects would be bleak. He, quoting Nelson Mandela, said that the neglect of human rights is a sure recipe for disaster.

He called His Majesty's Government and the Maoists agreeing to work towards the signing of a Human Rights Accord as a part of the peace process as a positive step. He said the Human Rights Accord will not solve all the problems, but it is a key and feasible first step.

In his welcome remarks, Secretary-General of the NCWA Himalaya Kumar Singh said there could not be a better occasion to discuss on' Transformation of Conflict: Human Rights Approach', when the government and the Maoists were engaged in negotiation, and two rounds of talks already been concluded, to find a durable peace in Nepal after seven years of violent insurgency.

He said conflict transformation might be defined as a process encompassing 'structure-oriented long-term peace building efforts, which aim to truly overcome revealed forms of direct, cultural and structural violence, with outcomes acceptable to the parties in conflict.

Other speakers at the talk programme were Nayan Bahadur Khatri, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, and president of Nepal Council of World Affairs Keshav Raj Jha.

There was a question and answer session, and the vote of thank was presented by Sushil Pyakurel, member of NHRC and Prof. Gopal Prasad Pokharel, vice president of NCWA gave the concluding remark.