Tag Archives: Nepal

Reconciliation and Transitional Justice in Nepal: A Slow Path

12 Jun

This report is a USIP PeaceBrief copied in full here. The original appears at: https://www.usip.org/publications/2017/08/reconciliation-and-transitional-justice-nepal-slow-path

August 2, 2017 / By: Colette Rausch

In 2006, the government of Nepal and Maoist insurgents brokered the end of a ten-year civil war that had killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands. The ensuing Comprehensive Peace Agreement laid out a path to peace and ushered in a coalition government. Nepal’s people were eager to see the fighting end. Their political leaders, however, juggled competing interests, power dynamics, personal ambitions, and party interests. Nepal was confronted with profound challenges, including determining the nature of the state and rewriting the constitution. Meanwhile, the open wounds of the conflict cast a shadow over hopes of moving forward.


  • The 2006 peace agreement between Maoist insurgents and the government of Nepal promised constitutional and political reform, reconciliation, and transitional justice.
  • Implementation of the agreement, however, has been slow.
  • Yet, despite skepticism about government accountability, more than sixty thousand victim complaints have been submitted, suggesting an enduring hunger for justice.
  • The government can help satisfy that appetite by clarifying jurisdiction, furnishing resources, and creating mechanisms.
  • Meanwhile, Nepal’s people and politicians have grown accustomed to working together. Disaffected groups no longer feel that violence is their only recourse.
  • If these gains are to continue, the transitional justice process must continue to advance, even if piecemeal.


Nepal’s capital city is a boisterous place. By day, Kathmandu’s roads are a vehicle-clogged chaos. Even in the relative quiet of the evening, a visitor senses a city brimming with life and cautiously optimistic. This is a stark contrast to 2006, when streets in the evening were not just quiet but dark and desolate as well, armored personnel carriers standing sentinel at checkpoints.

That year was momentous for Nepal. In the spring, nineteen days of public protests in Kathmandu became known as Jana Andolan II—the People’s Movement II. Jana Andolan I had in 1990 ushered in parliamentary democracy. Those initially peaceful demonstrations had turned violent, injuring some security forces and leaving dozens of protestors dead or wounded. King Gyanendra reluctantly declared that he would relinquish executive authority to political parties and reconvene the dissolved parliament.

The backdrop to this turbulence was a violent conflict between Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN Maoist) insurgents and government forces, a ten-year war that had taken more than thirteen thousand lives.1 After the king stepped down, the new government in May began peace talks with the CPN Maoist. A cease-fire was declared. In November 2006, the government and the rebels signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which laid out a path to peace and brought the CPN Maoist into parliament and a coalition government. Key elements were provisions for reconciliation and transitional justice.

The Nepalese watched anxiously to see whether these and other provisions would be implemented. Had they known then what they know now, they might have been disappointed. But they might also have taken heart that though the steps of reform were small and slow, they did advance. This is a story not of a breathtaking sprint toward justice and stability, but of how peace can take root slowly, almost imperceptibly.

Transitional Justice, a New Concept

In 2006, most Nepalese were only just beginning to hear about transitional justice. The question was whether it could work in Nepal to hold people accountable for abuses committed during the insurgency. The term has come to mean a process or a series of processes that address past abuses to accomplish such goals as establishing the truth of what happened, acknowledging the suffering of victims, holding perpetrators accountable, compensating for wrongs, preventing future abuses, and promoting social healing.

War crime tribunals are perhaps the best-known mechanism but are by no means the only one. Some mechanisms are judicial, such as tribunals. Others are nonjudicial, such as trauma-healing programs, reconciliation projects, reparations, or memorials. Whatever form it takes, transitional justice has the same fundamental rationale: by addressing the past, the future will not be scarred by wounds that make it difficult for peace and security to grow. The rationale is sound but the task enormous; healing a society after atrocities and abuses is almost always a complex and long-term undertaking.

It is unclear whether the CPA authors appreciated how challenging transitional justice can be to put into practice. And although some skeptics question whether the CPA signatories really wanted to see that happen, no one doubts their readiness to sign an ambitious peacebuilding agenda. The CPA not only called for restructuring the state and drafting a fresh constitution but also included progressive provisions for a truth and reconciliation commission. The commission’s goal would be to create “an atmosphere for reconciliation in society” by probing “into those involved in serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity in the course of the armed conflict.” 2

Toward Justice

Implementing the peace agreement, however, posed a greater challenge than drafting it. Most of Nepal’s people were eager to see the fighting cease and to tackle the issues that had driven the conflict. Their political leaders, however, were juggling competing interests, power dynamics, personal ambitions, and party interests. The open wounds of the conflict were also casting a shadow over hopes of moving forward.

Issues were profound and had far-reaching implications. The nature of the state had to be decided. What type of federal system and how many states should Nepal establish? What type of electoral system, governance, and judiciary should be set up? How should power be shared across national, provincial, and local governments?

Many issues are related, directly or indirectly, to transitional justice. How could the rule of law be fostered and the era of impunity ended? How could security forces, Maoists and other political leadership be held accountable when they are in government? How could conflict be prevented if accountability was not handled carefully? How could the needs of the victims be met and the exclusion of marginalized groups ended? How could failure to do so avoid fueling resentment and provoking violent conflict?

How bleak is the outlook for justice and reconciliation in Nepal? On balance, there may be reason for guarded optimism.

Progress therefore came slowly. Not until 2015 was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CEIDP) established. The TRC and the CEIDP had been envisioned in the CPA as well as the Interim Constitution promulgated in 2007, but creating the two commissions had stalled in the years of political stalemate and judicial wrangling over whether the guilty could be given amnesty.

The TRC reports that it has collected nearly sixty thousand complaints, which include allegations of torture, rape, and murder by both security forces and Maoists. The CEIDP has received almost three thousand.3

The number of complaints suggests a continuing hunger for the truth and accountability. Concrete examples of accountability, however, are hard to find. Recently—in spring 2017—the Supreme Court sentenced three former army soldiers to life imprisonment for killing a fifteen-year-old girl during the civil war, but this was only the second such conviction.4 Many victims’ families are skeptical of the ability of either commission to deliver justice. As the sister of one of the disappeared said, the CPA’s “provisions were good, but the political party has been defining the process [of establishing the CEIDP] to their advantage and the commission will not proceed independently.”5

Many others share this lack of faith. In January 2017, a Human Rights Watch researcher said that “it has become clear that no political party, including the Maoists, were ever committed to the idea of delivering on justice and accountability for victims. There is absolutely no political will.”6 A former government official declared in an interview that the TRC is not functioning and doubted that it ever will. A human rights activist agreed. Both felt that political will is lacking because accountability would implicate not just high-level political actors but also high-ranking members of the security forces. In the absence of international pressure, the former official remarked, the government would do little to hold individuals accountable.

A former senior police officer observed in an interview that many who served with the security forces during the conflict see themselves as innocent because they were following government orders. If they are to be held accountable, many ordinary soldiers and police believe, the political leaders who dictated strategy should also be brought to trial. Should a tribunal be established, the jurists need to have the specialized training and experience to understand the realities of wartime actions. The situation is further complicated by the fact that veterans within the security forces are choosing to forget what happened during the conflict. In addition, new recruits are often uninterested in discussing—much less addressing—the past. Meanwhile, the wider divisions within society that catalyzed the conflict are not being tackled. The danger is that this inactivity will push Nepal back into political turmoil or violence.

A Case for Guarded Optimism

How bleak, then, is the outlook for justice and reconciliation in Nepal? On balance, there may be reason for guarded optimism. Yes, the country has a long way to go before it can overcome its trauma and divisions, and a variety of factors and forces could erode its social fabric unless carefully handled. The government’s sluggish response and inefficient distribution of aid following the 2015 earthquake that killed nearly nine thousand, injured thousands more, and displaced nearly three million has left the public highly dissatisfied.7 The constitution adopted the same year continues to stir controversy, some groups—notably the Madhesi, in the lowlands that border India—demanding that it be immediately amended to better represent their interests.

Many countries—such as Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan—that have experienced violent conflict and a change of regime have failed to emerge from conflict. In contrast, Nepal has stopped the fighting and so far avoided a renewed cycle of violence. Some former Maoists combatants have integrated into the security forces or returned to civilian life. After many years of negotiation, a new constitution was finally adopted.8 In May and June 2017, local elections were held (in six of seven provinces) for the first time in twenty years; amid tight security, turnout was high and few violent incidents were reported.

No less important, the tone of some public discourse has shifted. Nepalese still bemoan corruption and self-interest among government officials and political party leaders, but those complaints used to be angry or resigned at the inevitability of corruption. Today, people see the possibility of accountability and are readier to participate to improve the quality of governance. In the past, disaffected groups felt that violence was the only option; today, they seem more open to constructive dialogue and to conflict resolution mechanisms.

Publicly at least, Nepal’s political leaders are voicing a strong commitment to transitional justice. In June 2017, just after being elected prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba declared that “completing the transitional justice” would be a “major focus” of his government.9 Deuba’s election, which was supported by the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, is itself a sign of reconciliation. In 2001–02, Deuba’s cabinet put a bounty of five million rupees on Dahal’s head. Today, the two men are honoring a gentleman’s agreement to take it in turns to serve as prime minister, and are “promising to work together to institutionalize the gains” of the postwar years.


If Deuba’s public commitment is not to be dismissed as rhetoric, the government needs to help the TRC and the CEIDP win the trust of victims’ families and the respect of those accused of wartime crimes. Similarly, if the gradual shift in the national mood—from fear and anger to a unifying sense of building a society developing dialogue—is to continue, the transitional justice process must continue to advance.

What government actions might encourage progress?

Determine jurisdiction. The debate over whether the regular courts or the TRC should have jurisdiction over wartime crimes needs to be resolved openly and promptly. The act that established the TRC gives the commission jurisdiction. The Nepal Supreme Court, however, has ruled that it has jurisdiction over cases already lodged and that such cases cannot be transferred. The Court has also invalidated a general immunity provision in the TRC act. To date, no decisions have been discussed or made to amend the TRC in accordance with the Court’s orders. Lack of resolution undermines rule of law.

Allocate resources. The government needs to commit adequate resources for the TRC and the CEIDP to function effectively and begin working. Resources include everything from logistical and administrative support to experienced and expert personnel. International donors are not interested in funding unless the government can show compliance with international legal obligations. The government must commit to providing adequate financial support or find a way to satisfy international donors.

Consider parallel mechanisms. Policymakers should recognize that the TRC and CEIDP cannot realistically handle tens of thousands of cases. To deal with the backlog, parallel mechanisms could be set in motion. Determining jurisdiction could clear the way for a division of labor whereby the courts would handle the most serious crimes. Those accused of serious crimes would be tried by jurists well versed in crimes arising from armed conflict. Victims’ families would benefit by seeing their cases dealt with far more promptly than now.

Such steps would help Nepal move forward. The transitional justice process has been slow, imperfect, and undramatic, but it remains essential. If the past is ignored rather than addressed, then sooner or later conflict will return.


  1. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nepal Conflict Report 2012 (Geneva: UNOCHR, 2012), http://www.lan.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/NepalConflictReport.aspx.
  2. For the text of the agreement, see http://www.usip.org/publications/2006/11/peace-agreements-nepal.
  3. Lekhaneth Pandey, “TRC, CEIDP to Accept Complaints Again,” Himalayan Times, February 16, 2017.
  4. “Maina Sunar Murder: Three Army Officials Sent to Jail for Life,” Himalayan Times, April 17, 2017.
  5. International Center for Transitional Justice, “Ten Years after Peace, Is Nepal Finally Serious about Finding Its Disappeared?” August 29, 2016, http://www.ictj.org/news/nepal-disappeared-search.
  6. Kai Schultz, “A Decade After Nepal’s Maoist Rebellion, Little Justice for Victims,” New York Times, January 29, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/world/asia/a-decade-after-nepals-maoist-rebellion-little-justice-for-victims.html.
  7. Mark Leon Goldberg, “Nepal Earthquake Facts and Figures,” UN Dispatch, May 19, 2015, www .undispatch.com/nepal-earthquake-facts-and-figures/.
  8. For the text of the constitution, see http://www.lawcommission.gov.np/en/documents/2016/01/constitution-of-nepal-2.pdf.
  9. Binod Ghimire, “Deuba Elected PM for Fourth Time,” Kathmandu Post, June 7, 2017.

About this Brief

This Peace Brief examines the slow progress Nepal has made toward transitional justice and reconciliation since the 2006 peace agreement that ended a ten-year civil war. It complements other United States Institute of Peace (USIP) efforts in Nepal, which include facilitating discussions and sharing resources on transitional justice.

Colette Rausch is an associate vice president, Global Practice and Innovation at USIP, where she leads the development of new approaches, research, learning, and tools to be used to address violent extremism, strengthen inclusive societies, and promote justice, security, and rule of law. She recently visited Nepal, eleven years after she first began working on rule of law–related projects in the country.


Peace on Earth

24 Dec


On this Christmas Eve, as I reflect back over the past year, a whirlwind of images and feelings come up.  It has been an intense year of travel to countries dealing with violent conflict or war, political instability, and economic disparity. Then in my own country, we witnessed a divisive election year, a politically polarized society, ugly rhetoric against people of different races or religious beliefs, and a series of mass shootings including at an elementary school, movie theater, shopping mall and place of worship.

We are a world at conflict on the individual, community and nation state levels.  We see actors on the world stage who use fear to control people and foster hate and division, pitting one against another.  Religion, ethnicity, race, gender, country of origin, are all inflammatory fodder for stirring up emotions of fear and in turn — hate.  It’s been far too common to find individuals and leaders using violence for their own agenda and pushing the fear-mongering and hate-mongering buttons to manipulate and coax people into doing their bidding.

A survey of the headlines over the past year is enough to make even the most optimistic, despair.  We barely have time to acknowledge one tragedy, when another one is on its heels, followed by another after that.

But if you look beyond the headlines and politics, struggles for power and control, you still can find those who relentlessly hold tight to the vision of peace and justice and work tirelessly for a better world.  It is through their sheer determination and effort that there is ample reason for hope.


Don’t complicate the transition (in arabic). Graffiti I came across while driving around in Misurata, Libya. May 2012

During my travels in Libya, I met people in Benghazi, Misurata, Tripoli and Zawia who took my colleagues and me into their lives and homes.  They shared their hopes and dreams for a new, peaceful Libya, free of dictatorship, violence and extremism. I received numerous messages of sincere regret and sorrow immediately after US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his colleagues were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi. They wanted America to know that these horrible acts were not representative of the vast majority of Libyans. They took to the streets by the tens of thousands to demonstrate as much.


Choosing our fish to take to a restaurant for grilling in Taiz, Yemen, June 2012

While in Yemen, I traveled to Sana’a and Taiz, meeting amazing young women and men who, despite guns being trained on them as they marched, took to the streets to demand a positive government responsive to the people.  “The youth are Yemen’s hope and future as we have just created a mess,” was a sentiment I heard twice, once from a retired army general and then again from a retired political leader — both frustrated with the slow pace of change and battles for power raging across Yemen and fueling violence and instability.

While in Burma/Myanmar and reiterated during subsequent visits to the US by representatives from Burma/Myanmar, I was surprised by the openness of those I met in the government, who, despite having been isolated for many years under the former repressive military regime, were anxious to get caught up on developments related to good governance, rule of law and conflict resolution.  Each meeting turned into an invigorating and open discussion of ideas, as we discussed what other countries in transition experience and the challenges they face.

Aung San Suu Kyi with me and Suzanne Di Maggio at USIP event,  Washington, DC, September 2012 (Photo Credit:    )

Aung San Suu Kyi with me and Suzanne Di Maggio at USIP event, Washington, DC, September 2012 (Photo Credit: Asia Society/Joshua Roberts )

In Iraq, I had the honor to meet with dedicated civil society representatives who were earnestly organizing dialogues with police to find ways to solve justice and security challenges facing their communities.  In the absence of effective central governance, the citizens and police decided to keep things local and seek common ground and work together.

Buddhist monk in Boudhanath.  Kathmandu, Nepal. October 2012.

Buddhist monk in Boudhanath. Kathmandu, Nepal. October 2012.

While in Nepal, I surveyed the past six years from when I first arrived at the tail end of popular protests that resulted in the King stepping down and re-instating the political process.  Despite a very rough period of political instability and violence after the King’s ouster, and the all too familiar charade of political actors stirring violence for their own ends, Nepal managed to end its ten-year civil war, quell ethnic, religious and communal violence and move tentatively forward.

Then in my own country, despite the politics of division, the elections resulted in the re-election of the president.  The issue of economic inequality has come to the mainstream and is being openly discussed.  The horrific epidemic of gun violence has stirred up a movement demanding action to address its root causes.

So as this year draws to an a close, I want to focus on the people and their determined actions that have resulted in cultivating peace against seemingly insurmountable forces and odds, rather than giving way to the divisions and violence so many attempt to sew.

If there is one universal lesson my travels have revealed, it’s that when each of us owns our own power and makes a determined stand on principles of fairness, equality and justice, then even the most powerful who employ the formidable levers of division, intimidation, violence and coercion — become powerless. Further, while fomenting divisions can sow violence, building unity and understanding can be powerful steps toward creating a lasting and resilient peace. 


Practitioner’s Toolkit for Justice and Security Dialogues

9 Aug

Peace Dove amidst the back drop of destruction in downtown Zawia, Libya

Here is a piece from USIP’s website on our Justice and Security Dialogue work. I am cross-posting it here.  This is the original link:


USIP to Develop Practitioner’s Toolkit for Justice and Security Dialogues

Photo courtesy of Shobhakar Budhathoki
(Photo courtesy of Shobhakar Budhathoki)

August 6, 2012

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) will draw on its innovative effort to sponsor dialogue between security agencies and civil society in Nepal and Iraq to develop a new “toolkit” to help practitioners in the field run similar programs in Iraq and other transitional or post-conflict countries.

The new effort is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and USIP itself. It will bring together specialists for working meetings this fall to identify the contours of a practical, how-to toolkit, including training and other videos and a justice and security manual laying out methods for conducting such dialogues. Those elements of the toolkit are to be completed and translated into Arabic by next summer, when they could be used for further programming in Iraq and elsewhere.

USIP’s dialogue efforts in Nepal, which began in 2006 and continues today, are meant to help bridge a gulf of mistrust between civilian police and the justice and security sectors, on one hand, and civil society and local communities, on the other. That mistrust, aggravated by many years of political and other conflict in the Himalayan nation, has hampered Nepal’s ability to provide security and justice, and deepened tensions in ways that have hindered economic development and good governance.

A similar dynamic has played out in Iraq and other countries that have suffered from conflicts and experienced jarring political transformations.

Just one example of the impact of justice and security dialogues in Nepal is when USIP established a forum for dialogues to build trust between police and civil society and to address challenges to security and the rule of law in Biratnagar, Nepal. Following two dialogues that examined why youth seemed to be increasingly participating in lawless and violent activities and what young people could do to reverse the trend, participants agreed to a nine-point Birat Youth Declaration and promised to work with the Nepal Police and civil society to strengthen security and the rule of law.

After a year, the impact was dramatic. According to the Nepal Police, in the district of Morang violent demonstrations carried out by youths fell more than 80 percent because of USIP’s involvement.

The future toolkit will also draw on the experience of USIP’s rule of law work to date in Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and South Sudan. USIP specialists say it will help identify and sustain the best elements of justice and security dialogues for use in other settings in the future. Yet, they also caution that justice and security dialogues must be tailored to the specific context of a country and its dynamics: No one size fits all.

Justice and security dialogues are a critical tool to help build a positive and collaborative relationship between the community and the various justice and security stakeholders in transitional or post-conflict countries, says Colette Rausch, director of the Institute’s Rule of Law Center. “The complex challenges of our world can only be resolved when people come together to understand and overcome differences, build trust and work together to solve problems,” she says.


Justice and Security Dialogue: A New Tool for Peacebuilders

23 Jun

My institute posted yesterday a Q and A from me on work we have been doing in Nepal and are adapting for Iraq and other conflict-affected countries. I have seen firsthand the power and impact of bringing people together to bridge differences, build understanding and peace and counter crime and instability.


Justice and Security Dialogue: A New Tool for Peacebuilders

June 2011 | On the Issues by Colette Rausch

June 22, 2011

USIP’s Colette Rausch explains what Justice and Security Dialogue is and why it’s becoming a valuable tool to combat lawlessness and promote the rule of law.

What is Justice and Security Dialogue? How does it work?

Simply put, Justice and Security Dialogue (JSD) is a way of bringing together security forces and local communities to dispel mistrust and build cooperation in countries emerging from conflict. As its name suggests, JSD revolves around a series of facilitated dialogues at which police officers, civil society representatives and “ordinary” citizens (and sometimes a variety of other stakeholders) meet to overcome a legacy of suspicion, division, and fear by voicing apprehensions, fostering understanding, identifying shared concerns and building relationships.

But JSD extends far beyond these facilitated conversations, vital though they are. The trust established in these frank and revealing exchanges becomes the foundation for a variety of other activities. Sharing information and problem solving: Police officers and local residents exchange information about sources of crime and violence, brainstorm about the best ways to tackle them, and discuss how the police as an institution can best reform.

  • Coordinating efforts in the fight against crime: JSD participants work together in very concrete ways to curb crime and boost security.
  • Protecting human rights and promoting security: Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) cooperate with local government officials and members of the security forces to ensure greater respect for both human rights and law and order.
  • Influencing policymaking: Ideas for reforming outmoded laws and improving police performance are fed from the local level into the national policymaking process.
  • Turning rule of law from a concept into a practice: All JSD participants—from very senior to very junior officers and officials, from defense lawyers to prosecutors, from industrialists to farm laborers—learn what a society governed by the rule of law should look like and discover their own roles in making that vision a reality. All sides begin to see that stability, security, prosperity and democratic consolidation cannot be achieved without the development of a sufficiently robust system of security and justice that enforces the law, holds violators accountable, protects the legal rights of groups and individuals, and provides predictability and transparency in the treatment of all parties.

JSD works by emphasizing the three P’s of partnership, process, and pragmatism. A series of nested partnerships allows JSD to operate simultaneously at different levels: international-national, national-local, NP (Nepal Police)-civil society, and so forth. Ties between partners are strengthened by constant consultation and collaboration. The process of working together is seen as no less important than the accomplishment of specific goals; stakeholders learn how to set and prioritize goals, achieve results, and create sustainability. The content of JSD activities is shaped by the pragmatic concerns of participants—not by the agendas of international actors or the research interests of scholars—and the aim of those activities is to enable participants to take what they have learned and apply it in the field.

Why is JSD needed?

Maintaining law and order usually gets harder, not easier, when a peace agreement is signed. The combatants may stop fighting, but they can become a rootless, unemployed, and disaffected group, whose frustrations fuel political, criminal, and domestic violence. Wartime powerbrokers are often reluctant to relinquish the profitable fiefdoms they constructed during the conflict, and as peace approaches they shift gears into organized crime. Meanwhile, ethnic or religious extremists stoke sectarian or religious-based tensions and political stakeholders jostle for power, their rivalries spilling onto the streets in the form of demonstrations, rallies and general strikes, all of which can easily escalate into violence that endangers the peace process itself.

The job of combating this tide of crime and instability falls, naturally enough, to the country’s security forces. However, in the aftermath of conflict, their reputation has been tarnished by their conduct under the previous regime, their material and human resources have been badly eroded, and their morale is desperately low. Civilians want protection but they don’t trust or respect the security forces. And those forces can’t tackle crime without community support. It’s a Catch-22 situation, and one that threatens to stifle ambitions of building a stable, democratic, law-abiding and rights-respecting society.

The only way out of this dilemma is to help the security forces and the public they are meant to serve recognize that their interests are not contradictory but complementary—that justice, which the community wants, and security, which the police emphasize, are inextricably linked and mutually supportive. And this is where JSD comes in. JSD fosters the community and police partnership upon which the promotion of rule of law and the reduction of crime and violence relies.

What can JSD do that other peacebuilding techniques can’t?

JSD is certainly not the only peacebuilding tool designed to achieve community and police partnerships. Many other forms of dialogue focus on partnership and/or process and/or pragmatism—but not too many focus on all three. Some programs don’t try to move beyond the initial dialogue, leaving it to participants to decide if and how to translate enhanced understanding into practical action. Other programs do try to help their participants make that transition, but often the process of dialogue and its practical applications are kept separate. In the case of JSD, the progression from improved understanding to cooperating on joint proposals is built into the dialogue itself. And participants are encouraged not only to turn joint proposals into joint action but also to develop an ever-expanding variety of joint activities. One of the most distinctive aspects of JSD is that its structure enables cooperative relationships to be built on multiple levels simultaneously: geographically, at the local and the national levels; professionally, at junior as well as senior levels; socially, at the grassroots, among the middle strata of society and within the elite.

JSD’s emphasis on partnership is akin to efforts by other dialogues to create a sense of “joint ownership.” However, the closeness and the openness of the partnerships that characterize JSD are unusual. Also distinctive is JSD’s progression from a partnership initiated by international and national-level actors—but highly responsive to local-level concerns and highly committed to empowering local actors—to a partnership in which local stakeholders decide for themselves the content and structure of their dialogue while the national and international partners take a back seat and offer support only when requested. JSD multi-tiered partnerships allow the program to operate at different levels of society—grassroots, mid-level, and elite—and to serve as a conduit between them. One consequence of this is to create a cycle of mutually reinforcing activity: getting input from the public about their concerns and needs, developing active relationships between civil society and the police, feeding ideas into the policymaking process, enacting reforms that reshape the justice and security sector—thereby changing the public’s experience of policing and creating new feedback.

Where has JSD been used, and what impact has it had? Where will it be used next?

JSD started in Nepal, where a 2006 peace agreement brought an end to a very bloody ten-year conflict between Maoist rebels and an oppressive monarchy. The Maoists entered a coalition government and the monarchy lost its political power, but the country has since been roiled by a surge in crime and political turbulence that has threatened to derail the peace process. A lack of political will to impose the rule of law has been matched by a lack of the capacity to do so, with the Nepal Police (NP) struggling under the burden of inadequate resources and training, a reputation for incompetence and corruption, and a deeply mistrustful public.

A partnership between USIP, high-ranking NP officers, and human rights activists has sought to bridge the divide between the NP and the public. A series of facilitated dialogues at numerous locations throughout Nepal have brought together NP personnel and members of the local community, as well as representatives of the country’s political parties, local government officials, and a variety of other stakeholders. From the perspective of participants, the dialogues have been surprisingly open and constructive. The revelation that the NP and civil society have shared concerns and can jointly devise solutions has inspired a determination to maintain this process of dialogue. It has also generated a variety of tangible results, including joint initiatives to tackle drug abuse and discrimination, as well as cooperation to resolve potentially violent disputes. The NP has recorded a substantial drop in crime in a volatile district where JSD has been operating. Reports indicate a growing public awareness on issues of gender violence, child labor, police roles and responsibilities.

In the capital, through JSD, productive working ties with the government agencies and ministries that run Nepal’s security and justice systems have been developed. JSD also has close ties to the human rights community, women’s groups, minority rights groups, youth organizations, and members of the legal profession, whose concerns and ideas help shape JSD activities.

JSD has had to contend with a variety of challenges that have slowed its progress. Logistical challenges faced by all Nepalis—such as limited electricity supplies, monsoons, and street protests—disrupt schedules. Levels of knowledge and professional competency among some stakeholders have turned out to be lower than expected, causing delays. Frequent changes in government oblige JSD staff to start again in building relationships with key officials. Continuing political instability at local as well as national levels undermines the rule of law and can discourage participants in JSD programs.

Even so, a program that was initiated by a partnership between USIP staff based in Washington, D.C., and national-level actors has recruited numerous local partners and entrenched itself at the community level. Local self-sustainability may be achieved within the next few years.

JSD has been distilled into a framework that can be used in other countries emerging from conflict. The framework is flexible—indeed, it demands customization—but the essential elements of the Nepal program has been initiated and is about to expanded in Iraq, a pilot has already been launched in Sudan, and trials in Afghanistan are planned. USIP has also adapted the program for Guatemala, where military officers and human rights NGOs have met to discuss how to address past abuses by the military. A variety of United Nations and U.S. government agencies have monitored the JSD program in Nepal, sent delegations to learn from its experiences, and are actively considering developing JSD-inspired programs in other countries emerging from conflict.

(Here is the link to the report on JSD:  http://www.usip.org/publications/justice-and-security-dialogue-in-nepal)

Planting Seeds of Unity

21 May

Last night in our backyard, we welcomed colleagues and friends for a dinner gathering. Some had traveled from Nepal. Others had traveled from Egypt. The remainder live here. We came together to relax, enjoy the evening and share conversation. We also discussed the peace building experiences of Nepal and its relevance for what is happening in Egypt now.  We talked about the importance of bringing together civil society, the community and police to bridge the understanding and trust gap, while at the same time coming up with joint solutions on how to build justice and security following a revolution. Planting seeds of peace.

When they left, I thought about how in my tiny little backyard, we had Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Christians all together talking about finding ways to unite rather than divide.  About how peace is dependent upon this.

Powering on through the Dust

22 Mar

Strange weather!  Although it is downright spring like right now, this morning was a different story.  Around 6 am, a storm flew through, bringing pounding rain and then hail.  It lasted only about 30 minutes but left in its wake a carpet of little red buds of some type from the trees.  I surveyed the cold frame to see how the lettuce fared since I had opened up the top of the cold frame to let air circulate given the warming temperatures the past few days.   All lettuce seedlings accounted for, although one looked a bit flat.  Not sure if it was from the hail or the previous squirrel attack.   I also checked out the three terra cotta pots where I had planted lettuce seeds.  Woo hoo!  A bed of sprouts greeted me.  It never ceases to amaze me how soil, a seed and water can create a seedling.  Then add sun, and poof!  You have a full grown plant that can feed and nourish us.

On the inside front, the Hagrid proof set up is working!  This would be set my fourth set up.   The cage idea was perfect.  Unfortunately, the cage we had (see photo of set up #3) was not large enough to hold all my seed and seedling pots.  So my mother in law loaned to me a very large cage that she had (see photo of set up #4).   It is perfect!!  My tomato seedlings are happily growing and love the grow light. My eggplant seedlings just started to sprout this weekend.  I am a bit concerned about the pepper seedlings.  No sightings yet.  Not sure what is up with that.  I am new to planting pepper seeds so will wait it out a bit before planting more or, perish the thought, buying the seedlings from the nursery.

On the peace front, today was the first day in our new building.  Wow.  For well over a decade, we were sharing space in the National Restaurant Association building.  Finally, thanks to Congress who appropriated funds, we have a symbol on the Mall as a testament to our American values and our commitment to peace.   In the back of many of our minds, however, as we moved into the building, is the specter of politics and whether the American values set forth by our country’s founders will prevail over personal agendas and short-sided political gain.  With the attack on our budget and our very existence and contribution, it takes everything we have to tune this out and focus on the mission that we all are passionate about.  The mission of preventing and resolving conflict.   But it only takes us to look at what is going around in the world, with so many conflicts and so many people yearning for democratic changes — to know that we are truly needed.  It helps to know that our many friends (from all quarters:  the military, peacebuilding community, diplomats, civil society and more) are coming out in our support.  

Amazing women of Huanta, Peru

I think of the widows that I recently interviewed in Kosovo and Peru and the atrocities that they suffered.  I think of the soldiers I met in Guatemala and how they yearn for a time when they can be protectors of society as a whole and not to a limited few in charge.  I think of youth that I interviewed in Nicaragua and Nepal and their hope (no demand) for a just and equitable future.  I see them all in my mind’s eye and know that with what they have been through in their lives, this little bit of turbulence in mine, is nothing.   It gives me strength to fight on.   In the words of my seven year old just this morning, “When dismay comes with the dusk, you must power on through the dust.”   And that I will.

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