Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Adieu, UNDP Participatory Constitution Project!

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.
Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow.
Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward
in whatever way they like

— Lao Tzu


Every experience adds to the previous ones to create and define a life.  For the past three years I've had the pleasure and honor of working with many of you on our UNDP SPCBN project.  It's been a wonderful, complex and quite political undertaking.  The promises and hopes of a generation are intimately tied up in the promulgation of a new Nepali constitution.  Many people throughout Nepal, of course, are unaware of the details or the individuals involved in this process.

We, however, have been granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to work closely with the Constituent Assembly members, political parties and civil society leaders to assist them in birthing this new constitution.  It's a rare and remarkable occasion.  I've been fortunate, as well, to have seen so much of modern Nepal's history up close and personal.  From my first speech to the SSNCC and Queen Ashwariya in Narayanhitti Durbar in the late 80s to the Maoist attack on our Save the Children office in Gorkha district in February 1996 to working with marginalized Dalits, Tharu, Madhesi and Tamangs in the 1990s amd early 00s to serving as the UNDP Sr. Human Rights Advisor in the National Human Rights Commission after the Jan Andolan in 2006 to joining UNDP SPCBN in November 2008 as the Sr. Civil Society Advisor... it's been a stunning and valued gift.

There are great things, as well, we have all accomplished over the past few years through SPCBN and the CCD.  There are many distant voices who have been able to participate in the drafting the CA thematic papers and monitoring the CA process from every remote VDC of the country including nearly half a million people over the past three years.  That's no small achievement that took many people's assistance, large and small -- not the least our scores of NGO and CSO partners around the country.  The Federalism Dialogues, led by Professors Khanal and Hachhethu reached all 14 of the proposed provinces to discuss in depth the nature of a federal state and the specifics of provincial authorities with over 1,000 local political party and civil society leaders.  The 60 page 'Citizens' Awareness' booklet was published in Nepali, Maithali, Bhojpuri, Bhote, Urdu and English with tens of thousands of copies already distributed around the country.

In addition, with SPCBN support, the IP, Dalit and Women's Caucuses are now better able to articulate their interests and hopes for the new constitution, as well as negotiate with their party leaders.  Each of these representative Caucuses have had working papers have been published, seminars held and meetings organized with both senior UNDP officials, as well as with the most powerful leaders in their parties.  The influence of these Caucuses has never been more apparent in representing the needs and desires of their historically marginalized communities.  The constitutional drafting process, as a result of their efforts and our support, is more open, engaged and participatory than many had ever hoped or imagined.  Also, our work on citizenship issues, at the core of any nation's constitution, has gained new inspiration and hope due to our recent collaboration with colleagues in UNHCR and UNICEF.  This, too, is no small achievement for the future prosperity and peace of Nepal.

In fact, there is much for all of us to be proud of in this work on behalf of the UNDP "Support to Participatory Constitution Building in Nepal" project.  Without your efforts, the respect of key people in the UNDP Country Office and the earlier backing of our donors, none of this participatory outreach would have been possible.  In truth, Nepal's democratic, parliamentary and constitution drafting processes have achieved village-level and national participation by a more diverse range of citizens than probably ever thought possible before.  This, too, is no small achievement in a relatively short time in the moden history of Nepal.

Yet, all things must pass.  Although the CA process now go into the last extra time before the end of the game, it's time for me to wrap up my efforts and bid you all adieu.  I will still be engaged with some of the CSO/GSI activities we have already initiated and, thus, be in close contact with colleagues over the coming weeks.  However, from next Monday my sons, Joshua and Ezra, will descend back into Nepal and I will spend more time w/ them during the few weeks they are back in the country they most love, before they return to London and California to finish their studies.

Lastly, although I owe a great debt to all the SPCBN staff, present and past, I would like to offer my special appreciation to my CSO and GSI colleagues with whom I had the good fortune to work most closely with these past years: Surendraji, Bindaji, Sitaji, Momji, Santoshji, Machindraji (and already departed Silaji, Arunaji, Basantiji and Yogenji, too!).  I've always received the kindest assistance from the KSK support team of Sakunji, Nehaji, Teekaji, Prativaji, Aneeji, Sriramji and our drivers over the years.

To all of my dear colleagues in the CCD who have offered their generous assistance, wise counsel and good will over the years, each of you, too, will be missed.  It was a pleasure to have met and known each of you through our work!

I wish those colleagues who will continue our good efforts in 2012 only the best for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Jai desh!


ellenbergd said...

Beautiful farewell dear friend. Is it really your end with the project after so many extensions? Thinking of you know with the bay spread out before me on a sunny solstice day. Perched in this spot helps the mind expand and bring the memories of friends even closer to the heart. So glad the boys will be home shortly. Enjoy the time and let me know of your upcoming new world travels.

Keith D. Leslie said...

Dave, thanks for your sweet comments. Today, actually, was the last day as I went in to do my final paperwork and bring my constitution, indigenous, dalit, CA files et al home. It's been a great run for three years, but all things must pass -- as they say. I'm sure the CA and IP can go ahead w/o me, but it's been stimulating work on a wide range of issues w/ much still left to do in the coming years. We'll see if anything new comes related to these issues. If not, there's always a trip to the Bay area or Portland. For now, I'm joining the x-country ski bums in Jellystone in early February. Not exactly Mustang in 2006 post-SC, but something v. new for someone who hasn't seen much snow in decades... more soon! xoxo, K.