SI Asia-Pacific Committee meeting in Nepal discusses peace and democracy in the region
10-11 February 2007
As Nepal enters a decisive phase in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in November 2006, the Socialist International held a meeting of its Asia-Pacific Committee in Kathmandu on 10-11 February to signal its support for and solidarity with the people of Nepal and its democratic institutions at this crucial time.
The International, which fully welcomed the success of the popular movement last April in recovering the democratic process, had closely followed developments in the country which led to King Gyanendra giving up power, the Nepalese parliament being reinstated and the election of the leader of the SI member, the Nepali Congress Party, Girija Prasad Koirala, as Prime Minister. The International remained in close contact throughout this period with Nepali Congress, Prime Minister Koirala and other members of the ruling coalition, contacts which included a visit by the SI Secretary General to the country last year. As Nepal prepares for the election of a Constituent Assembly, scheduled for June this year, to draft a new Constitution in accordance with the agreed peace accord, and as the disarmament arrangements of the former insurgents are implemented, the members of the International were warmly received in Kathmandu by all the political parties subscribing to the 2006 peace agreement.
The meeting began with a public opening at the Birendra International Convention Centre attended by some 2,000 people, including party leaders, members of parliament, party activists, intellectuals, members of civil society and representatives of the media, which was addressed first by the General Secretary of the Nepali Congress Party, Ram Chandra Poudel, and later by leaders of party signatories to the agreement, the President of the Nepali Congress (Democratic) Party and former Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and the leader of the Communist Party (UML), Madhar Kumar Nepal. The Vice-President of the Nepali Congress Party, Sushil Koirala, then gave an address, which was followed by an opening speech by the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala. A Vote of Thanks by Ram Baran Yadav, Joint General Secretary of the Nepali Congress Party concluded the proceedings.
Convening later in working session, chaired by the SI Secretary General, the first part of the meeting's discussions focused on the latest developments in Nepal as the country moves forward in the next stage of its transition. Reports were presented by representatives of different members of the eight-party coalition behind the peace agreement. Contributors included ministers of the government, leaders of the trade union movement in the country, the head of the Madhesi Peoples' Rights Forum, representatives of women's associations, academics and participants from civil society organisations.
The Committee reaffirmed its support for the 2006 Peace Accord in Nepal, urging that they be fully implemented and respected by all involved. It called on the eight-party coalition to remain united on the fundamental priority that the forthcoming election process should be free, fair and transparent and announced that the International would send a delegation to observe the Constituent Assembly elections.
In relation to issues regarding peace and stability in the region, the Committee examined the situation on the Korean peninsula and the troubling situation in Sri Lanka. Delegates expressed their concern at the test by China of anti-satellite weapons in January this year and called for an international treaty to ban the use of weapons in space.
In their discussions on matters affecting democracy in the region, participants addressed the lack of democratic progress in Pakistan, the serious situation in Bangladesh, and the special case of Burma. The Committee also reaffirmed the International's condemnation of the military coup in Thailand last September and deplored the recent coup in Fiji.
The Committee, recognising the particular challenges faced by small island states, also addressed issues of concern with regard to the Solomon Islands and Tonga. With a special focus on Timor-Leste, the Committee expressed its hope that the forthcoming presidential polls in April would provide an opportunity to restore confidence in the country's democratic institutions and agreed to send a delegation to observe the vote. The discrimination against the ethnic Nepali population and other communities in Bhutan, and the absence of democracy in that country were also highlighted.
The Committee equally stated its support for the efforts of the Social Democratic Party of Japan to uphold article 9 of the Constitution, as well as the country's non-nuclear policy, regarding them as a positive foundation and model for resolving disputes.
All these issues were reflected in the Declaration of Kathmandu adopted unanimously by the participants.
With regard to future activities, a meeting in Japan after the forthcoming elections in that country was agreed by the Committee for later this year.