October 09, 2007, Ottawa, Canada: “A federal system is difficult to implement in a multiethnic and multicultural society but it is more desirable and relevant than unitary system in such a society”, said Dr. Ronald L. Watts, a world’s leading authority on federalism and governance. A Rhodes Scholar, a Ph.D. from Oxford, Fellow and former Director of the Institute of Intergovernmental Affairs, former Vice Chancellor of Queens University, and the Companion of the Order of Canada, Dr. Watts was deliberating a keynote speech at a conference organized on the transitional issues of Nepal by the Canada Forum for Nepal (CFFN, www.cffn.ca).
“A federal system is more so important in a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi cultural country like Nepal, for it can provide an instrument for citizen participation in governance to the satisfaction of previously marginalized communities, and, therefore, strengthen peace and stability”, said Dr. Watts. Speaking on the issues of representation he further emphasized that “proportional representation is a desired element of a modern democracy, and it makes more sense in a federal system.” That having said, he also sent a note of caution that “each country must define its unique criteria for proportionality to address its unique situation or else intended results may not be present in practice.”
Titled “Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society and Politics”, this conference was organized in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, from October 5th to 7th, 2007. CFFN organized this conference as a part of its pursuit to broaden the knowledge required for building a fair, peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society in Nepal. This is the first conference ever organized in Canada to this scale about the issues of Nepal. It was attended by scholars from Canada, Nepal, India and the United States and has brought significant scholarly work from highly accomplished researchers.
The papers that were presented during the conference dealt the issues of governance, federalism, and political restructuring, as well as health, agricultural and environmental policies for the future Nepal. It also included papers on economic policies, early childhood education, local governance, participatory approach of development, and inclusion of marginalized groups in democracy.
A half day session was devoted to education in Nepal with a keynote address from Aditya Jha, the most accomplished industrialist of Nepalese origin in Canada. He spoke on the role of technology in the future of education in Nepal. He forcefully put forward the argument that information and communication technology can be important means of combating illiteracy and poor education of the populace, and in propelling the country towards prosperity.
The presenters were Dr. Basu Sharma, Professor at the University of New Brunswick, Dr. Drona Rasali, Health Scientist at the Government of Saskatchewan, Dr. Durga Poudel, Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Ishwor Dhungel, Graduate Scholar at the University of Western Ontario. Other presenters include Michael Casey, retired Senior Manager at the Government of Canada, Martina Casey, Early Childhood Expert in Canada, Dr. Krishnahari Gautam, Forestry Scientist at the Government of Canada, Dr. Ram Acharya, Research Economist at Government of Canada, Dr. Kalidas Subedi, Agricultural Research Scientist at the Government of Canada, Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Executive Director of the Canada Forum for Nepal, Sarah Shima, Program Manager at Canadian Co-operative Association, Bishnu Dhital, Program Manager at Sustainable Soil Management in Nepal, and Prem Sangraula, Ecnomist at the World Bank.
The program chairs were, Dr. Daya Varma, Professor at McGill University, Jonathan Lain, Assistant Director and Nepal Program Manager at the Canadian International Development Agency of the Government of Canada, Dr. Basu Sharma, Professor at the University of New Brunswick, and Dr. Nipa Banerjee, Professor at the University of Ottawa.
The co-chairs of the organizing committee were, Dr. Basu Sharma, Dr. Pramod Dhakal, and Dr. Ram Acharya, and the lead members of the organizing committee were Alys Muckart, Geeta Thapa, Dr. Kalidas Subedi, Dr. Krishnahari Gautam, and Pradeep Raj Sharma.
The conference concluded with a round table discussion on the educational issues. The key deliberations of the session was that education is the most important element to break the poverty cycle in Nepal. Without education, it makes little sense having choices available to ordinary citizens. Education should be a means not an end and it should be packaged with both income generation schemes and technology. The round table also discussed an alarming disparity between men and women in Nepal and concluded that women should be treated as the drivers of change, and a participatory approach in development efforts is important.
The organizers of Canada Forum for Nepal have decided to hold a similar international conference in the summer of 2008. The abstracts of the papers and introductions to the contributors can be found at www.cffn.ca/events, the official website of CFFN.
Covered in: Nepalipress.com | NepalAbroad.com | NepaliPost.com | Archived Version | NepalHorizons.com | NepaliPress.com | Prabasinepali.com | INSN.org | SudburyStar.com | OCIC.on.ca | EmbassyMag.ca | worldexpeditions.com