Wednesday, 25 November 2009


15-17 January 2010, Kathmandu, Nepal

Organized by: Nepal Constitution Foundation (NCF)
Tribhuvan University Faculty of Law
Supreme Court Bar Association

Conference Background
Expected Output
Conference Format
Risk and Variables
Financial Support
Call for Papers
Resource Persons
Participating Nepalese Experts
Tentative Programme
Conference Venue
Guest Accommodation
Travel Information
Social Events
Secretariat of Conference and contact details

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The work towards writing a new constitution for Nepal is at its peak. Nepal's Constituent Assembly (CA) in its revised calendar states that the complete preliminary draft of the new constitution will be out by the end of December 2009.

The Constituent Assembly has allocated about two weeks in January 2010 for public to discuss the draft at different levels, and suggest inputs/comments on the draft for its improvement. This will be a most crucial period for the members of the Constituent Assembly, Nepalese experts and stakeholders, including the international community supporting the constitution building and peace process from outside. It is precisely the time to study the proposed draft in its entirety, examine them in different perspective - social, political and institutional, and suggest its revision, where necessary. In this process, the role of the constitutional experts, both local and international, to help improve it as a qualitative constitutional framework becomes meaningful. It is the experts, rather than politicians, who can help the Assembly identify technical and substantive gaps on the draft at this stage, and suggest timely revision in order to bring in the draft constitutional text in compliance with international democratic standards, and the lasting principles of constitutionalism.

With a view to establishing both national legitimacy and international acceptability to the draft prior to its promulgation, it is essential to enable prominent international as well as Nepalese constitutional experts and practitioners, who have been closely watching the developments taking place in Nepal, to make their comments on key constitutional issues and technicalities involved. Such a review of the draft by recognized international experts at a time when the people of Nepal would be engaged in offering public comments to get a sense of their ownership on the Constitution, will allow CA members an opportunity to revisit the whole document as they have been proposed. It will also provide the political stalwarts patronizing the Assembly an opportunity to focus on issues that must be reconsidered at this level. Examination of the draft by internationally well-known experts will also help develop appropriate implementation tools as well. Moreover, such examinations by independent international experts with a varied experience in different countries will help generate consensus amongst political parties on many contentious constitutional issues, such as devolution of power and forms of governance that Nepalese experts are yet to develop their expertise on. The international meet of this kind will allow Nepalese scholars to build partnership with international scholars for future purposes. This proposal thus aims to organize a forum in Kathmandu in the form of an international conference to be participated by both the national and international constitutional experts.

In its current set up, the Constituent Assembly of Nepal does not have a constitutional expert group as one of its organs. It stands as a whole as a political assembly only. As such, such a forum is very important to fill the gap, although from outside, and compensate the Assembly process in ways as suggested above.

Conference Objective

Overall Goal:

The overall goal of organizing an international conference is to help induct democratic norms, values and procedures in the new constitution, and contribute to the institutionalization of principles of constitutionalism and rule of law to resolve conflict and permanently establish peace in Nepal.

Immediate objective:

• Improve the quality of the new constitutional draft and its technical and conceptual soundness through inputs from prominent national and international experts;

• Enable CA members and key political and civil society leaders, especially from Constitutional and other technical committees of CA, benefit from comparative experiences through their direct interactions with constitutional scholars and practitioners of international reputation about constitutional issues of Nepal's interest and concern;

• Embolden jurisprudential/theoretical foundation and democratic contents of the draft Constitution to international standards by bridging the identified conceptual gaps through open debates and deliberations;

• Offer opportunity to the international community to understand and appreciate the dynamics of Nepal’s post-conflict country situation and areas of special needs that need to be addressed by the constitutional framework through appropriate choice of or reforms in the form of governance and devolution structure;

• Sensitize CA members, political actors and the common people about comments and feedback on the nature and contents of the new Constitution and its implementation tools as received from technical experts from within and without.

Expected Output

• Technically and democratically sound Constitution produced

• Consensus on key constitutional issues and their solutions under the draft constitution

• Comparative comments and feedbacks from impartial technical experts and stakeholders on the draft Constitution achieved

• Resource materials useful for interpreting the Constitution documented and compiled

• Political leaders and CA members directly interact with and receive critical analyses and appreciation from prominent constitutional experts and practitioners participating in the conference on the key constitutional issues, including contentious issues like forms of governance, devolution, electoral processes, aspects of social inclusion, etc.

• Constitutional foundation for institutionalization of the peace process laid down

• Sufficient opportunity for international inputs and creation of grounds for international acceptability of the constitutional draft

• Networking of experts of fifteen countries

Conference Format

As the purpose of getting outside experts in is to contribute to the Constitution, the organizers want the experts to engage directly with the draft constitution. As such, both Nepali and English versions of the comprehensive text of the draft Constitution of Nepal will be timely made available to all participating Nepali and international experts for their reference, and each of the experts will be asked to prepare their comments and recommendations for improvement on the draft in areas of his/her expertise and interest, before the conference starts. Some of the experts with such comments and recommendation will be requested to present their papers in the Conference to stimulate discussion.

In case, the Constitutent Assembly of Nepal is not able to deliver a draft constitution according to the current schedule, as expected by the organizing committee, the participants will still be provided with the preliminary drafts of all thematic committees at the Constituent Assembly in lieu of a consolidated complete draft to go through the process as highlighted above. All comments and recommendations including the papers received will be submitted to the Constituent Assembly for its consideration after the Conference.

As of November 25, seven major reports contributing to the draft constitution are already made public by the following thematic committees of the Constituent Assembly, which will more or less form the basis for the new constitution, subject to the approval/change by the full House of the Assembly. The Committees which have already produced the reports (which includes concept and preliminary draft) are the following:

(1) Committee on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles
(2) Committee on Protection of Fundamental Rights of Minority and Marginalezed Communities
(3) Committee on Judicial System
(4) Committee on Determination of the structure of Constitutional Bodies
(5) Committee on Determination of Bases for Cultural and Social Solidarity
(6) Committee on the Preservation of National Interest
(7) Committee on the form of legislative organ
(8) Committee on Division of Natural Resources, Financial Powers and Revenues
(9) Constitutional Committee (to cover issues not to be covered by other Committees)

Two reports are still on the pipeline. They are expected from:

(10) Committee on Determination of the Form of Government

(11) Committee on State restructuring and Distribution of State Powers (It works for the federalization/devolution of powers)

The Constitutional Committee is the principal drafting committee in the Constituent Assembly, which will have to organise all reports cleared by the full house into a viable constitutional draft. But then, as stated above, it is also responsible for preamble and other issues that are not covered by the thematic committees.

On the first day of the conference introductory events will be organized for familiarization and information exchange of views amongst participants, including international experts, CA members, political actors, civil society leaders and other stakeholders.

For two days, extensive and intensive group interactions will be organized and deliberations and discussions on the key constitutional issues materialized and recorded. On the sideline, special sessions and meetings of selected international experts with key leaders of major political parties and CA members will be arranged to enable political actors clarify key issues of concern through independent and highly qualified and experienced scholars of global prominence with familiarity of Nepal and its special features.

Prominent constitutional experts and practitioners from developed and developing countries, including Asia and Pacific regions with experiences of post-conflict dynamics and challenges will assemble to share comparative experiences and provide their inputs. Amongst the invited experts will be those with expertise in different aspects of federalism, forms of governance, human rights, electoral process, judiciary, etc as well.

Under the overall theme of the conference, following five major sub-themes will be categorized for streamlining the whole exercises:

• Salient features and basic constitutional principles of the new Constitution
• System of governance and institutional framework (including electoral process)
• Restructuring of State and devolution of power under the federal design
• Social justice and justice delivery mechanism
• Human rights and accountability institutions (including political parties)

The overall deliberations in the conference will have gender and social inclusion used as cross-current issues in order to ensure that the new Constitution is gender and diversity friendly.

After the conference: After the conference a team of national experts will help -

• revise the draft constitutional text

• develop explanatory notes

• keep in touch with the international experts, who contributed to the conference, and take their inputs where necessary

• submit the revised draft to the CA Constitutional Committee

• share the revised draft with all political parties represented at the CA

• respond to necessary queries coming from the constitution makers on the draft thereby submitted

• involve the constitutional experts even in the post-submission phase for their contribution

• publish the proceedings and necessary notes after the promulgation of the new constitution

Conference report and documents will also be archived on the internet for future reference while implementing and interpreting the new Constitution.

The organizing committee is expecting the graceful presence of President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Chairman of the CA at the event.

Risk and Variables

We do not foresee security risk to the Conference or its participants.

Political instability leading to abrupt street protest and closure of the market and transportation may obstruct the organization of events. However, prior negotiations with political parties will be made in order to avert this risk and ensure that the week covering the conference dates, 10-12 January 2010, are left unhindered.

Availability of desired resource persons for the conference dates, despite positive indications given by several international experts with interest in Nepal, may prevent us to ensure their presence. While we see the possibility, we are convinced that we will have the important resource persons so important for this project.

Financial support

There is no conference registration fee for the participants. In order to make sure that the conference is participated by as many international experts as possible, the Nepal Constitution Foundation is offering free grand reception in the evining of January 15, free lunch on 16th and 17th and all tea and snacks served during the conference sessions. Similarly, the Foundation shall also provide free transportation to the hotel for the arriving guests on 14th and 15th January at the airport, and also on January 18th, when they return. The rest of the cost including air fare and accommodation will have to be borne by the guest himself or herself.

Interests have been expressed by a couple of donor agencies and international organizations to support the event in different ways - financially as well as by sponsoring the visit of constitutional experts, who are supposed to present a paper. In no case, however there is any plan to offer rumeration to anybody for paper writing or participation.