Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Background

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.

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