FEDERALISM Ethiopian Experience

As the debate on state restructuring goes on, CA members and academicians find the Ethiopian experience worth mulling over<br>A CORRESSPONDENT

Jan. 10, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 04 No .-14 Jan. 07-2011 (Poush 23,2067)

Nepal is full of diversity. From the number of ethnic groups to the number of linguistic groups and from topographical diversity to diversity in flora and fauna, Nepal has a range of experiences in diversity and difference. Nepal has big neighbors with two different political systems. India is federal in nature with a strong center and China is a unitary state with federal ingredients in its structure.

Nepal is writing a new federal constitution and debating its contents. The Interim Constitution has declared Nepal as a federal democratic republic. Various thematic committees of the Constituent Assembly have submitted their reports settling the issues on the number of provinces, powers, modalities of provincial governments, legislatures, judiciaries and resource sharing. But the crux of the debates revolves around the viability of the federal models.

“The Ethiopian model has showed that federalism is not a panacea for all the problems as well as it not as bad as what many see,” said Dr. Surya Dhungel. “Given good institutional backups, federalism will also produce effective government.”

At this crucial juncture, a delegation comprising dozens of CA members representing various political parties, academicians and lawyers visited Ethiopia and participated in the 5th International Conference on Federalism. They thought the event was helpful to clear some misunderstandings and misconceptions about federalism.

“The visit to Ethiopia was very important for us. I have enriched my knowledge as well as my understanding about federalism,” said CA member Khim Lal Devkota. ” We have seen an ethnic-based federalism working in a good shape in Ethiopia. I also got an opportunity to share knowledge about various types of federal systems currently experimented in various parts of the world.”  

Participating in the fifth international conference on federalism also enhanced the knowledge of CA members regarding the federal structure.

“Federalism is best for a country like Nepal where one needs to unity in the midst of diversity. I realize that only federal system can help us manage the diversity in the country like ours. I have learnt this during my recent visit to Ethiopia,” said CA member Jitendra Sonal.  “Whatever one says, Nepal’s diversity is the beauty of this country which we can manage through the federalism.”

With support from the Forum of Federations and Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal, members of Constituent Assembly visited Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. Along with visiting some provinces and interacting with the local members, Nepalese CA members also took part in international conference on federalism.

“After participating in the conference and visiting Ethiopia, I came to realize that federalism is for the strengthening the nation. There is the need to have more role for the center. My vision about federalism was that provinces are powerful than the center,” said Khagendra Mahakik.

“Although a section of the people are still saying that federalism will spilt the nation and encourage secessionist tendencies, the federal models including Ethiopian experiment have shown how it can strengthen the nation.”

Even after the presentation of the report by State Restructuring Committee of CA, the debate about the number of provinces, questions of power sharing and modalities of federalism are yet to be decided.

“The challenges before us are how to make federal structure functional. The conference helped us a lot to know about various models of federal system functioning around the world,” said Dr. Bipin Adhikari.

“We have learnt a lot about federalism. Our visit helped us to understand the federal structure and governments at various levels,” said CA Member Anil Kumar Jha. “The experiences of Ethiopia were noteworthy for us. Thanks to the Switzerland Embassy in Nepal, we were able to take part in the program.”

CA member Dr. Mangal Siddhi Manandhar said, “When we proposed federalism on the basis of ethic identity, many claimed that such federal structure will not work. Ethiopian experiences have taught us that federalism based on ethnic identity can strengthen the nation.”

“Different countries have different federal models and Nepal needs to select one of the models which suits it,” said scholar Mabuhang.

Tulsi Subba and Prithivi Subba Gurung of CPN-UML, Dama Sharma of UCPN-Maoist also shared their experiences. Similarly, Narshing Chaudhari of Nepal Sadbhvana Party also found the events worthy of attending.

“Every country needs its own model and one cannot copy the model of others. After listening to the experiences of participants, I came to realize that this visit will further help them in deciding the future federal model for Nepal” said Martin Stuerzinger, Senior Adviser for Peace building Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal.

“I am happy to say that this is one of the most inclusive delegations in terms of party representation, regional representation, ethnicity and gender. The delegation shared their views in international seminar as well as learned the Ethiopian model of federal government,” said Vickal Deep Khadka, program manager Nepal Field Office, Forum of Federations.

The 5th International Conference On Federalism

The International Conferences on Federalism were initiated in 1999 by the Forum of Federations with the first conference in Mt. Tremblant, Canada. This was followed by a second conference in 2002 in St. Gallen, Switzerland, a third in Brussels, Belgium, in 2005, and a fourth in New Delhi, India, in 2007.

The 5th International Conference was hosted by Ethiopia from 14-16 December 2010 in Addis Ababa, in partnership with the Forum of Federations. It was the first International Conference on Federalism to be held in Africa. The theme of the 5th International Conference on Federalism, 'Equality and Unity in Diversity for Development', reflected the need for sustainable development in federal, federalizing or decentralizing countries in Africa and other non-Western regions. Sustainable development requires equality and unity in diversity, qualities necessary for the emergence and sustenance of social peace and democracy.

The conference provided a platform for practitioners and experts to share experiences on the challenges associated with operation of federal and federal-type systems, where more than 600 participants from Africa and abroad discussed the challenging issues of federalism.

During the conference, 45 papers were presented by experts, practitioners and academics. The business of the conference will be completed when the papers are compiled, edited and printed, thereby capturing the significant body of knowledge that was shared at the conference.

The themes covered by the conference papers include Federalism and the Democratization Process, the Impacts of Regionalization and Globalization on Federations, Unity in Diversity through Federalism, Federalism and Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution and fiscal Federalism and Equitable Development

Members of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, academics, and civil society activists participated in the 5th International Conference on Federalism. Among 20 participants were members of the Constituent Assembly from UCPN-M, NC, CPN-UML, Sadhbhawana Party, MJF-N, TMLP, and Advisor to the President of Nepal, and others. Please see the attached list.

The Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal/PD IV supported the participation of Nepali delegation to the Conference.

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