Federalism Conference Begins In Kathmandu

First International Conference on Federalism: An Opportunity to Examine Nepal's Gains and Challenges Ahead

Nov. 22, 2023, 9:21 a.m.

The International Conference on Federalism, Devolution of Power and Inclusive Democracy is beginning in Kathmandu today. Vice President Ram Sahay Prasad Yadav will inaugurate the two-day conference organized by Kathmandu University School of Law (KUSOL) to review Nepal's federal structure eight years after its implementation under the 2015 constitution.

The conference will revolve around three key themes - intergovernmental coordination and cooperation; equitable distribution of resources across provinces; and inclusion in decentralized governance structures. It aims to evaluate persisting challenges, address critical issues impeding effective federalism, and propose solutions for functional, participatory governance.

With federalism adopted globally, Nepal's issues resonate internationally, states Conference Convener Professor Bipin Adhikari. By facilitating interactions between experts from Nepal and abroad, this conference intends to contextualize Nepal’s federalization problems and opportunities.

Delivering the keynote address will be former Australian Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert French. Nepali Supreme Court Judge Honorable Dr. Ananda Mohan Bhattarai will provide special remarks. Over 25 international experts and 100 Nepali provincial and local representatives will participate, with 18 thematic papers and 36 written submissions to be presented over the two days.

The Conference is supported by The Asia Foundation's Subnational Governance Program, under their strategic partnership with the Australian Government. As Nepal's federal structure turns eight, this conference is well-timed to review progress, challenges and propose structural improvements for optimal, inclusive federalization. The press release issued by the School of Law follows hereunder.

Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Nepal: Kathmandu University School of Law (KUSoL) is hosting the 1st International Conference on Federalism in Nepal on November 22-23, in Kathmandu.

The International Conference on Federalism, Devolution of Power, and Inclusive Democracy in Nepal and Asia expected to serve as a crucial platform for national and international experts and policymakers to engage in in-depth discussions on the intricacies of federal governance and explore strategies for enhancing its effectiveness through exchanges of comparative knowledge, evidence and data for continuous learning and improvements in implementing the federal governance reforms.

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The Conference will focus on three key themes: 1. Intergovernmental Coordination and Cooperation in Federal Systems: This theme will explore mechanisms for fostering seamless collaboration and coordination among various tiers of government within federal structures. Participants will engage in discussions on sharing responsibilities, resolving conflicts, and promoting holistic governance.

Equitable Distribution of Fiscal and State Resources: Addressing resource allocation and distribution is crucial for ensuring balanced development across all regions.

The conference will examine strategies for fair fiscal practices and optimal utilization of state resources to minimize disparities and promote sustainable growth. 3. Inclusion in Decentralized Governance: Inclusivity is at the heart of democratic principles under the Constitution of Nepal, 2015. This theme will facilitate conversations on ensuring that marginalized voices are heard and included in decision-making processes within decentralized structures, fostering a truly representative and participatory democracy.

The Conference is being organized with support from the Subnational Governance Program (SNGP) implemented by The Asia Foundation under a strategic partnership with The Australian Government. The primary objectives of the Conference include identifying suitable options and approaches to addressing challenges pertaining to intergovernmental relations, ensuring equitable resource distribution, and formulating effective solutions to enhance the inclusivity of federalized governance.

Besides, the Conference will also critically examine Nepal's efforts towards implementing its federal governance model thus far and offer comparative knowledge and experiences from the Asia Pacific region and beyond to policy makers and other stakeholders in Nepal. This Conference aims to facilitate meaningful interactions between federal experts and practitioners in Nepal and their international counterparts, providing a valuable opportunity to gain insights from a diverse range of experiences. The Conference is being inaugurated by Ram Sahay Prasad Yadav, the Vice President of Nepal.

Justice Robert French, former Chief Justice of Australia will deliver the keynote address while Justice Dr. Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, an esteemed Supreme Court judge in Nepal will make special remarks at the inaugural session of the Conference scheduled for November 22.

Likewise, Felicity Volk, the Ambassador of Australia to Nepal and Professor (Dr.) Rishikesh Wagle, Dean of the School of Law at Kathmandu University amongst other distinguished experts will deliver special remarks at the closing ceremony of the Conference on November 23.

Over 25 internationals and approximately 100 Nepalis are expected to participate in the Conference. Many of the participants will represent provincial and local experiences.

At least 18 thematic papers will be presented, along with approximately three dozen written submissions from Nepal and across the world. The Constitution of Nepal articulates a robust commitment to attain its vision for sustainable peace, good governance, development and prosperity by ensuring equality and social justice through implementation of the federal, democratic, and republican system of governance. Having entered its eighth year of implementation, Nepal's federal system, has witnessed accelerated progress since the inaugural general elections conducted under the new constitutional framework. However, despite these advancements, persistent challenges hinder the full realization of the federal concept's potential.

The challenges faced by Nepal and gains made in its early stage of implementing the new federal model could be relevant not only for those over two dozen countries adopting this governance structure but also to a wider range of countries at global scale.

The Conference is convened by constitutional expert Professor Bipin Adhikari.

The organizing committee comprises Professor (Dr.) Rishikesh Wagle; Professor (Dr.) Arhan Sthapit, Dean of the School of Management and Law at Nepal Open University; Dr. Krishna Prasad Bashyal, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Tribhuvan University; Dr. Purna Bahadur Nepali, Coordinator of Policy Lab at Kathmandu University School of Management; and Srijana Nepal, MERL Manager of The Asia Foundation.

Additionally, the advisory committee includes Juddha Bahadur Gurung, a member of the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission; Dr. Arjun Karki, Chairperson of the University of Nepal (UoN) Development Board; Professor Ekku Maya Pun, Acting Dean of Kathmandu University School of Arts; Rajendra Pyakurel, Executive Director of the National Association of Rural Municipalities in Nepal (NARMIN); Kalanidhi Devkota, Executive Director of the Municipality Association of Nepal (MuaN); and Bishnu Adhikari, Governance Director of The Asia Foundation, Kathmandu.

“We express our gratitude to all speakers, commentators, and participants for dedicating their time to attend this Conference. We encourage everyone to actively engage with the conference themes and contribute to the ongoing process of constitution consolidation in Nepal. Kathmandu University is committed to actively following up on the outcomes of the Conference in the future.

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