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Empowering All Nepali Citizens to Contribute to the Creation of a New Constitution

San Francisco, January 17, 2007 — The Asia Foundation to Manage the Coalition for Constituent Assembly Support in Nepal

The Asia Foundation, the premier non-profit international organization devoted to peace and development in Asia since 1954, announced today its assistance to a groundbreaking, 18-month program to ensure that all Nepali citizens are informed and equipped to participate in building a new and durable constitution for Nepal, following the recent cessation of hostilities. The Foundation will serve as the manager for a project that supports the newly formed Coalition for Constituent Assembly Support, an alliance of several Nepali organizations that includes the Center for Legal Research and Resource Development (CeLRRd), the Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public), the Forum for Women, Law, and Development (FWLD), and the Institute of Governance and Development (IGD). This Coalition was awarded $1.3 million by the Rights, Democracy, and Inclusion Fund (RDIF), which includes Australian AusAID, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

In the months leading up to constituent assembly elections, scheduled for June 2007, the Coalition will reach all 75 districts of Nepal through broadcast media programs and more than 7,500 public meetings. Following the elections, the Coalition will engage elected constituent assembly members to ensure they are knowledgeable of constitutional issues and to strengthen their accountability to those who elected them.

After a decade of civil war, Nepal’s Parliament was reinstated and a peace agreement signed between the government and Maoist rebels in June 2006. This new political landscape has yielded an opportunity for reconciliation and the inclusion of historically marginalized groups in rebuilding a more responsive and accountable Nepali state. Critical to sustaining the peace process is the drafting of a new constitution by an elected constituent assembly.

“The constituent assembly process will be a complicated undertaking involving many interest groups,” said Nick Langton, Country Representative for The Asia Foundation in Nepal. “The Coalition partners are uniquely suited to support this process through their experience and skills on issues of law and governance, knowledge of the on-the-ground reality in both urban and rural areas of Nepal, and an extensive network of local partner organizations that span the entire country.”

Before participating in any constituent assembly process, Nepali citizens must understand the principles and processes of democracy and good governance, such as public participation in political debate and holding elected representatives accountable to the people for their actions. To this end, the Coalition will prepare and disseminate analyses of constitutional issues, conduct civic education, and facilitate public discussion on the purpose of the assembly, procedures, and the constitutional issues to be decided.

“The process of educating Nepali citizens on their democratic rights to voice their opinions and hold their representatives accountable is vital to moving Nepal past an era of conflict,” said The Asia Foundation’s President, Doug Bereuter. “The Asia Foundation is proud to support this critical effort aimed at a more inclusive, representative, and responsible system of government in Nepal.”

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