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A Work in Progress: Nepal’s Bold Bet on Federalism

January 24, 2024

By John Rieger and Tracie Yang

Opening panel of the International Conference on Federalism, Devolution of Power, and Inclusive Democracy in Nepal and Asia, Kathmandu, Nepal, November 2023. (Photo: The Asia Foundation)

Less than a decade ago, after a long civil war and years of postwar political gridlock, the diverse and multicultural nation of Nepal chose a new form of government. In a decisive break with the past, the Nepali people made a bet on federalism, with a new constitution in 2015 that handed significant powers to two newly created tiers of elected government: provincial and local.

Nepal’s bold undertaking has had its ups, and also its downs—you can’t just “add federalism and stir.” Last November, with support from the Australian government and The Asia Foundation, Kathmandu University School of Law held an international conference to take a closer look at the theory, the mechanics, and the discontents of federalism at home and around the world.

Joining us this week on InAsia to explore some of those questions is Professor Bipin Adhikari, founding dean of the law school and leader of the conference, and conference presenter John Warhurst, emeritus professor of political science at Australian National University.

The International Conference on Federalism, Devolution of Power, and Inclusive Democracy in Nepal and Asia was supported by the Subnational Governance Program (SNGP) implemented by The Asia Foundation under a strategic partnership with the Australian government.

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InAsia is a bi-weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of renowned experts, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

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