A legitimate, representative and capacitated civil society is essential for effective statebuilding and a condition for sustainable peace in Nepal. Donor support to civil society in the Nepali conflict context can be conceptualised in a number of ways. Strategies can broadly focus at the national, district and community levels, or on urban and rural constituencies. Similarly, a temporal distinction can be made between short-, medium- and long-term strategies. These categorisations can crudely obscure the fact that support to civil society can operate simultaneously at a number of different administrative, geographic and temporal levels. However, for the purposes of clarity, this paper has mainly divided recommendations along community, district and national distinctions.
The paper does, nonetheless, call for donors to prioritise their support to civil society outside Kathmandu. This is based on the rationale that after the ‘swift’ political transition at the national level, support to longer-term strategies that support mediation and conflict resolution at the district and grass-roots level would best support conditions for sustainable peace. This focus is also encouraged in response to recent perceptions that the international community has an ‘excessive Kathmandu focus’.This is not to say that the donors do not have an important role to play at a national level, but that this has become more complicated and sensitive owing to a sense of disappointment at (some of) the international community’s reaction to the King’s first proclamation on 21st April 2006. In today’s context, rather than lending moral and political support to senior civil society leaders in Kathmandu, rebuilding trust is an important area where donors could and should collaborate to combat a certain negativity felt by civil society representatives such as Devendra Raj Pandey:
‘There is no reason any more, if there ever was, to feel that our international friends and partners are wiser and smarter than us just because they have money to distribute. The concerned donors and diplomats . . . exposed their lack of knowledge and sensitivity about this country, its history and its people and their aspirations so thoroughly that they have little right to expect us to listen to their misplaced messages that will no doubt come our way again and again.’
Finally, the recommendations proposed in this paper are based on the search for a consensus approach to donor support of civil society. There is a delicate balance between finding practical mechanisms through which aid donors can support civil society in a truly collaborative manner and the limitations of consensus-based approaches which can result in the lowest common-denominator strategies.