The peace horizon in Nepal

International Alert’s new report, Peace Audit: Nepal, assesses the opportunities and challenges of building sustainable peace in Nepal.

This is the second in our series of ‘Peace Audits’, which go beyond just looking at the risks and drivers of conflict. They look at the possibilities for peace as well – the strengths in a society that make it possible to forge a path to peace. They analyse challenges, but also look for the capacities and opportunities for peaceful change.

This Peace Audit was undertaken to understand people’s perspectives and aspirations for peace in Nepal nine years on from the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the end of the country’s 10-year armed conflict.

It takes stock of outstanding and new conflict risks, and explores good examples of what is being done to promote peace in Nepal. In particular, it highlights the challenges to the ‘social contract’ in the country brought about by political interference and weak accountability in governance, and widespread sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and what can be done to promote a peaceful transition in Nepal.

Since the research for this Peace Audit was carried out, Nepal has been hit by two major earthquakes and countless aftershocks. The relief and recovery processes now underway have highlighted two things. First, Nepali citizen mobilisation is a powerful force. Individuals, groups and societies have galvanised their networks to fundraise, organise and deliver practical help to affected people, especially in remote areas. This whirlwind of activity pulled in business, technology, youth, social activists, mountain bikers, Nepali diaspora and many other volunteers. The people-to-people support they provided was particularly important in the initial phase, when the government and big agencies were still ramping up efforts.

Second, the aid influx to Nepal has made the endemic problems explored in this audit ever more apparent: exclusion, political interference and weak citizen–state accountability. Relief distribution is difficult to do fairly anywhere, especially when demand is outstripping supply and people are desperate. Undertaking this in a society with pervasive structural inequities and patronage politics adds a new layer of complexity.

As this Peace Audit shows, many marginalised Nepalis remain in a disempowered mindset of ‘subject-hood’. A strong role in monitoring the recovery for excluded communities – Dalits, Janajatis (indigenous people), religious minorities, vulnerable women, poor people and young people – may also catalyse a shift towards citizenship thinking, with its associated agency, rights and duties. The audit also points towards business leaders, the media and politicians with aligned ideals as key agents for reducing political interference and corruption, if they are strategically engaged.

There are also wider opportunities to promote peace through recovery. Excluded groups could be empowered with new ‘soft’ and technical skills to lead local reconstruction and recovery processes. Recovery initiatives could be community-based and designed to bridge caste, religious and gender divides and to build social cohesion. The collective experience of trauma and Nepal’s wish to ‘build back better’ could be harnessed towards economic, social and cultural renewal and momentum towards a stronger, fairer Nepal. With the right support, the shocks can reduce social barriers rather than deepening Nepal’s political faultlines.

Last week, we hosted a special fundraising night and Peace Talks on ‘Aiding peace in post-earthquake Nepal’. The event raised £2,500, which will all go towards supporting our peacebuilding work in Nepal, in particular our efforts to ensure post-earthquake reconstruction in the country is fair and contributes to peace. You can view a photostory about the event here.

To find out more about the challenges and opportunities for peace in Nepal, read our Peace Audit report here.