Development conflict in Nepal

  • News Date: June 22, 2014 | Post By LAHURNIP

Making decisions for development in the capital (Kathmandu) and excluding IPs and local peoples, who will be directly or indirectly affected by the outcome, is the root cause of the conflict.

A few days ago, in a clash between the Dolpo indigenous people (IPs) of Dho Village in Dolpo District and security forces in Dolpo, two people lost their lives and 40 others were injured.

Indigenous peoples had long been collecting entrance fees from Yarchagumba collectors in their territory, as they did not have access to the royalty collected by the Shey Foksundo National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee. This clash took place, as the government agency, including the security forces, wanted to stop the very community practice. 

The Dolpo case is only a representative one of development aggression conflict with IPs, the voiceless local people.

In 2007, the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO Convention No. 169) was ratified unanimously by the then reinstated Legislative Parliament. Nepal also adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the United Nations General Assembly.

The ratification of the ILO Convention No. 169 was the outcome of the rigorous home works of indigenous peoples and governments, including the ILO Country Office, that were carried out either separately or collectively at various levels and on many occasions.

The ratification of the Convention was the collective interest of IPs and the Government of Nepal.

With an aim of defeating the state force, the Maoist Party strategically mobilized IPs massively by supporting their aspirations of autonomy and self-governance during the decade-long conflict. However, the IPs were victimized in many ways during the conflict.

It was a victory for IPs, however, when their concerns became the key factors during the Peace Building Process. In the 36-year civil war in Guatemala where 200,000 IPs lost their lives, the Convention was used as a tool for peace building.

The government has taken some measures to implement the Convention. But despite these efforts, the government has failed to introduce the National Action Plan that was prepared by an expert group comprising representatives of all Ministries, NFDIN, NEFIN and ILO.

According to Section 9 of the Treaty Act, the provision of the Convention is equivalent to the provision of the existing Nepali laws, and the provisions of the Convention should prevail in case of inconsistency. The Convention itself is substantive, inter alia a procedural law that requires no additional regulation to implement. Government authorities, however, claim that they are not in position to implement the Convention in the absence of a specific policy. But the three-year Interim Plan clearly states the provisions for doing so.

Instead of taking the Convention as an opportunity for sustainable and harmonious development and bringing the IPs in the Peace Building Process, the opinions about it are varied and even hostile.

The Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepali Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP), an organization working for the protection and promotion of the human rights of IPs, received complaints against development aggression, violating their right to food, work, clean environment, participation, consultation, benefits sharing and development. Rather, in many cases, they have actually been facing displacement, physical and mental torture, discrimination and the worst forms of exploitation.

Currently, LAHURNIP is considering the complaints relating to development from 33 districts across the country. Importantly enough, most of the issues had been raised prior to the ratification of the Convention by IPs and local people who include Dalits, Brahmins, Chhetris, Madhesis and others who remain voiceless in terms of development decision-making.

They have no say in the decision-making process since most of the work has been done either in Kathmandu, or even outside Nepal. They are compelled to accept the decisions made by others than them.

The Convention is the only legally binding instrument that safeguards IPs’ lives, and it also protects other local peoples who are sharing Land Territories and Natural Resources (LTNR) with IPs. This is the reason why Dalits, Brahmins and Chettris are also demanding the implementation of the Convention in the case of Khimti-Dhalkevar High Voltage Transmission Line in Sindhuli District.

Not respecting the rights of IPs and local peoples are the main causes of such conflicts. The principle of eminent domain, which is a hybrid form of the principle of terra nullius, that grants colonizers to occupy the Land Territories and Natural Resources (LTNR) of others, is a problematic principle that alienated IPs and local people from access and control over their LTNR.

Article 35 (4) of the Interim Constitution, 2007, articulates that the state pursue a policy of giving priority to the local community while mobilizing the natural resources of the state. With regard to this, the Convention is clear in giving a framework, thereby the rights of IPs over traditional lands shall be recognized (Article 14); IPs have the right to decide their priorities for the process of development (Article 7); and IPs have right to participate in the use management and conservation of natural resources (Article15.1).

It is important, therefore, to take into account that the rights of IPs are collective in nature, so other local peoples, who live with IPs, shall also benefit from these provisions. As Chief Wilton Littlechild (Chair of UN Expert Mechanism) rightly pointed out: “When Indigenous Peoples win, the whole world wins.”

In most cases, IPs and local people are deprived of obtaining adequate information that create conflicts and misunderstandings while the right to information is granted by the Constitution, relevant laws and the Convention. 

IPs and local people are not against development but they want to be part of the development process. IPs and local communities have a lot of experience on sustainable development and mitigation measures of adverse impact on development, and they want to share this in the development process.

This has also been recognized as rights by the Convention. “IPs have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, instructions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use.” (Article 7)

Making decisions for development in the capital (Kathmandu) and excluding IPs and local peoples, who will be directly or indirectly affected by the outcome, is the root cause of the conflict. The only option would be to include the IPs and local people for sustainable development and peace in the nation, which are the core values of the ILO Convention No. 169.

The writer is an Advocate and Secretary to the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepali Indigenous Peoples (LAHRUNIP).

Published on 2014-06-20 02:57:08

Source: Republica