New voices speak through 'People's Constitution'

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Kathmandu — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a film documenting how the hopes and dreams of women, indigenous and disadvantaged groups in Nepal were fused into the country’s new constitution.

‘Voices from Below: Constitution Making in Nepal’ shows UNDP working with civil society groups to get the broadest range of inputs for the draft constitution that a 601-member Constituent Assembly has been working on since 2008.

The 20-minute documentary features regional consortiums of non-governmental organizations mobilizing nearly 100 counterparts across Nepal to run ‘democracy dialogues’ that included more than 400,000 people.

“The film highlights the hard work that has gone into making the new constitution more inclusive and to make it a people’s constitution,” said the film’s award-winning director Tsering Rhitar at a launch broadcast to assembly members through the online video channel You Tube.

Constitutional provisions reflecting outcomes of the dialogues include reorganization of state boundaries along ethnic, cultural, historical and economic lines, new economic, social and cultural rights and new voting systems and affirmative action for marginalized groups. It is expected women will be assured 33 percent representation in the new Parliament.

“Nepal has already demonstrated that it has the capacity to make big decisions and has created national consensus around complex issues,” said Robert Piper, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, speaking at the film launch last week.

“The new constitution is built on the hopes and aspirations of Nepalese people raising their concerns from every corner of the country. By seeing their ideas translated into words they will become staunch defenders of this constitution.”

UNDP support to the assembly also included help in construction of the physical infrastructure of the building’s committee meeting halls, as well as training of assembly members, technical advisors and other officials.

Headquarters for much of this support was the multilingual Kathmandu-based Centre for Constitutional Dialogue where participation and constitutional education were encouraged through a range of audio and text materials.

Assembly Chair, Subash Nembang, said “The beginning of operations of the Centre under the collaboration of UNDP and the assembly secretariat marked the opening of the door to greater participation from all facets of society in the constitution-making process.”

Nepal’s new constitution is expected to be promulgated by 28 May 2011.

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