Dev Raj Dahal
Violence and war are awful symbols. They belong to pre-modern period of human history and are incompatible with modern dignity of mankind. This dignity is the critical milestone of all constitutional and human rights and constitutes a mark of civilisation. The flowering of rights and rule of law assumed the necessity of social justice and cooperation as a foundation of peace. They aim to free humans from hunger, pestilence, fear and domination and enable them to live decent a life. Awareness of the inseparability of common humanity can surpass parochial politics entrenched in the empirical division of people and the rise of fear, prejudice and injustice - all animus to human solidarity to advance their objective conditions.
A positive peace presumes to abolish the sources of violence, establish a situation of peaceableness affirming the rational nature of human beings and augment their choice. Obviously, injustice is a relapse into the state of nature, a lack of rule of law and genuine human community that cares human rights. This is why the principle of justice ranks high above other values and cannot be sacrificed to the claims of any class, regime or identity. The fundamental purpose of leaders is to seek peace, not truth, which is the job of Rishi (sage) and scientists. The evolution of human reason, language, arguments and science of understanding has eased rational communication for the achievement of the quality of life by peaceful means.
Science has offered huge prospects for material improvement and provided means to secure enduring peace. Human aspiration for peace arises from three necessities - innate biological need for sustained life, social quest for progress in society, moral need to live with others in comfortable environment offered by nature and culture and divine imperative for the cosmic web of life. Transformation of chaos into decent order requires constant negotiation of social contract and reconciliation of diversity for safe adaptation of citizens so that competition with each other does not lead to fierce conflict for status, greed, creed and identity.
Unlike Thomas Hobbes’ unsociable concept of human nature, the Hindu-Buddhist philosophy views human nature divine and the aim of education on nirvana is to attain this divinity so that each person considers the other like oneself and practices good conduct. The accord of spiritual, rational and scientific sources of knowledge moderated the human impulses of greed, egoism and desire for self-elevating political action. Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Grotius and Pufendorf have glowed enough the wealth of sociability that makes human life fit for resolving problematic condition through social cooperation and peace. Kant, like Hindu-Buddhist sages, concluded, “All things in the world come from struggle and turn toward peace.”
The essence of sociability is governed by positive view of human nature, mutual need, solidarity and common concern, not only tribal fear of each other, scarcity of public goods and denial of rights. It, however, requires checking the wild appetites of individuals’ self-interest. The social and rational nature of humans inspires them to live with others and desire for a community, society, nation and humane world order. A sort of common purpose can unite the passion of diverse citizens with equal rights and bring their rival energy into a common frame for peace.
The right to peace, in this sense, provides precious spur for freedom, road to civic coexistence and renewal of humankind derived from shared inheritance and wisdom. The UN General Assembly in November 1984 approved a declaration on peoples’ right to peace recognising that the maintenance of a peaceful life for citizens is the sacred duty of each state, obliged it to eradicate the threat of war, rejection of the use of force in international relations and the settlement of international conflicts by peaceful means. It appealed to all states and international bodies to assist in executing this right through the adoption of suitable policies.
In December 2016 the UNGA reaffirmed the right to peace proposed by the Human Rights Council on July 1st the same year. It was ratified by the UNGA in a majority vote thus expanding scope for improving the concept and mustering general consensus. Article 1 of the declaration entitles all human beings to the benefits that stem from the three UN pillars – peace, human rights and development. Article 2 of the declaration proclaims the obligation of member states to “respect, implement and promote” key principles grounded in the notion of human dignity, equality, non-discrimination, freedom from fear and want, justice and the rule of law. The progress of human reason has turned peace project a realistic option and hope for fulfilling lives.
The right to peace is a significant landmark but realising its goals demands a transformation toward a culture of peace, a culture which is possible with the promise of multi-stakeholders of society, especially those engaged in economy, education, advocacy, communication, acculturation and governance. A critical connection exists among peace, democracy and development that is recognised by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to which Nepal is a party. The General Assembly has adopted four resolutions to promote a culture of peace, tolerance, diplomacy and multilateralism and set to hold a high level forum on twentieth anniversary of culture of peace in September 2019. The theme for the International Day of Peace this year is “shaping peace together” by diffusing compassion, kindness and hopes.
The spell of peace in every creative initiative in Nepal affirms deep rooted public awareness of it for attaining what Astavakra and Buddha call bliss and tranquility by reconciling reason with reality. To avoid the negative pitfalls of regional geopolitics, Nepal sought itself to be declared a zone of peace. The comprehensive peace accord has reconciled rival political forces though the conflict residues and unfinished transitional justice haunt the nation. It demands the surge of a new spirit, desire in a new generation of Nepalis for peace and cultivates their interests in practical cooperation and justice as its base. A human rights framework for the right to life, liberty, justice and cooperation are well integrated into the Directive Principles and Policies and citizens’ fundamental rights in constitution.
An integrated approach can make the interrelated nature of democracy, development, human rights and peace a realistic vision. Nepali civil society, NGOs, communities, women’s groups, etc. are engaged in peace building activities and utilising the right to peace to link the present with future generations enabling both to “learn to live together in peace.” While there is much work to be done in realising the full potential of the right to enjoy peace, human rights and development, ratification of the declaration represents an international commitment that can serve to fortify this work in the context of the SDGs.
Nepali citizens by very character of their classical treatises set liberty at the heart of their moral and social life and secured persistent independence of the nation. But they could not ward off injustices to secure safety and positive peace. The transitional justice in Nepal has become Sisyphus struggle signifying only the partial completion of peace accord. The conflict residues have opened new fault-lines of tension with those deprived of peace dividends, alienated from the peace accord and negated from the post-peace political process. One can see lawless struggle of radical groups outside the middle way underlined by Gautam Buddha’s words of wisdom. It is necessary to transform shaky politics into durable peace. But getting peaceful means for all intents and purposes requires matching socialisation of Nepalis to national perspective and achieving the quality of life.
The Constitution of Nepal deemed citizens sovereign while the government can only represent them. Yet, top leaders of Nepal’s political parties are in perpetuate fear of each other and constantly bargaining for power and privileges regardless of its cost for justice, stability and social peace. Nepali civil society groups which acted as key actors in the peace process have been dissolved into party members, state officials or donors’ favoured clients. As they leaned on egoistic leap, they deformed the scale of trust enjoyed from the conflict victims and ordinary citizens.
It only substituted reason, law and morality for politics which is dominated by fractious leaders’ jockeying for power without strong vigilance for freedom, ethics and accountability to its consequences. The redeeming craft of top leaders to solve Nepal’s all conflicts is absent because they see peace initiatives whether education for peace, school as a zone of peace, women, security and peace, local mediation committee, traditional adjudication practices, peace movements, etc. in terms of utility of patronage project, not remedial measures for social transformation. One of the problems of Nepali politics is its construction on economic model. It is, therefore, freed from political duty. The other is the lack of ability to democratise various forms of opposition.
A polity that prizes liberty above the rule of law gives up its authority to discipline society and becomes prone to perpetual instability producing neither liberty, nor peace, order nor even justice. Nepal’s constitution has embodied distributive justice, the fair distribution of goods in society. It is central tenet for the citizens to be governed by national sovereignty, rather than by their own impulsive self-will, a will pulled to a cause of disorder and lack of human progress honed by moral growth and civic disposition of Nepalis and their leaders.
The ancient Vedic and Upanishad literature values peace in cross-sphere increasingly claim their validity now as they offer different remedies for the problems of peace beyond disciplinary cocoon. The right to peace can enhance prosperity in Nepal if its infrastructures are well set up. Peace education with regard to modifying behaviour can cultivate life worthy of fresh hope beyond rationalistic conception of politics where power, not peace, is the driving force. The right to peace entails a substitution of strife for harmony shared by citizens.
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues.)
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