Reconciliation in South Asia: Exploring the Terrain

WISCOMP in collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an inter-governmental organisation based in Stockholm, organised a symposium titled ‘Reconciliation in South Asia: Exploring the Terrain’ from March 17-19, 2005 at India International Centre, New Delhi, India.

The symposium brought together over 50 senior and mid-career scholars and professionals to reflect upon the discourses and practices of reconciliation in the context of a plural and multicultural South Asia. It was premised on the understanding that people and countries are held together not simply through political institutions but also through processes and relationships which need to be restored every time there is a breach of peace either within or between states. The processes of reconciliation ¾ of restoring fractured relationships at the personal, societal, national and regional levels ¾ are integral to conflict transformation and peace-building.

The symposium focussed on South Asian responses to protracted intra and inter state conflicts and attempted to map the field of reconciliation. It drew from past experiences and practices in South Asia to examine whether it is possible to build an inclusive vocabulary on reconciliation that resonates for the region as a whole.

The symposium was conceptualised along three major thematic rubrics. These were:

  • Mapping Reconciliation: Opening up Thinking Spaces for South Asia
  • Resources for Reconciliation: Perspectives from South Asia
  • Reconciliation: People, Processes and Challenges ¾ Experiences from South Asia

Democracies in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal

WISCOMP organized an international symposium titled Democracies in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal at the India International Center, New Delhi from January 22 – 24, 2009. This symposium brought together over forty scholars, practitioners, diplomats, activists, legislative members and women in politics from Nepal and India to reflect upon the processes of conflict transformation and peace-building that are currently under way in Nepal.

The symposium provided space for a repertoire of responses and generated dialogue on the prospects for democracy and governance in Nepal and the South Asian region. It focused on the challenges of constitution building for contemporary Nepal and looked at how different civil society groups including women’s groups perceive their role in the unfolding democratic processes and in envisioning the new Nepalese identity as a fresh chapter is carved out in its political history. The symposium provided a context to examine the conflicts that the newly constituted Constituent Assembly is impelled to address and the approaches and methodologies that are available to meet the emerging expectations of the people of Nepal. The participants at the symposium explored four major themes:

  • The challenges of constitution building in contemporary Nepal
  • Land, Livelihood and Social Justice
  • Security Sector Reforms: Mapping the Terrain in Nepal
  • Nepal, India and the International Community: Building New Partnerships

The symposium was attended by Nepal Constituent Assembly members- Lt. Gen. C.B. Gurung, Hon. Hari Roka, Hon. Mohammadi Siddique, Hon. Pushpa Bhusal, Hon. Sapana Pradhan Malla and Hon. Sarita Giri. Some other eminent speakers from India and Nepal included Ms. Chitra Lekha Yadav (Nepalese politician and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives), H.E. Dr. Durgesh Man Singh (Ambassador of Nepal to India), Mr. Fali Nariman (Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India), Amb. K.V. Rajan (Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal) and Amb. Shyam Saran (Former Indian Foreign Secretary and Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal).

Dialogic Explorations: Texts and Contexts

The three day international symposium from March 15-17, 2008 titled Dialogic Explorations: Texts and Contexts formed part of an attempt to alter the dominant state centered discourse on conflict and peacemaking by grounding it within a more holistic and inclusive framework of human security.

The symposium brought together some sixty scholars, practitioners from different parts of the world along with WISCOMP Scholar of Peace fellows, to reflect upon the possibilities and limits of dialogue as an integral element of democratic practice. The symposium, engaged with the spaces for dialogue in the context of ethnic political conflict and more broadly as an approach to augment practices of coexistence in multicultural societies. There was an attempt to examine why and to what extent dialogue is increasingly being replaced in the public and civic space by stridency, discord and sectarianism. With conventional practices of consensus building increasingly under strain, the limits and possibilities of dialogue as a philosophy, methodology, process, strategy, and/or tool was explored.

The symposium focused on the lessons to be learnt from successful or thwarted dialogue processes from across the world. The attempt was to squarely locate it within the possibilities of the democratic and participatory framework and explore how policy and practice can be optimally impacted by according priority and public legitimacy to dialogue processes. This was considered relevant both for conflict transformation and peacebuilding and, more importantly, conflict prevention in the South Asian region that is increasingly perceived as conflict prone.

International participants included Harold Saunders (USA), Mari Fitzduff, ( Ireland), Vasu Gounden ( South Africa), Javed Jabbar (Pakistan), Fatema Yousuf (Bangladesh), Mohammad Osman (Kenya), David Malone (Canada) and Visaka Dharmadasa (Sri Lanka). Indian participants included Aruna Roy, Ranabir Samaddar, Shrivatsa Goswami, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and several others.