Statement by Hon. Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, at the Bali Democracy Forum IX

“Religion, Democracy and Pluralism”

Bali, Indonesia, 8-9 December 2016

Honorable Chairperson Her Excellency Retno L.P. Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia

Honorable Ministers and Heads of Delegations to the Bali Democracy Forum,

Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed an honour and pleasure for me to participate in the Ninth Bali Democracy Forum.

I would like to congratulate the Government of Indonesia for regularly and successfully organizing the Bali Democracy Forum which has been an effective platform for dialogue on democratic aspirations and governance since its inception in 2008.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for the warm hospitality extended to us. Bali offers unforgettable affection and cordiality.

I am saddened by the earthquake in Aceh yesterday killing many lives and damaging properties. I offer my deepest condolences to the affected families and express sympathy and solidarity with the people and the Government of Indonesia.

Honorable Chairperson,

The Bali Democracy Forum has been contributing to the process of institutionalization of democracy as the most prudent system of governance in the age of globalization.

This year’s theme of “Religion, Democracy and Pluralism” is indeed a thoughtful selection of topic that deserves special attention as we exchange ideas, share lessons, and assess our common aspirations.

Asia is the most diverse continent. Multiculturalism, in harmony with the nature, is what Asia offers to the world. Bali represents the Asian diversity and I believe the topic to deliberate on is a perfect choice.

Excellencies,

In Sanskrit, we call “बसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्” or “The World is One Family”. Ours is the region that is land of Buddha, Gandhi, and Confucius and many other great philosophers. We all have commitment to peace and harmony and mutual understanding.

Religion encompasses values, ethics and power for the pursuit of common good that is deeply rooted in socio-cultural tradition to strengthen civilizational bonds.

Democracy is participation with accountability that unleashes individual’s potentials and shapes up popular aspirations.

Pluralism is diversity in practice through energetic engagement and understanding to resolve differences and achieve common goals.

Revolutions and political changes give rise to popular expectation to a new height. But, resources and tools available may not be sufficient. In this context, management of expectations requires efficient, thoughtful and practical solutions.

Democracy is the best tool to deal with such challenges.

Extremism or radicalism backed by religious fundamentalism and intolerance cripples societies and destabilizes the social fabrics.

Extremism fuels instability and hinders peace and prosperity.

Nepal unequivocally condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever, whenever and for whatever purposes it espouses. We call for the resolute international actions in the fight against terrorism.

Nepal attaches importance to the United Nations General Assembly resolution on “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogues, understanding and cooperation for peace” as it is our obligation to promote harmony among civilizations, mutual respect, culture of peace and non-violence for maintaining human dignity and ensuring collective security.

Excellencies,

Multiculturalism is a fact of life; multiculturalism is the beauty of our diverse society. Global mobility is an unstoppable phenomenon. Although every nation has legitimate aspiration to promote national goals, deepening interconnectedness cannot be wished away by short lived ultra nationalism.

As long as our problems and challenges are common, be it global warming or terrorism, be it tsunami or earthquake, be it famine or financial crisis, we need learning from experiences.

Democracy, moderation, civilizational values, rule of law and pluralism certainly help to enrich and strengthen the bonds of international cooperation, understanding and partnership. That teaches us to compete, cooperate and converge.

The ideals, principles and processes of democracy constitute the bedrock of a just and fair international order. The importance of dialogue, democracy and development should be encouraged to define the norms of international cooperation as we embark on the implementation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Honorable Chairperson,

Nepal has a time-tested history of religious harmony.

Traditional religions and faiths have made important contribution to the fabric of Nepali society. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam as well other faiths have existed side by side and Nepal’s history is unaffected by any religious enmity or hatred.

Various cultural and religious practices have helped to strengthen the bonds of cultural harmony and become a source of inspiration to enrich diversity in unity as and when challenges face us.

Nepal’s political transformation has embraced the notion of religious harmony and creation of an egalitarian society. The values and ideals of democracy, peace, social justice and human dignity have always been guiding force for our democratic struggle.

Nepal suffered from a decade long political conflict between 1996 to 2006. It ended with the signing of the comprehensive peace accord heralding a new era of peace, democracy and inclusive development agenda.

Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Democracy is not only about competition but also about accommodation and dialogue to reach a consensus.

Nepal’s peace process is a successful example of ending conflict through dialogue. The world can learn from Nepal to end conflicts in other parts of the world.

Since the dawn of democracy in Nepal in 1951, the people of Nepal had the aspiration of writing their constitution themselves.

The Constituent Assembly in 2008 and 2013 led the historic process of writing the constitution in a democratic, inclusive, participatory and transparent manner.

It is considered one of the most flexible and accommodative constitutions that reflects Nepal’s diversity.

We have ensured one third of the female participation in National Parliament and State Assembly as well as forty percent at the local bodies. Currently, we have President of the Country, Speaker of the Parliament and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court all headed by women.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

An inclusive and robust development path is the priority for the present Government of Nepal. Empowerment of the women, the poor and the marginalized groups of people is critical to ensure their participation in development and to promote social justice and shared prosperity for all.

The Government of Nepal is now planning to hold local, provincial and federal elections in accordance with the constitutional arrangements that would ensure democratic exercise contributing to sustainable peace and inclusive development in the country.

Our democratic transition has become a unique example of people-led movement for democracy in the quest for peace and inclusive development.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Religious, ethnic and political intolerance continue to exist at the global level and in many places even increasing. There is no substitute to religious harmony, democracy and plural values. Let us collectively work against forces of intolerance.

Once again, I appreciate the initiative of the Bali Democracy Forum for advancing the cause of democratic consolidation through learning from each other.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

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