Opinion

Op-Ed

Engendering Peace and Democracy

What can a nation, such as Nepal, where the democratic tradition is not as developed as in America, Europe or South America, learn from all this?

Political theory holds that a sustainable peace will engender a type of cooperation between the elected representatives of the people, which results in accomplishments that are beneficial to the people who elected them rather than the representatives themselves.

When political deadlocks cause a static condition, or the elected representatives only care about their own personal wealth and accomplishments, such a peace can easily give rise to a condition that is ripe for social unrest, even revolution or rebellion.

The societal conditions that help foster a successful peace include a responsible and vibrant press, some type of universal public education system, and a populace literate enough and with enough political awareness to take advantage of the press and education system to inform themselves politically. If these conditions exist, the electorate can effectively judge their politicians and not re-elect them if they find their actions inadequate or not productive enough to solve social ills.

All forms of government are difficult to inculcate and run successfully because of human nature. Democracy is no different. If the histories of democratic experiments in Europe and South America are any guide, sometimes several variations are necessary before a people create a workable peace.

The United States of America, often held out as the most successful democracy and peace in the world based on its economic success and power, is no exception to the rule that democracy is a process rather than a static state.

The American Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history, was fought primarily because of the economic conflict over slavery. What emerged from that war was a peace and democracy far different than the one that gave rise to it.

Moreover, repeated cycles of boom and bust in the American business cycle eventually gave rise to the Great Depression of the 1930s which resulted in a great transformation of American democracy known as the New Deal. The New Deal gave more rights to unions and the common person, thus enabling more participation in the American democratic peace experiment.

What can a nation, such as Nepal, where the democratic tradition is not as developed as in America, Europe or South America, learn from all this?

Local conditions within each nation must be taken into account. In creating and fostering a peaceful democracy, a nation must also allow the ingredients that "grow" and nurture democracies: literacy, education and a vibrant press. Women's rights are a necessary adjunct to any successful peace and democracy in the 21st Century.

The creation of a peaceful democracy is a process. If a step-by-step approach to the realization of a peaceful democracy is necessary to achieve certain social needs in the process, perhaps the European models are more easily adaptable to Asian conditions, as are the democracies in place in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea -- all different, yet demonstrably peaceful and democratic. There may very well be an evolutionary approach to ultimately achieving an American-style peace and democracy.

The failure to recognize and treat dangerous social ills does not create conditions favorable to the development of a peace and democracy. It is hard to vote intelligently when hungry or without shelter. It is also hard to make informed decisions without the information provided by a responsible press. It is most difficult to exercise democratic rights when the basic security affecting life and limb is lacking due to war and revolution.

The cornerstone of any successful democracy and peace lies in a constant educational ethos: literacy, universal free education, and ongoing educational opportunities for adults, including job retraining for changing economic circumstances. If the education is available, people will find the way to make it useful to them and, in the process, create the conditions favorable to a democracy and peace suited to their needs.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Kamala Sarup.

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