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Upheaval is unsettling, but it brings the possibility of change, and peace

Nepal, June 10, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps

This morning in Kathmandu I was reading the local paper, which is full of articles about the unsettled state of Nepal's politics. The big front page story is about "a golden handshake" that's being drafted for those Maoist combatants who have opted for "rehabilitation and voluntary retirement." In other words, if you come in out of the cold, you'll get something in return. This proposal isn't official yet, but it's moving forward. It seems a remarkable step.

What's impressive to me is that within this very unsettled situation, with its history of so much conflict and violence and mistrust, may perhaps lie the seeds of peace. This passage on the op-ed page caught my eye:

... it is well known that Nepal's political parties are champions in signing agreements but have a dismal track record in implementing them. But there are a number of reasons to suggest that history will not repeat itself this time around. The Nepal Army has submitted a relatively flexible proposal on integration. It has been taken well by the government and parties, including the Maoists."

"It may be the first time in the study of conflict management and peacebuilding that a rebellion party (who fought against the Army) has accepted a recommended proposal on integration drafted by the Army against whom it fought for over a decade. If the proposed agreement delivers a positive result, the rest of the world will take an exemplary lesson from Nepal."

Peace building is tough going. It takes all parties working together. So this seems to me an impressive step, and I hope Nepal continues on the road to peace.

Far from the capital, where we're traveling today, live millions of poor and marginalized people who are barely getting by. To them, the day's goal is to put food on the table. Mercy Corps is helping them do that.

Tomorrow we'll have an opportunity to see some of the challenges that lie ahead for Nepal, where food security is a daily burning concern. If the leaders in the capital can lay down a foundation of peace — the essential underpinning of all progress — they will have their work cut out for them. Their country needs so much.