Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is located in South Asia. It is a landlocked country flanked on the north and south by China and India respectively.
Nepal’s ecological zones run east to west about 800 km along its Himalayan axis, 150 to 250 km north to south. The country is divided into three main geographical regions: the Himalayan region, the mid-hill region and the Terai (plain) region. The highest point in the country is Mt. Everest (8,848 m)—which is also the highest peak in the world—whereas the lowest point is in Kechana Kalan in Jhapa (60 m).
Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom under a constitutional monarchy until 2006. On 18 May 2006, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state. On 28 December 2007, a bill was passed in parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution – replacing "Provisions regarding the King" by "Provisions of the Head of the State" – declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on 28 May 2008.
On 21 November 2006, Nepal’s decade-long armed conflict ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). A central pillar of the accord was the writing of a new constitution that would grant equal rights and opportunities to all Nepalese people. In April 2008, elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) were held. The original timeframe of completing the constitution by 28 May 2010 proved too ambitious given the competing political agendas and the need for extensive public consultation. As a result, the term of the assembly was extended four times and with 27 May 2012 deemed the final deadline to prepare a draft constitution. However, the Assembly was not able to produce a constitution by this date and was subsequently dissolved.
Following a few months' stalemate, the political parties agreed to go for a fresh mandate under an interim election government. Elections to the second Constituent Assembly were successfully held on 19 November 2013, resulting in the formation of a new government and a new 601-member Constituent Assembly. This CA was able to deliver the long-overdue constitution, which was promulgated by the President on 20 September 2015. The document, however, has provoked mixed reactions, with sections of the population and political groups staging protests against it, and demanding amendments.
Nepal, then, presently finds itself at a critical juncture: while on one hand it must prepare to transform from a unitary to federal structure, with the necessary changes to central, provincial and local systems; on the other, it has the additional burden of recovering from the devastating earthquake that struck the country in 2015 and pulling itself back on the path of sustainable development.