Surkhet/February 2,2021. Despite being a completely new institution under federal system, the Karnali Provincial Assembly is setting example in promoting and practicing open parliament initiatives.
"Karnali Provincial Assembly is the first parliament in Nepal to hold consultation with the public in course of making laws. Though the Rules of Procedure did not explicitly allow for such work initially, we saw merit in doing so connected with public for lawmaking," said Raj Bahadur Shahi, Speaker of Karnali Provincial Assembly. In an interaction with citizens on “Role of Provincial Assembly, its performance and effectiveness”, organized by the Assembly as part of its second celebration of its establishment, the MPs responded that initiatives were taken to promote open, inclusive, and transparent parliament.
MPs also elaborated that their representative role in regular time, zero-hour, special hour, dhyapdhyape (knocking the desk implying the urgency of the issue) and committee resolutions have been a regular phenomenon that promote the open discourse. They further stated that YouTube live broadcast of the parliamentary sessions, allocation of separate space for audience, media and public to observe the parliamentary session, digitalization of the parliament including website, regular update on facebook page and provision of information officer have all contributed to promote open parliament practices. ''Almost every piece of information is disseminated at the earliest possible,'' said Jeevraj Budhathoki, Secretary of the Assembly Secretariat.
MPs also gave example on the innovative practice of communication and interaction between the Assembly and all ten districts of Karnali Province. Such interaction, they said, was made possible by installing video conferencing facility (VCF) in the Assembly and ten district-based offices of District Coordination Committees (DCCs) of the Karnali Province. The technology-aided interactions have not only made it possible to reach out to adverse geographies in no time but also provided a very cost-effective measure to engage people in parliamentary affairs such as law making and oversight, among others. The VCF has proved to be a handy tool even for crisis communication. Meanwhile, Speaker Shahi informed that the Assembly has introduced some new initiatives like Meet the Speaker (Parliament with people), radio and TV programs to ensure people's participation and engagement in lawmaking. He thanked UNDP's Parliament Support Project (PSP) for digitalization of the Assembly including installation and operation of VCF.
Responding to a query on how the Assembly is ensuring people's participation in lawmaking, Sita Nepali, Chief whip of the Nepal Community Party said the Assembly conducts interactions and discussions with experts and stakeholders on bill in the Committees. Moreover, the Committees collect feedbacks on the bills from the public through public consultations to make the laws more effective and implementable. She gave examples of parliamentary committees collecting people's feedbacks on various bills including Public Private Partnership Bill; Food Sovereignty Bill; Cooperative Bill through public consultations in Jumla, Mugu, Dolpa and Rukum districts.
The event focused on accountability and engagement of parliament with the citizens and provided good opportunity to the Assembly to connect with the citizens by providing updates on performance of the Assembly in regard to lawmaking, oversight, budget scrutiny and representation. Likewise, public from different walks of life got an opportunity to share their observation and aspirations to the Assembly. "Such two-way communication instils into a life and offers unique opportunities to strengthen the democratic institution like parliaments," said Dila Datt Pant, Outreach Team Leader at PSP, extending a message on the occasion.
A total of 60 participants (35 physically and 25 virtually) participated in the interaction organized by by Karnali Provincial Assembly with support from UNDP's PSP. The Assembly is celebrating its anniversary with week-long programmes like interactions, experience sharing sessions, sports activities, and health check-ups.