Federalism in Nepal

Embraced through adoption of the 2015 constitution, a federal restructure of the governance framework was welcomed by the Nepalese society with many possibilities of better governance in the country. The slogan itself- ‘सम्बृद्ध नेपाल, सुखी नेपाली’- ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalese’ captured hopes of many Nepalese.

The constitution outlines a three-tiered government of a non-hierarchical nature:

  • The Federal level is the largest political unit comprising of the central government in Kathmandu.
  • The Provincial level is the intermediary political entity and is split into seven areas.
  • The Local level made up of 753 sub-units which include 6 Metropolitan cities (Mahanagarpalika), 11 Sub- Metropolitan cities (Upa-Mahanagapalika), 276 Municipalities (Nagarpalika) and 460 Rural Municipalities (Gaupalika).
Administrative Map of Nepal. (Source: Survey Department, Government of Nepal)

As the federal system, in theory, provides numerous opportunities for empowerment at the local level, Nepal, a country that cultivates and cherishes a blend of diverse castes, cultures and ethnicities has optimistic avenues to look forward to. In concept, the structure fosters balance of power sharing mechanisms, rule of law and delivery of services and enhances democratic values and practices.

However, Nepal being a relatively young federal nation, the system’ s precise exercise and outcomes reportedly, has not been entirely satisfactory. A blend of physical challenges, societal aspirations and hopes of better governance systems, was able  to assemble many who advocated for a democratic federal framework but how effective has this transition actually been? Do the people and the state have a shared sense of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalese’? Have the changes in governance structure brought real changes at the grassroots?

Working against the background of authoritative power struggles, political agendas and societal and regional inequalities, the functioning of federal governance system currently faces some evident and some underlying potentials for conflict, experts say. A general yet evident sense in peace and conflict discourses suggest that conflicts do not emerge in vacuum. They occur on a context, influenced by multiple elements that may change over time. So, what are these elements, how have they emerged over time and what is their status?

Diving deeper into these questions we gather evidences to draw strong and concrete policy recommendations that can aid to monitor, prevent, manage, resolve or transform governance conflicts.