Political Governance

A Brief Introduction

While political governance in general is the practices and processes of decision-making in policy formulation, experts state that good political governance is characterized by prevalence of institutions, processes, laws and policies that promote human development and rights and establish and maintain order and cohesion in a society. On the other hand, political governance conflicts are associated with antagonistic interactions between two or more socio-political entities over distribution of status, power and resources in the society.

In decentralized governance system such as Nepal’s, recognition of roles and responsibilities as a federal nation is still in an  experimented phase. When that ambiguity is fueled by unequal distribution of means and resources between sub-national divisions,  reluctance regarding sharing of power and authorities and lack of recognition of ethno-cultural diversity and identities occur. This can potentially cause larger political and intergovernmental struggles that often disrupt peaceful governance in a country.

Nepal’s Practice of Federalism

Since the adoption of federal governance structure in 2015, the state’s authority and power are divided among federal, provincial and local governments in Nepal. The country’s Constitution (2015) envisions relationships between the three tiers to conduct on cooperation, coexistence and coordination further outlining exclusive and concurrent jurisdictions of the three-tier governments but retains residual rights with the federal government. Furthermore, several government structures, institutes and policies are established to harmonize intergovernmental relationships across vertical and horizontal levels of government units (refer to table 1 and 2).

Although federal parliament is responsible for making necessary laws to maintain coordination between the three-tier governments, both province and local governments are provided with their own legislative, executive and judicial authorities within their jurisdiction, as stated by the constitution. However, failure of federal government to effectively formulate and implement federal policies and acts have led to ineffective execution of roles and responsibilities among the three-tier of governments, especially regarding concurrent jurisdiction. In addition, the formal structures established for coordination and intergovernmental conflict management lack resources and their authority is often restricted or influenced by federal laws, political parties and actors, which hinders their capacities to effectively respond and resolve intergovernmental struggles.

Structures Responsibility
National Coordination Council (NCC)
Coordinate between Federation, Province and Local Level on formulation of laws and policies on matters of concurrent powers, and coordinate for the resolution of the complexities relating to the implementation of national plan, policy and laws at the Province and Local Level.
Inter-Province Council (IPC)
Resolve conflicts (political conflicts) that may arise between the federal and provincial governments, and among provinces.
Province Coordination Council (PCC)
Synergize the policies of provincial and local governments, create strategic cooperation on project management, utilization of concurrent jurisdiction, and coordinate the utilization and sharing of natural resources.
District Coordination Council (DCC)
Coordinate between local levels in the district; regulating development work; and coordinating between offices of the federal and provincial governments in the district and the local level.
Thematic Committees
Maintain coordination among the concerned ministries of the Federation and Province that have business responsibilities and Local Level and in order to bring effectiveness in implementation of policies and plans and development works.
Constitutional Bench
Deliberate jurisdictional conflicts that arise between (vertical and horizontal) levels of government units to deliver the final adjudication. Additionally, it examines the validity of laws that are made at the local, provincial and federal levels.
National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission (NNRFC)
Make recommendations to the governments regarding revenue distribution, equalization grant, conditional grant, internal borrowing and sharing of natural resources among the three tiers of governments.

Table 1: Formal structures present for coordination among government units and inter-governmental conflict management.

The Constitution of Nepal, 2015
Federation, Province and Local (Coordination and Inter-relation) Act, 2020 (2077)
National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission Act, 2074
The Local Government Operation Act, 2074
Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangement Act, 2074 (2017)

Table 2: Policies relevant to federal governance in Nepal.

Along with formal structures, political dynamics also influence intergovernmental relations. The viewpoints, expressions and behaviors of influential political identities have the potential to enhance or deteriorate the interpersonal relationships between political leaders. Also, interrelationships among political leaders/parties across three-tier of government may have direct implications on intergovernmental relations.

In case of Nepal, political parties are still guided by a centralized process and political factionalism and delay in adapting party’s organizational structure into the federal structure, weaken the strength of political actors and their role to advocate for public priorities and proper resource allocation/distribution. As the role of political parties and individuals weaken, federal government often end up acquiring important resources under its control which as a result courses back to the previously critiqued centralized model of governance.

Way Forward

Experts state that characteristics of politics is such that conflicts in political governance is inevitable. However, it can be understood as an opportunity for increased awareness and practice of democratic decision-making, which can lead to different outcomes than decisions that are led by consensus. Such constructive conflicts in politics can produce improved alignment and prioritization of values, policy recommendations, and improvements that better serve fundamental interests and needs of the people, and address instability, dysfunction, or vulnerability in relationship dynamics within political parties. Understanding conflicts, their nature, interests of conflicting actors and outcomes of struggles can therefore help us generate proper response mechanisms for its management, resolution and transformation.