August 30th International Day of the Disappeared

August 30th marks the International Day of the Disappeared. This year, NEFAD together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Nepal Red Cross Society will be hosting an event in the memory of the more than 1,400 people disappeared during the People’s War. Regional events will be held as well. The events are as follows:

Central Event in Kathmandu

1. Main event on August 30 ICRC, NRCS and NEFAD, interaction and press release program at NRCS Hall, Kalimati at 11:00 am (about 100 families are participating in this program)

2. Joint program with National Human Rights Commission in Lalitpur at 2:00 pm.

3. Joint event with TJ Advocacy Group in the evening – Lighting the Memory candles and musical program at Patan Durbarsquare. From 5:00 pm onwards

Regional events

Midwestern Region in Gulariya, Bardiya District (400 families are participating in this program)

Eastern Region in Jhapa District (100 families are participating)

In the rest of districts, NEFAD is coordinating for commemoration program with Nepal Redcross Society across Nepal.

NEFAD has also prepared the following Solidarity Postcard that has been distributed to more than 1400 families across Nepal to commemorate the day.

NEFAD Postcard

From victims to actors: Mobilising victims to drive transitional justice process

This is a participatory action research project made in collaboration with NEFAD and three district associations of families of the disappeared in Nepal to advance their mobilisation. The research supported district family associations in Bardiya, Lamjung and Sunsari to interview their members to understand their needs of and constraints on mobilising to raise their voices as victims. The aim is both to understand the challenges of mobilisation and to concretely advance it: and to challenge a transitional justice process that has been entirely Kathmandu based and has marginalised victims. One output of this exercise is a NEFAD Plan of Action prepared in district and regional meetings over the last year that aims to both lay out ways forward for NEFAD and assist an engagement with donors to support the network.

The report was launched during a public element of NEFAD’s first national convention 13 -14th June in Kathmandu, attended by representatives of the families of the Missing from 30 districts. (A report will be posted here soon.)

The research report, NEFAD Plan of Action and other documents can be accessed here:

1. The Research report
2. A summary of the research and the NEFD plan of action (English and Nepali)
3. CVC Bardiya – Building a Family Association and lessons learned (Nepali)

Berghof Foundation supports action research in collaboration with NEFAD

The Berlin-based Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies is funding a study that revolves around NEFAD to increase understanding of victim mobilisation in post-conflict contexts.  The research is a collaboration between Simon Robins, a researcher with a significant experience of both post-conflict contexts in general and Nepal in particular, and Ram Kumar Bhandari, the President of NEFAD. The project aims to be both an academic investigation of victim mobilisation in a low income state and an effort to support NEFAD by providing input to mobilisation using experiences from elsewhere in the world.

Researchers meeting families of the disappeared in Sunsari district, September 2011.

The discourse of transitional justice has emerged as a response to the needs of societies emerging from conflict or political violence and has become one of the preferred lenses through which to examine democratising states. Typically, it describes institutional responses to violations of international humanitarian law, human rights law or domestic law that occurred during a previous regime. Despite a widespread understanding that it is the poor and disempowered who constitute most of the victims of conflict, a sustained engagement with such constituencies has not become part of the mainstream practice of transitional justice. Transitional processes and the mechanisms (such as trials, truth commissions and reparation schemes) through which they work tend to be prescriptive and top-down: they are created by elites, often those who were themselves involved in the conflict that preceded the transition, supported by an international community remote from the context and from indigenous understandings. In many cases processes of consultation with victims and communities are cursory. The continued marginalisation of evidence based approaches to dealing with the past that engage with victims of conflict in favour of a “one size fits all” universalism that ignores particularities of culture and context serve to fundamentally compromise peacebuilding processes. Some literature is now emerging to challenge this deficit, but there remains a dearth of praxis that interrogates the idea of a transitional justice driven by the grassroots.
One of the few ways in which the views of those most impacted by the legacies of violence can challenge such prescriptive approaches and impact in a transitional context is through victim mobilisation. This remains particularly true in Nepal where the bulk of victims are poor and socially excluded, live in rural areas far from the capital, lack education and are ignorant of their rights. Social movements of conflict victims constitute one of the few routes to increasing victim agency in transition. This project aims to understand the process of victim mobilisation, and the challenges to it, through a study of the case of Nepal using a participatory action research approach that will support and empower associations of victims. It will focus on families of those subject to disappearance, one of the defining violations of the conflict. The project will be a collaboration between an academic researcher with extensive experience working with conflict victims in Nepal and the coordinator of the largest independent national victims’ group in the country. It will seek to understand processes of victim mobilisation and ask how best to mobilise such a community of victims in order to maximise their influence on the development of Nepal’s transitional justice process, and understand such processes more deeply.
The study is now ongoing with district based affiliates of NEFAD in Bardiya, Sunsari and Lamjung. First results will be reported at the end of 2011, while the project will also seek to evolve a plan of action for NEFAD at district, regional and national levels, which will be discussed and presented at NEFAD’s next national meeting early in 2012.

International Day of the Disappeared

Each year August 30th marks the International Day of the Disappeared, an important day for the more than 1,300 families in Nepal who continue to wait for the truth concerning the whereabouts of their loved ones.  Since its inception two years ago, NEFAD has been an active organizer and participant of events to commemorate IDD.  This year, the organization and its representatives took part in 3 days of programs including those organized by Amnesty International, INSEC and Advocacy Forum in the Kathmandu Valley.  The final event on the evening of August 30th was a candlelight vigil in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square where a candle was lit in memory of each disappeared person.  NEFAD also unveiled its poster and logo at this event (seen below).  NEFAD would like to thank all those in attendance and express our eternal solidarity in the continued struggle for truth and justice.
NEFAD Poster

NEFAD Members hold the newly designed campaign poster

IDD Basantapur

NEFAD members light candles in memory of those disappeared

IDD Basantapur

NEFAD members light candles in memory of those disappeared

IDD Basantapur

Candle lighting ceremony at Kathmandu's Durbar Square

Photos by Erik B. Wilson