A decade long armed conflict ended in Nepal with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in November 2006. The dialogue process which led to the ceasefire that preceded the CPA, as well as the CPA itself, failed to ensure women's participation at the formal negotiating table.So how could women be included if not at the peace table directly? Nepal's peace process involved Track 1 and Track 2 initiatives simultaneously. The Track 1 actors included both the bureaucracy and political parties while women's NGOs and groups undertook several of the Track 2 initiatives. The missing element was the link between the two tracks.
Hence, a Track 1.5 process was initiated in 2005: the Nepal Transition To Peace Initiative (NTTP). The idea was to create space for informal dialogue where the seven major political parties and civil society representatives could discuss their differences before making formal decisions. It was considered to be relatively inclusive, and was supported by multiple stakeholders, including international partners. The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction acted as the executing agency liaising between the political parties.
The NTTP was understood, not as a settlement oriented negotiation process, but rather as a consultation that could generate new insights and be a source of technical knowledge and inspiration for the parties involved. It was a facilitation rather than a mediation oriented process. Local facilitators received technical assistance from international peace building experts, which built ownership in the process.
The NTTP made a number of important contributions. It helped draft the CPA, propose how cantonment of combatants would be managed, and envisaged the setting up of peace structures such as Local Peace Committees (LPC).
It also supported the creation of the Women Peace Building Network which was made up of 11 large associations, mostly with a development background, with widespread membership in Nepal. This Network tried to create links between Tracks 1, 1.5 and 2, and to link leaders with peace forums. In addition to organising rallies to demand greater women's participation in the peace process, they held several rounds of discussions with the Prime Minister and the Ministry for Peace and Reconstruction to ensure women's participation in state structures. They also approached the Election Commission on the selection of 26 women to be nominated to the Constituent Assembly (CA). At a community level, the Network sought to raise awareness of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (SCR 1325).
Essentially, the Network acted as a connector to the NTTP to ensure that women's rights were articulated and heard, and that women were included in the peace process and transitional justice mechanisms. Behind the scenes, at least three women from the Network sat in the NTTP forum meetings and one was nominated to the Ministry-level meetings and Peace and Conflict Management Committee (PCMC) at a later stage.
As the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections approached, the Network became actively involved in educating people about voting systems, seeing that proportional representation would help ensure a larger number of women members in the CA. They also approached the Election Commission on the selection of women for 26 nominated seats in the parliament.
The Network's successes are hard to measure in that its achievements cannot be attributed solely to its own work – for example, the Network played an important role in ensuring that a third of the seats in the CA would be reserved for women, but was by no means the only actor calling for this. The fact that the Network was made up of so many large associations certainly helped its voice on this issue to be heard.
But at the same time, the peace process was driven by male-dominated political parties and a bureaucracy that was not especially sensitive to the needs of women. Though large in number, the Network was not as assertive as some ethnic groups and so was often avoided by political leaders. While this constrained the impact of the Network in some ways, these challenges also forced the Network to develop organisational and advocacy skills which allows them to contribute to the peace process more meaningfully today.