Natural Resource Conflict Transformation Center-Nepal (NRCTC-N) was established on June 10, 2013, with the motto of “Better Relationship for Sustainable Peace.” It has been registered as a non-profit, non-political and non-governmental organization in District Administration Office, Bhaktapur on June 27, 2013, and in Social Welfare Council on June 30, 2013. The main objective of the organization is to study, research and transform community level interpersonal as well as multi-stakeholder conflicts through dialogue and providing support to improve relationships among conflicting parties thereby contributing to the peaceful and sustainable social development at large. Mediation Council Nepal has acknowledged NRCTC-N with a certificate to conduct mediation related activities and training all over the country.
Since its inception, NRCTC-N has launched two major programs; Natural Resource Conflict Transformation Program (NRCTP) and Community Mediation Program (CMP). NRCTP is a campaign to transform multi-stakeholder conflicts on water, forest, and land through mutual dialogue among community people to have the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation for sustainable peace. The campaign has been launched in 18 districts throughout the country. The McConnell Foundation of USA has been providing financial grant and technical assistance to run this campaign. Prof. John Paul Lederach at the University of Notre Dame USA, who is a renowned scholar of conflict transformation and peacebuilding at the international level has been providing academic input for effective implementation of campaigns.
Similarly, CMP is being operated with financial support and technical assistance from The Asia Foundation (TAF). The CMP has been running in 13 Municipalities and 38 Village Municipalities of five districts of the central region. Under this program, conflict cases were transformed following the mediation process finalized by the Mediation Council.
Along with mediation campaign, dialogue program is being undergone in the financial and technical support from TAF and administrative support from NRCTC-N. In the context of a dialogue program, different districts and provinces level conflicts are resolved by dialogue through a loose forum where conflicting parties can have an open discussion to reach a common solution. At this backdrop, the sustainability of peacebuilding movement depends upon the support and coordination from local government authorities. So, every activity in community level is organized after receiving approval from the local government body and concerned stakeholders.
Nepal is rich in natural resources; it is known as the second richest country in water resources and a successful example of natural resource management through community forestry. Despite being a naturally gifted nation, Nepal is still struggling to rise above the strata of the developing country because of its inability to utilize the resource in hands resulted from complexities brought in by political instability, topographical difficulties, and lack of investment and skilled manpower. Due to lack of industrial development, the livelihood of people depends on using natural resources when the access to these resources are limited or denied based on legal and judicial terms, or sociocultural divides or physical boundary, people struggle to gain access to these resources and conflict arises. Conflicts related to natural resources often remain hidden in communities affecting lives and relationships for many years and then at a certain point the unresolved agendas cross a limit of tolerance, and it explodes out violently. It is important to mention that several efforts are made at community and higher level to resolve and manage these conflicts such as using legal procedures, police force, legislative efforts, religious means etc.; however, these methods fail to address the hidden (core) agendas of conflict. Therefore, so even when certain agreements are made which shows conflict has been resolved, such resolution is transient and it resurges again affecting more lives. Hence, natural resource conflict transformation process adopted by the organization seeks for a permanent solution to the conflict through dialogue ultimately ending years of bitterness into a harmonious relationship. Unlike other methods of conflict resolution, conflict transformation does not provide decisions on conflict; it encourages conflicting parties to rise above their agendas and come to an agreement addressing each other’s inner desires with the win-win feeling. The conflict transformation process requires an investment of an ample amount of time in conflict mapping (finding the cause of conflict, perspectives of all parties on issues and solutions to conflict, parties affected by conflict and parties affecting in the development and transformation of conflict). Then it trains people from the conflicting parties to act as a facilitator (Spider Group) themselves; these trained local people work along with the conflict facilitators arranging dialogues with conflicting parties to find their issues and ultimately find points of agreement to transform the conflict. Finding agreement is half work done in conflict transformation, and then starts the actual transformation as the agreement is implemented gradually, relationships are improved, peace is established giving way to various development activities. Hence transparency, participation, inclusiveness and impartiality in the conflict transformation process make it an innovative approach.
NRCTC-N has produced skilled manpower to facilitate conflict transformation; these conflict facilitators/mediators are responsible for listing and documenting the conflicts and ultimately selecting conflicts based on urgency and facilitating its transformation. After establishment, NRCTC-N has been able to transform 166 natural resource-based large scale multi-stakeholder conflict cases and 7852 interpersonal conflict cases, which we consider as a major achievement not only because we can transform conflict as our objective but also because of the positive impact seen in the community after such transformation. For instance, when communities are involved in the conflict, they cannot come together for common activities whether it is a social event like festivities or a development activity like constructing a road, irrigation canal and so on. Hence conflict slows down the development in society, and when such conflicts are transformed, development activities are carried out in leaps and bounds. The conflict transformation approach is inclusive, participatory, transparent and impartial which focuses on the result of a win-win situation. By the time the conflicting parties are brought to the point of agreement, they know that all their points have been addressed, they have not been kept in the dark about anything, and they are ready to make some compromise for communal benefit hence the implementation of agreement goes smoothly, and all parties are equally committed to following the agreement.
NRCTC-N has provided technical support to 16 basic mediation training that is financially supported by government bodies which produced 460 mediators to contribute to peace building movement. Joint conduction of mediation training has helped to develop a sense of ownership by a local government. Likewise, the establishment of a mediation center at the local level helps to support peace building movement and develop a culture of dialogue at the community level as well as to jumpstart stalled developing activities and restore happiness and joy of households leading to prosperity as recognized by the slogan of Government of Nepal “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali.” Most importantly, it is a great honour and pride for NTCTC-N to be recognized and authorized as the best organization in Nepal by the Mediation Council.
In a nutshell, Natural Resource Conflict Transformation Center – Nepal (NRCTC-N) is not only an organization; it is a movement to build a peaceful and civilized society in Nepal. It contributes to having a direct impact on peacebuilding in the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation at all levels of household, family, and community to achieve significant progress and prosperity for the nation.