The Elusive 'New Nepal': Democratisation, Ethnic Politics and Social Contract-making in a Plural Society

Executive Summary

Nepal’s decade-long process from 2005 to 2015 of ending its civil war through a comprehensive peace agreement, constitution-making and overall democratisation of the state portend a ‘New Nepal’ social contract to upend centuries of exclusive rule and a hierarchically ranked society. This paper considers how the newfound social contract has been forged and the ways in which a sustainable contract remain elusive. While agreements have been reached and the state restructured, underlying economic and social transformation will be much more difficult to achieve. The paper evaluates Nepal as a deeply plural society in transition from a caste-based monarchy to democracy with analysis of efforts to strengthen institutions, build greater trust within society and address longstanding inequalities. A truly ‘New Nepal’ will require deep-seated economic and social transformation, and whether the hard-won social contract will be resilient over time remains to be seen.

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