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Designing Liberal Democracy
An Internet-based Classroom Exercise Involving US and Nepali Students

Course Overview
Bulletin Board
Reading Materials
Former Finance Minister of Nepal, Nepali Congress leader and an economist Dr. Mahat's Seminar at UNM, Oct 27, 2005

Course Overview

With recent U.S. involvement in non-democratic nations around the world and the apparent U.S. foreign policy doctrine of “spreading democracy,” the general concept of “liberal democracy” has become a timely topic in the discourse of today’s foreign policymaking and the social science disciplines that seek to understand and explain it. Accordingly, this cross-country collaborative exercise involving classrooms from US and Nepal will explore the central ideas and issues of the overarching concept that social scientists and policymakers now generally term liberal democracy.

First, we will examine the central theoretical concepts that frame liberal democracy. What is it? How do we know when we have it? Which variables contribute to non-democratic countries making a transition to it? Can it be “created”? If it happens, or is created, how does a country consolidate it?

Nepal as a Laboratory

Taking as inspiration the teams of social scientists that sought to “design democracy” in post-World War II Japan and Germany, we will utilize the laboratory of the South Asian country of Nepal.

With a varied, and sometimes confusing, recent (post-colonial) history of constitutional monarchy, monarchical coups, assassinations, armed insurrection, and a vocal and vibrant diaspora intent on creating and maintaining a democratic system, we have an excellent opportunity to unpack many of the critical components that potentially comprise a democratic system.

Some of the most important of these components include economic development, ethnicity, language, feudalism, internal democracy, corruption, strategic location, and institutional design. In association with a collaborating academic institution in Nepal and the Nepal Study Center in Albuquerque, (University of New Mexico), we will participate in a program of organized intellectual exchange between students in the U.S. and Nepal.

Nepal-US Peer-to-Peer Exchange

Within the class at the University of Miami, each student will be a member of a study and design team that will address one of the above issue areas of particular interest to them. Each group will explore the intricacies of their selected area and make proposals as to how to address the specific relevant challenges that they identify or have been identified by leading scholars and practitioners in the field. Each group will have a corresponding team at the Nepali institution, most preferably, from varied disciplines including Political Science, Economics and Business Administration to whom they will submit their ideas and proposals. The Nepalese teams, with their real world experience and expertise of being the educated elite in a country in the midst of a democratic transition, will provide valuable feedback on the ideas of their American peers.

We will also invite some Nepali scholars and policy makers to participate in this Internet classroom exercise to interact with the students from the two continents. We expect that these exchanges will provide unique insights to both groups of students.

The Final Exercise

In the last quarter of the semester, we will seek to synthesize the ideas that the different groups are exploring. Each group will present to the entire class the essential ideas and concepts of their substantive explorations. This final exercise will not only allow each group to have exposure to the ideas of the other groups, but also to see the holistic nature of this complex exercise. Ultimately, as a cohesive group, we will attempt to put together the “pieces” that comprise democracy.

The Participating Team

The Nepal Study Center at the University of New Mexico (UNM) will coordinate the Designing Liberal Democracy project. The participating members are the Political Science departments from the University of Miami and UNM (Professors Jeff Drope and Professor Mark Peceny). Some select students from Nepali higher academic institutions will be participating. NSC’s Professor of Economics, Alok K. Bohara, and his Liberal Democracy Nepal team will facilitate the exchange of ideas between the teams in the two countries. Nepal Study Center will begin by creating a listserve (NSCLDNEduExchange-L) to be moderated by a participating faculty. We expect to begin our first experimental exchange in the Spring of 2006 (January-May).

In the future, depending on the success of the program, we seek to have both chat-room facilities and if possible, video capabilities, so the students from the two countries cannot only exchange ideas in the written word but also verbally.

If you have any question, please contact the Center.

Jeff Drope, PhD., U. of Miami, Florida
Alok K. Bohara, PhD., U. of New Mexico
Mark Peceny, PhD., U. of New Mexico
Hari Sharma, KCM, Kathmandu, Nepal

Designing Liberal Democracy Bulletin Board

Students post messages and exchange ideas through the bulletin board. Only registered students from US and Nepal are allowed to engage in this interactions. The interactive bulletin board can be accessed by clicking the following link:

Interactive Bulletin Board

Currently, only students from the participating universities are allowed to exchanges ideas on this forum. Those interested in other wide ranging policy issues are encouraged to log on the main forum page and participate: Himalayan Policy Research Discussion Forums.

Reading Materials for Designing Liberal Democracy

Reports on Nepali Conflict
International Crisis Group (ICG) Reports on Nepli Crisis
International Institute for Sustainable Development: Conflict and Environment
Nepal’s New Alliance: The Mainstream Parties and the Maoists
Indigenous Peoples, Poverty Reduction and Conflict in Nepal
New Report on nepal Crisis: International Crisis Group (ICG) February 2006
Nepal: One Year of Royal Anarchy, (Asian Centre of Human Rights and Forum Asia), January 2006:
Summary Review OR Full report

LDN Workshop Proceedings
Proceedingd of the LDN Workshop: Opportunities and Challenges for Nepali Political Parties, DC, October 20-24, 2005

Journal Articles
Opportunity, Democracy and Political Violence: A Sub-national Analysis of Conflict in Nepal by Alok K. Bohara, Neil Mitchel and Mani Nepal
Liberal Democracy Nepal Bulletin (LDNB) journal articles by various Nepali political personalities

Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat
In Defence of Democracy Dynamics and Fault Lines of Nepal's Political Economy
Adroit Publishers: New Delhi, 2005, pp 437

Dr. Mahendra Lawoti
Toward a Democratic Nepal: Inclusive Political Institutions for a Multicultural Society
SAGE Publications,New Delhi, 2005, pp 345

Michael Hutt (Editor)
Himalayan People's War: Nepal's Maoist Rebellion (Paperback)
Indiana University Press, 2004, pp 336

D.B. Gurung (Editor)
Nepal Tomorrow : Voices and Visions
Kathmandu, Koselee, 2003, pp. 694

Miscellaneous News Reports and Articles
Quick access to links and documents on Nepali crisis

Video Clips of Dr. Mahat's Seminar Presentation at UNM
Dr. Ram S. Mahat's Talk on Democratic Experience, Insurgency and the Prospects for Development, at UNM (October 27, 2005).

Former Finance Minister of Nepal, Dr. Mahat is an economist by training and an author of In Defence of Democracy (Adroit Publishers, 2005). Dr. Mahat is Co-General Secretary of Nepali Congress.

Nepal Study Center at UNM organized this talk program in collaboration with Peace Studies, Dept. of Political Science, International Studies, the Water Resources Program, and the Department of Economics (Oct 27, 2005). Thanks to the U. of Miami for funding the video production.
Comments welcome.

Dr. Shankar Sharma's (Vice Chairman National Planning Commission of Nepal) talk at UNM: Summary presentation "Development and Conflict in Nepal" (Feb. 24, 2006, Nepal Study Center, Department of Economics, University of New Mexico)

Professor Jeff Drope's Reading Materials (U. of Miami)
(Contact Professor Drope: "Drope, Jeffrey" <>)

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