Most Nepali youth today were born after the people’s movement of 1991 ended the absolute authority of the monarchy and established a parliamentary democracy.  They were children during the years of the Maoist “People’s War” that culminated in a second people’s movement in 2006 that established Nepal as a republic.  Now, as young adults, they are being called on to engage with new federal democratic institutions that were intended to reform Nepal’s centralized, patrimonial political culture. Our project explored deliberative democracy as an alternative political practice that engages young citizens in participatory decision making.  In 2018 and 2019, we organized seven deliberative “mini-publics” in Lalitpur, Itahari, Birgunj, and Surkhet in which we asked the following questions:

How do Nepali youth engage with democratic institutions?
How do Nepali youth perceive structures of political authority in Nepal?
What political aspirations motivate youth?
Can deliberative democracy facilitate a consensus on how these aspirations can be realized?

In this panel we will present a 45-minute documentary video “Chalphal” which resulted from these youth assemblies.  “Chalphal” is in Nepali, with English subtitles.  In it, Nepali youth debate their priorities for Nepal’s new political architecture, and then present these priorities to local, provincial, and federal political leaders.  The video contends that structured dialogue and deliberation are effective ways to pursue political outcomes, but also that centralization and patrimonialism are deeper structures that continue to shape Nepal’s political culture.  At the conclusion of the video, the Nepali activists who collaborated with the principal investigator on the youth assembly program will provide brief responses to the video, after which we will open the discussion to the conference audience.