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Federalism, Ethnicity and Human Rights in Nepal. Or: Althusius meets Acharya

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

The article addresses one of the difficult tasks of the Nepal Constituent Assembly: how to translate the idea and mechanisms of federalism in ways that are faithful to the best interests of the Nepal people into a constitution of a democratic, human rights-respecting Nepal republic. The reflections concern four varieties of federal elements, discussing arguments in favour and against each drawn from an interpretation of other states' experiences. Two of the four are territorial: constitutional: an entrenched split of powers, and political: decentralised autonomy. Two are non-territorial: minority rights and minority representation in common decision making bodies. Some of these arguments and lessons may be helpful also for Nepal's challenges, two features of which are especially noteworthy: there are very many different groups that must be accommodated fairly. And members of these groups very often live side by side on the same territory. Human rights protections combined with federal elements of Nepal's new Constitution must serve to prevent future domination, especially by the centres, over these many ethnic groups and castes.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Philosophy, and Director of Research, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo, Norway;, Email:


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