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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), International Humanist and Ethical Youth Oragnisation (IHEYO), the Global Alliance against untouchability, the Society for Humanism Nepal (SOCH) and the National Dalit Commission of Nepal jointly organized the 2nd World Conference on Untouchability. This conference, held in Kathmandu, was a continuation of the first World Conference on Untouchability, which was held in London, ahead of the UK Parliamentary Initiative on outlawing discrimination on the basis of Caste. The main objective of the conference was to bring together Politicians, Academics, Human Rights Activists, Jurists and Victims to devise global strategies to address the immense challenge that Untouchability poses to the world.

The conference lasted four days and had around 500 participants from a dozen countries. Rights based activists, scholars, professors, politicians, social workers and journalists were all represented at the conference.

On the first day of the proceedings, 14th April, was an interaction entitled ‘Understanding Ambedkar and his philosophy’ was conducted. Om Prakash BK, scholar on Dalit (untouchable community) issues, presented a paper. This paper was commented on by Prof. Dr. Vinodi V.B Rawat, a prominent Dalit rights activist in India and president of the Social Development Foundation (SDF); and Babu Gogineni, International Director of IHEU. The discussion was focused on the philosophy of Ambedkar and its relevancy in the present context.

On the 16th April, the second day of the conference, training was organized entitled ‘Leadership Training on Untouchability’. Ninety youth participated, including those from Nepal and individuals who had attended internationally. The main purpose of the leadership training was to develop leadership skills for youth and build youth leaders to advocate in the realm of Dalit issues and untouchability.

The formal opening program of the second world conference was conducted on 17th April at Hotel Radisson, Lazimpat. The opening ceremony was chaired by Sitaram Khatri Mandal, acting president of National Dalit Commission. The welcome speech was delivered by T.N Ghimire, Chairperson of SOCH Nepal. Uttam Niraula, Executive director of SOCH Nepal, highlighted the motive behind the world conference. 250 participants attended the opening. The key speakers of the program were national and international scholars, rights based activists and politicians.

The distinguished guest speakers focused on the issue of untouchability and the way out of the problem. On the 18th April, interaction on three different subjects regarding untouchability entitled ‘United Nations, ICERD and Untouchability’, ‘Nepal Dalit Movement: Challenges and Opportunities’ and ‘Untouchability in South Asia’ was conducted. The paper was presented by Tek Tamrakar, Jeevan Pariyar-member of constituent assembly (CA) and Dr. Udhyav Pyakurel-expert on Dalit issue. The conference was concluded with the declaration of ‘Kathmandu declaration on untouchability’.

Sanjay Khadka
Society for Humanism Nepal 

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