Tassos Coulaloglou

Tassos Coulaloglou (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Tassos was born and raised in New Jersey. He attended the University of Wisconsin (UW) and graduated with his BS in Political Science in 2001. Tassos spent one year studying abroad at Utrecht University in Holland while in his final year at UW, After graduation, Tassos moved to Lithuania to become a freelance journalist and teach high-school history and English as a second language. In 2004, he returned to the States to work as a team leader with the League of Conservation's Envirovictory political campaign in Milwaukee. He returned to Eastern Europe the following year and resumed writing before starting graduate school. At the time of his fellowship, Tassos was studying for a Master's degree in International Relations and Diplomacy offered jointly by Leiden University and the Clingendael in Holland. After his fellowship, Tassos wrote: “...now in class, I try to break the Euro/America-centric positions that seem to dominate and ask what the Nepali view would be…this fellowship pushed me to understand a people, to think in their terms."



Hoping for Election Awareness

07 Aug

Only a couple days ago, I arrived back to my room in Baglung and saw a UN vehicle parked nearby. My first encounter with the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was the arms inspectors more than a month ago, and I assumed that one of the Joint Monitoring Teams was in town.

But I soon discovered that instead of arms monitors, these UNMIN personnel were election advisors. Over dinner the last few nights, I sat down with the two of them and we discussed the tentative plan laid out by the Nepali Election Commission (EC).

When I began talking with the two UN advisors, I immediate was aware how similar the EC’s plans for election awareness were with the proposal Yogendra and I completed, as well as a couple other AP Fellows. The VDC proposal we were enthusiastic about only a few weeks ago, (I talk about it in a previous blog) was nixed after we learned from a number of major international donors that there were no funds available for pre-election activities. So at our COCAP meeting in Kathmandu recently we brainstormed a low cost, volunteer based, grassroots program.

Imagine my surprise when I find out that the government’s tentative plans are very similar to ours. It involves volunteers (they want primary school teachers) at the local VDC level and seeks to employ the help of NGOs in the regions. How can it be that only a few months before the elections to form a Constituent Assembly and create a New Nepal with a new constitution, they only begin the process now?

Yesterday I attended the first meeting by NGOs in Baglung district to form an election monitoring oversight committee, presumably to coordinate in the future with the District Elections Officer (DEO). This seems feasible. But creating awareness, teaching people about civic education and their role in a democracy? That’s no easy task.

While there seems to be time enough to plan elections monitoring, creating awareness with very few resources and such an ignorant population (the UN advisers were told 85 percent are unaware of the elections) should have began months ago. Today I’m going with Yogendra to sit down with the DEO and determine what are his plans and how does COCAP fit in. Perhaps we’ll be able to integrate our ideas and plug our resources (namely local knowledge and some people power) into the EC’s plan. Most importantly, let’s get started!

I leave you with a couple photos of Baglung at dusk….

The last rays of sunshine paint the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri…

 


While to the west, they kiss a blushing sky.

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Aug 7th, 2007

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