By Surya Prasad Subedi—-
Chair of the Ceremony and Your Excellency the Ambassador of Nepal to the UK,
Chief Guest, The Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry DL
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen – and of course not forgetting my family!
I am grateful and delighted by the honour bestowed upon me this morning by Your Excellency, the Ambassador of Nepal to the United Kingdom, on his own behalf, on behalf of the Embassy family and the Government of Nepal on my appointment as Queen’s Counsel by Her Majesty the Queen of the UK in 2017. I thank you, Your Excellency, the Embassy family and the Government of Nepal for this honour. I am deeply touched by your remarks and by your generosity. I also would like to thank all of you for your presence in this ceremony – which will remain a memorable one for me all my life.
It was with delight that I learned last year that Her Majesty the Queen had graciously made me a QC in recognition of my contribution to the development of international law and to the advancement of human rights. I am most grateful to Her Majesty. I prefer to interpret this honour as being not only for me individually, but also for the people of Nepalese origin residing in the UK, and for those law academics who have tried to spread the global values of humanity; peace and freedom, tolerance and harmony.
Great Britain and Nepal have enjoyed a cordial relationship for over 200 years. The Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 between the two countries was in effect a treaty of peace and friendship between the two countries and an uninterrupted peace and friendship has prevailed between the two countries since then. Nepal is the first South Asian country to have an embassy in London. It was Britain, the then mighty colonial power ruling over much of South Asia, which decided to recognize the sovereignty and independence of Nepal in 1923 through a bilateral treaty- even during the heyday of the British Empire. Thanks partly to that recognition, Nepal’s independence was preserved when South Asia was carved up into different entities in the run-up to the British withdrawal from South Asia, at a time when many small kingdoms and principalities were made part of these new entities.
The traditional relationship between these two countries is multifaceted. Of course, the Gurkhas are held in high respect for their bravery and loyalty in Britain. I believe that no other country of comparable size has given more support to Britain in its defence of freedom than has Nepal, in battlefields around the globe, for some 200 years. The relationship between these two countries goes even deeper. It is the people to people relations that has flourished a great deal in recent years. There are a good number of people of Nepalese origin who have made a great contribution to the British society.
Tolerant, hard-working and loyal people of Nepali origin have been gradually and successfully integrating into the British society and the Nepalese embassy and especially His Excellency the Ambassador has been creative and innovative in facilitating the people to people relations and enhancing the cooperation between the governments of these two countries.
I have followed very closely the activities of the Ambassador since his arrival in London and am immensely impressed by his dynamism. He has been an exemplary ambassador of Nepal to the UK. He has demonstrated that how much an ambassador can accomplish if he or she has the vision and determination to take the relationship to a newer height. His approach has been constructive and has succeeded in his endeavours. I salute you, Your Excellency, and thank you for what you have been able to achieve for the Nepali community and for the relations between these two countries.
Your Excellency, you have placed a great deal of emphasis on promoting British investment in Nepal in your work and rightly so. After the promulgation of a new democratic, federal and republication constitution and the successful conduct of free and fair local, provincial and national elections, Nepal is well placed for foreign investment.
Unfortunately, Nepal has had more than a fair share of political upheavals and natural calamities in the recent past. But that unhappy chapter seems to be behind us. Huge strides have been made to bring the rebellious Maoists to mainstream politics and transform Nepal from a monarchy to a republic, from unitary to federal and from the first-past-the-post system to proportional representation. These are mammoth political achievements by any standards and more so because these were the results of the negotiations of the major political actors within Nepal itself.
The new constitution was adopted in a very democratic manner by the support of an overwhelming majority of members of the constituent assembly or parliament. Thus, the political framework is in place to usher the country towards peace, prosperity and equitable and sustainable development. After holding successful and peaceful three levels of elections, the formation of sovereign parliament and installation of a popularly elected government, the country is embarking on the road to economic development of the country and the newly formed government seems to have made economic development its top priority.
All the ingredients are now in place to develop Nepal as a gateway to both China and India. With the status of a least-developed country enjoying duty free and quota free access to the world market under the WTO rules, Nepal makes an attractive destination for foreign investment. The country has put in place a system that can deliver political stability – both in the system and the process of governance. This is crucial. The challenge for the country is to accelerate economic development and the hope is that foreign friends of Nepal would do their utmost to assist the country by promoting investment into the country.
There is a relatively small but growing community of people of Nepalese origin in this country, ranging from doctors, academics, and businessmen to IT specialists; most of them, and I, for one, have always felt welcome and appreciated for the contribution that this community has been able to make – and my appointment as a QC is an example.
I enjoy both my life as an academic and the freedom that comes with it in this country. I have taught law at five British universities over the past 30 years and have enjoyed it very much. I was born into an academic family. Therefore, perhaps, I was destined to become an academic. Britain offers a superb quality of education at its world-class universities and I am proud to be part of that system. British universities have the ability to draw talents from around the globe and have long acted as the houses of intellect for the world. The Law Schools up and down the country, including my own at the University of Leeds, are in the business of producing not only lawyers but also the future leaders of the society, both national and international.
When I go abroad, people ask me how you would define Britain. And my response has been that it is a country of laws and these laws are rooted in the principle of the rule of law, democracy, human rights, tolerance and fair play. Britain has been at the forefront of the endeavours to spread the rule of law at the international level whether it is contributing to the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights or the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Britain is one of a handful of major powers which has accepted both the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Britain’s answer to many of the global problems is to enact more laws through international treaties. So much so that Britain is the only country within the G7 or G20 to enact laws to ring fence the overseas development budget. Britain has been a progressive country in advancing the values of the international community and the role of the British judiciary in particular in expanding the rule of law internationally has been hugely encouraging. Therefore, I have been happy to work in British legal academia, been able to make my own contribution through my practical and theoretical work and was pleased when I was appointed a QC in recognition of my work.
Outside of my legal and academic work, I have had the privilege of serving for ten years as the founding Chairman of the Britain-Nepal Academic Council established at SOAS University of London in 2000, progressively as a Trustee, Deputy Chair and Joint Co-Chair of the Britain-Nepal Medical Trust (which celebrated its golden jubilee last year) for the past 11 years and as Chairman of the Global Policy Forum for Nepal (also established in London in 2015) to assist Nepal in policy formulation for good governance and to act as an international watchdog on democratic accountability and legitimacy in the country for the past three years.
Britain has been at the forefront of the countries that have rendered so much assistance to Nepal for so long and the people of Nepal are immensely grateful to the people and the government of Britain. The relations between the two countries is exemplary by any standards and the presence of the representatives of so many British and Nepalese organisations this morning is a testimony to the good-will that the people of both of the countries have for each other. I wish you every success in your endeavour and thank you for your valuable work for the people of Nepal.
(Professor Surya P. Subedi’s speech made at the QC Felicitation Programme at the National Republic Day Ceremony hosted by His Excellency the Ambassador of Nepal to the United Kingdom on 29 May 2018 at the Embassy of Nepal, Kensington Palace Gardens, London. Professor Subedi, QC, OBE, DPhil (Oxford) is Professor of International Law at the School of Law, University of Leeds and Barrister at Three Stone Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn, London; he can be contacted at S.P.Subedi@leeds.ac.uk).