|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN NEPAL
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal and Head of the United Nations Mission there (UNMIN), Ian Martin, said at a Headquarters press conference today that his main purpose in briefing the Security Council now was not just to report on the successful 10 April election in Nepal but to apprise the Council of the very considerable challenges Nepal now faced.
Now was a moment when Nepal faced many challenges, Mr. Martin said, informing correspondents that, while the Council welcomed steps being taken to downsize UNMIN towards the end of its mandate on 23 July, it had also been interested to learn what continuing support the new Government of Nepal might request from the United Nations in support of the peace process. Specific key elements for consideration included the transition from UNMIN’s monitoring of arms and armed personnel to durable solutions on such issues as the future of combatants and the security sector of a country at peace.
Any assistance the United Nations would supply would begin with a request from the new Government, Mr. Martin clarified. As soon as possible upon his return, he would meet with political leaders to take up those and other matters.
Turning to specifics of the challenges, he explained that the most immediate was for political parties to reach agreement on the basis for forming a new Government, one that ideally would provide stability and economic development throughout the life of the Constituent Assembly, which, under the interim constitution, was given two years to draft a new constitution.
He said that negotiations were under way to determine which parties would take part in the Government or support it from outside, and under what conditions. It was widely accepted that, after the election, the Maoists would lead the Government, but the overall conditions for forming it were still being negotiated and it was not certain that a new Government could be put into place when the Constituent Assembly was scheduled to meet next Wednesday.
Then, beyond the immediate political challenge of forming the Government, there was the “much more profound challenge” of drafting the new constitution, Mr. Martin said. The political parties were far apart on a lot of constitutional issues, including, in particular, the form that federalism should take in the geographic and ethnic circumstances of Nepal. Not much consideration had been given so far as to how a 601-member Constituent Assembly would operate so as to reach the required consensus or two-thirds majority needed to adopt a new constitution and simultaneously to function effectively as the legislature.
Alongside that challenge, was Nepal’s diversity, he continued. The Constituent Assembly, for the first time, reflected the diversity of Nepal’s population, beginning with the fact that 33 per cent of those elected were women. The demands for inclusion of formerly marginalized groups were not confined to representation in the Constituent Assembly; they expected to see increased representation in all structures of the State, and failure to meet those expectations carried the risk of disruptive protests, which Nepal could ill afford, especially in the south.
Those were challenges of a country undergoing rapid change, he said. Of particular interest to the Security Council was the fact that they added to the challenges of a still-incomplete peace process, however much a milestone the election had been in that process. There were still two armies in Nepal and views about their futures differed widely. Indeed, there had been no progress on how to implement the commitments of the peace agreement regarding “integration” of the Maoist Army and the “democratization” of the Nepal Army. Views differed on how that process should operate and even on what interim arrangements would be appropriate when the new Government was formed.
Also, he said, the non-Maoist parties had stated that they would join a Government led by Maoists only if the Young Communist League ceased to engage in violent acts, such as those it had carried out in some areas since the election. The new Government would urgently have to address the issue of directing young people and their energies into constructive development efforts.
Other areas where important commitments of the peace process had not been implemented included the compensation of victims of conflict, investigations of disappearances, return of property and return of displaced persons to their homes, he said. Those challenges, combined with the fresh wounds of election violence, required an active process of local reconciliation.
He said public security was one of the Nepalese people’s deepest desires, but it would not prevail until Nepal’s consistent pattern of impunity was brought to an end. There had been no prosecution in civilian courts of even the most egregious violations of rights on either side of the armed conflict, or of the many killings since. The killings during the election campaign were a further challenge to the justice system, as was the deplorable case that had recently come to light involving the beating to death of a businessman in a Maoist cantonment by members of the Maoist army.
Finally, he said, there was the overarching challenge of consolidating peace through development. The new Government would face high expectations for rapid economic progress in the wake of the election, but it would also be immediately confronted by the food crisis, which threatened to exacerbate both rural and urban poverty. It would also face the need to increase fuel prices, which had fallen further and further behind the import cost.
In response to a question, he said he had not met the King of Nepal and the question of whether Nepal would remain a monarchy or become a republic would be decided through the democratic framework now being created.
To a question about the role of the United Nations in Nepal’s transition, he said the United Nations agencies, led by the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), were already considering how to support the development process, particularly in ways that strengthened the peace process. Constitutional support was already provided by UNDP, and that would continue.
Was there a monarchy/republic referendum planned of the kind similar to the process in 1946 in Italy? a correspondent asked. Mr. Martin said the interim constitution provided that a republic would be implemented at the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, which was scheduled for next Wednesday. Some wanted a referendum, but that was not part of the interim constitution, and the parties that had won nearly all the seats in the Assembly were committed to the immediate implementation of a republic.
Asked whether the King would be “out of a job”, in effect, if the interim constitution was not changed, Mr. Martin said that was indeed the implication of the interim constitution.
Concerning the fragility of the security situation, he said the local governmental bodies had been dissolved in 2002, and some local bodies needed to be established. The implementation of a nationwide system of peace committees was one proposal being considered.
He added that there was no time frame for integration of the Maoist army and positions of different parties were far apart. Nepal’s neighbours were very supportive of Nepal’s process and the Secretary-General had indeed decided that Nepal was eligible for support from the Peacebuilding Fund.
* *** *
For information media • not an official record