Nepal: Peacemaking bears fruit

 

Nepal has emerged as a peacemaking success story of 2006, when local political will and international support joined to create conditions favorable for a negotiated peace.The restoration of parliamentary politics and the decision by Maoist insurgents and Nepal’s mainstream political parties to settle the decade-long armed conflict stand as clear proof of the Nepalese desire for peace and the preservation of democracy. The call for United Nations involvement shows Nepal’s belief in United Nations expertise in managing a peace process and in the unique legitimacy that the UN can bring to helping forge comprehensive, long-lasting political settlements which are recognized nationally and internationally.

 

The conflict between Maoist insurgents and Government forces had killed some 13,000 people, driven large numbers into exile and further devastated an already poverty-stricken economy. In February 2005, King Gyanendra assumed direct executive powers with the help of the army, marginalized political parties and increased repression against human rights and civil society groups and the media.The move eventually pushed former antagonists, the Maoist insurgents and political parties, into an alliance to restore democracy.Mass demonstrations in April 2006 forced the King to back down, restore Parliament and hand over power to a Government of the Seven- Party Alliance of the mainstream political parties.This was followed by political negotiations between the Maoists and the new Government that lead to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement.The agreement, signed on 21 November 2006, includes arrangements for formalizing and solidifying a ceasefire, an interim governance structure, the holding of Constituent Assembly elections in 2007 and the management of arms and armed personnel of both sides during this interim period.

 

On arms and armed personnel, the agreement established that Maoist combatants would gather in cantonments and their arms and munitions would be put under lock and key at UN-supervised sites. An equal number of the army’s weapons would be locked up under UN monitoring. The Nepalese army itself would be confined to their barracks. At the same time an interim Constitution would be drafted, an interim legislature established and an interim cabinet formed. Elections to a new Constituent Assembly would be held by mid-June 2007. The interim Constitution was finalized on 16 December 2006 and was promulgated by a new interim Parliament on 15 January 2007.

 

United Nations civilian observers register Nepalese soldiers, 24 January 2007. (UN Photo)

 

Prior to the signing of this historical agreement, for several years the UN has carried out good offices missions and maintained diplomatic contacts with all sides to promote political dialogue and a negotiated settlement to the conflict. Apart from its political engagement, the UN has been on the ground for decades through a multitude of agencies assisting Nepal with long-term socio-economic development programmes as well as with humanitarian and relief assistance projects. A sizable human rights monitoring mission, established by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been in the country since 2005.

 

Through sustained interaction with all sides in Nepal and countries in the region, the United Nations contributed to the political process that led to the peace agreement. As the parties began to formulate their request for direct UN support for the process, a political mission, led by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, visited the country at the end of July 2006 and engaged in talks with all key players. As a result, the parties were able to reach an agreement on the nature of the future role of the UN in helping create an atmosphere for free and fair Constituent Assembly elections.

 

In August, the Secretary-General appointed Ian Martin as his Personal Representative for Nepal to act as the senior UN political interlocutor to help the parties further define and elaborate the support required from the UN.

 

As negotiations were coming to a close, the Maoists and the Government formally requested the UN’s assistance to manage the peace process in three main areas: monitoring of the arms and armed personnel of both sides, continued human rights monitoring and electoral assistance.

 

The Security Council in a Presidential Statement on 1 December 2006 endorsed the Secretary-General’s proposal for deployment of an advance mission of 35 monitors and 25 electoral personnel, who began arriving in early January 2007.Acting on the recommendation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on 23 January the Security Council established, for a period of 12 months, a fullyfledged monitoring mission – the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) – with close to 190 arms monitors, electoral personnel and other civilian staff.

 

In the meantime, a separate accord covering the modalities of the UN monitoring role in the arms management process was reached on 28 November, and the UN began the initial steps of arms monitoring on 15 January 2007 in coordination with a national monitoring task force established by the parties as a stop-gap arrangement until round-the-clock monitoring by the UN could be put in place.

 

The UN’s role has been to give advice and guidance as well as assist in implementation, while the actual ownership of the political process and responsibility for the implementation of the agreement lies with the Nepalese parties. The role of the UN in 2007 will be to maintain confidence in the process by ensuring that any breach of the agreement is investigated and made known.

 

 

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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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