Nepal Peace Process at ‘Delicate and Critical Moment,’ as Negotiators Work to Resolve Standoff in 5-Day-Old General Strike, Security Council Told

5 May 2010
SC/9919

Nepal Peace Process at ‘Delicate and Critical Moment,’ as Negotiators Work to Resolve Standoff in 5-Day-Old General Strike, Security Council Told

5 May 2010
Security Council
SC/9919
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6308th Meeting* (PM)

Nepal Peace Process at ‘Delicate and Critical Moment,’ As Negotiators Work

to Resolve Standoff in 5-Day-Old General Strike, Security Council Told

Head of UN Mission Says ‘Tensions Have Worsened’ Since January Report;

Nepal’s Representative Requests Extension of Mission Until 15 September

With Nepal’s Maoists blocking the streets of Kathmandu in the fifth day of their general strike, the top United Nations official in that country warned the Security Council about the implications of the opposition party’s face-off with the Government, saying that the peace process “is at a delicate and critical moment” and the protests threatened to derail the four-year effort to hammer out a power-sharing agreement. 

In that same meeting, Nepal’s Ambassador to the United Nations maintained that there would always be successes and setbacks in a complex peace process, such as the one taking place in his country.  Yet, it was necessary to build on positive achievements and maintain momentum.  For that reason, His Government had decided to request that the Council consider extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) -- set to expire next Saturday -- until 15 September 2010.

In her briefing, UNMIN Chief and Representative of the Secretary-General, Karin Landgren said the “tensions have worsened” since her last report in January and the Mission had long warned of the dangerous slide in the peace process.  It remained mired in profound mutual mistrust, with majority governments having reinforced the divisions between the Maoist and non-Maoist parties for nearly two years.  Moreover, other parties had begun to challenge the Maoists’ commitment to multiparty democracy and the rule of law, and had called on them to abandon recourse to violence.  

“The political parties speak of the ‘logical conclusion’ to the peace process in the near term as being attained when the Maoist military personnel are integrated and rehabilitated or when the new constitution is adopted,” she continued.  “But this process is ultimately about resolving long-term underlying causes of the conflict.”  Indeed, serious challenges remained in resolving such long-term problems as the exclusion of marginalized groups, the lack of basic services for all and the search for justice.  Many Nepalese were disappointed that their expectations in those areas remained unfulfilled. 

Continuing, she said negotiators were now working to resolve the current standoff between Maoist supporters and the Government, primarily over Maoist demands for a national unity government.  As the general strike entered its fifth day, negotiations among the major parties were focused squarely on the contentious governance and peace process issues that had long been sidestepped, including critical constitutional questions around Nepal’s proposed federal structure and form of governance, and the integration and rehabilitation of some 20,000 Maoist army personnel.

She said the parties were also discussing, as part of a possible package agreement, a handful of other longstanding issues, including ending the paramilitary function and activities of the Maoist Young Communist League, and the return by the Maoists of all seized property, both of which had been addressed in earlier agreements, but never implemented.

Extending the imminent deadline of the Constitutional Assembly beyond 28 May was also under discussion.  All elements of a solution to that impasse were acknowledged by the major parties.  The main stumbling blocks in the negotiations were reportedly the timing and leadership of a new national unity government, and the modalities for integrating and rehabilitating Maoist army personnel.  “If crisis is averted through a deal in the coming days, it will be vital to put in place effective machinery for its monitoring and oversight,” she added. 

Specifically on the future of the Maoist military personnel, she said that under the peace agreements, they were to be integrated into security forces or rehabilitated.  The question of how many might be integrated had only recently become the subject of open discussion and negotiation among the parties.  At the initial stages, the Government had proposed that 3,000 of the total verified Maoist personnel be brought into the national security forces, while the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) had asserted that all its members be accommodated.

“The former Maoist combatants urgently need solutions, as individuals and as a key to the peace process of Nepal,” she said, stressing that poorly executed social rehabilitation, or an excessive reliance on cash packages, could sow the seeds of future problems.  Ms. Landgren therefore urged the parties to adequately invest in the planning, design, implementation monitoring and oversight of all phases of the integration and rehabilitation exercise, with which the United Nations remained available to assist.

Providing the Council with a snapshot of the current situation, she said the Maoists had brought large numbers of supporters to Kathmandu for May Day, followed by an indefinite strike from 2 May, calling on the Government of Madhav Kumar Nepal to step down and pave the way for a unity government.  The Prime Minister had rejected calls for his immediate resignation, but had said that he would not be an obstacle if an understanding was reached among the parties.

She said UNMIN had warned of the grave risks to the peace process should the stand-off persist, and that the Government had said that the Nepal Army would intervene if the Maoist protests turned violent.  National security forces had been put on high alert.  The Maoists had insisted that their protests would remain peaceful.  However, one member of the Maoists army had been found in possession of a hand grenade while travelling on a public bus, a reckless act which UNMIN had immediately condemned.

At the end of the fourth day of the strike, several clashes had occurred between Maoists and local residents in different localities, and there were reports that counter-campaigns may be organized, which could be expected to exacerbate tensions.  Economic losses from the strike had been significant, and party workers were beginning to suffer water-borne diseases.  Temperatures had been high in Kathmandu and Tarai.  The UCPN-M had reportedly seized a few Nepal Army officers in civilian dress, and handed them over to the security forces while publicly accusing them of spying.

The overall restraint shown by the Government and the Maoists was commendable.  Yet, the risks grew every day.  “This situation should not be allowed to continue, and all encouragement is needed for both sides to deepen their discussion, come to agreement and resolve the crisis speedily,” she said, adding:  “These events, along with the lack of decisive progress on the constitution and on the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel, have stoked public unease over a possible return to conflict, or of an autocratic pre-emption of Nepal’s democratic institutions.”

Turning to the status of the Mission, she said that UNMIN had consulted extensively with the parties, both bilaterally and jointly, to make arrangements for the Mission’s withdrawal and for handing over its residual monitoring responsibilities, as requested by the Security Council.  Between 14 March and 26 April, in some 12 hours of meetings, UNMIN proposed several options to replace or supplement the Mission’s monitoring role by a mixed military body, by a national civilian body or by consolidating cantonments or weapons storage containers.

She said that the parties unanimously agreed that UNMIN’s departure at this point in the peace process would not be beneficial and that the alternative monitoring arrangements were not feasible.  In addition to its current role, the group asked that UNMIN be ready to facilitate other aspects of the peace process as requested.  Some in the group, however, suggested that UNMIN should no longer monitor the Nepal Army and focus exclusively on the Maoist army, due to changed circumstances, while others proposed that UNMIN monitor the integration process and the democratization of the Nepal Army, she said. 

The issues on which the parties expressed agreement in consultations were also issues to which UNMIN could strengthen support within its existing mandate, she said.  She recalled that UNMIN was set up to operate in an environment of relative compliance with agreements and that the agreement to monitor arms and armies was foreseen as a short-term arrangement and arms monitors were now at their minimum level of 73, which presupposed that the monitoring task would soon come to an end.

She noted, however, that despite a number of “fragile moments”, the parties had kept the peace and maintained that their commitment to the peace agreement must be reinforced.  Yet, it was nevertheless true that the parties could demonstrate greater seriousness in monitoring and holding to their commitments, but with the strong encouragement of all their supporters, Nepal’s parties could and must pull the peace process back from its present disarray and animosity.

After that briefing, Gyan Chandra Acharya, Permanent Representative of Nepal, while requesting the mandate extension for the Mission, agreed that his country was currently going through a difficult time but, given its past record of dialogue and compromise, he was hopeful that it could bridge over differences and keep the long-term perspective of the peace process in mind.  The Government, for its part, was committed to reaching the ultimate goal of stability, peace and prosperity.  Looking back at all the progress made, there was good reason to believe that the peace process could deliver substantial progress, even if at times it moved slowly with occasional setbacks.

He assured the Council that dialogue was continuing among the major political parties to resolve the current deadlock, and that it was fully committed to pursuing the peace process with vigour and agility and with the help of all stakeholders.  He expressed appreciation for the goodwill, support and cooperation of the international community, the Security Council in particular.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and adjourned at 3:39 p.m.

Background

The Security Council today had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process (document S/2010/214), which reviews the progress of the peace process and the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) since the last report of 7 January 2010.

The report recalls that, in January, the Government of Nepal sought the extension of UNMIN’s mandate through a critical period for progress in the integration and the rehabilitation of former Maoist soldiers, which was supposed to be completed before 28 May, the deadline for the new Constitution.  On that basis, an extension of the mandate of UNMIN until 15 May 2010 was requested, and accepted by the Council.

Even at that time, the report says, the deadline was regarded by many observers as too ambitious, because critical aspects of the action plan on integration and rehabilitation had not been agreed, including the number of Maoist army personnel to be integrated into the security forces, the modalities of integration and the options that can be offered to those to be rehabilitated into civilian life.  Resolution of these issues is still pending, although intensive discussions continue.

The disagreements over integration and rehabilitation, as well as over key aspects of the new Constitution and power-sharing, the report says, are part of a stalemate compounded by mistrust between the parties, insufficient political will and weak mechanisms for the implementation of past agreements.

The Council, the report says, has called on the parties to take full advantage of the expertise and readiness of UNMIN to facilitate the completion of outstanding issues.  The resolution of the future of the former Maoist army personnel was an important benchmark in the Mission’s work and would allow a successful exit.

In the report, the Secretary-General affirms his intention to see UNMIN successfully complete its work at the earliest.  He calls it regrettable, however, that the official position of the Government and the parties on the possible extension of the Mission had not been received at the time of writing.

Should the Government of Nepal, in consultation with the parties, request an extension, the Secretary-General recommends the Security Council “respond positively”, expecting the request to include a clear indication of the areas in which UNMIN should strengthen its support, in order to expedite progress and enable the Mission to complete its mandate.

He appeals to the Government and the parties to resolve without delay the remaining political impediments and take concrete steps towards the fulfilment of commitments, through structured consultations and dialogue.  Towards that end, he underlines the critical importance of the development and implementation of a thorough, realistic and well-prepared plan for the integration and rehabilitation of the former Maoist army personnel, for which UNMIN stands ready to assist.

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*     The 6307th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.