Secretary-General’s Outgoing Representative in Nepal Spells Out Stark Choices for Conclusion of Peace Process as United Nations Mission Winds Down
Secretary-General’s Outgoing Representative in Nepal Spells Out Stark Choices for Conclusion of Peace Process as United Nations Mission Winds Down
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6465th Meeting (PM)
Secretary-General’s Outgoing Representative in Nepal Spells Out Stark Choices
for Conclusion of Peace Process as United Nations Mission Winds Down
In Final Briefing to Security Council,
She Reports Progress Marred by Growing Divisions between Parties
The peace process in Nepal could either be brought to a close in a satisfactory manner, through the negotiated resolution of outstanding issues, or abortively, with one or more parties reneging on their solemn commitments, the Secretary-General’s Representative in that country told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council for the last time as Head of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), just 10 days before the conclusion on 15 January of its four-year engagement, Karin Landgren said that although the peace process was still incomplete, the Mission had performed its mandated tasks and contributed significantly to peace. UNMIN had been an expression of the international community’s support for and investment in Nepal’s peace process, she added.
Acknowledging understandable frustration with an attenuated process, far removed from the optimistic 12-month period originally mandated by the Council, she said the Mission’s primary objective at inception had been the successful election of the Constituent Assembly. But upon completion of that task, UNMIN’s monitoring of arms and armies had been extended repeatedly while relations between the parties continued to erode. The Mission would have benefited from a review of its mandate after the elections, she said, adding that stronger support for the peace process overall — possibly including monitoring of the peace agreements more broadly, as well as technical support, particularly for the integration and rehabilitation process — should have been considered more seriously.
Four years on, it should be recognized that Nepal had undertaken a complex long-term project of peace, democracy and State transformation, she continued. The historic 12-point agreement signed by the Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in 2005 had committed them to establish absolute democracy in the country, but completing the course and managing the process had now become acutely challenging. Deep divisions had emerged over its direction and the sequencing of steps, especially in respect of the Maoist army personnel’s future and the promulgation of a new constitution.
There had been dramatic political gains, which were not likely to be reversed, but the risks had clearly grown, she said, citing fears among many Nepalis about the prospect of a people’s revolt, which remained an explicit Maoist threat. There were also fears of the President stepping in, as recently called for by the Vice-President, should the parties fail to find a way forward, or of an army-backed coup. Any such measures would sorely threaten peace and Nepal’s fragile democracy, she warned.
Under the four-point agreement concluded last September, the Government and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) were to “basically complete” the remaining tasks of the peace process by 14 January 2011, she said, pointing out, however, that major issues pertaining to integration and rehabilitation remained unresolved. They included the numbers, norms and modalities for integration into the security forces; whether the combatants would be integrated principally into the Nepal Army and Armed Police Force or into other forces; and the value of the proposed rehabilitation packages.
She stressed that the parties had not resolved the issue of future monitoring of the arms and armies after UNMIN’s exit. Despite the Mission’s strong advice that the parties should move forward more swiftly on finding solutions for the 19,000 Maoist army personnel rather than simply replicating a monitoring regime, there was considerable confusion and disagreement on how, and by whom, monitoring would be conducted after UNMIN. Today, 10 days before the end of the Mission, there was still no consensus mechanism to which UNMIN could hand over its monitoring responsibilities, she noted.
“It’s not clear what will happen after UNMIN withdraws,” she continued. The of 26 November 2006 Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies spelled out the Mission’s role as the monitor of those arrangements, as did the Peace Agreement of 21 November 2006. Those accords were binding on the parties and became no less so after UNMIN’s departure, she said, adding that the parties could revise them but had yet to do so. Thus, the departure of UNMIN — the designated monitor — “seems set to create a legal void”, Ms. Landgren said.
She went on to note that the Office of the Prime Minister had set forth a plan making clear that the Nepal Army would no longer be subjected to monitoring. The Government had reiterated its request that UNMIN hand over all relevant documents, United Nations equipment and logistics, including containers bearing arms and ammunition, to the Special Committee monitoring the integration of Maoist army personnel or another designated mechanism. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had already rejected formally the monitoring proposal presented by the Prime Minister’s Office on the grounds that it would effectively abrogate critical agreements, with potentially far-reaching political consequences. “Expunging these agreements would “create grave uncertainties and be expected to erode the confidence that has been built up around arms monitoring and through the important achievements of the process so far,” Ms. Landgren warned.
With respect to the Prime Minister’s Office for the transfer of UNMIN documents and equipment, she said the Mission had underlined its readiness to provide all possible support to agreed follow-on arrangements. In numerous discussions with the Government, UNMIN had set out the relevant United Nations procedures. The stored arms and ammunition belonged to the parties, she said, stressing that UNMIN had had the responsibility of monitoring them but no authority over their disposal. The arms monitoring function was based on agreement and the Mission required “a clear and consensual response” as to how the monitoring equipment would be used.
For its part, the Council had consistently urged the parties “to agree and implement a timetabled action plan with clear benchmarks for the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel”, she recalled. It had decided that in working with the parties, UNMIN should “make the necessary arrangements for its withdrawal, including handing over any residual monitoring responsibilities”. Ms. Landgren added: “It is not an option for us to hand over monitoring-related [Untied Nations] equipment to the Government, without agreement between the Government and UCPN-M [Unified Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist] on the nature and form of future monitoring.”
Politically, the peace process remained largely deadlocked following the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in June 2010, she said. There had been little progress on the most critical issues of forming a new government and integrating and rehabilitating Maoist army personnel. However, some progress had been made on the new constitution, but meeting the promulgation deadline of 28 May might be difficult. Recalling that the Interim Government in office between April 2007 and August 2008 had reflected an agreement to share power, she said that since the elections, the parties had found it extremely difficult to maintain consensus and to find satisfactory power-sharing arrangements. At issue was not merely whether a new Government could be formed, but whether the peace process could advance without it.
Reporting that Parliament had been summoned for 9 January, she said it appeared unlikely that a new Government would be in place by the time UNMIN’s mandate expired. Growing differences within the major political parties added to the mistrust between them, and the failure of the peace process to advance had strengthened the hand of those on all sides who derided it as unproductive or “far too slow”, she said, warning that there was a real risk that failure would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Still, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement “remains a lodestar for Nepal”, pinpointing the issues holding the key to sustainable peace and development, she continued. Many ethnic and traditionally-marginalized groups now anticipated improved representation at all levels of society and Government, as well as the benefits of greater decentralization. At the same time, the contestation over resources and a share in decision-making was now heightened and could be a source of future tension and instability. Additionally, land-reform efforts had stalled and the human rights situation was still characterized by a general atmosphere of impunity and lack of accountability. Some journalists had been killed and others threatened, she noted, adding that efforts to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances had slowed.
Despite the stalemate over many critical matters, however, there had been some encouraging progress in reducing contentious issues in the new constitution, she said. Among other things, the new charter was expected to reflect the most important commitments of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, making it perhaps the single most critical milestone in Nepal’s democratic transition. Adopting the new constitution should “close the door” firmly on any undemocratic governance alternatives, against which the United Nations had warned repeatedly, she said. Parties on both the left and the right would need to show patience and remain faithful to the core documents of the peace process. The traditional parties must demonstrate that their intention was not simply to marginalize the Maoists through day-to-day politics, while the Maoists must demonstrate unambiguously their intention to abide by democratic politics.
In closing, she said the matter of Nepal’s peace process would remain on the Council’s agenda for a further three years. Consistent with the strong and sustained support of the Secretary-General and the United Nations over the past several years, the United Nations would remain engaged and continue to make its contribution to the success of the peace process.
Also addressing the Council, Nepal’s representative agreed that the Mission had been a positive factor in the difficult context of the peace process, and expressed sincere appreciation for its dedication and contributions. The Government was making every effort to ensure a smooth transition from UNMIN’s work to the Special Committee formed under the Interim Constitution and comprising representatives of the major political parties, including the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
He said the peace process would reach its culmination after the reintegration and rehabilitation of combatants and the promulgation of a new constitution. “We are working hard on both these fronts.” If it was taking more time, it was only because of the “historic task of transformation that the new constitution will usher in the political, social and economic spheres in the days ahead”. However, he acknowledged concerns that the peace process was “sometimes stalled or not moving forward as quickly as possible”. Given the necessary courage, maturity and flexibility, all the parties would move towards the logical conclusion.
The Government had already made necessary preparations, with a view to making the constitutionally-formed Special Committee, “a capable body”, to take over all UNMIN’s tasks seamlessly, he explained. The Special Committee would supervise arms and Maoist army combatants, in accordance with the guidelines laid out in the Directives for Supervision, Control, Direction and Code of Conduct for the Maoist Army Combatants, which had been adopted unanimously on 17 September 2010. The Special Committee would itself be able to settle disputes and any other issues that might arise. The Government had sent a letter to UNMIN on issues related to the monitoring of Maoist army combatants and arms, on the Nepal Army and arms, on the Agreement and Management of Arms and Armies and Dispute Resolution Mechanism, and on the request for the transfer of the updated records of arms and Maoist army combatants, the materials, equipment and logistics used by UNMIN for monitoring.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 3:47 p.m.
Meeting this afternoon to consider the situation in Nepal, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on that country’s request for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process (document S/2010/658).
Submitted pursuant to Council resolution 1939 (2010), by which the Council authorized the final mandate extension, until 15 January 2011, for the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the report reviews the progress of the peace process and implementation of the mandate since September. UNMIN was established in 2007 as a special political mission with a mandate that includes monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of the Nepal Army and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.
According to the report, the Secretary-General says the parties have achieved “only limited progress” in advancing the peace process, which is at a crossroads. The journey that began a little over five years ago with the signing of the Twelve-Point Understanding in November 2005 was solidified in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement a year later, as well as through subsequent agreements and constitutional, legislative and political measures. This has opened up the possibilities of substantial political and social reform, and the United Nations is proud to have contributed its share to the nationally owned process in various ways.
However, Nepal’s journey towards sustainable peace is not finished, the report states, adding that the prolonged political deadlock that has hampered progress has become a growing concern for Nepalis and the international community alike as key timelines and deadlines approach in the coming months. Completing the remaining tasks of the peace process by mid-January 2011, as agreed by the Government and the Maoists in September 2010, has so far proved elusive, the report finds. Despite intensified efforts, Nepal has remained under a caretaker government for the past six months, with the parties unable to agree on the leadership and formation of a new government. The peace process still faces several challenges, above all, that of promulgating a new constitution within the extended deadline of 28 May 2011, and integrating or rehabilitating into the security forces roughly 19,000 Maoist army personnel.
Additionally, several other commitments contained in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the interim constitution are yet to be addressed and “hold the seeds of fresh confrontation if expectations remain unmet”, the report says. Polarized relations and deepening rifts among and within the political parties, as well as the associated mistrust, remain at the heart of the stalemate. This polarization is not insurmountable, and the parties must find a way out of the current situation, the report states, recalling that they have in the past made major compromises, and must soon do so again. None of them can afford to put the entire process and the fruits of their hard work at serious risk, the report states, emphasizing that no one side can expect to win at the expense of others.
The Secretary-General goes on to point out that there is still time for the parties to fulfil their peace-process commitments and improve their political dynamic. Much depends on their ability and willingness to take fresh measures, make necessary compromises and act on the acknowledged need for consensual approaches. It is vital, he says, for all political parties to focus on the long-term interests of the country and people of Nepal rather than partisan interests. The successful conclusion of the peace process is entirely dependent on the parties’ reaffirmation of their collective responsibility and a concrete demonstration of their capacity to compromise in the larger interest of the nation.
Rapid steps are needed to secure the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel in a mutually acceptable manner, he continued, noting that the United Nations would have liked to see that prior to UNMIN’s departure, in order to avoid any vacuum. Similarly, there has been no progress on the parallel commitment to determine the numbers of the Nepal Army and to democratize that institution, which is vital for country’s future stability. The parties have as yet no agreed plan for follow-on arrangements in respect of the monitoring of arms and armies, a cause for concern in the absence of broader political agreement.
At the Government’s request, the Council decided on 15 September that the present UNMIN mandate would be terminated on 15 January 2011, the report recalls. UNMIN was set up as a short-term mission and had been a positive factor in the difficult context of the peace process during this period, including in supporting the electoral process and monitoring the management of arms and armies. However, it has had a limited mandate that did not enable it to provide greater support in resolving the political difficulties of the peace process as a whole.
The report goes on to state that, with the peace process still incomplete and arrangements for the supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel uncertain, the optimal conditions for the Mission’s departure have not yet been attained. But at the same time, it has become quite clear that it makes little sense continually to extend UNMIN’s mandate without any meaningful progress by the parties on political issues.
In conclusion, the Secretary-General pledges the continuing long-term support of the United Nations to the search for sustainable peace in Nepal. The Organization’s entities in the country will assist in rehabilitating Maoist army personnel when the time comes, and continue to lend support to the constitution-drafting process and the many medium- and longer-term elements of peacebuilding. He expresses confidence that the advances made in Nepal’s unique peace process will not easily be reversed, and urges all the parties to do their utmost to preserve these gains, to complete the peace process successfully and to ensure the country’s democratic stability. Such processes are never easy, he stresses, adding that Nepal has managed its own peace process with greater goodwill and steadiness than have many other countries in similar post-war settings.
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