Under-Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman’s press conference at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal
I have to say that based on my visit here and my conversation with a wide variety of officials, representatives of civil society and political parties, I am really encouraged by the progress that the people of Nepal have made in the peace process. You had a decade of conflict in which thousands of people were killed. But over the past six years the parties, the people of Nepal, have talked to each other, have worked together to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
For example, I had the honour and the privilege to go yesterday morning to the Kharipati Military Academy and to see, first hand, the former Maoist combatants training to serve as officers in the national army. This was a tangible symbol of integration, reconciliation and the process is nearly complete and I applaud the people of Nepal for this achievement.
On behalf of the United Nations I would also like to congratulate all parties on the recent political agreement. This political agreement is a result of compromise by all. It is a significant achievement in our view and is able to move past a political stalemate that had characterized the political life in the country in recent months. I had the privilege to this morning to have a meeting with President Yadav and to offer on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon our congratulations to him and to the party leaders for finding a way forward out of this political stalemate.
In our view at this point it is important to build on this political compromise and to bring all parties on board for a way forward. The peace process here in Nepal has been, and always will be, a Nepali-led process where the people of Nepal, the leaders of Nepal, are making decisions for Nepal, based on Nepal’s best interests.
We want to support your efforts. Part of my message to those that I met when I was here for the last couple of days was our support for elections as early as possible in the spirit of the political agreement that was recently made. The UN has worked in Nepal before in supporting elections and we continue to work to support a credible and an inclusive, competitive electoral process that takes place as quickly as possible. We look forward to the appointment of the Election Commission. We look forward to working with the Election Commission to see how the UN can play a role in supporting a process that would meet the aspirations of the Nepali people. We call on all parties and all people to participate in determining the future for Nepal through the next Constituent Assembly elections.
In my meetings with officials in the government, with leaders of political parties and political fronts, I talked about several issues. One was this issue of inclusivity—the importance of reaching out to all parts of the political spectrum, all parts of Nepalese society, to bring them on board for the way forward towards elections and the new Constituent Assembly. It is important for all parties to respond favourably and to now participate in this process. We also talked in our meetings about the achievements that Nepal’s women had registered in the last Constituent Assembly, and the need for the electoral process and the next Constituent Assembly to maintain that important leadership role for the women of Nepal.
We also talked about other issues related to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the development of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And I raised the UN’s concerns that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission live up to the international standards and live up to the international agreements to which Nepal has subscribed, to meet the aspirations of the Nepalese people again for their peace process. I hope that everyone has seen the statement made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
In closing, let me say again: what a deep honour it has been to come to Nepal to represent Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in meetings with officials, with party leaders and members of civil society. I applaud the progress that the people of Nepal have made in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and we look forward to supporting the interim electoral council, the Election Commission and the people of Nepal as they move forward towards elections to the Constituent Assembly. Thank you.
Republica Daily: You said that the UN is ready to support the electoral process in Nepal. Is there any concrete UN plan?
USG Feltman: In terms of our support for the electoral process, as I mentioned, the UN has worked before to support, facilitate Nepal’s elections and we have an ongoing electoral support project that is under the direction of the UN country team here in Nepal. I am honoured to be here with Mr. Terry Jones who is currently serving as the Resident Coordinator in Nepal. We really wanted to have a conversation with the Election Commission about what else they would like to see the UN provide. The important thing to emphasize here is – these are Nepal’s elections, this is a Nepali process and we will take our guidance from the Election Commission, from the people of Nepal about the role we can play. The UN has actively provided electoral assistance programmes in many countries worldwide. I think the number is 60 or 70 countries worldwide, so we have some experience in best practices. We have some ideas of what we can contribute to elections that will be seen by the people of Nepal as credible, as legitimate and we will look forward to doing our part in helping achieve these free and fair, competitive and inclusive elections.
In terms of what I heard over the past couple days in my meetings, let me just say that complements what the UN team here on the ground in Nepal hears every day. The conversations I had were new for me, but the UN is actively engaged with a wide spectrum of people far beyond what I could possibly see in two days. But I felt a sense of optimism about the fact that there is now a way forward out of the political stalemate that had characterised recent months in terms of the governing institutions of Nepal. We recognise the interim electoral council of ministers is an extraordinary and temporary measure. It was designed as a way to allow the political system to move forward so that the important aspect that the elections could be held, so that the people of Nepal could express their views through the ballot box and that’s where we want to offer support.
The Kathmandu Post: What type of impression are you taking back about the elections in Nepal because there is a deep division among the political leaders –whether the elections can take place in third week of June? There is confusion whether elections will be held in June.
USG Feltman: The impression I have is that there is a sincere desire to have elections as soon as possible. But there is also an understanding that the elections need to be credible – that the elections need to be seen as legitimate by the widest number of people in Nepal – that the elections need to be inclusive, and there is work to be done. There is work to be done on registering citizenships so that citizens can vote. There is work to be done updating the registration. This is why I think it is important for the Election Commission to be named as soon as possible so that the UN and others can participate in helping prepare the way for elections. It is not for the UN to decide when the best date for elections in Nepal is. The service we can offer is to make sure that we are facilitating elections that will be seen by the broad spectrum of Nepali society, Nepali popular opinion as being legitimate, as representing the aspirations of the people of Nepal and I felt sincerity from those whom I spoke with about their commitment to seeing these elections are free, fair, competitive and inclusive and take place as quickly as possible. That is where we want to support.