7 September 2010

Hard Decisions Needed to Move Nepal’s Peace Process Forward Firmly in Hands of Country’s Leaders, Beyond UN Mission’s Mandate, Top Official Tells Security Council

7 September 2010
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6377th Meeting* (AM)

Hard Decisions Needed to Move Nepal’s Peace Process Forward Firmly in Hands of Country’s

Leaders, Beyond UN Mission’s Mandate, Top Official Tells Security Council

Nepal’s Representative Says Government Would Have Preferred More Balanced Report;

Letter to Secretary-General Requests Extension of Mission ‘with Appropriate Focus’

The hard decisions needed to take Nepal’s peace process forward lay firmly in the hands of the Himalayan country’s leaders, and were beyond the mandate and capacity of the United Nations Mission there, known as UNMIN, the Secretary-General’s representative told the Security Council this morning.

“UNMIN’s tasks can only succeed if there is overall political progress in Nepal,” Karin Landgren said, as she introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report, which presented a “discouraging picture” of a stalled peace process, with few signs of a consensual way forward (document S/2010/453).

UNMIN’s role is supportive, she said.  “Ascribing to the UN the blame for the parties’ failure to move forward politically is not a new phenomenon, but it has grown incrementally and in intensity,” she added, noting that the Secretary-General’s desire was to see the Mission complete its tasks and withdraw, in a manner that did not jeopardize the peace process and maintained international support for peace consolidation.

On 12 May, through resolution 1921 (2010) the Council renewed UNMIN’s mandate until 15 September 2010, in line with a request from the Government of the Himalayan country, stressing that arrangements should immediately be made for withdrawal of the Mission by that date.

At that time, the Secretary-General also reported little progress on the main provisions of the peace process, which included the integration of the Armed Forces and completing the drafting of a new constitution by the deadline of 28 May.  The Council called on the parties, the Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to take full advantage of the expertise of UNMIN to make progress in the peace process before the Mission’s withdrawal, taking into particular account the ongoing management of arms and armed personnel, as called for by a 2008 political agreement.

In her presentation today, Ms. Landgren said that a complete collapse of the peace process had been averted following her previous presentation to the Council, through a Three-Point Agreement that extended the Constituent Assembly, and the deadline for completing the constitution, until 28 May 2011.  “But the critical extension of the deadline for completing the constitution has not moved matters forward,” she said.

Since the crisis, she said, the Assembly had met only to adopt the calendar for constitution-drafting.  The Prime Minister stepped down on 30 June, but continued to head a caretaker Government, pending election of a new Prime Minister by the legislative parliament.  Negotiations to form a national consensus Government failed, and the legislative parliament had voted seven times since 21 July on the candidates, without either obtaining a simple majority.  An eighth round of voting, for that purpose, had been tentatively scheduled for 26 September.

A primary reason for the deadlock, she said was the decision of a third party, the Unified Marxist-Leninist Party (UML), to remain neutral in the balloting, at least in part because of internal tensions.  There was widespread acknowledgement that a majority Government that left any of the three major parities in opposition was unlikely to muster the unity needed to complete the tasks of the peace process.

Those tasks, which included the issues of power-sharing, completion of the new constitution, and solutions for the former Maoist army personnel, were completely interlinked, she said, as the Three Point Agreement made clear.  Unfortunately, she added, there was a current void in the process because of a long-standing reluctance to invest in the kind of sustained and structured negotiations that might drive progress.  The proper architecture for that was never put in place, and the once-promising High-Level Political Mechanism was abandoned not long after the death of G.P. Koirala.

In addition, in recent months, the caretaker Government, sections of the Nepali Congress and the UML and the Nepal Army argued that the Army should no longer be monitored by UNMIN, which watches over its barracks and arms, as well as the cantonments and arms of the Maoist army.  They cite a provision of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, according to which “the concept of two sides shall cease to exist” upon the establishment of the Interim Legislature-Parliament, which took place in 2007.

She commented that, whether or not “two sides” still existed, there were certainly still two armies.  The Secretary-General had repeatedly argued against prolonged confinement of the armies without a long-term solution.  However, it was a cause of concern that the Nepal Army now sought to unilaterally withdraw from the monitored situation.  Absent a fresh agreement between the parties, UNMIN could not continue to monitor one side or introduce any other fundamental changes to the monitoring regime for which the Army was also calling.

A steady flow of accusations had been directed at UNMIN by the Nepal Army, she said.  They included two charges, patently false, that were perpetually recycled to show supposed UNMIN bias, concerning the Mission’s reaction to the 2008 torture of a businessman by Maoist army personnel and the 2009 case in which 19 Maoist army personnel were found to be in possession of United Nations weaponry.  In both cases, UNMIN responded in the manner required by its mandate, she stressed.

She said that UNMIN’s aim was to complete its support to the peace process effectively, and wind up its presence with minimal disruption to that process.  However, in the present polarized climate, a national monitoring mechanism could expect to find its credibility challenged even more severely than the Mission had.  For that reason, the Mission had continued to press for improving the effectiveness of its monitoring role.  It had also engaged in a “non-prescriptive effort to stimulate” the planning and implementation of integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel.

“The recent direct challenge to the arms monitoring agreement takes the peace process in a sharply wrong direction,” she said.  “Risks to the peace process and the democratic governance in Nepal are real.”  In the stalled situation, high risks were present, with the biggest one possibly that both the peace process and the parliamentary process appear discredited, sending a discouraging signal to existing and emerging groups about continuing on the democratic route for change.

She noted that, in his report, the Secretary-General had proposed that UNMIN’s mandate be discussed with the new Government when it was formed, in the context of the parties’ fulfilment of their commitments and the phasing out of the Mission.  The Secretary-General would then report back to the Council and in the event of a lack of clarity and consensus, would propose alternative measures, including the possible termination of the mandate.

In conclusion, she commented that the peace process had not failed, but for well over a year it had been essentially stalled and mistrust has risen.  It could be brought back on track if the political leadership was ready to reassess priorities and engage in persistent negotiation.  However, she said, at a time when political moderation was in short supply, the parties had a great deal of work to do in order to make the case that they intend Nepal’s peace to be permanent and irreversible.

Following Ms. Landgren’s presentation, the representative of Nepal, Gyan Chandra Acharya thanked the Council and the United Nations as a whole for support to his country’s peace process, but said that he would have liked to see a more balanced and nuanced report that reflected the situation on the ground in his country in its entirety.  He said that his Government had been working hard to push forward the peace process and accelerate the constitution-building process in the Constitutional Assembly, trying to enlist the cooperation of all parties and exhibiting the utmost flexibility.

With the election to the Constitutional Assembly and the formation of the Special Committee, he said, the concept of two armies “is no more there” and the report should have reflected that, as well as other developments, including the 60-day action plan prepared to take care of the issue of integration and rehabilitation, the work of the Government to democratize the Nepal Army.  He also took exception to the questioning of the regular functioning of the Government as per the Constitution of Nepal.

He reaffirmed his Government’s firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and called for the continued understanding and support of the international community for an early, meaningful and positive conclusion of his country’s peace process.  It was for that reason that he had just forwarded a request from his Government for the extension of UNMIN with an appropriate focus outlined, he said.

He said his country felt privileged to receive continued support and goodwill from the international community and was confident that, with further support and cooperation, it would be able to take the peace process to its logical conclusion.

The meeting was opened at 10:05 a.m. and closed at 10:41 a.m., at which time Council members went into consultations on Nepal, as previously agreed.

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*     The 6376th Meeting was closed.

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