The following press statement was released by United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) recently, and reflects efforts made towards establishment of a peacefull democratic Nepal.
by Ian Martin
Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General
16 July 2007
I want to update you in particular on the two main aspects of UNMIN’s mandated support to the peace process: the monitoring of arms and armed personnel, and electoral support.
As you know, the second stage of registration and verification of Maoist army personnel was carried out at the main cantonment site in Ilam from 19 to 26 June, and the findings were presented on 27 June to the leadership of the CPN(Maoist), detailing those whom the verification teams assessed as aged under 18 on 25 May 2006, and others who were recruited to the Maoist army after 25 May 2006 and are therefore ineligible to remain in the cantonments. UNMIN arms monitors, together with the UNDP registration personnel and UNICEF child protection officers assisting them, were then ready to begin registration at the second site at Sindhuli, while at the same time cooperating with the Maoist army and the Interim Government regarding arrangements for the discharge of those found ineligible at Ilam. Maoist Chairman Prachanda however indicated that he wanted to have discussions with the Government and with UNMIN before proceeding, and these discussions could only take place after his return to Nepal from an overseas visit.
I met Chairman Prachanda last Thursday. Although he indicated his intention that verification should soon resume, he wanted further discussions to take place in the next few days before allowing it to do so. He indicated that these include broader discussions - beyond the issue of verification itself – among the eight parties and within the special committee of the Interim Government established in accordance with Article 146 of the Interim Constitution, to supervise, integrate and rehabilitate the combatants of the Maoist army. UNMIN recognizes the importance of such discussions, which must lead to eventual decisions regarding the future of Maoist combatants within the context of the future of the security sector, and we look forward to discussions with the special committee about the arrangements for those who leave the cantonments. However the important issue of security sector reform is primarily relevant to the future of those who remain in the cantonments after verification: it should not be a pre-condition to verification itself. I remind everyone that the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies was negotiated between the Maoists and the then Seven-Party Alliance Government: it was they who agreed upon the criteria which UNMIN has been asked to apply and it is their responsibility now to enable us to do so in a spirit of cooperation. In accordance with the Agreement, the international community expects in particular that those who have been found to be under 18 on the relevant date must be discharged promptly. I expect to meet Chairman Prachanda again in the very near future to get the process under way again, both as regards orderly discharge and reintegration of those found ineligible at Ilam and as regards the beginning of verification at Sindhuli. One important aspect of our work at the cantonment sites has made further progress: last week saw the first destruction of explosive remnants of the conflict at the cantonment sites, and this will now go forward in cooperation with the Maoist army.
The Chief Election Commissioner’s briefing of the diplomatic community last Thursday reflected the substantial progress regarding planning for the Constituent Assembly election since my last briefing, and UNMIN’s electoral advisers have been working very closely with the Election Commission to assist this. This weekend saw the arrival of the first of 124 international United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) who together with 43 Nepalese UNVs will be deployed as district electoral advisers. By mid-August we plan to have deployed 48 international and 19 national UNVs to 28 district headquarters, from where they will cover another 31 districts. The rest of the district electoral advisers will be deployed in September, as we hope the monsoon will be coming to an end, so that we can extend their coverage to all 75 districts.
As you know, the first visit of the United Nations Electoral Expert Monitoring Team took place from 11 to 23 June. Their report has been submitted to the Secretary-General, who will shortly convey it to the Government and to the Election Commission. As soon as it has been received by them, there will be a press statement on its main findings and recommendations. The Electoral Expert Monitoring Team will make three further visits to Nepal, the next of which we expect to be in early August, and the last to include the period before, during and after the ballot itself. In the meantime, I fully support the request of the Government and the Election Commission for international and regional organizations, governments and NGOs to send as many international observers as possible. At the request of the Election Commission, the United Nations will assist in coordinating international observers through UNDP.
The holding of the election in a conducive climate still faces major challenges. UNMIN, and indeed the Secretary-General, have repeatedly stressed the importance of ensuring through dialogue that historically marginalized groups – Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits, women and others – can accept that their legitimate demands for representation will be met by through the electoral system. I note that on Saturday the High-level Intra-party Coordination Committee of the eight-party alliance designated representatives to work with the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction in bringing to an early conclusion talks with Madhesi and Janajati groups. Such dialogue is also essential to the challenge of assuring public security, especially in the eastern Terai. UNMIN looks forward to being briefed on the Government’s plans for election security. But I welcome the recognition by many political leaders that the creation of public security and conditions conducive for the election in all districts and villages requires above all political cooperation, not just in Kathmandu but even more crucially at the local level. This must allow all parties – I stress all parties, not only the eight parties - to conduct their activities from now on without facing intimidation and violence.
I was pleased to participate on Saturday in the inaugural meeting of the Peace and Rehabilitation Consultative Committee, and to receive further confirmation there that the establishment of an independent national monitoring body is imminent. I stress as I have in the past the importance of its independence, and the urgency of the appointment of members of the National Human Rights Commission: both bodies are urgently needed to monitor progress in peace implementation, including the human rights commitment of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, and UNMIN and OHCHR can then intensify our own roles in monitoring or supporting national monitoring.
I want to end with a public appeal to all people and groups in Nepal: a plea for non-violence. It is sickening for those of us who wish to see a peaceful, democratic and inclusive Nepal to read daily of killings, assaults, threats of violence and destruction of public and private property. All such acts are criminal, whether or not they have a political dimension. When the opportunity beckons for all issues to be resolved through dialogue and a democratic process, no group will advance its cause, however legitimate, by such violent methods; and certainly they stand only to forfeit the sympathy of the international community.