Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to consider the report of the technical assessment mission to Nepal and to discuss the mandate for a UN mission in mid-January. A decision approving the mandate of the mission is likely.
The conflict between Nepal’s government and the Maoist insurgents lasted ten years, killing approximately 13,000 and displacing up to 150,000. The human rights records of both sides have been subject to significant criticism. Abuses included attacks on civilians, the killing of surrendered combatants, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture. The Maoists became notorious for using child soldiers. Challenges for the peace process include accountability, establishing rule of law and dealing with a culture of impunity.
On 1 February 2005 King Gyanendra staged a coup against the civilian government, using the Maoist insurgency as rationale. By September 2005, dissatisfaction with his rule produced a political partnership between former foes, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA, a coalition of the main political parties) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). By April 2006, the Maoists and the SPA were working together to organise street demonstrations that led to the king relinquishing power 24 April and agreeing to reinstate parliament.
On 8 August a peace agreement, including a process leading to elections for a Constituent Assembly in mid-2007, was signed by the Maoists and the SPA. This was consolidated into a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 21 November. On 28 November the two sides signed the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, which was also signed by the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative, Ian Martin, on 8 December.
Since 2005, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has been represented in Nepal. In April 2006 it played a key role in providing information on the scale of protests outside Kathmandu. OHCHR’s work led to support for a larger UN contribution to the peace process from Nepal’s government. India, which had previously been concerned about a wider UN role, is now supportive. On 25 August the Secretary-General appointed Ian Martin, then head of the OHCHR office in Nepal, as his Personal Representative.
The Council has been watching the situation in Nepal, but has not sought to become actively involved in the peace process preferring to leave the matter with OHCHR as long as that path was proving fruitful.
On 9 August the SPA and the Maoists asked the Secretary-General for UN-provided monitors to oversee arrangements to manage arms and armed personnel and to assist in the peace process, including the proposed 2007 elections.
On 1 December, the Council took up Nepal for the first time. It decided to indicate support for the Secretary-General’s proposal to send a technical assessment mission to Nepal to assess the number of UN personnel, logistical support and resources required. This future mission referred to as a “special political mission” will be a new hybrid involving monitors with military backgrounds and civilian personnel involved in the human rights and electoral processes. The parties made it clear that a peacekeeping mission with formed military units was not necessary in view of the levels of confidence in the security situation. The Council also supported the Secretary-General’s request for an advance deployment of 35 monitors and 25 electoral personnel.
The multidisciplinary technical delegation spent a week in Nepal in mid-December, and its report is expected in early January. It is expected that the recommended mandate would include:
assisting monitoring the code of conduct during the ceasefire;
assisting in the management of arms and armed personnel on both sides;
monitoring and verifying the confinement of Maoist combatants and their weapons in designated cantonment areas;
monitoring the Nepal army to ensure that it remains in barracks and does not use weapons; and
providing election observers.
It is expected that OHCHR will continue its human rights monitoring, and it has offered to share its investigations into human rights abuses in Nepal with the new government.
The mission is also expected to provide a chairperson and members for the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC) and team leaders for the Joint Monitoring Teams (JMT), mechanisms set up in the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies. The mission is likely to require up to 1,000 personnel, including local staff, and up to 200 military personnel to assist in arms management.
By the third week of December, the parties agreed on the interim constitution stripping King Gyanendra of his power and giving all executive powers to the prime minister. The long-term future of the monarchy will be decided by simple majority at the first meeting of the constituent assembly. This early agreement on the new constitution is crucial because only once it is implemented can the new government, formed with the Maoists as partners, begin to organise the constituent assembly elections.
One issue for the Council is the need to set up the mission quickly. Nepal’s interim prime minister, Girija Koirala, said that the new constitution will not come into force until the Maoists lock up their arms under UN supervision. If the UN monitoring team is not quickly put into place the election is unlikely to be held by June 2007. Delays could lead to new agitation and possible violations of the peace agreement. There was talk in mid-December that 35 monitors might be deployed by the end of the year with an interim task force of Gurkhas (Nepali soldiers who have served in the Indian and British armies) until the UN monitoring strength is built up. Therefore, the Council may need to consider ways to encourage the UN bureaucracy to generate a quick deployment.
Another issue is the safety of UN monitors. They will be in civilian clothing and unarmed. They could be vulnerable should violence break out in the cantonments. However, the UN has significant experience of managing risks for unarmed military observers. (The Maoists opposed decommissioning weapons and agreed only to store their heavy weapons in seven cantonments under UN monitoring. Light arms are not being locked up.)
Council members also see the fragility of the Maoist/SPA partnership as a major issue. Signs of discord emerged on 19 December when the Maoists called a strike by students and labour groups to protest the appointment of ambassadors without consulting them.
A future issue is the role the UN may eventually play in ensuring lasting peace. The political parties and the Maoists have requested a limited role for now. Over time the UN may be drawn into helping the Maoists integrate into the security forces or into setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this regard, Council and UN positions on impunity could become an issue as well.
The Council decision in December was unanimous. However, before endorsing a new mission, some members will want to carefully scrutinise budgetary and personnel requirements to avoid being drawn into a larger peacekeeping role than is necessary. Council dynamics may also be affected by the fact that, during the conflict, some members had reluctantly supported the king on the basis that the Maoists were seen as a violent, radical and almost terrorist like entity. They will want to see assurances of fundamental changes in the behaviour of the Maoists before involving the UN too deeply. The Maoists have not relinquished their grip on the countryside and, even in December, there were reports of forced recruitment.
The most likely option is for the Council to endorse the mission’s mandate through a resolution. If there is concern about size or cost, the Council might defer a decision and ask the Secretary-General to make adjustments to the mission. But this is unlikely since there is pressure to set up the mission quickly. It is possible-but also unlikely-that the Council could prefer that the mission come under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s good offices, in which case it would likely be approved by way of a letter to the Secretary-General rather than a resolution. The latter option would mean, of course, that the mission would need to be funded from the UN regular budget. The difficulty of reopening budget priorities in the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly suggests that this is unlikely.
Accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides will be a complex and possibly divisive issue. While there have been some attempts to investigate those responsible for killing and injuring demonstrators in April 2006, neither the government nor the Maoists appear intent on bringing to justice those involved in committing abuses over the years. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is provided for in the peace deal, but its viability remains to be seen.
9 December 2006 The Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to Nepal signed the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies.
1 December 2006 The Council endorsed the Secretary-General’s proposal for a technical mission.
28 November 2006 Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies signed by the Maoists and SPA.
21 November 2006 SPA and Maoists signed Comprehensive Peace Agreement ending the war.
8 November 2006 Maoists and SPA produced a signed peace understanding.
29 October 2006 Ceasefire extended for three months.
25 August 2006 Ian Martin was appointed as Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to Nepal.
9 August 2006 Maoists and SPA sent parallel letters to UN Secretary-General requesting monitoring of arms and elections.
27 July -3 August 2006 UN assessment mission visited Nepal.
24 July 2006 Maoists wrote to UN protesting SPA’s letter with reference to decommissioning.
2 July 2006 SPA wrote to Secretary-General proposing decommissioning of Maoist arms.
26 May 2006 Maoists and SPA signed ceasefire code of conduct.
26 April 2006 Maoists announced a unilateral three-month ceasefire.
24 April 2006 King Gyanendra surrendered power and agreed to reinstate parliament after street protests.
5 April 2006 Start of the people’s movement with the SPA general strike and Maoist blockades.
January 2006 Maoists ended four-month ceasefire.
22 November 2005 Maoists and SPA agreed on a common platform for restoring democracy.
September 2005 Maoists announced a three-month ceasefire.
1 January 2005 King Gyanendra dismissed the government and assumed direct power.
August 2003 Maoists pulled out of peace talks and ended truce.
January 2003 Government and Maoists declared ceasefire.
4 October 2002 The king dismissed the prime minister and assumed executive power.
23 November 2001 Peace talks failed, and Maoists launched attacks on army and police posts.
July 2001 Truce agreed between the government and Maoists.
1 June 2001 King Birendra and members of his family shot to death by the crown prince.
February 1996 The Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) began their insurgency
1990 Pro-democracy agitation led to street protests and deaths. The king agreed to a new democratic constitution.
1985 Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) began civil disobedience campaign for restoration of multi-party system.
1980 Constitutional referendum held following agitation for reform. The king agreed to allow direct elections to national assembly but on a non-party basis.
1960 King Mahendra seized control and suspended parliament, constitution and party politics after Nepali Congress Party won elections
1959 Multi-party constitution adopted.
1955 Nepal joined the UN.
Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, 28 November 2006
Nepal’s Peace Agreement: Making it Work, International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 125, 15 December 2006
Nepal: From People Power to Peace?, International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 115, 10 May 2006