The Council is expected to discuss the first report of the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and be briefed by Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal. The report is expected to focus on preparations for and feasibility of the constituent assembly elections in mid-June and update the Council on progress made since UNMIN was set up in January for 12 months.
It seems likely that the growing gap between realities on the ground (in terms of meeting the June deadline for elections) and Council expectations will be discussed delicately. However, they will possibly not be the subject of formal Council action at this stage.
Key Recent Developments
The establishment of an interim government on 1 April made up of eight political parties, including the Maoists, marked a significant step in the consolidation of the peace process in Nepal. The interim constitution establishing a framework for constitutional change was approved in January.
Pre-election preparation has been slow. There has been difficulty registering voters particularly in the south given continuing unrest. On 13 April the National Election Commission said it would not be ready to hold elections in June. It has asked for more time to draft electoral legislation and will need 110 days to prepare for the polls after the laws are enacted. Some observers believe that practical realities mean that elections may need to be postponed for five to six months.
Also likely to affect the elections are protests, transport stoppages and strikes in the south. Ethnic minority groups demanding greater representation in government are behind these disturbances. Although parliament recently amended the interim constitution to give more seats to ethnic minorities, protests have continued. The main groups involved are the Madeshi People’s Rights Forum and the Terai People’s Liberation Front (JTLF). In April the JTLF called for a general strike in June to disrupt the elections.
On 20 April the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the deaths of 27 people in clashes between the Maoists and another political party during a rally in central Nepal in March could have been prevented by stronger law enforcement.
UNMIN completed registering and storing the weapons of Maoist forces on 7 March and Nepalese army weapons on 12 April, concluding the registration phase. Some 3,500 weapons have been stored and 31,000 guerrillas confined in camps. The next phase will be verification of Maoists combatants.
The Maoists took one of the final steps in transforming from rebel army to mainstream political party by registering the Communist Party of Nepal as a political party in April.
Issue a press statement, which is possible if the Council chooses not to formally address at this stage whether the elections can be held in June as scheduled.
Adopt a presidential statement calling on all parties to find a solution to the problems in the south and to work towards holding elections in mid-June-which is possible if Council members decide to put weight behind having elections as scheduled.
Take no formal action at this stage and simply request the Secretary-General to provide updated briefings on progress regarding the lead up to the elections.
Decide to review UNMIN’s mandate later in the year in light of developments.
The key issue is whether the elections for the constituent assembly can be held on 20 June, and whether the risks of a flawed and possibly controversial election exceed the risks of an unravelling of the peace process due to delay.
The election date was not set by the Council and therefore the Council does not need to approve any change. However, there are immediate implications for wider issues within the Council’s responsibility and also the 12-month term set for UNMIN’s existence.
Another issue is whether the interim government will be able to come to an agreement with the ethnic groups in the south. The Council will be concerned about the consequences of prolonged unrest in the south for the peace process and the emergence of peace-spoilers.
Related to that is the issue of fragile trust between the other parties and the Maoists. Some members of the interim government believe Maoists who still have weapons should be arrested, while others are calling on them to renounce violence.
The largest practical issue for the Council is that UNMIN was set up as a focused mission of limited duration to provide arms monitoring and verification, electoral assistance, and human rights monitoring and assistance in monitoring the Comprehensive Peace Accord. But if it becomes necessary to extend the election schedule, UNMIN may find itself also drawn into wider issues of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR).
Finally, the Council in May will be looking at recommendations from the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on the situation of children and armed conflict in Nepal. A possible recommendation could be for UNMIN to play a role in the DDR of children who have been involved in armed conflict.
Council and Wider Dynamics
From the outset, Council members have shared a wide level of agreement on UNMIN. In January there was strong consensus for a focused mission limited to 12 months. With this in mind many members are still keen that the elections be held in mid-June. Some are concerned about the security situation and would like to see more regular updates in the next few months. India also seems to prefer that elections proceed in mid-June if possible.
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission|
|Ian Martin (United Kingdom)|
|Size and Composition|
|271 international staff, 389 national staff, 258 UN Volunteers, 155 military observers and seven police advisers.|
|23 January 2007 to 23 January 2008.|