October 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 September 2008
Download Complete Forecast: PDF
ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action
In October the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, Ian Martin, will brief the Council. A report on the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is expected. UNMIN’s mandate ends on 23 January 2009.

Discussion is expected to focus on progress in completing UNMIN’s mandate and perhaps some downsizing between now and the end of the mandate.

Key Recent Developments
On 23 July, in resolution 1825, the Council extended UNMIN (which is a special political mission not a peacekeeping mission) at the request of the Nepalese government and in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report of 10 July 2008. The Nepalese government’s letter to the Secretary-General requested continuation “at a smaller scale”. UNMIN’s current role is to continue monitoring the management of arms and army personnel. Resolution 1825 called on all parties in Nepal to take full advantage of the expertise and readiness of UNMIN, within its mandate, to support the peace process.

On 23 July, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress was sworn in as the country’s first president. This was followed by formal resignation of Prime Minister Girija Koirala, also of the Nepali Congress. After the April elections for the Constituent Assembly it took four months of negotiations to form the government, mainly due to disagreements among the major parties over portfolios.

On 18 August former Maoist leader Puspa Kamal Dahal (also known as Prachanda) was sworn in as prime minister. On 22 August four ministers belonging to the CPN-Maoist and four from the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum were sworn in. Ministers from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML) refused to take the oath of office on 22 August as their party had not secured agreement that it would be given the second most senior minister slot in the cabinet. A second swearing in of 15 ministers took place on 31 August, including those from the CPN-UML, which was given the deputy prime minister post.

President Yadav on 10 September said that the integration and rehabilitation of 19,000 Maoists soldiers currently in cantonments would be completed within six months. The government will form a special committee under the interim constitution to “supervise, integrate and rehabilitate” Maoist combatants during this time.

In mid-September Prime Minister Dahal made a five-day visit to India. He stressed that Nepal’s ties with India were vital. He also assured India that, although Nepal wanted to develop further ties with China, its historical relationship with India would not be ignored. (Dahal had previously visited China soon after he became prime minister to attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.) India and Nepal agreed to renegotiate a 1950 Trade and Transit Treaty during Dahal’s visit. This allows Nepalese goods to transit India and for Nepalese citizens to live and work in India.

On 9 September the Secretary-General approved $10 million in assistance to Nepal from the UN Peacebuilding Fund. His Special Representative for Nepal, Ian Martin, said that the peacebuilding contribution is at the core of the UN response strategy. Assistance from the Peacebuilding Fund will go through the existing UN Peace Fund for Nepal.

The government presented its first national budget on 19 September. The new government has stressed public-private partnerships and importance of prosperity for peace. The budget focused on economic development and relief for the poorest citizens. There were protests in parts of Kathmandu over the slashing of funds in the budget for cultural festivals.

Options
The Council has the following options:

  • respond individually to the Special Representative’s briefing but take no collective action; or
  • agree on a press statement :
  • welcoming the formation of the government
  • highlighting the progress made by UNMIN since July;
  • promising ongoing support for the challenges still ahead in Nepal, especially ensuring that the arms and military personnel issue resolved promptly; and
  • encouraging further changes that UNMIN could make in line with the developments in Nepal to ensure that the best use is being made of UNMIN for the rest of its mandate.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether the national and former rebel armies can be integrated as stipulated in the 2006 peace agreement. If the integration does not go smoothly in the next few months, Council members may be left with a situation in which UNMIN is due to leave but the final and most critical stages of the management of arms and personnel is incomplete. The current timeframe indicates a real risk that reintegration will not be complete by the end of UNMIN’s mandate in January.

A related issue of concern is the demobilisation of 2,973 child soldiers still in Maoist cantonments. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement had called for the immediate release of all children associated with the Maoist forces once they entered the cantonments. The Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, in calling for their release in August, noted that although many children have been informally released there has been no progress in their formal discharge. The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict considered the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of the children and armed conflict in Nepal on 20 June and is expected to decide on recommendations soon.

Also connected is the possible issue of impunity for senior army officers. In the election campaign the Maoists called for a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate human rights violations and war crimes that took place during the conflict between government forces and the Maoist rebels. However, Dahal has suggested that he will not take action against senior figures in the Nepalese army.

Discontent is likely to grow among those whose family members were killed or forcibly disappeared. So far none of the numerous cases of human rights abuses during the ten-year conflict have been properly prosecuted. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal has expressed concern that the findings of an independent panel investigating the 16 September 2007 violence in which possibly twenty people died following the killing of local leader Mohit Khan have not been made public.

The stability of the Maoist coalition is another key issue. The resignation of the Minister for Land Reform, Matrika Yadev, in mid-September after he was criticised by the CPN-Maoist for seizing land belonging to a Madhesi party member is a sign of continuing tensions within the coalition. Cooperation among the parties is crucial to starting the drafting process for the new constitution.

Also at issue is whether the government will be able to fulfil social and economic commitments during the electoral process, particularly to marginalised groups and security promises to those that want greater representation in state bodies, including the security sector. The Maoists’ election manifesto promised land reform and a federal state structure based on ethnicity.

Whether the new government will be able to rein in the Young Communist League as promised is also an issue.

Finally, security continues to be an issue in some areas given the vacuum of effective state authority at the local level.

Council and Wider Dynamics
The situation in Nepal is an issue on which Council members basically agree. UNMIN was an experiment—a political mission was set up at the outset rather than as a follow-on from a peacekeeping mission. There is a general sense that it has been a success story. In July all members supported Nepal’s request for a six-month agreement for UNMIN in a downsized form. There also appears to be a measure of agreement about the risks of impunity, and the importance of quickly integrating ex-combatants and releasing child soldiers.

Members are aware of the criticism that UNMIN has been overstaffed as a result of the tendency toward a “one size fits all” approach in mission planning. There is likely to be support for ongoing downsizing as UNMIN reaches the halfway mark of its current mandate. Most think that the commitment to monitor arms and personnel should not be open-ended. Yet members are also aware of the dangers to stability of terminating UNMIN before this aspect is resolved.

China, as a neighbouring state, has always taken a keen interest in this issue. While supportive of UNMIN, it has been vocal about keeping it focused and has shown no appetite to expand UNMIN’s mandate.

India, a neighbour with strong ties to Nepal, stated at the open meeting on Nepal in July that it supported the six-month extension. But India was critical of some aspects of the Secretary-General’s last report. Observers note that India is unlikely to want UNMIN to be extended beyond January 2009.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1825 (23 July 2008) extended UNMIN until 23 January 2009
  • S/RES/1796 (23 January 2008) extended UNMIN until 23 July 2008.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) established UNMIN for 12 months.

Selected Secretary General’s Reports

  • S/2008/454 (10 July 2008) was the report on the request of Nepal for UN assistance in support of its peace process.
  • S/2008/259 (18 April 2008) was a report on children and armed conflict in Nepal.

Selected Meeting Record

  • S/PV.5941 (23 July 2008) was the meeting record to discuss UNMIN’s renewal.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Ian Martin (UK)

Size and Composition

Latest figures are not available as UNMIN is in the midst of downsizing.

Duration

23 January 2007 to 23 January 2009

Cost

$55 million

Full forecast