November 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2008
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action
On 7 November the Council is expecting a briefing by the Secretary-General on his trip to Nepal (which at press time was scheduled for 31 October to 1 November). Special Representative in Nepal, Ian Martin, will also present the recent report on the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), discussion of which was previously planned for October.

UNMIN’s mandate expires on 23 January. The latest UNMIN report (which at press time was expected at the end of the October) will provide a review of progress over the last few months and further downsizing options as it moves towards the end of its mandate.

The November briefing is likely to cover general issues such as the overall situation in Nepal and UNMIN’s role as well as some ongoing areas of concern such as consolidation of the cantonments and integration of Maoist soldiers into the national army. Council members will be keen to hear the Secretary-General’s assessment of progress in these areas and the role UNMIN can continue to play in the next few months.

Key Recent Developments
In September the Nepalese prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as Prachanda), invited the Secretary-General to visit Nepal. At press time, he was scheduled to visit Nepal from 31 October to 1 November as part of an Asian trip covering the Philippines, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The Secretary-General’s programme is expected to include meetings with Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Prachanda, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav and members of the Constituent Assembly.

In October attempts were made to form a special committee responsible for the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants. This committee is expected to be made up of the major political parties in the Constituent Assembly and the opposition as well as representatives from the government, the national army and the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA). On 21 October agreement was reached by all the ruling parties to form this special committee. However, the process quickly faltered when, on 22 October, the key parties—the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and Madhesi People’s Rights Forum—objected to a member of the CPN-Maoists heading the committee given that combatants of the PLA would be part of the integration process.

In October UNMIN, UNDP and UNICEF met the new Minister for Peace and Restoration and members of the national army to discuss discharge of soldiers in the cantonments who were verified by UNMIN as minors in May 2006, or recruited after that date. Maoist army leaders have also been visiting the cantonments in the past week and have indicated to the disqualified soldiers that they are planning to discharge them.

On 4 October the Nepalese government invited armed rebel groups in the southern Terai region for peace talks. A government negotiation team headed by Peace and Reconstruction Minister Janardan Sharma (a former Maoist commander) and two other cabinet ministers was formed to lead the negotiations. Some Madhesi armed groups in southern Terai have responded positively but want in return the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of court cases against their members. They are also asking for a referendum on autonomy to be held in the Terai.

One option is for the Council members to simply welcome the briefing and focus discussion on aspects of the latest UNMIN report.

But with the quickly approaching deadline for the end of UNMIN’s mandate, another option for Council members is a more comprehensive discussion on the UN’s contribution to the peace process in Nepal and how that should evolve in the future.

Another option is to approve a press statement:

  • indicating that UNMIN is moving towards shutting down after 23 January and encouraging full use of its personnel in the next two months;
  • welcoming the recent attempts to form a special committee and urging it to take concrete steps towards integrating the Maoists combatants; and;
  • encouraging progress on the consolidation of the cantonments;

A further option would be to discuss possible formats for a follow-on UN mission.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether UNMIN will be able to complete its tasks by January 2009. The delay in the formation of the special committee signals a slowdown in the process for integration of the two armies. It seems increasingly likely that by the end of UNMIN’s mandate on 23 January the integration process will not be complete.

Connected with this is the difficulty of integrating 20,000 Maoist soldiers into the national Nepalese army. Already there are signs of resistance. Some opposition parties have protested against having politically indoctrinated cadre in the national military. Some observers are concerned that this may affect Nepal’s ability to continue contributing to peacekeeping if there are similar objections internationally. (Over the past fifty years, Nepal has contributed 60,000 peacekeepers in some forty peacekeeping missions and is among the top five contributors to UN peacekeeping.)

A connected issue is that it appears that as Maoists are integrated into the national army, some Madhesi groups may also seek equal representation.

An issue of increasing importance is the growing resentment in the cantonments against the government. The potential for revolt in the cantonments is likely to increase the longer integration is delayed.

Another security issue is a possible surge in violence in the south, particularly if peace talks are delayed or the government does not respond to demands for the establishment of an autonomous Madhesi state and greater rights for the Madhesi people.

A continuing issue is the lack of progress in demobilising and reintegrating child soldiers in Maoist cantonments.

Council Dynamics
Most Council members have not kept a close watch on the issues since the successful Constituent Assembly elections earlier this year. Members therefore are waiting to hear from the Secretary-General and his Special Representative before formulating positions on UNMIN’s future.

There is general agreement that the mission should not be prolonged unnecessarily but there may be some differences over what to do if the Nepalese government does ask UNMIN to stay. Some members are sensing that UNMIN might be valued as a political buffer by the Nepalese government given the unsettled political environment in Nepal. There is also some sense, however, that India is likely to be uncomfortable about UNMIN being prolonged beyond 23 January. It may be that eyes will turn, eventually, to precedents of other kinds of follow-on missions in other regions.

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