April 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 March 2009
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action

The Council is expecting the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards a “phased gradual drawdown and withdrawal of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) staff, including arms monitors.” In January the Council extended UNMIN’s mandate until 23 July.

Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative in Nepal and head of UNMIN, is expected to present the report which is likely to focus on progress by UNMIN and implications of recent developments on downsizing UNMIN. No action is required following the briefing although the Council may choose to issue a press statement.

At the time of writing it seemed possible that the Council briefing and discussion could be rolled over to early May.

Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General in January, following his October visit to Nepal, assessed the situation as fragile despite achievements of the peace process. He noted a lack of progress on issues relevant to UNMIN’s mandate.

After his visit, several troubling developments occurred. In November the national Nepalese army began recruiting. On 23 December, Ian Martin, then head of UNMIN, reiterated that any new recruitment by the Nepalese army or the Maoist army would be a breach of the Ceasefire Code of Conduct, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Agreement on the Monitoring and the Management of Arms and Armies. The Nepalese army was not deterred and by February had recruited 3,000 new troops. It claimed it was filling vacancies and this did not violate the peace agreement.

In response, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is the military arm of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), on 2 March announced it would begin recruiting to fill the positions of 12,000 troops disqualified by UNMIN’s verification process.

On 13 March the Supreme Court of Nepal upheld a challenge to the recruitment by the Nepalese army and ordered them to cease recruiting. However, it upheld any recruitment before the writ was registered. Following a similar writ against the PLA, an interim order on 8 March led to the PLA suspending its campaign on 10 March.

On 18 March the government declined the army’s request to extend the tenure of eight generals, enhancing tensions between the army and the government. The opposition Nepal Congress spoke out in support of the army.

In early March there were protests by the Muslim community. On 16 March the government signed a six-point agreement with the United Muslim National Struggle Committee, a prominent Muslim group. Agreed areas include the formation of a Muslim commission and providing a constitutional guarantee for the identity of Muslims.

On 10 March about 150 Tibetan exiles marked the fiftieth anniversary of a failed uprising against China with protests in Kathmandu.

The Army Integration Special Committee, set up to supervise the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants with the Nepalese army, has held several meetings since it was set up 16 January and a positive development was the government reached on 27 March to complete integration by mid July.

Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, visited Nepal from 18-22 March to assess the overall human rights situation and discuss the renewal of the Office of Human Rights Commissioner in Nepal. At the end of her visit, while praising progress made, Pillay warned that the peace process could be at risk if there was no justice for victims of human rights violations.

On 29 January the Secretary-General appointed Karin Landgren of Sweden as his Representative in Nepal and head of UNMIN.

There has been some progress towards legislation for a commission on enforced disappearances and for the truth and reconciliation commission. However, some human rights groups have voiced concern that these bills’ provisions are not in line with international standards.

Options
One option following the briefing is to have a detailed discussion on next steps for UNMIN, including a possible exit strategy.

Another option is to defer that discussion till closer to the mandate’s expiry and focus on the factors causing the current fragility. The Council could:

  • signal that UNMIN cannot continue monitoring arms indefinitely and that the Nepalese government needs to produce concrete proposals to reduce UNMIN’s monitoring requirements promptly;
  • reaffirm to the Nepalese government the opportunity to take advantage of UNMIN’s expertise in supporting the peace process in the next few months;
  • acknowledge the progress in the Special Committee but emphasise the importance of meeting a timetable for integrating the two armies of UNMIN’s mandate;
  • strongly urge the Nepalese government to follow up on commitments to release minors from Maoist cantonments by a specified date, which upon failing the Council would instruct the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to recommend stronger measures when it considers the next Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Nepal; and
  • suggest improved interparty dialogue possibly through a new mechanism.

Other options include:

  • forming an informal group at the expert level of Council members, the Nepalese government and regional players to discuss alternative monitoring arrangements;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to provide an assessment of the peace process and the impact of UNMIN’s departure on the peace and security situation by the end of June; and
  • encouraging the international community to support and assist the peace process.

Key Issues
A key issue is determining the best utilisation of UNMIN in the next few months.

A second issue is how to balance the need to complete the arms monitoring task against the potential for this becoming a very long term role for the UN.

A related issue is the difficulty of further reducing the number of arms monitors in UNMIN until alternative monitoring arrangements are in place. The mission is already down to bare bones in terms of civilian staff.

Another issue is how to secure the discharge of minors and other personnel. The Nepalese prime minister made a commitment to the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict during her visit in December that 2,973 minors would be discharged by the end of February, but at the time of writing they were still in the cantonments.

The growing divisions between the governing coalition partners and the increasing tension between the government and opposition are becoming a potential issue for the peace process.

A related issue is whether the recent recruitment by the Nepalese army and the PLA will become a challenge to the architecture of the peace process.

Yet another issue is whether the Nepalese government can deliver on promises made to ethnic groups like the recent six-point agreement with Muslims. Related to this is the increasing number of smaller ethnic groups, especially in the Terai region, which are beginning to agitate for special rights.

Other continuing issues include:

  • the slow progress on the return of property seized by the Maoists during the insurgency;
  • the lack of progress in writing a new constitution;
  • the need to control paramilitary activities of the Young Communist League; and
  • the importance of showing there will not be impunity for serious human rights violations committed in the past.

Council Dynamics
Most members are waiting for the Secretary-General’s report before forming positions on next steps for UNMIN. However, there continues to be agreement that the mission should be as lean as possible as it moves towards the end of its mandate. There is also growing concern about the possibility of an open ended monitoring role for the UN if the peace process stagnates.

However, given the continuing fragility of the coalition government and the uncertain security situation, particularly in the south, some members are concerned that premature withdrawal could send the wrong signal. Balancing this is the desire of some members to cut peacekeeping costs wherever possible this year.

At the time UNMIN was set up in January 2007, there was general agreement over the type of mission it should be. But subsequently, differences have emerged among members. As the possibility for open ended arms monitoring becomes ever more likely, the UK and France appear to want to exert more pressure on the Nepalese government to commit to a timeframe for integration of the armies. China, and to some extent Russia, appear reluctant to push the Nepalese government. These differences are also seen over questions such as how much pressure to put on the Nepalese government to release minors in the Maoist cantonments, how UNMIN can support the peace process and the type of UN presence needed if UNMIN does leave.

India, a non-Council member with a keen interest in this issue, has indicated that it does not want to see UNMIN become a long term presence in Nepal and would be uncomfortable with an expansion of UNMIN’s role in the peace process.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1864 (23 January 2009) extended UNMIN until 23 July 2009.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) established UNMIN for 12 months.

Selected Secretary General’s Reports

  • S/2009/1 (2 January 2009) was the latest report of the Secretary-General 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 Records

  • S/PV.6069 (16 January 2009) was the meeting record of the Secretary-General’s January report.
Other
  • UNMIN press statement on the recruitment of new personnel (23 December 2008)

Other Relevant Facts

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

Size and Composition

About 273 including about 73 arms monitors

Duration

23 January 2007 to 23 July 2009

Cost

$16.7 million

Full forecast