November 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 2 November 2009
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action
In early November the Council is expected to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1879 and the progress in creating the conditions to complete the mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). Resolution 1879 also extended UNMIN’s mandate till 23 January 2010.

Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative in Nepal and head of UNMIN is expected to present the report. No action is required following the briefing but given the proximity of the end of the mandate the Council may discuss possible action needed before 23 January.

Key Recent Developments
There have been regular Maoist protests since May when Pushpa Kamal Dahal (formerly known as Prachanda) resigned as prime minister. The biggest demonstration so far, involving 15,000 protestors, took place on 11 September. On 23 October the Maoists gave the government till 1 November to meet their demands for a parliamentary debate on civilian supremacy and the role of president Ram Baran Yadav in reinstating former army chief Rookmangud Katawal after Dahal’s Maoist-led government sacked him. They have announced disruptive street protests from 2 November if their demands are not met.

The Maoists have also been blocking the parliament since Katawal was reinstated. As a result the annual budget has not been passed and reports suggest that the government could run out of money by mid-November.

On 23 October, Kathmandu-based representatives of the permanent member states of the Council and Japan visited a weapons store and a cantonment with Landgren. This was the first collective visit by the ambassadors to a cantonment and weapons storage site in Nepal.

On 11 October the discharge and rehabilitation of former Maoist fighters, including 3,000 child soldiers, was relaunched and is expected to be complete on 19 November. The process had stalled for several months due to a widening rift between the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), which is now the main opposition party. A high-level Steering Committee and a technical committee have been formed to oversee the process.

On 1 September the Army Integration Special Committee for supervision, rehabilitation and integration of Maoist combatants met for the first time since Dahal’s resignation as prime minister. On the same day, the Constitutional Committee tasked with preparing the final constitution draft from the submissions of 11 thematic committees met for the first time since the new government was formed.

On 7 October Defence Minister Bidhya Bhandari, in a parliamentary briefing, said that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) needed to be revised as some provisions prevented strengthening the Nepal Army. She also sought support for new recruitment to fill vacant posts. Landgren in a meeting with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar on 22 October expressed concern over these remarks.

On 24 August 19 armed ex-Maoist soldiers verified as combatants were arrested outside of cantonments in Kapilvastu district with weapons registered by UNMIN. In a 25 August press statement the UN expressed “serious concern” at the incident which violated the 2006 Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The establishment of justice institutions has been delayed, and the deadline has lapsed for approval of a framework for a commission of inquiry into enforced disappearances. Other areas of concern are ongoing political violence and the use of children by political parties during strikes and demonstrations. The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal has written to the chair of the Maoist party calling for immediate action to ensure the party’s full cooperation with police investigations into human rights violations allegedly committed by Maoist cadres.

A report, including a section on Nepal, by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, was issued at the last session of the Human Rights Council. It recommended that proposals for the design of a new federal structure in Nepal should advance the self-determination of indigenous people embodying the right to autonomy or self-government in relation to their own affairs.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is the atmosphere of uncertainty which is impacting on whether UNMIN will be able to complete its arms monitoring task.

A related practical issue is whether UNMIN has now downsized to a point where it might not be able to effectively carry out its monitoring role if the situation becomes more complex.

Another connected issue is the slow progress in the work of the Army Integration Special Committee and how the Council can encourage it to move more rapidly towards the reintegration of the two armies.

Also an issue is the uncertainty about the Nepal government’s position on UNMIN’s role in the lead up to the end of its current mandate on 23 January.

An underlying issue is the stability of the new government led by UML and made up of 22 political parties. At press time the government was still not fully formed.

Related is the stalemate between the parties in parliament which could result in the budget not being passed by mid-November. The civil service could be paralysed due to lack of funds.

Several other issues are significant, including the effect of the divisions between government coalition partners on the peace process and upholding the CPA in an increasingly fraught political climate.

Security issues of concern include whether the regular protests by Maoists could lead to a renewed insurrection by Maoists factions who have not given up the idea of a revolution and whether the army may begin recruiting again and how UNMIN should react to this in the context of the CPA.

It is unclear whether the release of former child combatants will be carried out in a way that conforms to the UN’s guidelines for demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of child soldiers.

A major question is what the Council can do to keep the constitutional process on track for the deadline of the end of May 2010.

A future issue is how to restructure UNMIN for the needs of a post-conflict society and when to begin discussing how to move into the peacebuilding phase.

Options
The most likely option is for the Council members to have a general debate on progress and prospects for creating conditions conducive to UNMIN completing its activities by the end of its mandate.

Other options include:

  • welcoming progress made in preparing for the discharge of disqualified combatants and the resumption of work of the Special and Technical Committee and the Constitution Committee but emphasising the need for a clear timeframe for the completion of these committees’ activities;
  • conveying concern that recent statements about reviewing the CPA could jeopardise the peace process;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to obtain an early indication from the Nepal government on whether it will request an extension of UNMIN’s mandate in January 2010;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to provide a special report by mid-November on scenarios for UNMIN’s future, assessing it against possible political developments and agreeing to discuss options for UNMIN’s future based on this report;
  • suggesting an informal interactive dialogue session (similar to that used for Sri Lanka) among the Council, UNMIN officials and representatives of the Nepal government. (This might provide a more informal format for Council to collectively convey the need for the Nepal government to move swiftly in creating the necessary conditions for UNMIN’s departure.);
  • considering the involvement of the Mediation Support Unit in helping to improve interparty dialogue;
  • suggesting formation of an informal group led by the Secretary-General comprising parties with an interest in the peace process, including Nepal’s neighbours and key donors to discuss scenarios following UNMIN’s exit; and
  • discussing the possibility of a Council visit before the end of UNMIN’s mandate to obtain a better understanding of the situation.

Council Dynamics
There is a rising level of frustration with the slow progress in areas that are crucial for UNMIN to complete its mandate. Given the political fragility, most Council members feel that there is little room to manoeuvre but are searching for alternatives to another six-month extension in January 2010. Most members are not keen to see UNMIN’s mandate dragging on in a limited arms monitoring role, particularly at a time when peacekeeping costs are being closely scrutinised.

Members are beginning to think about the options for UNMIN leading up to the end of its current mandate. Some like France are leaning towards further consolidation and a lighter footprint as a way of sending a message to the authorities. Others wonder if a different mandate with a political role may be needed instead.

An expansion of UNMIN as it is presently appears difficult. Members like China and Russia have not changed their position that the mandate should be limited. China also feels that Nepal needs to sort out its political differences in its own way.

Some members are aware of a need to involve countries with a keen interest in this issue but are grappling with the best way of doing this.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1879 (23 July 2009) extended UNMIN until 23 July 2009.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) established UNMIN for 12 months.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2009/351 (13 July 2009) was the July Secretary-General’s report reviewing progress in the peace process and implementation of UNMIN’s mandate.
  • S/2009/1 (2 January 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for UN assistance in support of its peace process.

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6119 (5 May 2009) was the meeting record of the 24 April Secretary-General’s report.

Other

  • S/2009/360 (14 July 2009) contained Nepal’s request for an extension of UNMIN.
  • S/PRST/2009/12 (5 May 2009) expressed concern about the political crisis in Nepal.

Other Relevant Facts

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

Size and Composition

About 275 including about 73 arms monitors

Duration

23 January 2007 to 23 January 2010

Useful Additional Resources

Full forecast