January 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 December 2009
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action
In mid-January the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative and head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). It will also discuss the future of UNMIN, whose mandate expires on 23 January. The Secretary-General’s report is due 11 January.

At press time, Council members were still waiting for a formal request from the Nepal government. However, there are indications that a six-month extension is likely.

Key Recent Developments
The situation between the Nepal government and the Maoists remains tense. The Maoists continue public protests over what they see as the president’s unconstitutional decision in May 2009 to overrule their decision to dismiss the head of the army, who had refused to integrate •Maoist fighters into the national military. On 18 December 2009 Maoist supporters pelted the convoy of the minister of energy, injuring six people. The Maoists led a general strike from 20 to 22 December 2009. On 20 December strikers clashed with police leading the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights to call on all groups to use restraint, to avoid provocation and reduce tension through dialogue.

By 18 December 2009 the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) unilaterally declared the existence of 13 “autonomous states” based on the party’s federal model. The Maoist chairman and former Nepalese prime minister, Pushpa Dahal, warned during a public rally that these autonomous states could one day work as a parallel government.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, visited Nepal from 14 to 17 December 2009 to try to accelerate the release of almost 3,000 individuals who have been in cantonments for the last three years despite having been verified as minors by the UN. She met with the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Rakam Chemjong, and the commander of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army, Nanda Kishore Pun, as well as Dahal on 16 December to discuss the release of former child soldiers.

On 16 December 2009 the Nepalese government and the UCPN-M signed an action plan committing both sides to release the former child combatants over a forty day period starting on 27 December 2009. The signing of an action plan is a successful first step in removing the Nepalese party from the Secretary-General’s list of parties which recruit and use children. (The list is published in his regular reports on Children and Armed Conflict.)

On 6 November 2009 the Council was briefed by Landgren. She said the peace process had faced a “protracted deadlock, with the added risk of confrontation” and suggested a review of the progress of implementing the major peace agreements. The Nepalese permanent representative also spoke during the briefing and expressed unhappiness with the assessment in the Secretary-General’s report that a “Government of national unity remains desirable” for promulgation of a new constitution and successful integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants.

On 25 November 2009 Nepal’s parliament passed its budget, averting a financial crisis, after the Maoists lifted their blockade of parliament.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 25 December, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal expressed serious reservation about the decision to promote a general who had been in charge of a brigade implicated in torture, arbitrary detention and disappearances in 2004, to be the second-in-command in Nepal’s army.

On 8 December 2009, Richard Bennett, the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal addressed the Joint Forum for Human Rights in Kathmandu and expressed the hope that the government would soon issue an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, to visit Nepal. Special rapporteurs have been requesting permission to visit since 2003, with the latest request made in June 2009. However, no visits have been authorised by the Nepalese government.

In a joint report released on 15 October 2009, Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum said that three years after the end of armed conflict, the Nepalese government had failed to conduct credible investigations and to prosecute those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

Following a visit to Bardiya district on 9 December 2009, one year after the UN issued a report, envoys to Nepal from eight nations and the EU called for an end to impunity for those responsible for disappearances during the civil war.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is whether the current situation in Nepal points toward extending UNMIN’s mandate for a further period. A closely related issue is whether the Council should simply roll over UNMIN’s existing mandate or whether it is appropriate to now also include explicit language regarding an exit strategy. When the mission was set up in 2007, members agreed it should be of limited duration. If the mandate is renewed, it will be the fifth renewal for the mission that had an original life expectancy of one year.

A related key issue is what the Council can do to encourage the government to address the underlying issues that limit UNMIN’s capacity to fulfill its mandate in the near future.

A connected issue is the slow progress by Nepal’s Army Integration Special Committee and how the Council can encourage it to take concrete decisions on the reintegration of the two armies.

Also an issue is what the Council might do to alleviate some of the stresses on the peace process and encourage its resumption.

Related to this is the question of how to lessen tensions between the government and the Maoists. Some observers are concerned that the current stalemate may derail the peace process.

An ongoing issue is the de facto impunity for human rights violations committed by both sides during the ten-year civil war.

A major issue, now partly resolved, is the issue of child soldiers. The action plan signed by the Nepalese government, the UCPN-M and the UN to release former child soldiers is an important step. However, a key issue will be monitoring progress and ensuring the parties are keeping to the agreed timeline.

A growing issue is the difficult relationship between the Nepalese government and UNMIN. Recently, aspects of the Secretary-General’s reports and Landgren’s briefings have not been well received by the government side, but the UN is trying to maintain a careful balance between the parties. A related issue is the application of the Brahimi Report dictum that the Council should be briefed as frankly as possible.

A continuing issue is whether a new constitution can be drafted by May and the impact on the peace process and the UNMIN role if this deadline is not kept.

Options
Options for UNMIN’s renewal are:

  • rolling-over UNMIN’s mandate with no change for six months;
  • renewing UNMIN’s mandate for six months with language signaling an exit strategy, a process to start within three months and steps taken towards implementation by July 2010;
  • renewing UNMIN for three months and asking for an exit strategy to be developed within that timeframe;
  • widening UNMIN’s mandate to include more explicit involvement in the peace process and reconciliation process; and
  • not renewing UNMIN. (This seems unlikely as most members are against a sudden withdrawal.)

Further options include:

  • inviting the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to brief Council members;
  • developing language for conveying the Council’s concern over the fragility of the peace process on the one hand and the need for an exit strategy for UNMIN on the other;
  • using the informal interactive dialogue format (used for Sri Lanka) for both parties to the conflict to provide informal background for the Council;
  • developing ways in which the UN could assist Nepal in conflict prevention mediation (among the options could be involvement of the Mediation Support Unit);
  • considering whether an independent and impartial review of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006 would be useful and who would be best placed to conduct it;
  • considering a Council visit to Nepal to familiarise members better with the situation on the ground before further decisions are taken on the mission’s future, and to signal the Council’s concern; and
  • initiating a series of informal meetings with Nepal’s neighbours and key donors to discuss options for reducing UNMIN’s arms monitoring role such as consolidation of sites and considering alternatives to UN arms monitoring.

Council Dynamics
Many Council members appear to want more than just a rollover of UNMIN’s mandate. There is increasing frustration with the lack of progress in creating conditions that would allow UNMIN to leave. Members are equally concerned about the fragility of the peace process. There seems to be general agreement that a responsible withdrawal is needed rather than a sudden shut down of the mission.

Some members are keen for the Secretary-General’s report to provide a frank assessment of what the UN sees as UNMIN’s future role in Nepal in order to assist them in assessing options on the mission’s future.

The UK is the lead country on this issue. It has been encouraging stronger language in resolutions renewing UNMIN’s mandate. France, the US and some non-permanent members (notably Mexico and Austria) also feel that UNMIN’s current mandate cannot continue without change. Turkey seems cautious about the idea of discussing an exit strategy before the political situation has settled.

China and Russia seem reluctant to depart from the original mandate or to put too much pressure on the Nepalese government. It remains to be seen whether the Council is ready for some flexibility in terms of an exit strategy within a modified mandate. Final positions are likely to be strongly influenced by the Nepalese government’s actual request.

Some members are also grappling with the need to find ways of reducing peacekeeping budgets and therefore need to give good reasons for renewing missions like UNMIN.

Nepal is not expected to be a high priority for most of the new members coming into the Council. However, Brazil and Nigeria have personnel in UNMIN and could take a more active interest.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1879 (23 July 2009) extended the mandate for UNMIN till 23 January 2010.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) was the resolution establishing the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for twelve months.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2009/553 (26 October 2009) was a Secretary-General’s report concerning implementation of Resolution 1879.
  • S/2000/809 (21 August 2000) was the Brahimi Report.

Other

  • S/PV.6214 (6 November 2009) was a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Karen Landgren considering the report of the Secretary-General on Nepal.
  • S/2009/360 (14 July 2009) contained Nepal’s request for an extension of UNMIN.

Other Relevant Facts

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

Size and Composition

About 261 including about seventy arms monitors

Duration

23 January 2007 to 23 January 2010

Useful Additional Source

Still Waiting For Justice: No End to Impunity in Nepal, Human Rights Watch, October 2009

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