May 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2010
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action

In May the Council is expected to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1909 that renewed the mandate of UNMIN until 15 May. In it the Council called for UNMIN to make the “necessary arrangements…for its withdrawal, including handing over any residual monitoring responsibilities”. The head of UNMIN, Karin Landgren is likely to brief the Council.

At the time of writing, it was unclear whether UNMIN’s mandate would be extended further. The Nepalese government has not formally asked for an extension although indications are that it is likely to do so. Observations contained in the Secretary-General’s report are expected to guide the Council as it considers the future of UNMIN.

Key Recent Developments
The political situation is fragile. Different actors have been resorting to strikes as pressure tools. On 12 April, Nepal’s opposition Maoist party called off a nationwide general strike after the prime minister scrapped a deal with India to print Nepalese passports. (The Maoists claimed that printing Nepalese passports in India was a severe security lapse.) But the Maoists also announced a new series of strike demonstrations against the government on 1 May followed by s beginning 2 May.

On 22 February, a strike called by Nepal’s Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, a party supporting Nepal’s deposed king, took place. The party is demanding a referendum on whether the monarchy should be reinstated and whether Nepal should again become a Hindu nation. On 24 March the ex-king, Gyanendra, said he did not believe the monarchy was at an end, prompting speculation that he had hopes of returning to power and restoring Nepal’s Hindu monarchy, nearly two years after being dethroned.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe visited Nepal from 10 to 12 March. He met with senior government officials, as well as key figures in the opposition parties. Pascoe also visited a Maoist cantonment in Chitwan, central Nepal. During his visit he urged Nepal’s leaders to move the stalled peace process forward and advised political parties not to get bogged down in political manoeuvring. He also said that political parties should stop criticising the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) in order to hide their failure to manage the peace process. Pascoe also refuted allegations that UNMIN was not cooperating with the government because it had refused to provide the details of the cantoned Maoist combatants and made it clear that UNMIN had no authority to supply information exclusively to the government.

Upon his return, he briefed Council members during the Secretary-General’s lunch on 16 March.

On 15 January Landgren briefed the Council about the fragility of the peace process. However, she noted the parties had shown a “renewed urgency” on core issues. She stressed the importance of following up these developments and resolving the main tasks in the peace process. Nepal’s permanent representative, Gyan Chandra Acharya, provided information on the government’s plans. Following the briefing, Council members held informal consultations.

On 20 March former Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the president of the Nepali Congress Party, passed away. He had played a pivotal role in the peace deal with the Maoists, which led to the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Some observers believe that Koirala’s passing may be another blow to the already fragile peace process.

The discharge of almost 3,000 former Maoist combatants who had been verified as children in 2007 began on 7 January. The agreement to discharge the minors was a key component of the action plan signed by the government, the Maoists and the UN in December 2009. The process was completed by 9 February.

The representatives in Kathmandu of Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, the UK, Norway, Germany and the US met with the prime minister on 30 March to discuss UNMIN’s future and the extension of the tenure of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal.

On 8 April press reports indicated that the International Relations and Human Rights Committee of the parliament had asked the government to seek an extension of the mandate of UNMIN. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal indicated that he would consult with the political parties before making a decision.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council, if UNMIN is asked to stay, is deciding whether a short rollover mandate or a longer extension would be best at this stage.

Another issue is what, if anything, the Council can do to put pressure on the government to follow up on previous commitments.

A closely connected issue is whether UNMIN’s mandate should be expanded to go beyond arms monitoring to include assisting with the political dimensions. A related issue is the Nepal government’s growing distrust of UNMIN. Some in the government have suggested that UNMIN is biased towards the Maoists.

Also an issue is the increasing disconnect between UNMIN’s mandate and the current challenges facing Nepal. The very limited mandate impinges on UNMIN’s ability to be of assistance if the security situation in Nepal deteriorates further.

A key security issue is the possibility of a political crisis if the drafting of the constitution is not completed by the 28 May deadline. A related problem is that there has been little progress on the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants.

An issue that could affect the UN’s presence in Nepal is whether the Nepal government will renew OHCHR’s role when it expires on 9 June.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a report to the March session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted positive developments in Nepal, including a campaign against sexual and gender-based violence. However, she expressed concerns over the widespread inequality and discrimination that gave rise to the conflict. The report also stressed preventing and addressing ongoing human rights violations as a top priority as militant groups continued to threaten public security. On 18 April, the High Commissioner’s representative in Nepal issued a statement about the death of Nepalese human rights defender Jay Kishore Labh (whose son disappeared in a 2003 case involving five students) and called on the authorities to disclose the fate of the disappeared students and bring to justice those responsible.

Options
Possible options for UNMIN’s renewal include:

  • rolling over the mandate with no change for one or two months;
  • extending UNMIN’s mandate for six months with no change;
  • extending UNMIN’s mission for six months but with an expanded mandate allowing it to play a more active but neutral political role; and
  • choosing not to renew UNMIN (this is only likely if the Nepalese government indicates it wants UNMIN to leave).

Further options include:

  • signalling the Council’s concerns about the persistent standoff between the Maoists and the Nepalese government, urging them to resolve their differences and make progress in completing the constitution and integrating and rehabilitating the former Maoist combatants;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to provide a report analysing the possible parameters of an expanded role for UNMIN and the funding and staffing implications;
  • deciding to set a time-table for UNMIN’s exit strategy, including alternatives to UN arms monitoring;
  • welcoming the successful release of the former Maoist child soldiers and urging their swift reintegration; and
  • opening a discussion on including Nepal in the UN peacebuilding architecture.

Council Dynamics
At the time of writing most Council members were waiting both for the position of the Nepalese government and the Secretary-General’s report before firming up their positions on UNMIN’s future.

There is an increasing level of frustration at the lack of progress in the areas that would allow UNMIN to withdraw from Nepal. However, given the political situation, there is still a sense that it would be difficult to refuse to stay in Nepal if the Nepalese government makes a request for UNMIN to continue. Few members expect major changes to the mandate in May.

Still, some members are beginning to question if such a limited mandate in Nepal is a good or prudent use of UN resources. Any indication that the Nepalese government is reluctant for UNMIN to stay may allow these members to push for UNMIN’s exit in the near future.

Some members see a possible expansion of UNMIN’s mandate in the next period as a necessary element in a strategy leading towards its exit. They see a balanced political role for UNMIN as helping to accelerate the peace process, thus allowing the mission to complete its mandate more quickly. However, some Council members, such as China, are reluctant.

Others, while supportive of UNMIN are less convinced that UNMIN can play an effective political role, given the Nepalese government’s mistrustful attitude towards the UN.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1909 (21 January 2010) extended UNMIN until 15 May 2010.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) was the resolution establishing UNMIN.

Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2010/17 (7 January 2010) concerned the implementation of resolution 1879. 

Other

  • S/PV.6260 (15 January 2010) was a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Karen Landgren.

Other Relevant Facts

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

Size and Composition

261, including about 70 arms monitors as of 7 January

Duration

23 January 2007 to 15 May 2010

Full forecast