September 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 25 August 2010
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action

The mandate of the mission in Nepal, UNMIN, expires on 15 September. Karin Landgren, UNMIN’s head, is expected to brief the Council in early September. Among the areas likely to be covered in the briefing are the political stalemate in Nepal following the resignation of Madhav Nepal as prime minister on 30 June, developments in integration of the Maoists ex-combatants and impact of these developments on UNMIN’s ability to carry out its mandate.

Since UNMIN was established in 2007, its mandate has reflected a formal request from the Nepalese government. However, it is unclear whether in the current political situation a quick decision on a formal request will be possible. It may be that Nepal will ask for a short rollover mandate.

Key Recent Developments

Madhav Nepal resigned as the prime minister of Nepal on 30 June. He said that he was resigning in order to avert a crisis and find political resolution to the peace process and the drafting of the new constitution. The Maoists had demanded his resignation in exchange for supporting an amendment to the constitution at the end of May allowing for an extension of the deadline for drafting the constitution which had stalled over the parties’ differences over power-sharing and the integration of the Maoists ex-combatants.

On 1 July the Secretary-General called on Nepal’s political parties to “intensify…efforts towards the formation of consensus government” following Nepal’s resignation.

At press time the Nepal parliament had held five unsuccessful elections since June to try and elect a new prime minister. The fifth round took place on 23 August.

In July the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) proposed in a “non-paper” a sixty-week plan for the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants. This resulted in an official objection from the Nepalese government and accusations of going beyond UNMIN’s mandate. UNMIN said that this was within its mandate which asks for parties to take advantage of “UNMIN’s expertise and readiness to support the peace process and facilitate the completion of its tasks”. It also made it clear that the paper had been based on consultations with the main parties.

On 3 August UNMIN expressed concern at reports that both the national army and the Maoist army planned to start recruiting. UNMIN reiterated its position that any recruitment by the Nepal army or by the Maoists constitutes a breach of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies. Recruiting personnel, even to fill vacancies is prohibited under the arms agreement, unless it has been agreed by both parties. On 5 August the Special Committee for the supervision, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoists ex-combatants asked the Maoists to stop recruitment.

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its general debate on technical assistance and capacity building the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 16 June welcomed Nepal’s decision to extend the mandate of the country office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for 12 months. The decision reflected agreement between the government and the High Commissioner that the OHCHR presence continued to make a positive contribution towards an improved human rights situation in Nepal. Pooja Patel of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development told the HRC that after much uncertainty over whether the Nepalese government would extend the mandate the agreement had ultimately been signed. The Forum, however, was disappointed that four regional offices were closed. It felt that such regional presences had played an important preventive role by deploying standing human rights monitors into districts to defuse local tensions before they escalated. On 5 August Richard Bennett, head of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights left his position to head the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Sri Lanka. A successor has not been named as yet.

 

Key Issues

The key immediate issue for the Council is finding a formula to manage UNMIN’s role in the context of the political disarray. While UNMIN has been able to perform its monitoring function it has found it difficult to fulfil other aspects of its mandate in the face of the increasing levels of distrust between the political parties and hostility towards UNMIN’s efforts to be even-handed in its political role.

A critical wider issue is the possibility that the peace process may be derailed given the unsettled political situation. A related issue is what measures the Council can take to help prevent the peace process from unravelling.

A key substantive issue is the need for a plan to address the future of the 19,000 Maoist ex-combatants. (This has a direct impact on UNMIN’s ability to fulfil its mandate.) There has been little progress on this issue with the two parties unable to agree over basics like the models for integration or the timing. UNMIN’s recent attempt to produce a timeline in consultation with the parties was not well received by one side.

A procedural issue for the Council is what to do if Nepal is unable to come up with any formal request for an extension for UNMIN and whether to retain the status quo with a short rollover or to withdraw.

A closely related issue is resolution 1921 which in May extended UNMIN’s mandate till 15 September 2010 and stated that UNMIN “should immediately begin to make the necessary arrangements for its withdrawal, including handing over any residual monitoring responsibilities by 15 September 2010” and whether in the deteriorating situation that decision should still stand.

Also an issue given that the mission is now largely Kathmandu-based, and the OHCHR’s regional offices have been closed down, is the UN country team’s ability to provide a full picture of the situation in Nepal to the Council.

Underlying Problems

Although there have been some positive developments in this regard, underlying problems still include the relative exclusion of marginalised groups from government, the lack of basic services and security and widespread poverty. The lack of progress in addressing impunity and accountability for human rights violations committed both during and after the conflict are also problems.

Options

One option given the current political situation is a rollover of UNMIN’s mandate with no change for a short period.

Other options include:

  • extending UNMIN’s mandate for a longer period (6-12 months) with no change;
  • choosing to send a signal that the UN is serious about withdrawing the mission sooner rather than later through some sort of physical change on the ground (for example the consolidation of cantonments so that UNMIN is responsible for a smaller number of cantonments); and
  • choosing not to renew UNMIN.

Council Dynamics

While many Council members are growing increasingly frustrated with the political stalemate and the impact on UNMIN’s ability to carry out its mandate, there is a wide sense that it would be irresponsible to change the status quo at this point.

While there is more talk of the possibility of withdrawing UNMIN as members grow increasingly conscious of how difficult it is for UNMIN to play an effective political role, most members are not willing to risk pulling out during a time of real political fragility. Some Council members, like China, are unlikely to agree to anything but the period asked for by the Nepalese government. China continues to hold its position that the wishes of the Nepalese government need to be paramount.

Some members like the UK, the lead country for Nepal on the Council, are keen to at least start a discussion on ways of showing that UNMIN is not in Nepal for the long-term. There may be an attempt to include stronger language in the resolution renewing UNMIN to indicate the urgency for an exit strategy.

A number of members feel that a short mandate is counter-productive to UNMIN’s effectiveness but appear resigned to the fact that this might be the only possible outcome.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1921 (12 May 2010) extended UNMIN until 15 September 2010.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) was the resolution establishing UNMIN.

Secretary-General’s Report

Other

  • S/PV.6311 (12 May 2010) was the record of the adoption of the resolution 1921
  • S/PV.6308 (5 May 2010) was the record of a recent briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Karin Landgren.
  • S/2010/229 (5 May 2010) was the letter from the Nepalese government requesting an extension on UNMIN’s mandate for four months.


Other Relevant Fact

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

Size and Composition

248, including about 72 arms monitors as of August 2010.

Duration

23 January 2007 to 15 September 2010

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