Nepal: Govt, Maoists, UN sign action plan for discharge of disqualified Maoist combatants

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The government, the Unified CPN (Maoist) and the United Nations signed an action plan for the discharge of the Maoist army personnel disqualified in the UN-led verification process in 2007, in the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, Wednesday evening.

According to the action plan signed by a People's Liberation Army (PLA) brigade commander Saral Sahayatri Paudel and joint secretary at the peace and reconstruction ministry Sadhu Ram Sapkota, the discharge of disqualified combatants will begin from December 27 and be completed within 40 days.

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, peace minister Rakam Chemjong and UNMIN chief Karen Landgren also witnessed the signing in.

According to the action plan, the government and the UN will assist the orderly rehabilitation of the disqualified once they have been officially discharged. The discharged individuals will have access to a range of rehabilitation options developed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), in consultation with the peace and reconstruction ministry and UCPN (Maoist).

Financing for these packages will be provided from the UN Peace Fund for Nepal (UNPFN), supported by the governments of Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada and the UN Peace Building Fund.

"The Government of Nepal, the United Nations, and our partners are prepared to ensure that these disqualified benefit from rehabilitation packages, including education and skills training to create a brighter future," said UNICEF representative Gillian Mellsop after the signing function.

Chief of UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) Karin Landgren said, "This is a historic step in Nepal's peace process. We hope that it will encourage other steps to unblock the current political stalemate."

Special representative Coomaraswamy came to Nepal to finalise discussions with the UCPN (Maoist) and the government, along with UNMIN, UNICEF and the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator on this action plan in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.

She told journalists after the signing function, "Today, the minors who have spent the last three years in Maoist army cantonments with their lives on hold will finally be able to take the next step towards a more positive future."

The action plan will be monitored by a United Nations-led team to ensure that those disqualified are given the choice to partake in programmes to assist their return to a civilian environment, and that they are not exposed to recruitment by groups who engage in violence or criminal activities. Political youth movements, in particular, are a concern for protection partners working with children across Nepal.