Nepal has made rapid advances, but obstacles lie ahead - report by Ban Ki-moon

The peace process in Nepal has made "remarkable progress" since the start of last year, but complex questions remain about how to monitor the management of arms and armed personnel, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in the Himalayan country.

Mr. Ban also warns that the upcoming election of a Constituent Assembly must be conducted in a manner that reflects the genuine will of the Nepalese people, including those communities that have been marginalized traditionally.

In his progress report to the Security Council, Mr. Ban says "few could have imagined at the beginning of 2006 that an end to the armed conflict would have been declared," the UN would have started implementing an agreement on managing arms and armed personnel, and that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) would have entered an interim legislature with the Government.

"These are historic achievements," the Secretary-General writes, praising all parties for the willingness to strive towards consensus on some of the most divisive issues, but also noting that some of the underlying causes of the conflict are yet to be tackled.

Mr. Ban's report is being released one year after a 19-day "people's movement" which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in cities and towns across the country culminated in the king relinquishing executive power and reinstating Parliament. Last November's comprehensive peace agreement then formally ended a decade-long conflict that killed 13,000 people and paralyzed life in the countryside.

That agreement includes provisions for the storage of arms used by the two sides, but Mr. Ban warns in his report that much remains to be done on that front, as well as on the cantonment of armed personnel.

"Conditions at cantonment sites have been of great concern to the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN)," particularly given the scheduled arrival in mid-June of the annual monsoon rains, Mr. Ban says.

One of UNMIN's core roles is to help the Nepalese elect a Constituent Assembly later this year, and the Secretary-General stresses that this will also require support from the country's Election Commission, most notably in voter education.

"It will also require a cooperative effort to establish public security through effective law enforcement that respects human rights, in a country previously divided between State and non-State actors and where the police have yet to be deployed nationwide."