Nepal: Transcript of UN SG's press conference in Kathmandu, 01 Nov 2008

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(UNMIN transcript)

SAM TAYLOR, AFP: Secretary-General, after meeting the main political actors here, how convinced are you that the Maoists are totally committed to multiparty parliamentary democracy? Thank you.

SECRETARY-GENERAL: I have met all the political leaders, the important parties' leaders, and while I congratulated the historic transformation that they have achieved recently, I also urged them to overcome the differences in their positions. They should look beyond their party lines, and look to the future of their own country and people. And I urged and appealed to them that this special committee should be formed and launched as soon as possible, so that they can address these very important issues. And I'm convinced that they heard my appeal, and I hope sincerely that, on the occasion of my visit, they will be able to reconcile and start their work as mandated by their people.

H. H. UPADHYAYA, KANTIPUR TV: As you have said in your statement - that the immediate challenge is the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants - as this has become a very crucial issue now, do you think that UNMIN should be provided a more active role in this regard, and have you had any talks regarding this with Prime Minister Dahal and other political leaders?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: This process of the special committee and democratization is driven by the Nepali people. The United Nations, led by UNMIN, will continue to persist and facilitate such a role for the Nepali Government and political leaders. And if they request any other information, then we can also provide some experiences and know-how of examples of other countries. But I would urge that the Nepali Government and political leaders cooperate among themselves, overcoming differences of position, in the spirit of compromise and flexibility and political leadership.

MAHESH ACHARYA, KANTIPUR RADIO: The Nepal Government policy document has vowed to complete Maoist army integration within six months. But many days have passed, unsubstantive, since the formation of the army integration special committee. Still there are major differences regarding the composition of the special committee. In this context, how feasible is it to see army integration completed within six months?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: That has been a very important part of my consultation with many political leaders, the Prime Minister and Government leaders. I sincerely hope, and I again urge all the political leaders and all Government leaders that they should work in a spirit of cooperation and compromise and also flexibility. They have come a long way until today. Now they should overcome these political party lines; they should walk a line of national unity, going beyond their differences of opinion. The people and political leaders of Nepal are going through a crucially important, historic period. Depending on what they will do, the coming few months will make a huge difference for the long-term future of Nepal and the Nepali people. The whole world and the United Nations are watching very closely, with a high level of expectations, as we have been watching closely during the peaceful election, and also during the very dramatic transformation from monarchy to federal republic. So please bear in mind all of the historic responsibilities that they have.

MANESH SHRESTHA, CNN: During your visit to India, in your talks with authorities there, did Nepal figure in the talks? And if it did, what kind of talks did you have about UNMIN's continued presence in Nepal?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: I also had good discussions with Government and political leaders of India. Of course, one of the subjects of our discussions was the very encouraging, positive development of the situation in the subcontinent, including the one which has taken place in Nepal. We all appreciate the very encouraging development of the situation towards the democratization process here. We also agree that the international community, together with the United Nations, should fully cooperate and assist the Nepali Government and its people's very noble efforts to realize democratization in parallel with socio-economic development.

PRASHANT JHA, HIMALMEDIA: What is going to be the UN's approach in dealing with the officers in the Nepal Army who have been implicated in human rights scandals? We have heard unofficial reports that that the UN has informally told the Nepal Army that it is not open to recruiting these officers for international peacekeeping operations. Could you confirm what is going to be the future approach?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: As I said, the United Nations is deeply grateful to the contribution of the Nepali Government to UN peacekeeping operations - you are the fifth-largest contributing country. Currently, one very distinguished Nepali general is now serving as a force commander in Sudan. We would welcome more contributions from the Nepal Government, but we would particularly welcome if they are nominated by the Nepal Government as peacekeepers to the UN peacekeeping operations; we would welcome it but, at the same time, those soldiers should be the part of Nepal's national army. This is the basic position and principle of UN peacekeeping operations- and there were many such cases, even in peacekeeping operations, in which even former rebels, when they were integrated into the national armies of Member States of the United Nations, were recruited as part of UN peacekeeping operations. So, therefore, integration of former combatants with the regular national army of Nepal, that would have to be decided and carried out by the Nepali Government. There is a standard criteria, and all peacekeepers need to meet this criteria and the standards of UN peacekeeping operations.

EDITOR, QUARTERLY DEVELOPMENT REVIEW: Your visit to Nepal was very important. We have had a dramatic change in Nepal, so we have a mass representation of women - 190 women. This is due to the contribution of Ian Martin and also the United Nations and the present leadership. So, the United Nations has given 10 million dollars. I think this is peanuts, because we have floods in the east and west. Are you, Ban Ki-moon - it has been mentioned that due to the fuel crisis we have a famine in the mountains; the transportation of food grains is very difficult. So I request your contribution, the United Nations Development Programme needs much more help for women's upliftment, because we have 33 percent women in the Parliament. I request you that.

SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you very much for your very valuable suggestions. In fact, gender equality, gender balance, gender empowerment is one of the top priorities of the United Nations, and also of myself as Secretary-General. You must have seen how much of a difference I have made since I became Secretary-General in the United Nations system, to have more women employed at senior positions. And also, I have seen women's participation and integration move into every level of Nepali society. But, as you said, I would hope there should be more such distinguished women participating in every level of your society. This is important not only for Nepal but for all balance, progress, prosperity, and to peace all around the world. The United Nations takes it to be very important, and we will carry on this very important principle of the agenda of women's empowerment in the future.

SHIRISH PRADHAN, PTI: On army integration, the politically indoctrinated Maoist army is being integrated into the national army, and there are also reports that the Maoists want their deputy commander to be army chief of the combined army. So, don't you see a danger of Maoist takeover? And the Maoists are also talking about establishing a communist republic, so don't you see that as a threat to democracy?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: As I said, I think the integration of all the people for national unity is a very important policy, but who is to be integrated, how to be integrated, what to be integrated - that is what the Nepali Government and people should decide. As I said earlier, the United Nations will be ready to provide necessary information and support in your efforts to do that.

AKHILESH UPADHYAY, KATHMANDU POST: First of all, thank you for the visit, Your Excellency. My question is - I leave it to the political historians, ten years down the road, to decide how much difference UNMIN has made - but I can see, as a casual analyst, that it has made a difference in bringing the two warring parties together and taking the peace process forward. My question and concern is, as UNMIN begins to downsize, it's been a major political player in town. Don't you think such a large Mission, when it leaves, will leave behind a political vacuum that will have repercussions on the larger peace process while it is still at a very, very fragile stage? Thank you.

SECRETARY-GENERAL: Now, when UNMIN was established, there was a clear mandate, authorized by the UN Security Council, and a large part of that mandate, I think, has been fulfilled through this very successful democratic election, which was held last April. And UNMIN has been supporting and facilitating and providing necessary know-how and experience and assistance through that. Now that you are going through this very important historic political peace process and transformation, I think in some other areas there may still be areas where UNMIN should continue to assist. I have discussed this matter about the future role of UNMIN with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and the President, and I understand that the Nepali Government wants to see the extension of the mandate of UNMIN for a certain period of time, which needs to be determined and discussed by the UN Security Council. I will continue to discuss this matter with the Nepali Government, and bring the positions of the Nepali Government to the Security Council for consultation. But at this time I believe that, for a certain period of time, the UN will have to continue to assist the peace process of Nepal, for peace and stability and the democratization process, as well as development projects in Nepal.

HARISHARAN LAMICHHANE, RADIO NEPAL: Let's say, as you mentioned in your statement, that there will be continued strong support to Nepal after the peace process comes to a logical conclusion. So, could you just specify, will there be any special package for Nepal, for its reconstruction as well as socio-economic development, in the coming days? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY-GENERAL: We will continue to discuss how the UN will support your very noble efforts. Even with the downsizing, or even with or without UNMIN in the future - after all, this process should be Nepal-driven, particularly when it comes to the peace process, and also reintegration, rehabilitation of former combatants. That should be driven by the Nepali Government and its people. But the United Nations has a broader responsibility, again, to help Nepal; as one of the landlocked countries and as one of the least-developed nations, the United Nations has a broader responsibility and role to play to help your Government and people so that you can have socio-economic development in the broader framework of the Millennium Development Goals. And we also have a broader responsibility to ensure that human rights are promoted and protected properly in Nepal. We will continue to be part of this process, and continue to be part of this assistance to the Nepali Government and people. Thank you very much. Dhanyabad.