6013th Meeting (PM)
Special Representative Says Mission Might Need Extension Beyond 23 January 2009 to Continue Monitoring Cantonment Areas for former Combatants
Despite the remarkable progress made by the people of Nepal towards peace and democracy, the extended assistance of the United Nations Mission there (UNMIN) and sustained support of the international community was needed, Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the Mission told the Security Council this afternoon.
Addressing the 15-member body along with the representative of Nepal, Mr. Martin noted that the Secretary-General, in his visit to the Himalayan country last week, had said that the recently elected Constituent Assembly was the most inclusive legislative body in the country's history.
However, he had added that the political transformation in the Himalayan country must go hand in hand with social and economic transformation; steady progress in the peace process would ensure international support.
Introducing the Secretary-General's report, he said it described the process by which the Assembly had elected a President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, as well as the long negotiations which led to formation of a coalition Government, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as the largest party and comprising two others of the four largest parties, with the Nepali Congress remaining in opposition.
He said that, according to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda", the priorities of the Government were completing the peace process, ensuring the drafting of the new constitution and achieving rapid economic progress. There were major challenges in each area, but UNMIN's mandate related directly to the peace process.
In describing the tasks that remained before the Mission had completed its work, he noted the difficulties in forming a special committee responsible for the supervision, integration and rehabilitation of the former Maoist combatants, which would simplify UNMIN's monitoring responsibilities. Once the committee began to function, he added, it would face many difficulties because of widely differing views regarding the extent to which Maoist army combatants should or should not be integrated into the State Army. He said that the discharge from the Maoist army cantonments of some 4,000 personnel under the age of 18 in May was not dependent on the special committee, but had been long overdue.
He said he shared the desire of the Security Council to bring UNMIN's mandate to completion as soon as possible. The Secretary-General wanted to drawdown further and close the Mission in a manner that did not jeopardize the peace process and ensured continuing international support for consolidating peace. However, in discussions with the Secretary-General last week, the Prime Minister had said that the Mission's presence at the cantonments would remain necessary pending integration and rehabilitation. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, that process could now not be expected to end by January, within the Mission's current mandate. The Secretary-General had asked that if a further extension was to be requested by the Government, it should be made as soon as possible.
He envisaged that any recommendation to the Council in response to such a request would be for a substantially smaller presence. Experience in various countries, however, had demonstrated the dangers of failing to address successfully the issue of former combatants and the risks that that could
That key aspect of the peace process and the need for cooperation among Nepal's political parties must be seen in the wider context of their implementation of commitments, he said. The 25 June agreement reiterated many of those commitments, but commissions provided for in the agreements were yet to be formed and compensation of victims of the conflict, as well as investigation into the fate of those who disappeared, the return of displaced persons and property seized and legitimization of youth groups still needed to be pursued. The Madhesi parties also demanded inclusion in all processes, as promised. While fully respecting that the peace process was Nepali-driven, the United Nations had offered its support to the fulfilment of such commitments, as well as to the drafting of the new constitution and protection of human rights. The Secretary-General, he said, had called on all parties in Nepal to cooperate towards the achievement of those goals.
"Our aim is the earliest possible completion of the Mission's mandate," he said. "But also the sustained and intensified support of the United Nations system and international community to the peace, development and change which the people of Nepal have demanded."
Nepal's representative, Madhu Raman Acharya, said that the success of his country's peace process lay, indeed, in full national ownership, as well as inclusiveness. The political leadership had taken into account the broader aspiration of the Nepalese people for peace and democracy. The Constituent Assembly was finalizing its procedural rules and it was expected to start drafting the constitution soon. The Government was committed to resolving all remaining issues in the spirit of dialogue and accommodation and in accordance with the comprehensive peace agreement. It had already constituted the special committee to finalize the issue of integration and rehabilitation of the former rebel combatants in cantonments monitored by the United Nations. The Special Committee was expected to reach its decision on the issue soon.
UNMIN's presence would not be required after the process of managing the cantonment of armed forces and weapons was completed, he said. If that process went beyond the end of the current mandate on 23 January 2009, the Government, in consultation with the special committee and the political parties, might request an extension of UNMIN's mandate as soon as such a decision was reached. In that case, UNMIN's presence, which had been already significantly downsized, might be required for another six months maximum, with further adjustment, with a view to allowing it to terminate itself by that time.
Taking note of the Secretary-General's remarks about the consolidation of cantonments in the report, he said that such rearrangement might unnecessarily complicate the process and exacerbate the already poor infrastructure and facilities in the cantonments. It could also unwittingly prolong the rehabilitation and integration process, which were key to logically conclude the peace process. The Government was committed to taking measures to expedite implementation of the special committee's decisions, so that UNMIN could complete its task in line with the Security Council's mandate.
After those two statements, Saul Weisleder of Costa Rica, which holds the Council presidency for November, took the floor in his national capacity to welcome progress in Nepal, but also to call for bringing to justice those who had committed crimes during the armed conflict. He supported the Nepalese Government's intention to set up a truth and reconciliation commission, and to investigate the whereabouts of missing persons and bolster the rule of law. He urged the Constituent Assembly to do its very best to achieve agreement and move forward in drafting a new constitution. He also expressed concern over slow progress in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, expressing the hope that funds provided by the Peacebuilding Fund would make it possible to speed up the process. Costa Rica, he said, would be ready to consider a limited extension of UNMIN's mandate, if requested by the Secretary-General or the Government of Nepal. He warned against withdrawing the Mission in haste or maintaining a larger mission than was required.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:40 p.m.
The Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process (document S/2008/670), which commends the parties in the Asian country for their commitment to consolidating democracy, but also states that "understandable" delays in forming the Government have not led to the "hoped for progress" to allow the United Nations special political mission in the country, known as UNMIN, to wind down by its mandate's end next January, as previously called for by the Council.
Nepal, which in 2006 emerged from a decade-long civil war between Government and Maoist forces claiming 13,000 lives, abolished its 240-year-old monarchy in May and is now the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Established in January 2007, UNMIN's mandate includes the monitoring of the management of arms and armed personnel of both the Maoist and Government forces. The report notes that an agreement reached in late June by the Seven-Party Alliance calls for integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist army to wrap up within six months. The Secretary-General says that the establishment of a special committee to oversee that process was crucial.
Until that special committee begins its work, it is impossible to predict how soon it will be able to take key decisions and how long will be needed for their implementation, he says, adding that there will be "substantial disagreements to be overcome". He calls on Nepal's Government to move as rapidly as possible to create conditions conducive to the completion of UNMIN activities, expressing regret that the status-of-mission agreement still has yet to be signed by officials.
In the meantime, he says, his Special Representative has urged the parties to consider interim measures that could simplify UNMIN's monitoring responsibilities, including the consolidation of cantonment sites. When related decisions are taken by the Government, it will be possible to assess whether and when further reductions in the number of arms monitors can be planned. The Mission's overall staffing is already below its authorized level, and management will continue to seek opportunities for further reductions, such as filling only essential vacancies that arise and completing the transfer of activities to the United Nations country team.
The report urges the international community to continue its support for the country to ensure that it successfully completes its peace process. "While the main emphasis now should be on peacebuilding through economic and social development and on the drafting of the new constitution, experience in various countries has demonstrated the dangers of failing to address successfully the issue of former combatants and the risks that this can pose to durable stability," the Secretary-General says.
He reiterates the importance of sustaining the cooperation among political parties "on which the peace process was founded and which has brought it so far". Although the Nepali Congress, lead by former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, has chosen not to join the Maoist-led coalition Government, he welcomed its pledge to help draft the new constitution and conclude the peace process.
He also praises the commitments made by current Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal -- who goes by the name Prachanda -- on his commitments to multi-party democracy and to protecting human rights.
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