UN and Nepal sign action plan for release of nearly 3,000 Maoist child soldiers

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The United Nations, the Nepalese Government and Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) today signed an action plan to accelerate the release of nearly 3,000 child soldiers who served in the Maoist army during the country's decade-long civil war and remain in temporary camps three years after a peace deal ended the conflict.

"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," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said at the ceremony in Kathmandu, the capital.

The move will constitute the first step in deleting the UCPN-M from the list of parties which recruit and use children in conflict. The UN and the Government will assist in the orderly rehabilitation of the minors to ensure that they have the choice to participate in programmes that return them to a civilian environment and are not recruited by violent or criminal gangs.

They will have access to a range of rehabilitation options developed by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), financed by the UN Peace Fund for Nepal.

"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," UNICEF Representative Gillian Mellsop said.

Calling it "a historic step" in Nepal's peace process, Mr. Ban's Representative in the country Karin Landgren added: "We hope that it will encourage other steps to unblock the current political stalemate."

Last month, Ms. Landgren reported little progress in overcoming the political impasse that emerged earlier this year when the President revoked the Army Chief's dismissal by the then-Government and the ruling UCPN-M stepped down.

The 2006 peace agreement ending the civil war led to the establishment of the cantonments to provide temporary shelter for Maoist ex-combatants in several localities across Nepal and they were slated to be discharged after completion of the verification process, as repeatedly called for by the Security Council.