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May 6, 10

NEWS / Nepal requests continued UN assistance for fragile peace process

5 May 2010 – The United Nations has been asked to continue providing assistance to the peace process in Nepal, where tensions have worsened amid an ongoing political stalemate over key issues such as power-sharing arrangements and the reintegration of former Maoist combatants.

“Nepal’s peace process is at a delicate and critical moment, as negotiators work to resolve the current stand-off between Maoist supporters and the Government, primarily over Maoist demands for a national unity government,” Karin Landgren, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Representative in Nepal, told the Security Council.

The Council was meeting to discuss the latest developments in the South Asian nation, which endured a decade-long civil war that ended with the signing of a peace accord between the Government and the Maoists in 2006.

Nepalese Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya, voicing gratitude for the UN’s help thus far, said his Government is seeking a four-month extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) – which currently runs until 15 May.

“The Government and people of Nepal remain thankful to the United Nations for providing a helping hand since the beginning of our peace process,” he stated. “I am hopeful that the Council will favourably consider the request of my Government for the extension of the mandate of UNMIN until 15 September.”

After conducting Constituent Assembly elections in May 2008, Nepal abolished its 240-year-old monarchy and declared itself a republic. But the peace process has stalled recently, threatened by tensions and mistrust between Maoists, the Government and the army.

Nationwide strikes, announced by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M), have been taking place since last Saturday, and Ms. Landgren warned of the “grave risks” to the peace process should the stand-off persist. Several clashes have already occurred in some areas between Maoists and local residents.

“The risks grow from one day to the next,” said Ms. Landgren, who heads UNMIN. “This situation should not be allowed to continue, and all encouragement is needed for both sides to deepen their discussion, come to agreement, and resolve the crisis speedily.

“All the elements of a solution to this impasse are acknowledged by the major parties. The main stumbling blocks in the negotiations are reportedly the timing and leadership of a new national unity government, and the modalities for the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist army personnel,” she stated.

There are nearly 20,000 Maoist army personnel who, under the peace accords, are to be integrated into the security forces or rehabilitated. “The former Maoist combatants urgently need solutions, as individuals and as a key to the peace process of Nepal,” Ms. Landgren stated.

According to Mr. Ban’s latest report, which Ms. Landgren presented to the Council, no substantive forward movement has been made on the main outstanding tasks of the peace process, namely resolving the future of the two armies – that of Nepal and the Maoists – and completing the drafting of the constitution by the deadline of 28 May.

He also notes that at the core of the stalemate are disagreements over integration and rehabilitation, certain key aspects of a new constitution, and power-sharing arrangements, which appear to be compounded by “mutual mistrust, insufficient political will and weak mechanisms for the implementation of past agreements.”

Other challenges to the fragile peace process include continuing disaffection among traditionally marginalized groups, the heightened visibility of the opposition to some agreed tenets including federalism, republicanism and secularism, and the widespread threats of fresh confrontation.

“Only adherence to existing commitments and a negotiated political settlement will offer a satisfactory outcome for the future of the country,” says Mr. Ban, who calls on the political party leaders to redouble their efforts to find a solution.

In a related development, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) said today that they are increasingly concerned about the participation of minors in the Maoist-led strikes, or bandhs, under way in the country which have closed schools shortly after the beginning of a new school year and exposed children to potentially violent situations.

“People under 18 must not be forced, coerced or bribed into participating in political activities,” the two bodies said in a joint statement that follows what they said were confirmed reports of large numbers of children present, and in some cases actively participating, in the demonstrations, which were announced by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M).

Calling the closure of schools “unacceptable” and a situation that violates children’s rights to education, UNICEF and OHCHR urged all political parties to live up to their commitments and duties to protect children.




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