Statement by Andrew MacGregor, Regional Head,
Eastern region, United Nations Mission in Nepal
Activities of UNMIN in the districts of the Eastern region
Andrew MacGregor on activities of UNMIN in the districts of the Eastern region

Biratnagar 7 February 2008 (UNMIN)

I am very pleased to brief you today on the activities of UNMIN in the districts of the Eastern region. Let me introduce to you Kieran Dwyer, the Spokesperson of UNMIN, who will also be available to answer your questions.

As you know, the United Nations Security Council responded positively to the request of the Government of Nepal on 23 January, and extended UNMIN's mandate by six months. Member States were once again unanimous in their support of Nepal's peace process. Both the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Member States emphasized the importance to Nepal's peace process of a credible CA election, conducted in a free and fair atmosphere. The Secretary-General has repeatedly stressed the need to address the legitimate demands and grievances of traditionally marginalized groups in order to have an inclusive CA election and advance Nepal's democratic culture and institutions to a higher plane.

Here in the Eastern region, UNMIN teams are implementing the three core areas of our mandate: first, the continuing monitoring of the arms and armed personnel of the Maoist army and the Nepal Army; second, our civil affairs teams travel to the districts to assist in monitoring the ceasefire code of conduct, which is essential for creating a positive atmosphere for the election ; and third, our electoral advisers are intensifying their assistance to Nepal's Election Commission in election preparations.

I would like to highlight for you some of the recent activities of UNMIN teams in our region.

UNMIN electoral advisers are working every day with the Election Commission Regional Resource Centre and the District Electoral Officers of the eastern region to assist in CA electoral preparations. We are preparing to redeploy district electoral advisers to all districts. The first group of advisers will arrive in districts in the Eastern region next week, with advisers to be based in Saptari and Sirhaha districts. All advisers will be in place by early March. As well as with technical assistance to the Election Commission, the UNMIN electoral presence aims to help build confidence in the establishment of a free and fair atmosphere for the election.

In the past two weeks, UNMIN teams have visited ten of the 16 districts in the Eastern region, including all the Terai districts: Sunsari, Siraha, Saptari, Morang, Jhapa, Ilam, Dhankuta, Therathum, Udayapur and Panchthar. More visits are planned. UNMIN teams, in close collaboration with OHCHR-Nepal, monitored political rallies in Biratnagar, Lahan and Birtamode, as part of our work to promote peaceful political activity and protect human rights. As part of this work UNMIN and OHCHR teams hold discussions with rally organisers, political parties and groups as well as local authorities and police to help create an environment conducive to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

UNMIN civil affairs team recently spent time in Madar and Karjana VDCs of Siraha District, as well as Piple and Sabla VDCs of Therathum district, talking to villagers about security, the provision of government services and confiscation of land. The teams also met with the Chief District Officer, police and other relevant local authorities, so that UNMIN obtains a balanced and informed picture of conditions in VDCs.

UNMIN arms monitors hold regular meetings with senior Nepal Army officers at their barracks and with senior Maoist army cadres in the cantonment site in Ilam. These close contacts build trust and confidence and allow UNMIN to be aware of planned activities, needs and complaints so that UNMIN, acting within its mandate, can help resolve disputes and identify solutions at a local level. In addition, arms monitors travel regularly to districts on patrols, including in Joint Monitoring Teams made up of one UNMIN arms monitor, one Nepal Army and one Maoist army member, in order to liaise with local authorities and monitor and support the ceasefire.

Earlier this week, I travelled to Rajbiraj and, today, we have just returned from Birtamod in Jhapa District. The purpose of these visits was to inform civil society, political parties and local authorities about UNMIN's mandate and activities, and to listen to any concerns they have about the electoral and peace process, particularly in the run-up to the elections scheduled for 10 April.

In his recent address to the Security Council, Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary- General in Nepal, said that public security, especially in the eastern and central Terai, remains one of the greatest challenges to holding a credible CA election. The United Nations, UNMIN and OHCHR, continue to press for effective law and order as an essential part of creating a free and fair atmosphere for the CA election. Law and order depends not only on policing, but also on political dialogue with all democratic forces so that all parties cooperate together in creating an atmosphere conducive for the CA election.

You will have seen Ian Martin's statement condemning violence and threats in relation to political rallies after the bomb attacks in Birgunj on 30 January. I would like to end this statement by reiterating this position. It is essential that the people of the Eastern region, as well as in all parts of Nepal, are able to prepare for the CA election in conditions of security, law and order and with the enjoyment of their human rights. The United Nations will do all it can to contribute to creating these conditions.

Source: UNMIN , February 2008


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