Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process

New York, 10 July 2008 (UN News)

I. Introduction

1. 1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1796 (2008), by which the Security Council, following the request of the Government of Nepal and on the basis of the recommendation of the Secretary-General, renewed the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), as set out in resolution 1740 (2007), until 23 July 2008. UNMIN was established as a special political mission with a mandate to monitor the management of arms and armed personnel of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (M)) and the Nepal Army, assist in monitoring ceasefire arrangements, provide technical support for the conduct of the election of a Constituent Assembly in a free and fair atmosphere and provide a small team of electoral monitors.
2. 2. This report reviews progress in the peace process and the implementation of the mandate of UNMIN since my report to the Council of 12 May 2008 (S/2008/313).

II. Progress of the peace process

1. 3. The convening on 28 May of the democratically elected Constituent Assembly was a milestone in the peace process in Nepal. The Assembly is to draft a new Constitution within the next two years and will also act as the legislature during this transitional period. At the first session the Assembly members present voted by 560 votes to 4 to end the 239-year-old monarchy of Nepal and to implement a federal democratic republic. A constitutional amendment was also adopted creating the posts of President and Vice-President. The former king, Gyanendra Shah, was afforded all the rights and responsibilities of any Nepali citizen and given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Palace in central Kathmandu, which he did on 11 June.

2. 4. The republic was established peacefully amid public celebrations, apart from some minor incidents as a result of improvised explosive devices detonated at the Birendra International Convention Centre, the venue of the Assembly, and at other locations in Kathmandu, allegedly by Hindu fundamentalist groups, in the week when the Assembly's inaugural session was held.

1. 5. In my previous report I noted that, although the members of the Assembly had been elected, significant challenges remained, including agreement on the basis for the formation of a new government. Following the announcement by the Election Commission on 8 May of the final results of the Assembly election, the three largest parties, CPN (M), the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (UML), started negotiations on the formation of a new government. The Interim Constitution emphasizes the importance of governing through consensus. All major political parties agree that since the Maoists are the largest party in the Assembly they have the mandate to lead the government, but the other major parties, particularly NC, UML and the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), have set a number of conditions for their participation in or support for a Maoist-led government.

2. 6. Some important impediments to forming a new government were removed on 25 June when the Seven-Party Alliance signed an important agreement (Agreement between the political parties to amend the Constitution and take forward the peace process), which addresses several issues regarding the peace process. At the next Assembly meeting held on 26 June, the Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, announced his resignation, which is expected to be formally submitted once a President has been elected, and called on the Maoists to form a government. On the same date, the names of the 26 Assembly members to be nominated by the Council of Ministers were submitted by the political parties among whom they had been allocated, on the basis of a political understanding reflecting the strength of parties in the Assembly.

3. 7. The Council of Ministers on 25 June endorsed a bill aimed at the implementation of several key elements of the Agreement through amendments to the Interim Constitution. The bill would remove reference to the Seven-Party Alliance and extend the commitment to cooperation to other political parties represented in the Assembly. It would provide for the appointment and removal of the government by a simple majority of Assembly members, instead of a two-thirds majority. The President would also be elected by a simple majority if consensus could not be reached. Further amendments provide for the leader of the opposition party to be included on the Constitutional Council; however, the political parties are divided as to whether the leader of the opposition should also be a member of the National Security Council.

4. 8. The Agreement provides for the time-bound resolution of some key issues connected with the peace process. It requires termination within 15 days of the paramilitary functioning and activities of the Maoist Young Communist League (YCL), which CPN (M) has indicated will fully comply with the laws of the land. The Maoists are also required to return all seized property within the same time frame, after which legal action will be taken. The Agreement recommits the parties to the establishment within one month of several commissions, including a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a High-Level Commission for Restructuring the State, a Commission to Investigate the Disappeared, and a Commission on Land Reform.

9. A key issue in the negotiations leading to the Agreement was the integration, rehabilitation and management of arms and the confinement of Maoist army personnel to cantonments. The Agreement requires the reconstitution of the special committee, provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and in article 146 of the Interim Constitution, to include representatives of political parties represented in the Assembly. The special committee would start work within 15 days of the formation of the Council of Ministers with a time frame of six months, beyond which the country would bear no responsibility for verified combatants who have not been integrated or rehabilitated. Verified combatants would have a choice between possible integration into security bodies "after fulfilling the standard requirements', and an economic package and other alternatives for rehabilitation. Until integration and rehabilitation are complete, Maoist army personnel and weapons would be under the supervision, control and direction of the special committee, and from the beginning of the process the Maoist combatants would have no involvement with any political organization, having to opt for either political or military responsibilities. The Agreement provides that a request will be made for the United Nations to continue for a further six months "its current work of monitoring the management of arms and armies' in accordance with the terms of the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies.

5. 10. The negotiation of the Agreement and the consequent amendments to the Interim Constitution have involved significant compromises among the three largest parties, and were not easy to achieve. Full consensus was not reached, especially with regard to the allocation of major posts among potential coalition parties and agreement on candidates who could be elected by consensus. The Nepali Congress has insisted that, as the second-largest party, it should be able to nominate its candidate to the presidency, and that it may otherwise remain in opposition. The newly elected Madhesi parties, which were not included in the negotiations, prevented the tabling of the bill at the Assembly meeting on 28 June, when they disrupted the proceedings. They demanded that commitments made to them, notably in the agreement of 28 February between the Government and the United Democratic Madhesi Front, should be reflected in constitutional amendments. Their disruption of the Assembly sessions continued in the following days. Meanwhile, following meetings between leaders of CPN (M), NC and UML with the Madhesi parties, the three major parties established a task force to draft a supplementary bill containing constitutional amendments aimed at addressing key Madhesi concerns.

6. 11. Some progress has been made in establishing committees to handle the regular business of the Assembly and to oversee the drafting of the rules of procedure for its dual functions of drafting a new constitution and acting as a legislature, but the substantive work of the Assembly has yet to commence. Newly elected members of the Assembly, in which 25 political parties are represented, have begun to question their relevancy as negotiations have been conducted principally among the three largest parties and other members of the Seven-Party Alliance.

7. 12. The delays in political negotiations have also had a negative impact on the work of the interim Government, the functioning of which has been affected not only by the resignation of the UML ministers in April but also by a similar decision of the Maoist ministers in June. The Government is facing urgent challenges, including the preparation of the budget for the next fiscal year, which must be submitted by mid-July. Other challenges include the recent rise in fuel prices, food shortages in remotely located communities and delays in the delivery of educational materials to schools, all of which require immediate attention as protests grow around the country.

8. 13. As I noted in my previous report, many of the commitments in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 23-point agreement of 23 December 2007 and other agreements remain unfulfilled. Of particular concern is the fact that no progress was made during this period regarding the discharge from the Maoist cantonments of minors and others found ineligible by UNMIN verification. The Maoist leadership maintains that it remains committed to their discharge as soon as a new government is in office.

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Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process
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Source: United Nations Security Council 2008
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