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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

The Swiss Strategy in Nepal

Switzerland's strategy in Nepal is to promote human rights, peace, development, and help resolve conflict, says the Swiss foreign department.

The following policy document from the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department (DFAE) should be of public interest in light of the Swiss engagement in the Nepali peace process and the visit of a Nepali delegation in Switzerland last week. This is an unofficial translation from the original (in PDF) French.

The engagement of Switzerland in favor of peace in Nepal

The overall agreement of peace signed on November 21, 2006 with Kathmandu must put an end to ten years of a civil war which has resulted in the death of more than 13.000 in Nepal.

Elections are planned for November 22, 2007 to form a constituent assembly. Switzerland notably contributed to this positive process by its long efforts of promotion of peace, defense of the human rights and development co-operation.

The process of peace supported by a Swiss expert
The federal Department of the Foreign Affairs (DFAE) sent in May 2005 to Kathmandu an advisor [Günther Bächler is the Special Swiss Advisor for Peace Building in Nepal] charged to develop contacts with all sides of the conflict and to explore the possibilities of a negotiated peace in which not only the armed king and rebellious groups would be included but also the political parties not resorting to violence.

Political events in Nepal since February 2005
When king Gyandendra seized the power, on February 1, 2005, the political situation was tightened to the extreme, and one hardly saw concrete possibility of multi-party dialogue, nor of channels to carry that out. As of autumn 2005, the unilateral cease-fire of the Maoist rebels made it clear that the royal regime had been insulated, at the national as well as the international level. With the favor of this truce, the political parties and the civil society could mobilize and launch a movement of protest. Thus there first appeared a concrete prospect for peace.

The king hardly paid attention in the beginning with the increasing mobilization of the population. But a popular movement of an unexpected width (jaana andolan), that pushed millions of people in the street on April 24, 2006 throughout the country changed the political situation. The staff of the army informed the monarch that taking into account the intensity of the crisis within Kathmandu, the army was not able any more to guarantee the safety of the palace. The same day, the king made a proclamation, written by an alliance of seven parties. That proclamation restored the parliament which had been dissolved on February 1, 2005.

On its first meeting, the parliament reduced the king to a figure-head. It also took control of the army, abolished the right of veto of the king on the bills, and removed the armed rebels “Maoists” from a list of the terrorist organizations. Thereafter, the Maoists and the government issued a unilateral cease-fire. On 21 November 2006, the involved parts signed an comprehensive agreement of peace, and in December 2006 they began the process of demobilization and disarmament. Since March 2007, Communist Party of Nepal (PCN-M), which is loyal to the Maoists, is represented within transitory government by five ministers.

The action of Peace Advisor
This evolution of the political situation considerably widened the room for maneuver of the Swiss advisor. During the past one year, the advisor was present in Nepal and held consultations with the three parts in the conflict. No meeting between the political parties and the palace, nor between the palace and the Maoists seemed possible during the year 2005.

But Switzerland’s effort to facilitate preliminary discussions among all the parties was much appreciated. With the victory of the democratic forces, the negotiations on peace started to take form. The government of the alliance of the seven parties quickly sought for an accord with the Maoists. The Swiss advisor, taking advantage of his good contacts with them, helped the parts in various fields. The government’s secretariat for the peace played an important role in this respect. Previously, the secretariat was directly attached to the secretariat of the palace. After the reversal of political situation, it became a center for the preparation and the support of the talks.

The Swiss advisor is part of a four-member Nepalese team with a senior South African colleague facilitating within the secretariat. With the assistance of this team, it was possible to explore ideas, to think of options and to submit proposals to the delegations for the negotiation. Many times, in this fragile process of peace, the parties in the conflict came to request specific information and assistance of the Swiss advisor.

They did not question the official intervention of a third party; the Swiss advisor, for example, provided his mediation on the nature the invitation letter sent to the UN. That letter requested the UN support for the observation of the cease-fire and the constitutional process in Nepal. That document continued to address the basic problems and to support the process until the preparation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on November 8, 2006.

Prospects and next stages The work of the Swiss advisor for peace is one among the many activities of Switzerland in Nepal:

-- The advisor supports politically, financially and in human resources the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), whose mandate is reflected in a Swiss initiative of 2005. It also is in accordance with the UN’s mission to observe the cease-fire and to technically prepare for the election of the new constituent assembly; and provides him for that of the councils, of the financial resources, as well as the observant ones and observers of the Swiss pool of experts for the civil promotion of peace (PEP).

-- The integration of the women in the process of peace on all the levels could appear a particularly delicate task. Switzerland encourages the creation of female commissions on peace and female roundtables. A group of women was formed for the purpose of negotiations and mediation. The Swiss advisor seeks ways to enable meetings with women for negotiations.

-- Switzerland contributes an important conceptual share within the framework of the process of drafting of the new constitution to be adopted in future. Through seminars, study trips, forums of discussion and research, it engages by key personalities of the various political currents in political reflection in order to clarify fundamental questions such as the possibility for Nepal of adopting a federal system.

-- Improving the security situation could prove to be one of the most difficult challenges. Switzerland provides support in the democratic control of the army along with the process of demobilization and reintegration of the former rebels.

-- The excellent program of the Management of Development and Cooperation (DDC) of the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department (DFAE) in Nepal functions since many years and constitutes a central means of the engagement of Switzerland in the country. This program will be continued. Since 2005, the DDC and the political Management of the DFAE defined their effort as a first national strategy of Switzerland for Nepal; combining political promotion of peace and management of programs of development co-operation adapted to the context of conflict.

Switzerland is perceived as an actor having the will and the capacity to promote human rights and to support the process of peace. The public diplomacy in favor of peace and the specific activities of mediation and technical aid are supplemented in this context. This effort requires much perseverance; in that, the promotion of peace is like holding a marathon of hundreds of meters. Some 1.4 million francs (approximately NRS 73 million or USD 1.1 million) are devoted each year for the defense of human rights, with projects of the advisor for peace, support UN mission, and offering services of Swiss experts.

Posted by Editor on July 8, 2007 1:06 AM