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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

What UNMIN Should Do to Manage Nepal Peace Process

The Maoists and the political parties are responsible for the glitch in the peace process. But the UN must also share some blame, says KRISHNA HARI PUSHKAR.


The UN is a major player in Nepal's ongoing peace process. Analysts and commentators have focused much on assessing the role of political parties and little has been said about the performance of the world body's mission in Nepal.

In this article I look at the dwindling peace process in Nepal despite the involvement of the UN and other international communities. The Maoists have joined the political mainstream providing some breathing space after years of civil strife. At the same time, there are approximately two dozens small rebel groups who have been rebelling against the state. These new insurgents believe they have been "severely discriminated against and have been excluded from the mainstream since hundreds of years.” The UN could do more, based on relevant past UN resolutions, in bringing these rebels into the peace process.

The UN Mission in Nepal
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was signed on 21 November 2006 and officially ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal. Afterward, UNMIN, the United Nations Mission in Nepal, was established by the United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1740, to support the peace process. The objective of the resolution was to assist in creating a free and fair atmosphere for the Constituent Assembly elections and the entire peace process. The UNMIN was constituted in response to requests by the Seven-Party Alliance Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), in their 9 August 2006 letters to the Secretary-General of the UN. The UNMIN officially began its work on 23 January 2007 as per special agreement made with the Nepal government and Nepal communist party Nepal (Maoist).

The Security Council authorized the establishment of UNMIN under the leadership of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General with the following mandates: (a) To monitor the management of arms and armed personnel of both sides, in line with the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; (b) To assist the parties through a Joint Monitoring Coordinating Committee in implementing their agreement on the management of arms and armed personnel of both sides, as provided for in that agreement; (c) To assist in the monitoring of the ceasefire arrangements; (d) To provide technical support for the planning, preparation and conduct of the election of a Constituent Assembly in a free and fair atmosphere, in consultation with the parties, and (e) To provide a small team of electoral monitors to review all technical aspects of the electoral process, and report on the conduct of the election.

The peace process & paralytic UN role
The principal objectives of the CPA and the efforts of UN and other international communities were to establish sustainable peace and to bring the Maoists into the political mainstream. This was to be achieved through the election of a Constitution Assembly (CA). However, several unfortunate episodes occurred since the beginning of September 2007. These developments have hindered the peace process.

According to CPA and other subordinate understating, the government dissolved the reinstated parliament and brought the Maoists into interim parliament in January 2007 under the terms of an interim constitution 2006. Accordingly, the Maoists joined interim parliament and also interim government on 1 April 2007. They grabbed their quota in almost all state machineries, including embassies, secretariats, corporate leadership, constitutional posts, media wings and others through political nominations. Meanwhile, the Maoists also received substantial facilities enhancing their leaders' and cadres’ luxury, as well as improving cantonment-militia management, and pecuniary concerns.

In the close-up to face the CA election, they started a lot of riotous bargaining by extending various unexpected demands in the last hour. Such demands included declaring Nepal a republic before the CA election and the adoption of a fully proportional electoral system for the CA election. The PM Girija Prasad Koirala termed the demands unrealistic. In an interview with the Kathmandu Post (October 3, 2007), he said the demands were neither possible to fulfil by time factor nor was state technically able to fulfil them before the CA election. The extended, reckless demands were widely criticized with woofing condolences. Despite the huge efforts at dialogue by the seven party alliance and international communities, the Maoists didn’t budge and ultimately resigned on 18 September, 2007. The Maoists termed their resignation "a response of non-starter to reach an adjustment on the 22-point demands."

However, Prime Minster and other leaders were ready to compromise on twenty other demands but not on the above mentioned two demands. The Maoists accused that the seven party alliances, and especially PM Koirala, were acting against the people’s mandate and in favour of the “Palace Theory.” The crisis ensued even though almost all parties principally agreed to fulfil the Maoists’ demands through the legitimate process by using the podium of constitutional assembly. Thus, the Maoists indicated that they have not abandoned their hard-line approaches. In addition, the Maoists indicated, they would take direct action to obstruct the election if their demands were not met. Therefore, analysts perceive the Maoists are still playing war tactics and have not embraced the democratic political process.

As a result of the dispute among the Maoist and other party alliance, the government was forced to suspend the scheduled CA elections slated for 22 November, 2007. The CA election, considered the backbone of peace agreement, is in doubt. The most astonishing question is this: Why do the Maoists violate the terms of the peace agreements as well as the election bills and regulations they themselves helped to formalize? Why do they continue to dishonour agreements that they themselves agreed to in the past? Also: Why do they frequently alter their commitments and behaviours without legitimate reasoning against the peace agreement and beyond the norms of political ethics, and in presence of UN?”

Another key player in the peace process, the UN, is also not without criticism. The UNMIN have been rolling somehow their routine jobs by issuing pres release, sugar coated reports, moderated political consultation. It also has been criticized for poor cantonment management, futile monitoring of arms and armies, ceded PLA verification, superficial arm storages, disposal of non-storable light weaponry and electoral assistances. Also, it is a serous concern that the UN Secretary General recently appeared heaving appreciations on the UNMIN without analysing much the ground-level factual performances. Though the role of UNMIN is vital in overall peace process and political mainstreaming of former and existing warrior groups of Nepal, this body has not been effective in managing conflict and maintaining peace and security in the country. On the one side the UNMIN is monitoring, cantoning, storing the army, arms and weapons and on the other side the Moist guerrillas, Young Communist League (YCL) and others groups are also publicly spearheading rebellion and protest as well as demonstrations, attacks, killings, murders, kidnaps, and other violent activities?

The UNMIN has the mandate to broadly support the CA election. In addition, the Secretary General's latest report indicates that UNMIN has also been working in the areas of civil affairs, gender, child protection, social inclusion, political affairs, public information and outreach, safety and security, human rights, etc. Despite such efforts, a few dozens of ethno-regional armed warier groups have been operating against the state in Nepal. These groups assert they are excluded, discriminated against and segregated by states. Very frequently journalists, government employees are killed, deadly communal riots take place from time to time and people are very often loosing life and suffering injury. This is happening despite a huge presence of the UN political mission exits. So, shouldn't this be a concern of the UN Security Council? Sadly, no visible remedial efforts or activities of UNMIN have been seen until now by people except routine jobs and individual celebrity consultation with the political leadership and their followers.

Thus, Nepal's peace process is limping. In special reference to the performance of UNMIN, it looks very paralytic despite receiving the synergetic support from EU, India, US, UK, China and other countries. India is playing huge role by exerting pressure on political parties to continue dialogue; the US and the UK are assigned to supportive roles. They have been sending their high-level authorities to Nepal and paying individual attention on the trend of peace performance. Similarly the EU and other countries are also assisting by sending and mobilization their delegation teams, resources and needed support to the peace process. The UNMIN, despite their huge presence, have not been able to do much. Why is the peace process about to die in presence of UN? Why the weights of international communities becoming ineffective? Why are the Maoists frequently dishonouring the all commitments and agreements concerning the peace process?

As a neutral monitoring agency, the UNMIN has limited role to play. Still, there are several weakness and lapses in UN political mission’s performance. First, except for the routine jobs, UNMIN has totally failed to guard, convince, balance and coordinate effectively the peace accord among the stakeholders as per the mandate provided by UN Security Council. Accordingly, bargaining hazards, troubles, dishonouring and violations are frequently occurring by both the Maoist and government side. The second major point is to build appropriate atmosphere for the election of constitutional assembly, but it is not possible in the current situation at all, until the dozens of warrior groups and ethnic panels are either convinced about the utility of the CA election or ready to participate in the political mainstream. The UNMIN seems heavy-eyed in this matter, despites the frequent request of warier groups. Third, sadly UNMIN has also failed to use, coordinate and mobilize properly the collective efforts of international communities and the Nepal's civic societies’ through the missions’ platform. Fourth, the UNMIN is also suffering with the imbalance and discriminative local team composition. Its recruitment process failed to balance the gender, socio- ethnic and geographical representation in their local teams. Such a balance is crucial during any conflict resolution course of action. Fifth, the UNMIN has a very light, multi-spheres network that is not enough to fulfil the assigned responsibilities. In such a situation, the UNMIN will not even be able to gain effective understanding of the situation or to build inclusive dealing strategy in accordance with political psychologies of people of Nepal and intention of UN too.

I believe that the UNMIN should review its approaches, if it has to be effective in the peace process. In line with the suggestions by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, I would like to draw UNMIN's attention to the following points:

One, the UNMIN has to develop a special diplomatic-level observer task force of local diplomats and envoys through central UN channels whose countries and authorities have been expressing and providing supports to the ongoing peace process. This task force will be highly effective for collective diplomatic pressure and actions. Two, the UNMIN has to also draw out tactfully the diplomatic counter treatment through UN centre and other international community networks in case any party dares to violet or dishonour the peace accord. Three, the mission needs immediately to constitute a broader civic volunteer taskforce in central, regional, district and rural level. These helping hands should be a group of peace-lovers who can report, facilitate, monitor, observe and act locally on behalf of UNMIN, based on assigned mandates. Four, the mission could use, process or coordinate by adapting the tools of diplomatic and international laws through central UN or local mechanisms to bring the all warier groups into peace process or political mainstream. This is possible through the helping hands or local mechanisms that provide easy means for consultation among leaders and warring groups. In addition, the helping hands could also develop civic pressure on the warier groups. Hence, such mechanism would be very helpful to conduct the CA election in a peaceful environment. Five, a socio-ethnic and gender balance among the local staffs would be most essential for such mission. This should be corrected immediately and these staff members should be assigned to play leading coordinative role of those helping hands. Six, the UNMIN should conduct an open peace performances evaluation program through regular multi-party meetings in possible parts of the country by mobilizing and utilizing the local wings. This could help UNMIN for grassroots updates and immediate grip over emerging crisis. Seven, the mission should conduct a nation-wide peace tutoring campaign in partnership with the peace ministry and other donor agencies with the assistive help of education ministry, local development ministry and women ministry for school and community peace education because many citizens are still ignorant about the electoral process and activities, particularly in rural areas. The role of women and students is crucial to convince members of society about the peace process. Eight, the UNMIN has to publish the weekly evaluation report of peace process performances.

For the above mentioned actions and activities the UNMIN neither require any additional mandate nor does it need a huge additional budget. However, an effective and full-phased utilization and a balanced mobilization of existing resources and channels are essential.

Dynamic role needed
The peace process in Nepal is wearing away. It's facing sever maladies to date due to a number of reasons e.g. the CA election postponement, the Maoist withdrawal from the government, continued revolt by dozens of armed and some ethnic and communal groups. The peace process is in danger of collapsing any time. This is not a good sign especially in the presence of international support and a huge UN mission. I could only conclude that one of the major causes of the dwindling peace is the paralytic role of UN political mission. One cannot but be critical of the mission's mismanaged tactics, lack of diplomatic and functional synergetic coordination, and poor strategy in dealing with the Nepali political leaders and political developments.

The existing public diplomacy and the functional model of UNMIN have already expired and it's outdated. Similar model that was applied in the case of Angola, East Timor and Indonesia by the UN mission were botched. This might also be the cause of such paralytic situation in Nepal. However, I can not dare to blame only the UNMIN because the Maoists and other political parties are much more responsible than UNMIN for the traumatic situation of the nation today. Therefore, what we need now is a highly precautionary and dynamic role of political parties, the Maoists, the UNMIN and other international communities. Their active participation is critical to resolving glitch in Nepal's peace crisis.

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Krishna Hari Pushkar, based in Berlin, Germany, maintains an interest in Nepal's peace process. He contributed this article to Nepal Monitor. The views expressed in this article are author's own and they do not necessarily reflect NM's editorial views.

Posted by Editor on October 31, 2007 11:56 PM