According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, there is no possibility of extension of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). In a display of diplomatic brevity, the UN Secretary General stated that the his Special Representative and Resident Coordinator will provide whatever the new government will request. According to Ban, “ These are critical times for long-term stability in Nepal, and the United Nations will remain by the side of the people and leaders of Nepal in the historic tasks of political and social transformation on which they have embarked.” Ban stated that despite last month's landmark Constituent Assembly elections, which was generally deemed successful by all sides, Nepal still has a long way to go in completing the peace process. He felt the CA polls were a historic occasion adding that "the desire and commitment of the people of Nepal for peace and change was the driving force behind this success." Ban also cautioned that "the election is only a milestone in the peace process….but the real work of addressing the nation's deeper socio-economic difficulties and drafting a constitution that reflects the will of the entire nation only begins now." The Secretary-General also mentioned that he is encouraged by the commitment and cooperation that the CPN-Maoist, the largest party in the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, and called on other political parties to remain focused on Nepal’s long-term interests.
The United Nations Mission in Nepal(UNMIN) had earlier planned to end its mission in Nepal effective July 23, 2008 following its one year stay in Nepal. When recently questioned on Kantipur FM, UNMIN Head Ian Martin noted, "We are indeed planning to close UNMIN by the end of our current mandate, and I have notified our staff of that. That does not mean that the United Nations is not interested in continuing to support Nepal´s peace process." Martin stated that the United Nations was in Nepal before UNMIN and will continue on, though , if the new government, once it is formed, requests continuing assistance from the United Nations, he would put the request in front of the UN Secretary General.
UNMIN was tasked with assisting the peace process in Nepal, but recently after Nepal´s politicians started showing disinterest in its work and a further term renewal, its extension was termed a hard bet. Nepali leaders, including Prachanda from CPN-M and his foreign relations spokesperson CP Gajurel had indicated their unwillingness to extend UNMIN beyond the current term of July 22. Prachanda was recently courted by UNMIN Chief Ian Martin on the need for successfully concluding the current peace process, but the Maoist inner position seemed to be hard to discern. The Maoists number two, Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai, also did not show any positive thoughts to its renewal.
In the last attempt to renew UNMIN’s mandate earlier to the CA Poll period, there was stiff geo- strategic pressure that toned down its mandate, despite Ian Martin being enthusiastic in giving it a broader political advisory role. Based on informed media sources, UNMIN has set up an internal working committee to manage physical structures and materials before departing from Nepal. It is not sure whether UNMIN plans to take back the large amount of logistical equipment and furniture that it brought to Nepal. UNMIN administration had recently made a reduction in arms monitors from 186 to 82 merging the Far Western region´s Dhangadhi and the Nepalgunj offices. Similarly, it merged the Pokhara and Kathmandu offices to save costs. Some of the top UNMIN officials had departed from Nepal recently including chief of political affairs John Norris, chief of administration department Kartsen Harrel, deputy chief of mission Tamrat Samuel and chief arms monitor Jan Eric Wilhelmsen. Another 250 international staff were in the process of packing their bags.
UNMIN´s undermining had already begun as soon as some of the seven parties leaders came to know of their defeat in the CA Poll. Ian Martin was genuinely seen as helping the peace process evolve, although Prime Minister GP Koirala and Prachanda were both known to be inwardly in favor of solving Nepal´s remaining last notch of the peace deal themselves, namely, the integration of the two armies and their arms based on mutual consultation. UNMIN had been tasked by the UN Security Council to manage the arms and armed personnel monitoring of the Nepal Army and the Maoist combatants transitioning to a new stable democratic order.
There is now media speculation that a third party more oriented to international post-conflict rehabilitation and disaster recovery, beyond the UN, might be called in by the Maoists and the Nepal Government to look deeper into issues such as the conflict-migrated Nepali population’s humanitarian post resettlement, rehabilitation, psycho-social trauma counseling of those involved and affected, and youth mobilization for long term peace building and peace education, which has been an emphasis of Nepal’s Peace Ministry. The Maoist were also was not highly favorable of UNMIN since they knew in their hearts that the first letter sent to the UN inviting it was done without consulting them. In fact, the UN waited for the second letter with valid signatures and positive assent from both sides, before coming to Nepal, sending then UN Under Secretary General Stefan de Mistura to pre-investigate the Nepali peace process.
After their simple majority win in the CA Poll, the Maoists are now for internal conciliation on the reintegration of Maoist combatants. CP Gajurel from CPN-M has openly advocated that the Maoist led democratic coalition government will not swing its mood to engage outsiders on the integration of arms and armies issue. The deal, in his view, can be done in the mutual understanding of the Maoists and the Nepal Army. On the other hand, the Nepal Army and the uniformed, disciplined forces have passed the ball back to the Nepali media, namely, that it is ready to accept any future democratically elected Nepal Government that would continue serving the Nepali people by adhering to pukka democratic growth, economic prosperity and social harmony of all Nepalis.
Recently Ian Martin appeared generally optimistic in his interview to Kantipur FM about Nepal´s new Constituent Assembly, "I think the important thing that has been achieved is the election of a genuinely inclusive Constituent Assembly. That was the main task that UNMIN came here to help make possible, and there have been many points along the way when people either doubted that the election would happen or doubted that it would produce a genuinely representative Constituent Assembly. And even if there are some groups that don’t feel themselves fully represented, or indeed are not represented proportionately, nonetheless, I think everybody agrees that the Constituent Assembly is the most inclusive body there will ever have been in Nepal. For example, a body with 33 per cent of women means that Nepal goes right up to quite close to the top of elected bodies around the world in terms of the representation of women."
The UN Security Council established UNMIN initially with a 12-month mandate, which expired in January 2008. In December 2007, after the second postponement of the constituent assembly elections. The Security Council extended the missions mandate to July 22 on the Nepal Government’s request for a six-month extension.
(Surya B. Prasai is an independent global strategic communications, media, and international development resource consultant who writes frequently for this and other global media)
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