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Nepal Still Faces Challenges After Recent Election

Nepal still faces challenges after successful election, UN envoy stresses

22 May 2008 - The political parties in Nepal will have to reach agreement on how to form a new government and then successfully draft a new constitution to give the country a chance of lasting stability and economic development, according to the United Nations' top envoy to the country.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative to Nepal Ian Martin briefed the Security Council on the situation in the country today and afterwards told reporters that Nepal still faces "very considerable challenges" following the elections for a new Constituent Assembly last month.

"The most immediate challenge is to reach agreement among the political parties on the basis for forming a new government, which ideally should provide stability and economic development while the new constitution is drafted," Mr. Martin said, adding that it was widely accepted that the Maoists would lead the new administration.

The Constituent Assembly will hold its first meeting next week, but the UN envoy said that drafting a new constitution would be a "profound challenge" since "the positions that the political parties put before the electorate are far apart," especially on the question of what kind of federalism the country should adopt.

Mr. Martin also said that the peace process in Nepal remains incomplete, noting that there are still two armies in the country and that there has been no agreement so far on "what is referred to in the peace agreement as the integration of the Maoist army and the democratization of the Nepal army." He added that other political parties were insistent that they would not join a Maoist-led Government unless violent attacks from the Maoist Young Communist League were halted.

The UN envoy listed a number of important commitments of the peace process that have not yet been implemented: compensation for victims of the conflict, investigation of disappearances and the return of property and of displaced persons to their homes. "When you combine those with some of the fresh wounds of election violence, they require an active process of local reconciliation," Mr. Martin stressed.

"Public security, which is one of the deepest wishes of people throughout the country, is not going to prevail until Nepal's consistent pattern of impunity is brought to an end," he added, saying there has not been a single prosecution in civilian courts of even the most egregious human rights violations on either side of the armed conflict, or of many killings since.

Mr. Martin deplored the recent beating to death of businessman Ram Hari Shrestha by members of the Maoist army.

In a related development today, the Maoist army's Vice-Chairman said that the army would cooperate fully with the police and a Government commission of inquiry into the businessman's death.

The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is due to wrap up its operations in the country in July. Mr. Martin said he would be engaging with political leaders on his return to the country to see whether there was a continuing need for a UN role beyond the normal activities of world body's agencies in Nepal.

After today's briefing, Ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, said it was clear that UNMIN had contributed significantly to helping Nepal end its long-standing conflict and enter a democratic transition.

Mr. Sawers said the mission's future remains to be considered, given its mandate is due to expire so soon.

"We'll need to consider whether there is a role for the UN after that, but we will first look to the Government of Nepal to let us have their views and their requests for a role for the UN in that country well in advance of the 23 July date for the end of the mandate," he said.

"If there is no request, then the mandate for the UN Mission in Nepal would come to an end, but there may be scope for a scaled-down role for the United Nations there."

ENDS

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