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With Nepal at crossroads, Ban Ki-moon urges parties to agree on future steps

With Nepal at crossroads, Ban Ki-moon urges parties to agree on future steps

The peace process in Nepal is facing unprecedented challenges, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report, urging the parties there to reach agreement on future steps, including a realistic timetable for elections that were to have been held next month but have been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.

In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr. Ban says Nepal stands at a crossroads, with the political parties having made significant progress amid persisting and serious difficulties.

“The peace process in Nepal is facing its most difficult challenges to date,” he writes. “The second postponement of the Constituent Assembly election has been a major disappointment for the people of Nepal and the international community.”

The Secretary-General calls on the parties to “take a hard look at their differences and the underlying weaknesses of the peace process.”

In particular, he calls for the Seven-Party Alliance’s members “to set aside their lesser differences and maintain their unity in the interest of the common national agenda.”

The past year saw unity among eight key Nepalese parties tested by their failure to carry out agreements, including those covering responsibilities toward cantoned Maoist personnel and the return of properties seized during the 10-year conflict.

Given this context, the Secretary-General recommends a review of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and its implementation. “The shortcomings and enduring strengths of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement need to be assessed in order to build on its achievements,” he writes.

“The parties need to jointly and expeditiously identify the main issues that are of critical importance for the success of the peace process. They should engage in a debate on these issues, allowing for adequate public participation, and arrive at a broad road map to carry forward the peace process.”

The Secretary-General paints a grim picture of the human rights situation in Nepal. “The overall situation has grown more worrying,” he reports, “with increasing violence and instability in parts of the country.”

He writes of “real or perceived threats and intimidation” against political parties. At the same time, civilians continue to suffer. “The police have mostly been unable to protect the civilian population and curtail the activities of the groups.”

In this environment, the Secretary-General says “it remains to be seen how far political parties will be able to exercise their freedom of assembly and association.”

He urges all concerned to protect against abuses. “A pattern of repeated human rights violations and continuing impunity will not only have the cumulative effect of diminishing the prospect of a free and fair electoral process, but could also negatively impact the possibility of a more democratic and inclusive society that many Nepalese hope for,” he warns.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) continues to monitor arms and armed personnel “to serve the important purpose of fostering confidence and goodwill,” the report states.

In a related development, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal today issued a statement welcoming a recent decision by the country’s cabinet to institute quotas for recruiting women and members of marginalized groups to fill vacant posts in the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force.

OHCHR has long urged the police forces and other Government institutions to take steps to make their workforces more inclusive as part of their response to criticisms that they did not act impartially when responding to violence.

“Making provisions to include historically marginalized groups in the police forces and other civil services will signal that the commitment to inclusion made by political leaders is indeed genuine. It will also address some current demands of these groups, thus strengthening the peace process as it moves toward Constituent Assembly elections,” said Richard Bennett, OHCHR Representative in Nepal.