Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the agreement reached by the Seven-Party Alliance that makes up the Government of Nepal on key issues of the country’s peace process, paving the way for the holding by April 2008 of a Constituent Assembly election that was postponed twice this year.
The elections were initially to be held mid-year but then delayed until 22 November. But the interim Government announced in October that the polls were being postponed again because of ongoing disputes between the Seven-Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M).
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban also welcomed the decision by the CPN-M to rejoin the Interim Government and urged all parties “to swiftly move forward in the implementation of the agreements reached and lay the grounds for a peaceful, inclusive, and credible Constituent Assembly election.”
The Secretary-General and the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) – established in January to support the peace process in the South Asian nation – “stand ready to extend all necessary assistance,” the statement added.
Once elected, the Constituent Assembly is supposed to draft a new constitution for Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people were killed during the decade-long civil conflict that formally ended when the Government and Maoists signed a peace accord last year.
Meanwhile, the UN announced today it is allocating $1 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help provide life-saving support to tens of thousands of conflict-affected people in Nepal.
The funds are being provided to the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) peace and recovery project and will support food aid and reconstruction activities for nearly 40,000 people, the agency said in a news release.
“We recognize that many vulnerable communities, often living in remote areas, have yet to receive desperately needed support to begin the recovery process,” said Matthew Kahane, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Nepal. “The need for additional humanitarian support is evident.”
WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Nepal, Dominique Hyde added that “with these funds, we will be able to rapidly expand our operations to meet the needs of food insecure Nepali families struggling to recover from the conflict.”
The agency’s $49 million programme – one of the largest UN operations to support the people of Nepal – aims to provide food aid to more than 1.2 million people in some of the most conflict-affected communities in 28 districts across the country, as well as the rebuilding and construction of vital infrastructure.
Despite the grant from the landmark CERF, designed to make funds available quickly for relief operations, the project remains under-funded, having received only $13.5 million so far – enough to assist only 30 per cent of the targeted population. This means that more than 900,000 conflict-affected people have yet to receive vital assistance one year after the conflict ended.
Ms. Hyde urged donors to contribute to WFP’s peace and recovery activities “so that we can help these families rebuild their lives and enable them to become active participants in Nepal’s emerging democracy.”