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Nepal: UN reports progress in rehabilitating child soldiers from civil war

Nepal: UN reports progress in rehabilitating child soldiers from civil war

Ambassador Claude Heller (left) and Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in Kathmandu
A Security Council working group today reported significant progress on the release and reintegration of thousands of Nepalese child soldiers who fought in the decade-long civil war between the then-royalist government and Maoist insurgents.

During “a very constructive” week-long visit, the Working Group for children and armed conflict conferred with the Government and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) on the Action Plan the two signed with the United Nations last December for the re-integration of minors released by the Maoist army.

“I am particularly pleased to report on the commitments that the UCPN (Maoist) and other political party officials made during our discussions,” Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, chairman of the Working Group, told reporters in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital.

“The Working Group feels these commitments constitute a significant step in the right direction for the children and youth of Nepal,” he said, citing UPCN-M Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s agreement to significantly strengthen coordination with the UN to monitor implementation of the Action Plan so as to address remaining challenges in its execution.

Under this agreement, the UN Monitoring Team will meet with the UCPN-M on a regular basis to address the concerns that have been reported.

On talks with the Government, Mr. Heller noted that the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction pledged to press for Cabinet approval and speedy implementation of the national plan to rehabilitate and reintegrate child solders and other conflict-affected children.

Chairmen of political youth wings agreed to work with the UN to find ways to end the use of children below the age of 18 in potentially violent political activities and to exclude schools, school children and school personnel from strikes and other work actions.

The delegation and the Nepalese discussed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s next report on children and armed conflict, due in April, which contains annexed lists of parties responsible for recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Government and Maoists both have responsibilities under the Action Plan and removal of parties from the lists depends on full compliance with the plans they have signed, Mr. Heller said.

“I would like to relay the Council’s firm support for the peace process in Nepal and highlight that all parties in Nepal told the Working Group that the Action Plan and release of verified minors from the cantonments signalled a key event in this beautiful country’s moves toward a consolidated peace,” he added.

“I hope the latest commitments and their effective fulfilment, with the support of the UN, will signal another step toward lasting peace for Nepal.”

Under the Action Plan signed on 16 December 2009, nearly 3,000 child soldiers who served in the Maoist army were discharged by February in a move the UN hailed as a milestone in the country's peace process.