With 74 days remaining for its mandate to expire the United Nations Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) has started preparations to move out of Nepal. UNMIN chief Ian Martin wrote a letter on Thursday 8th May to his staffs at the agency telling them that “It is now necessary to plan towards the end of the mission, and I have established an End-of-Mission Task Force to undertake this planning.” This comes at a time when the Maoist party, almost certain to lead the next government has repeatedly said that UNMIN is not needed after this term is over. Indian are also expressing against the presence of UNMIN. At the end of the memo, Martin adds: “Once the Constituent Assembly has been convened and a new government is in office, I will discuss with the government and report to the Secretary-General regarding any request it may make for UN support that cannot be provided by the UN Country Team.” Below is the full text of the letter provided to UWB by a senior UMNIN staff:
05/08/2008 12:42 PM
UNMIN_ALL Message – Message from SRSG
I believe that we all have reason to feel proud of the role that UNMIN has played since January of last year in support of Nepal’s peace process, in which the holding of the Constituent Assembly election has been a landmark. At the same time, much remains to be done to complete and consolidate the peace process, with major issues still to be addressed, including the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as it affects the two armies which UNMIN has been monitoring.
However, UNMIN’s mandate, as extended by Security Council resolution 1796, ends on 23 July. It is now necessary to plan towards the end of the mission, and I have established an End-of-Mission Task Force to undertake this planning. All staff, both national and international, must expect that their contracts will end no later than 23 July (most electoral staff are of course leaving the mission before this date), except for administrative and support staff required to assist with the liquidation of the mission beyond 23 July. A priority for the End-of-Mission Task Force will be to make the best arrangements possible to assist staff in finding future employment, although you will understand that there can be no guarantees in this respect. The End-of-Mission Task Force will be chaired by Sergiy Illarionov as my Chief of Staff, and you can address questions and suggestions to him through his Special Assistant, Liesl Rich.
The fact that we are planning to close UNMIN on 23 July does not of course mean that the United Nations will be ending its support to Nepal’s peace process. The UN Country Team will be continuing or extending its support as may be requested. Once the Constituent Assembly has been convened and a new government is in office, I will discuss with the government and report to the Secretary-General regarding any request it may make for UN support that cannot be provided by the UN Country Team.
Mr B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, has expressed to me the warm appreciation of the Secretary-General and of Headquarters in general for the work of UNMIN. That work is not yet over and I hope to have other opportunities to express my own thanks to you more personally. Nonetheless this is one occasion to put on record my own gratitude to each and every one of you for your contribution to a great team performance.
Ian Martin also talked to Kantipur FM today. Here is the Q and A:
1. The ending of UNMIN’s duration is approaching. How are you looking forward?
We are indeed planning to close UNMIN on the 23rd of July, by the end of our current mandate, and I have notified our staff of that. That doesn’t mean that the United Nations is not interested in continuing to support Nepal’s peace process. The United Nations was here before UNMIN and will be here after UNMIN, in terms of the United Nations country team and the agencies. And if the new government, once it’s formed, requests continuing assistance from the United Nations, of course I will report that request to the Secretary General.
2. Some Indian leaders, Indian officials and some leaders here in Nepal are expressing dissatisfaction with UNMIN’s work, now also, before also. Is that the reason UNMIN is not foreseeing the extension of its mandate?
The dissatisfaction you refer to hasn’t been expressed to me so I can’t comment on it. The government of India has been very supportive of the work of UNMIN in a number of ways. But the question of the future role of the United Nations in Nepal is obviously a matter for the government of Nepal, and it’s what Nepal asks for that is for the United Nations to consider.
3. Still, among the mandate that UNMIN is entrusted with, still there is no completion of mandate of monitoring arms and armies management of both Maoist combatants and Nepal Army. In this context, do you see any further extension of UNMIN’s mandate? Why are you leaving Nepal without completing that mandate?
Many of our tasks related directly to the Constituent Assembly election and of course our electoral staff are leaving now and in the coming weeks. You’re right that we’re continuing to monitor arms and armies in accordance with the requests and the arms monitoring agreement, and we remain in a position to do that up to or very close to the 23rd of July. If there’s felt to be a continuing role beyond that, then again that will be for the new government to request.
4. Now what are the works that are remaining that UNMIN has to do before July 23rd?
Our principal task, of course, is the continuation of the arms monitoring role. There’s also a lot of work involved in preparing to close a mission. Many of our staff have had no leave for a long time and indeed some staff will remain even after the mission closes in terms of its substantive work in order to dispose of the assets of UNMIN and close it down in a proper way, so it doesn’t mean that every staff member would leave by the 23rd of July.
5. Before in our interview you expressed the interest in assisting Nepal in constitution making process. But if you are leaving but if you are leaving after July 23, that means UNMIN is not getting the chance in helping that?
It’s important to distinguish between UNMIN and the United Nations as a whole. In fact, the main support that the United Nations has been providing to the preparatory work for the Constituent Assembly has been done through the United Nations Development Programme, by Professor Yash Ghai and his colleagues. The United Nations Development Programme will remain. It’s sometimes difficult for people to understand when we are talking about UNMIN and when we are talking about United Nations system as a whole. But I want to stress that the United Nations system as a whole will go on supporting Nepal’s peace process in many ways and certainly intensifying its support to development activities in Nepal in the new context.
6. Nepalese are now preparing for the first meeting of Constituent Assembly. In this context how do you foresee the future of Nepal?
Well, that’s a huge question. 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 aren’t 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.
7. Again going back to the reintegration of the Maoists combatants, how easy do you think this process is? And what do you suggest to make it easier?
I don’t know how easy it’s going to be. It’s an issue certainly where there have been very different views in different places on the political spectrum, and indeed in the two armies. Certainly it’s a challenge now for the new government to achieve consensus as to how the future of the former combatants is going to be decided. At the end of any armed conflict, that’s a very major issue. I think there’s still a lot of thinking and work to be done on that.
8. Lastly, how do you analyze your tenure? Successful? Something like that?
I think it’s a bit too soon to ask that question. I’m not leaving Nepal just yet, although I am going to the Security Council next week, when the Council will be very interested to hear about what has been achieved. But I have said to all my colleagues, including those who are leaving now from our electoral assistance work, that I think they can go feeling that UNMIN has achieved a great deal in supporting Nepal in holding this Constituent Assembly election.