Tag Archives: Nepal earthquake

Did UN official accused of bias by Israel protect Maoist violence in Nepal ? (Book Excerpt)

– by NepalForeignAffairs.com team

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Former senior UN bureaucrat Kul Chandra Gautam’s book is already creating a lot of ripples.

Ian Martin was the head of Amnesty International before serving as UN special envoy to East Timor and Nepal. He acted as the inaugural head of UN Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) from 2006 to 2009. UNMIN was established to assist Nepal’s peace process following the peace agreement between Nepal government and Maoist rebels in 2006. Martin is a Cambridge educated Briton, whose controversial role in Nepal led the Nepal government to reduce UNMIN’s mandate, before finally ending the mission in 2011, on a rather bitter note.

Martin has been heavily criticized by Israel for a report prepared by his team in 2009. He led a UN committee of four to investigate incidents during the Gaza War. Israel was joined by the US in calling the report as biased. Israel’s criticism stated, “in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee.”

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Ian Martin was the head of United Nations Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) and led a committee to investigate incidents in the Israel-Gaza conflict. (Picture: ictj.org)

For the first time after the time of UNMIN, some of their activities and unreported incidents have been brought to light in a book by a former senior UN bureaucrat. Kul Chandra Gautam, who served as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, has been involved with Nepali civil society and in the peace process. His book, “Lost in Transition: Rebuilding Nepal from the Maoist mayhem and mega earthquake” is out tomorrow. It has already created a lot of ripples in Nepal, including very approving reviews for its counter-narrative to the dominant view in Nepal that eulogizes violence and undemocratic means to grab power by destabilizing the state.

What follows is an exclusive excerpt from the book, detailing some role of UNMIN and its high officials in Nepal that very few people other than Gautam have been privy to.


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Kul Chandra Gautam, a former senior UN official details some of the unknowns regarding UNMIN’s role in Nepal. His book is out tomorrow (Picture: ipsnews.net).

… People began to see that UNMIN was unable to restrain the massive pre-election threats and violence by the Maoists against candidates of other political parties. Following the elections, and the installation of the Maoist-led government, people saw many illegal and criminal activities taking place in Maoist cantonments or by Maoist combatants outside the cantonments. UNMIN’s seeming inability to control or even monitor such activities began to erode the public’s faith in UNMIN.

A video-taped speech by Maoist Chairman Prachanda at a party training event in the Shaktikhor cantonment just prior to the 2008 CA election revealed how the Maoists had hoodwinked the UN into accepting much larger number of combatants than was actually the case, and how the party intended to use its cadres, including its ex-combatants, to influence the election. UNMIN’s credibility nosedived, when instead of protesting the Maoists’ cynical remarks disparaging it, UNMIN sought to defend itself and the Maoists by saying that Prachanda’s remarks “needed to be understood in a certain context”.

Some dramatic cases of criminal activities in the Maoist cantonments; the free access and use of the cantonments by Maoist leaders for political training and indoctrination; and the seeming inability of UNMIN to do anything about such actions, led to serious disappointment with its performance, especially given the Nepali public’s very high expectation of UNMIN. Increasingly a growing number of leaders of the non-Maoist political parties, civil society and the media became critical of UNMIN’s performance, many attributing a certain pro-Maoist bias on the part of UNMIN.

Worried about their poor judgment, in early 2010, I wrote a long memo entitled “Quo Vadis UNMIN?” and shared it with Karin Landgren, Ian Martin and Tamrat Samuel. I cautioned them about giving undue benefit of doubt to the Maoists and unfair criticism and pressure on NC/UML to be more flexible and compromising. I have retained copies of my long private exchanges with them – mostly by emails – in my files.

In essence, the UNMIN leadership listened to my views politely, but generally chose to ignore them.

UNMIN became so influenced by the circle of self-proclaimed “progressives” that it ignored and dismissed the views and advice of many Nepalis who had a much deeper understanding of and respect for the United Nations, including those who had served in senior positions in the UN system …

In September 2010, UNMIN had prepared a report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2010/453) on the status of Nepal’s peace process recommending further extension of UNMIN’s mandate. This report was so unbalanced and objectionable that four former Foreign Ministers of Nepal coming from different political parties – KP Sharma Oli, Chakra Bastola, Ram Sharan Mahat and Prakash Chandra Lohani – wrote a joint letter of protest to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

As former foreign ministers, and strong supporters of the United Nations, they registered their objection to the tone and content of the whole report and pointed out several specific paragraphs which were against the letter and spirit of Nepal’s Comprehensive Peace Accord and related agreements. They objected to the report’s treatment of Nepal’s national army on par with the former rebel force, whose members were in temporary cantonments awaiting integration and rehabilitation. They also objected to the report essentially treating the Government of Nepal on par with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Indeed, neither the UN nor most Western diplomats insisted with the Maoists that if they wanted their cooperation, they had to unequivocally renounce violence, accept political pluralism (not just “multiparty competition”), and abandon their declared objective of “state capture” through either ballots or bullets.

Martin’s implied assertion that Nepalis … could not think for themselves, reminded me of the former Singapore Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani’s book entitled “Can Asians Think?” Yes, I argued, Nepalis can think for themselves.

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Karin Landgren replaced Martin as UNMIN head in Nepal. UNMIN has been controversial and accused of protecting Maoist violence in Nepal (Picture: frontpageafricaonline.com).
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#NepalEarthquake: Notes from the field: We shall rebuild

Dr Swarnim Waglé

Dr Swarnim WagleI was in Gorkha and Dhading this week, in a personal capacity, assessing the loss and distributing relief materials sponsored by the Help Nepal Network (400 sacks of rice), FNCCI (assortment of medicines, mats, rice) and Leapfrog (transport). With nine hours of sleep in three days, I visited or passed by 25 VDCs. Many of my priors were upended, and I came away more aware of what is happening on the ground. Some quick observations below:

The problem of the last mile

The unit of operation should be the wards, not VDCs. The more accessible VDCs have benefited much more than those farther away. Some have already stocked up for a few months. To ensure better targeting, a heroic effort combining local knowledge and organizational skills is needed. Most external groups do not have the fortitude or patience. With the credit secured for the easier leg, the problem of the last mile is often left for the local administration to solve, which is already stretched.

This ain’t a picnic

Food in central Nepal means rice. Then lentils and cooking oil. The northern villages also need salt. They do not really need fancy bottles of mineral water, snacks, bhujia, biscuits, noodles, brand new saris, or the Bible. Continue reading #NepalEarthquake: Notes from the field: We shall rebuild

Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?

Ashutosh Tiwari

How can private businesses — which provide jobs and taxes, and goods and services that people need and pay for — provide help?

(Please use these points ONLY as broad suggestions. Obviously, each business has its own context, limited resources, and limited capabilities to do what it can for its employees, customers, investors and stakeholders.]

IMMEDIATE:
1. Check to see/confirm whether ALL the staff members, including factory workers, are accounted for and are indeed physically safe. [If not, ask about access to medical care and see if you can arrange it in some way.]
2. Check to see the extent of harm/damages, if any, to physical structures (office buildings, factory spaces, etc).
3. Visit staff members who have lost their loved ones and/or whose dwellings have been destroyed or demolished or have cracks on walls.
4. Offer the victims (i.e. your staff members) immediate relief in the form of cash and/or non-cash materials (i.e. tents, sleeping bags, water purification tablets, water, etc) to the extent you can. Remember, this is a major once-in-a-century type of an emergency that we are facing — so, think a bit creatively as to how you can allay people’s concerns. Check with the affected staff and their families daily or once every two days. Continue reading Nepal Earthquake: How can private businesses provide help?

Nepal Earthquake: Gentle note to the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph

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Dr Swarnim Wagle

Yesterday, it asserted in the first line of an article that one political party had announced all quake-related donations MUST go to ITS fund. Today, it has a different version online. After misleading thousands of readers with a lie for a whole day, I think the polite thing to do (and a good journalism practice) is to append a note of correction.

[The premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Nepal-aid-donors-may-halt-fund…]

Read related piece by Dr Swarnim Wagle: What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Dr Swarnim Wagle. We have reproduced here with his permission.)

Nepal Earthquake: Important for NGOs and voluntary groups

Kanak Mani Dixit

The Social Welfare Council (SWC) and its parent ministry have taken a decision that for earthquake relief purposes NGOs do NOT need prior SWC approval as has been the rule for receiving foreign funds. I double-checked with the officials, that the procedure for now is this – for receiving funds for relief activities from outside the country formally notify in hard copy the District Disaster Relief Committee (headed by CDO) and also send a note to the SWC (the latter you can do by email, but you can also do it in hard copy).

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Mr Kanak Mani Dixit. We have reproduced here with his permission.)

What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?

Swarnim Wagle 

I have been swamped with queries on what the recent Central Bank directive on transfer of funds AFTER the April 25 earthquake means. **I share your concerns.** But it only affects bank accounts that were opened in the last 6 days under the direct subject of “quake relief.” People, agencies, NGOs, donors with established bank accounts before April 25 can continue to receive and mobilize funds just as they used to in the past. But I am verifying some more facts, and will post separately on this topic later.

In the mean time, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund. Let me clarify based on what I know:

1. The Prime Minister (or his party) have absolutely nothing to do with it. The PM cannot access this fund himself. It is coordinated by the Vice Chairperson of the NPC and 8 Secretaries through a unanimous decision.

2. It is purely a relief fund, channeled through the Chief District Officer in each disaster-hit district, and is meant to follow a “fast track” to cut through the usual procedural delays in a slow bureaucracy.

3. The fund cannot be used to provide donations or any other administrative or overhead costs including facilities and allowances to civil servants. (They get no helicopter rides or random “incentives.”)

4. This is *completely* different from the Prime Minister’s “Assistance Fund” which he can use with discretion.

5. Is there some leakage, abuse, waste? I bet there is, just like there is scope for foul play in any large fund run by multilaterals (WB/ADB), bilaterals (UK/US) or NGOs. But what are the safeguards against potential abuse? Unlike the PM’s “Assistance Fund” which is not legally required to be audited, the “Disaster Relief Fund” is audited regularly and annually by the Office of the Auditor General of Nepal. There is a clear “Karyabidhi” (Operation Regulations 2006). “Akhtiyaar” can also look into cases and folks can go to jail.

6. The Government will most likely also add an extra layer of third party, independent auditing to enhance credibility and transparency.

7. No political party or leader has any access to these funds at the Centre. My personal view is that to prevent misuse in the districts, vigilance and scrutiny is required by the media and civil society. Do ask tough questions and hold officials to account.

8. The website lists all contributions so far (file downloadable in Excel), including the US$1 million cash donation from Bhutan: http://pmrelief.opmcm.gov.np/contributors.aspx

9. In view of the above, the premise of this article in a British newspaper that “funds are being directed to a political party” is completely untrue.

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10. For further clarity, please contact the Coordinator of the Fund, Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel (NPC Vice Chair) on his mobile: 98511 00407 or the Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Mr. Narayan Gopal Malego on 98415 16505.

(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Dr Swarnim Wagle, member, National Planning Commission)