Tag Archives: United Nations

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

– by NepalForeignAffairs.com team

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.”

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.

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.

Karin Landgren replaced Martin as UNMIN head in Nepal. UNMIN has been controversial and accused of protecting Maoist violence in Nepal (Picture: frontpageafricaonline.com).

Ian Martin of UNMIN Speaks to the Press

The UN Secretary-General will visit Nepal latter this month, is spokesperson said Thursday. While in Nepal, the Secretary-General will meet with the President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and members of the Constituent Assembly. The Secretary-General will also visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the spokesperson said.

Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal, held a press conference at the Reporter’s Club, Kathmandu today. Here is the transcript as provided by the UNMIN. (Note: the questions in some cases are summarised)

Ram Kumar Kamat, The Himalayan Times: I read in today’s newspaper that Girija Prasad Koirala asked you that if Maoist army is integrated into Nepal Army, it will tarnish its image internationally. Apparently you agreed to this when he asked you. Do you want to say anything on that?

Ian Martin: First, let me say that neither I nor UNMIN have ever been an advocate for or against integration. We have never taken a position on this issue. We have always made clear that like other aspects of the peace process, this is for Nepalis to decide and the political actors reached agreements as to the process by which they would decide it. And that’s the special committee that I have referred to and that’s the place where the discussion about integration and re-integration has to take place. And if the United Nations is asked to make international experience available to the special committee then we will be happy to do so, but not with any United Nations proposal or any United Nations model to offer from elsewhere. Continue reading Ian Martin of UNMIN Speaks to the Press

Ian Martin: Too Many Challenges Ahead for Nepal

Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal at a press conference at the Reporter’s Club, Kathmandu today. The following is the transcript provided by his office:

Introduction (in Nepali) by Rishi Dhamala, President of the Reporters’ Club.

Ian Martin: Thank you, Rishi. I could not understand your introduction, but you are usually over generous. And thank you for persisting in asking me to come again to the Reporters’ Club. I am sorry I wasn’t able to do so before I went to New York, but this is my first opportunity after returning from New York.

I briefed the Security Council in New York last Thursday. You will, I hope, have seen the report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council in which we described the holding and the outcome of the Constituent Assembly election. But my emphasis when I briefed the Council last week was not so much on the achievement of the Constituent Assembly election, which the Security Council warmly welcomed, but on the very considerable challenges that still lie ahead for Nepal. Of course, those challenges include the negotiations that are going on right now to try to find a basis for forming a new government. But there are much more profound challenges ahead for the newly elected Constituent Assembly when it begins meeting tomorrow. Continue reading Ian Martin: Too Many Challenges Ahead for Nepal

Status of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process Continued from previous blog (Part II of II)

III. Status of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

17. As at 24 April 2008, a total of 968 of the authorized 1,048 personnel had been recruited to the Mission. Of 795 civilian personnel on board, 233 or 29.30 per cent are female. Among substantive staff, 32 per cent are female, while among administrative staff, 16 per cent are female. There are 13 female arms monitors, a number subject to the nomination of candidates by Member States. Female national staff account for 27.79 per cent of the total number of staff. The efforts of UNMIN to recruit national staff from traditionally marginalized communities have yielded positive results: 46 per cent of staff (169 out of 367) are from traditionally marginalized groups. Continue reading Status of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

UN Report on Progress of Nepal Peace Process

Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process Part I of II [Here is the II part.]

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1796 (2008), by which the Council, following the request of the Government of Nepal and on the basis of the recommendation of the Secretary-General, renewed the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), as set out in resolution 1740 (2007), until 23 July 2008. UNMIN was established as a special political mission with a mandate to monitor the management of arms and armed personnel of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)) and the Nepal Army, assist in monitoring ceasefire arrangements, provide technical support for the conduct of the election of a Constituent Assembly in a free and fair atmosphere and provide a small team of electoral monitors. Continue reading UN Report on Progress of Nepal Peace Process

UNMIN, Preparing to Say Bye Bye Nepal, Establishes End-of-Mission Task Force

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: Continue reading UNMIN, Preparing to Say Bye Bye Nepal, Establishes End-of-Mission Task Force

Everyone Wants To “Volunteer” For UN

international volunteers day in kathmandu nepal

Anjila Mul, 22, and Sujita Amatya, 22, who got Bachelors in Science (Environmental Science) degree from Biswo Niketan College a few days ago, had gone to the “exhibition” hoping to get recruited as volunteer or explore opportunities in volunteering. “The focus is in the UN of course,” said Anjila, left, “because that’s world wide.”

[Here is what I reported in today’s Kantipur about the event. This blog post was originally written for and published at WSJ. And here is a comment.]

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

I was in Basantapur (Kathmandu Durbar Square) yesterday to report about an event organized on the occasion of International Volunteer Day. Many young people from Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal had gathered there responding to advertisements that were published in some newspapers (including Kantipur where I work) that day. The advertisements that featured a statement issued by the UN General Secretary General on the occasion asked the readers to come to Basantapur. “If you want to become a volunteer, visit our exhibition at Basantapur on 5th December at 11:30,” said the adverts. Those who invited the readers were the UN Volunteers, JICA (Japan), KOICA (Korea), MS Nepal (Danish) and other organizations. Majority of the visitors were young and many of them had gone there hoping to get recruited as volunteer or get their CVs seen by the UN Volunteers officials. I met two girls and many other boys who said their main intention was to get enrolled into UNV. Continue reading Everyone Wants To “Volunteer” For UN

Ian Martin Q and A

Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal, talks to journalists in a press conference in Kathmandu today. Transcript by United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN)

Shirish Ballav Pradhan, Press Trust of India: Who do you blame for the postponement of the Constituent Assembly election? Do you think that the election would now be held within the end of the Nepali calendar of 2064 (mid-April 2008)?

Ian Martin: It’s not for the UN to blame anyone and indeed I hope that others, the political parties, will concentrate not so much on deciding who is to blame as on deciding what is to be done now, and as I said sustaining their alliance in order to go forward. Again, as I was implying, the prospects for holding a credible Constituent Assembly election at any particular date is not just the matter of fixing the date, it’s a matter of agreeing upon the steps that are necessary to make it possible. We said some of that when the June election was postponed, and unfortunately there wasn’t then a clear road-map towards November 22, though there were good technical preparations. This is a moment when the parties need to focus not just on the date but, as I have tried indicate, some of the key steps that are necessary for a good Constituent Assembly election. Continue reading Ian Martin Q and A

Nepal Peace Process Update: UN Delays Everything

So, if you haven’t forgotten, we are still going through the peace process. There are no big headlines as the series of signing one ‘historical’ understanding after another seems to have ended for now. The involvement of United Nations is what we are all waiting for. And that’s taking time. UN, we know, is bureaucratic monster sluggishness in its involvement in Nepali peace process is threatening the prospect of holding Constituent Assembly election on time. After pressure from the Maoist side, Nepali Congress is now mulling alternative arms management until UN makes itself ready to take the charge. Here are news reports about the process from the past few days: Continue reading Nepal Peace Process Update: UN Delays Everything