Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for another six months so that it can continue to support the country’s peace process, particularly the holding of a Constituent Assembly election by 12 April. In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr. Ban states that UNMIN should maintain its existing configuration and staffing, “subject to some reduction in the electoral staffing, taking into account the technical assistance already provided, and other minor adjustments.” An agreement reached last month by the Nepalese Government’s Seven-Party Alliance on key issues of the country’s transition to peace paved the way for the holding the Constituent Assembly election, which had been postponed twice last year. Once elected, the 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 in 2006. Mr. Ban advises against any downsizing of the UN’s presence, stressing that it could endanger prospects for a successful election in the newly agreed time frame. “The deployment of international personnel to the regions and districts of Nepal has consistently been regarded as a key factor in creating a free and fair atmosphere for the election,” he writes. “Not only is such an atmosphere required in the last stages of the electoral process but it also needs to be established with urgency for a successful election by 12 April,” he adds. While welcoming the decision by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) to rejoin the Interim Government – which it did on 30 December 2007 – Mr. Ban warns that “the remaining political challenges, which could negatively affect the electoral calendar, should not be underestimated.” Among these is the need to respond to the concerns of traditionally marginalized groups. In addition, he notes that it will be difficult to ensure a credible and fair ballot unless the State can provide security to its citizens during the election period. “The Interim Government and the Seven-Party Alliance must give law and order a very high priority.” Along with electoral assistance, UNMIN is also tasked with monitoring the arms and armies of the former adversaries, the Maoist army and the Nepal Army, who are confined to cantonments and barracks in the lead-up to the election. In that regard, the second phase of registration and verification of Maoist army personnel – to ensure that no minors are serving – was completed on 23 December, Mr. Ban reports, adding that the next step will be to release and reintegrate the “unqualified” personnel. 10 January 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for another six months so that it can continue to support the country’s peace process, particularly the holding of a Constituent Assembly election by 12 April.