UNMIN’s Reintegration Plan Under Fire in Nepal

The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) has imported and now introduced a sixty week reintegration plan for ex-Maoist Combatants in Nepal. It has come in a crucial strategic and political transition period for Nepal. The UNMIN is accused of working outside its mandate and favoring particular political powers and ideologies. Often, UNMIN tries to intervene in domestic political affairs, which exceeds the limits of it’s mandate. In the past, the chief of UNMIN was almost declared persona non grata. Today, Nepal has just a caretaker government and is suffering in a political limbo. As many of us know, the ongoing political escapades in Nepal are not favorable for an effective and successful implementation of a comprehensive peace process or related plans.

The “Reintegration Plan” of the UNMIN has come as a nasty surprise for domestic peace stakeholders, because the plan was supposed to come after political consensus and proper homework – respecting the aspirations and needs of the nation. It did not, however, come at the right time, in the right manner, right way or by the right authority. It is nothing special, just a way to please donors in the community; to allow the UN General Secretary to be safe; and to sustain both his job and the life of UNMIN in Nepal. It is an open secret to all that the ill-fated plan cannot achieve reintegration.

Naturally, the plan has come under serious dispute and has been straightforwardly rejected by the head of the Government and coalition parties, which should be regarded as a major fault of the plan. The Prime Minister Mr. Nepal has already threatened UNMIN over its so-called reintegration plan and the Maoists expressed displeasure with its strategic discrepancy by developing their own reintegration plan. The ex Maoist combatants and other stakeholders including civil society, private communities and general citizens are not happy with the plan. It’s simple – no one is happy except the employees and allies of UNMIN.

There are lots of problems with the plan. First, it sounds like it was prepared in an academic manner, ignoring the sensitivity of local socioeconomic and political scenarios. It seems the plan is designed and developed by those experts who are aware of the literature and story but not about the facts, local context and relevant contents of Nepal.

Secondly, it has no participatory planning characters that are a must for any reintegration plan. Third, it has neither sustainability measures in the plan nor is it owned by government or the relevant authority e.g. state/executive or parliamentary committees, civil society, local government or any authorities that are directly supported and authorized by the government. The government is the only authority with the ultimate and final accountability to manage and deal with pre to post phases of reintegration and to present the entire process to its citizens. It is not just a matter of peace and politics – it has to do with national and internal laws too. Furthermore, it is also true that the UNMIN has not worked properly in profiling and opportunity mapping areas that are a must for any successful reintegration plan. Thus, the locals in Nepal consider the aired reintegration plan as an authoritarian/interventionist course of action.

In my observations, UNMIN and respective outsiders should pay more attention and need to be careful about its given mandate and legitimized role. They should understand “reintegration” is not like distributing food packets or organizing seminar projects. The reintegration is related to the past and the long term future of the nation’s people, as well as its peace, polity, and governance related affairs.

It has broader areas and scope, which has a lot to do with political consensus and agreements. So, they must attempt to work on a pre-policy impact assessment approach and must use the conflict sensitivity analysis while working on such crucial plans, policies, programs and projects in such a conflict-affected fragile country like Nepal, which is a among the poorest countries of the world. It is on the one hand a post-conflict nation and on the other, it has severe ongoing armed ethno-regional-political insurgencies in various parts of Nepal. The reintegration plan has direct relations and links with other ongoing insurgency groups and its insurgents’ armed groups, so it needs to be clarified before introducing such a policy and plan. UNMIN has not yet presented any strategy to address the issue in their so called advertised disabled reintegration plan, which is unfortunate. UNMIN must know that any reintegration plan should not undermine the contemporary sociopolitical situation or the sustainability of its long term management while introducing the reintegration plan.

Sadly, the UNMIN has failed to recognize even the existing and potential actors of reintegration. The UNMIN deliberately failed to consider the importance of, or to coordinate with the various stakeholders in different layers. Therefore, the UNMIN must correct its roles and activities regarding the reintegration of ex combatants in Nepal, otherwise, such plans could add more political tension and confusion over the peace process in the future. The poorly designed reintegration plan may push the nation into further conflict and political polarization. It could stymie the entire ongoing peace process. Of course it would be vexing to bring the peace process to its logical end.

Any plan from the UNMIN that mismanages ex combatants and their future should not be presented to the nation. The UNMIN has no right or authority to play with the future of the nation and its citizens. The time will come soon where the state will get stronger, and will be compelled to take action against the UNMIN – and declare all their officials Persona non grata, if they continue such activities.