Post-conflict issues cannot be ignored

KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL, The Kathmandu Post, MAY 30

UK Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan has said integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, disbanding of armed youth wings and addressing impunity in human rights violations during the war are some of the critical issues Nepal should address without delay for its peaceful transition.

Duncan said that though the UK has no desire to be a “bossy colonial power” it wants the Nepal government to uphold human rights and democratic values, and ensure stability.

In an exclusive interview with the Post, Duncan said that the politicians seem to have given less priority to some of the post-conflict problems, such as impunity, which if left untreated could “fester”.


Address post conflict problems with priority

Renew the term of UN rights office

Armed youth wings “dangerous elements”

UK aid to continue and increase

Some politicians, he said, are “pretending” that the post-conflict issues can be ignored but “our view is that they cannot”. “Our experience is that if you are with more post-conflict problems, the problems continue and even fester,” said Duncan, referring to the issues of impunity and former Maoist combatants.

“A lot of bad things were done, some of them you put down to the fact that they were conflict, but you cannot ignore them.”

On integration, Duncan said the combatants need to be encouraged to lead a civilian life. “The management of former combatants in the cantonments needs to be resolved. We need to get them somehow encouraged to return to civilian life.”

Similarly, the armed youth wings, he said, are “unacceptable and are dangerous elements in the country” and those have to be addressed “if Nepal is going to take on the character of a more democratic country.”

In reference to the ongoing constitution-writing process, Duncan said it was a very challenging task when the country has to start from the scratch. “If you are a country with a blank sheet of paper, it is very difficult to know where to start.”

Asked how stability is guaranteed in Britain where there is no “written constitution”, Duncan said, “Britain does have a constitution but it’s not like the American one, it has emerged over 350 years.” Stability, he said, results from people’s involvement. “The people need to be able to choose the government. It’s a great opportunity for Nepal to design the rules by which that can happen.”

On UK aid, Duncan said there would be no change in the UK policy to Nepal, but with the new coalition government committing to meeting the target of spending 0.7 percent of GDP (from current 0.5 percent) on overseas aid by 2013, the spending in countries like Nepal could increase.

The UK government through DFID is spending about £56 millions in Nepal’s peace process and development.

Asked whether the aid would be contingent on any condition, the minister said that the UK does not like to use the aid budget as a “weapon” and be a “bossy colonial power”, but wants to encourage the government to respect human rights, take steps towards making it stable and more democratic. 

“We want to see the UN human rights office renewed. For countries like Nepal, human rights issues are very important. It’s not just the military phenomenon, but also treatment of women and other minorities which we will continue to press, as we do throughout the world, for high standards.”

(Originally published at The Kathmandu Post, May 30, 2010:

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