Statement by Matthew Kahane, UN Resident Co-ordinator in Nepal, at the UN Day ceremony in Kathmandu

Oct 14, 2004

Statement by Matthew Kahane, UN Resident Co-ordinator in Nepal, at the UN Day ceremony in Kathmandu, 14 October 2004
Right Honourable Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba,
Heads of Constitutional Bodies of the Kingdom of Nepal,
Ministers of His Majesty’s Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My colleagues in the United Nations Country Team in Nepal and I are honoured and encouraged by your presence with us today. The wide representation of Government and institutions of the State, the business community, the academic world, civil society, and former fellow-UN – colleagues demonstrates the very many ways in which Nepal contributes to the efforts of the community of nations, and in which the departments, agencies, funds and programmes of the UN system contribute to the development of this country.

In his message for this year’s UN Day, the Secretary-General says: “Fifty-nine years ago, the United Nations was founded as an instrument of peace, human rights and development. The world is a better place because of the United Nations. But too many people are today the victims of violence, oppression, poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease.”

Let me take up the three subjects mentioned by the Secretary-General, starting with “development”. The UN system currently supports the efforts of a wide range of institutions and individual Nepali women, men and children to better their lives in all 75 districts of the country.

UN staff and staff of partner organizations work in the Terai, in the hills, and in the mountains, in some of the remotest areas - accessible only by days of walking – just as much as in district headquarters, the towns, and the Kathmandu Valley. Given that development must be directed to the poorest and the most disadvantaged, our efforts must indeed be placed mainly in the remotest and poorest areas. They cover agriculture, forestry, energy, education, health, family planning, HIV/AIDS, child labour, the living environment, tourism, water supply and sanitation, livelihoods, jobs, working conditions, nutrition, food security, information technology, local government, the mobilization of individuals and communities, credit, etc - every sector of human activity and endeavour. In all cases, they aim to improve the real life of individuals – mothers who die in childbirth, children who die before they can walk because of the lack of the cheapest and most effective vaccines, girls who follow their mothers into narrow lives blinkered by illiteracy, women and men who cannot find work to feed their families.

However, the efforts of all Nepal’s development partners have been increasingly constrained over the last year by the resumption of conflict and violence, and by direct threats to the work and safety of our staff. To be able to deliver the necessary goods and services to the poor and marginalised, we must have safe access to the people and the territories where they live. If we cannot operate safely and effectively, it is the poor who will suffer most. We urge the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to ensure that Nepal’s development partners, including the UN, can indeed work safely and effectively to fulfill people’s rights, in accordance with the Basic Operating Guidelines which were issued by the bilateral donors a year ago, and by the UN in February this year.

It is a desperately sad fact that human rights abuses in Nepal have multiplied in the last year, with the resumption of an armed conflict characterized by great brutality The various “special procedures” of the UN Commission on Human Rights have received extremely alarming numbers of reports of disappearances, summary executions (in other words, murders), rape, torture – the gravest violations of the fundamental rights to individual life, liberty, and dignity. Human rights violations, no matter by whom they are carried out, offend the personal integrity and dignity of those who are victims. If carried out on a wide scale and with impunity, such violations corrode the very fabric of society and the nation’s institutions. It is the firm belief of the Member States of the United Nations that the protection and promotion of human rights are particularly important at times of internal crisis. Respecting fundamental human rights is the only way to win the hearts and minds of the people who are caught in the middle of this conflict and whose only desire is to have peace.

I wish to draw particular attention to the problem of “disappearances”. "Disappearance" is an ongoing crime which makes family and friends suffer until the situation of the victim is clarified. It is also a practice which makes those responsible for the “disappearances” complicit, it is a refusal to be honest with one’s fellow-citizens. We hope that positive steps will be taken to address this issue, including finalizing arrangements for a visit of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in early December, as has been agreed in principle by His Majesty’s Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Right Honourable Prime Minister

All my colleagues and I have been greatly encouraged by the strong affirmation of your personal understanding, and commitment to promote the respect, of human rights in Nepal. The adoption by the Government of a National Human Rights Action Plan, and the creation of a Human Rights Promotion Centre in the Office of the Prime Minister, are concrete steps in this direction. The UN is ready to expand and deepen its cooperation with other institutions of the State, the National Human Rights Commission, and the many human rights activists and organizations in Nepal. I believe the Right Honourable Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission may address these issues in greater detail.

Which brings me to the third subject mentioned by the Secretary-General – namely peace. It is clear to all that what all the people of Nepal want is peace. As I said at UN Day last year: “Violence is no way to address political issues or differences; it makes ordinary people suffer cruelly; it embitters everybody; and it provides no solution. The UN calls on everybody to abandon violence, and to return to the political process.”

Unfortunately, those words are as relevant today as they were a year ago. It is only by the resumption of a peace process among the Nepali parties that a solution can be found to the conflict, a conflict which cannot be resolved by military means. Peace is essential for the respect of human rights, and for development, in favour of the “victims of violence, oppression, poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease,” mentioned in the Secretary-General’s message.

In conclusion, let me re-affirm the readiness and commitment of the United Nations system to support all efforts for peace, human rights and development in Nepal, in whatever way may be most helpful.