March 30: It has come to light that the United Nations office in Nepal is conducting a detailed study on highly sensitive political issues such as federalism, identity politics and ethnicity without clearing it with the government.
The study entitled Prospective Scenarios Analysis commissioned by the UN Office in Kathmandu began in the second half of 2017 with a plan to conclude it in early 2018, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Highly-placed sources said the UN office is conducting the study to forecast what kind of situation may surface after Nepal adopts a federal setup. The study is being led by the UN Resident Representative in Nepal, Valerie Juliand.
“The UN office in Nepal has begun a study to analyze how issues like Nepal’s political transition, the process of implementing the federal structures, identity politics and ethnicity take shape in future when Nepal embraces federalism,” said a highly-placed source. “A few rounds of meetings for the study have already been held and survey work is currently underway.”
The UN office has also created a Consultation Board for the study. The members of the board include General Secretary of Parliament Manohar Prasad Bhattarai, member and spokesperson of the National Human Rights Commission Mohna Ansari; former adviser to President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Sangita Rayamajhi; Associate Professor at Tribhuvan University Mukta Singh Lama Tamang; and former vice chairman of National Planning Commission Jagadish Chandra Pokharel.
“They had called me in the meeting a couple of times. But they have not invited me since,” said Associate Professor Tamang, who teaches at the Department of Anthropology. Another member of the Board, Ansari, said she had participated in a meeting some five months ago.
“Is it morally justifiable for persons of such stature including the general secretary of the parliament secretariat, member of the National Human Rights Commission, former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission and a former adviser to the president to be part of the consultation board for such a study?” asked the source. “What do we say to those participating in the study that aims at harming the interests of the nation?”
National Assembly Member Bimala Paudel Rai, who previously served as advisor to President Bhandari, is also assisting the study. Sources claimed that Aditya Adhikari, who has been putting forth critical views about the constitution, is also involved in the study.
“We held discussion on the idea. There has been an agreement to expedite the study only after holding discussions with the Oli government,” said Adhikari, a member involved in the study.
According to sources, questionnaires prepared for the study contain questions such as whether they feel satisfied with the constitution, whether they like the political leaders, which political party they prefer and if they are satisfied with the current demarcation of provincial boundaries. The questionnaires also include questions as to how the provincial boundary should have been demarcated.
“The study is being done with an intent of bringing about the disintegration of Nepal. This is designed with an aim to harm social harmony and the constitution,” said the source.
Although the UN has been quietly conducting the study on such sensitive issues for the past few months, the government is unaware of this. Spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Bharat Raj Paudyal said he is not aware that the UN is conducting such a study.
“We are not aware that the UN is conducting the study on sensitive political issues that are purely internal matters of the country. If they are doing so they are doing it without our permission. It is something the UN is absolutely not supposed to do,” Paudyal said. He expressed surprise when asked about the study commissioned by the UN.
The study is being conducted across the country in four different ways. First it makes survey among people on good governance and federalism. Second, it takes interviews with politicians, civil society leaders and businesspersons. Interaction with people in rural areas and presentation of papers by experts are also methods proposed for the study. The UN plans to finalize the report once the inputs from these research methods are analyzed.
The revelation about the UN conducting a controversial study comes a few days after the government warned the European Union Election Observation Mission to correct its report after it made statements that are against the spirit of the constitution and interfere with Nepal’s domestic affairs.