Nepal’s Experience with the UN

Published On: December 6, 2022 08:30 AM NPT By: Nir Bahadur Karki

Nir Bahadur Karki

Nir Bahadur Karki

The author was formerly a population and development expert with the Government of Nepal.

The inception of the United Nations was the result of the failure of the League of Nations (LoN) that existed only for 27 years whereas the UN’s incumbency  has reached 77 years of existence. Hardly any of the founding members that endorsed the Charter of the United Nations on 26 June 1945 in San Francisco to establish this world body officially bringing into existence on 24 October the same year might have thought of today’s UN in terms of its continuity, efforts made toward global peace and security, socioeconomic development and humanitarian activities to the welfare of the peoples of the member states - currently 193 from the original 51 though its effectiveness is under debate.

The advent of the UN in 1945 was basically attributed to a widely felt- need for a global body unlike the LoN, and capable of establishing peace and security in the world by averting a possible third world war to save the world from the scourge of war that had brought untold sorrows, destroying hard-won development. The LoN formed by the powerful nations after the end of World War I (1914-18) through the Treaty of Versailles, France, in 1919, lacked the sense of belonging  of many countries. The ownership of the LoN construed only to the affluent countries whose very preamble opened with “We the high power nations …” whereas the UN Charter in the  preamble says “We the peoples of the United Nations….” that signaled out the shift from the high power nations to the peoples of the United Nations big or small , rich or poor. The Second World War (1939-44) was the effect of the failure of the LoN.  Whether the UN also could succeed to exist was doubted. It has as of now. 

Though the UN marks 77th year of its advent this year, Nepal on her part observes the 67th year of her belonging to the UN as she got admitted on 14 December 1955 being the 75th UN member. Nepal’s earlier stint through a 27-page letter of 22 July 1949 signed by Major General Bijaya Sumsher Rana, the then Director General of foreign affairs (an equivalent to current foreign minister) for membership did not get through due to the then USSR’s veto on 7th September the same year. That news was covered by not a less well known newspaper than the world famous The New York Times that read “The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal was kept out of the United Nations today by the thirty first veto registered by the Soviet Union.”

As Nepal had the Rana regime at that time while Russia was already a communist country from the 1917 revolution, ousting the Tsar reign, the then Soviet Union might have construed Nepal’s Rana regime as the counterparts of their former rulers, the Tsar. On Nepal’s part, too, the Rana did not seem to be that much comfortable with the way Russians were displaying their attitude in the arena of international affairs even after the end of World War II as the war whirl was still prevailing. This is somehow manifested in an unofficial letter of the then Nepali Prime Minister  Mohan Shumsher to a  British  member of the House of Lords. A part of the letter reads - “With the Russian raising objections at every stage of negotiation, one is led to doubt whether peace would return to this troubled world before another war breaks out” ( Rimal, 2012). With the end of the Rana regime in February 1951, the Russian interest towards Nepal seemingly shifted to a supportive direction as clearly evidenced when Russia did not oppose Nepal’s entry into the UN in 1955.

That Nepal had applied during the Rana rule having diplomatic relations with Britain, France, India and the United States but was admitted only after five years of the end of the same  rule  was due to lack of sound follow up in the UN corridor by Nepal in the interval owing to the  lopsidedness of power-thirsty political leaders instead of projecting the country’s image abroad. Though blamed as a snatcher of democracy, it was during king Mahendra’s direct rule that Nepal, one of the 17 oldest independent nations of the world wherein no foreign flag was flown throughout the documented world history, became a member of the United Nations on 14 December 1955. 

The UN in Nepal

Nepal’s UN membership was followed by UN engagements in Nepal’s development since the early 60s of the past century to date with technical and financial assistance covering almost all segments of socioeconomic development with main concentration on infrastructural development, health, education, population and family planning/reproductive health, mother and child health, gender issues, poverty alleviation, environment and many other humanitarian cum social welfare sectors through a number of projects and programs   throughout the country as a donor and development partner of Nepal. 

Currently, altogether 21 UN specialized agencies and other UN organs like the UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, ICAO and quite a few other offices are actively contributing under the overall residential coordination/representation of the UNDP Country Office in Nepal’s development. The chances are high should the Government of Nepal be diplomatically tactful in pleading for more UN assistance to the cause of Nepal’s sustainable development, mainly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance through better representation in the UN.

Nepal in the UN

Nepal’s presence in the UN as its member since over the past six and half a decades has been marked on many instances as remarkable, particularly during the four decades of the past century. Nepal’s representation in UN mission led by the first Nepal’s envoy Rishikesh Shah earned a great reputation with his diplomatic maneuver at the UN corridor as a result of which he was chosen to head the International Commission constituted by the UN for investigation into the death of the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in a mysterious air crash in  the then Rhodesia now Zambia while he was in the UN peace mission. That a Nepali permanent representative to the UN was selected to head such a prestigious yet sensitive UN mission was not a mean recognition of Nepal when the country at that time was not internationally well exposed like today.

Nepal’s gravity in the UN was further enhanced when she got elected twice for a two year’s nonpermanent member seat of the UN Security Council in 1969 and in 1989  during the tenure of Major General Padam Bahadur Khatry and Jaya Pratap Rana  as  permanent representative to the UN respectively. But Nepal lost in her fray for a UNSC’s seat and also in the GA presidential seat both in the current century as a result of weaker diplomacy unlike in the past.

Being a member in December 1955 Nepal started sending her delegation to the UN General Assembly from 1956 onward, the first composed under the leadership of her 6th foreign minister Chuda Prasad Sharma that vibrantly had underlined Nepal’ perspective on the then global affairs for the first time in the world’s largest forum.

As Nepal is the second largest contributor to the UN Peace-Keeping Mission by deploying her security personnel in different conflict-affected UN member countries, they are the ones who are representing Nepal serving in different duty stations under the UN quest for peace.



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