April 1, 2018 02:30 AM NPT
Controversial survey on constitution
The United Nations office in Kathmandu has been found to be carrying out studies on sensitive political issues without the knowledge of Nepal government. This is deeply troubling. Selection of questionnaires for the survey—such as whether people feel satisfied with constitution and with current demarcation of provincial boundaries—is suspicious. At a time when the country is moving forward to implement the constitution to institutionalize federal system of governance, activities of the kind by the UN not only breach its mandate but also raise questions on the intent. No UN member state will accept studies to influence the politics of the country, especially on issues such as provincial demarcation and the constitution, especially when the former had, in the recent past, become the source to divide rather than unite the people. Equally troubling is the involvement of the individuals holding high offices. The consultation board includes Manohar Prasad Bhattarai, general secretary of parliament secretary, Mohna Ansari, member and spokesperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and others. First, it does not suit these officials working at esteemed posts of their respective offices to work as consultant on the subjects which have become the matter of debate over the years. Second, it is not known whether they informed and took permission from their respective offices before agreeing to be part of UN study. Should they even be involved in such a study? They must answer these questions and ensure that they perform their duties within the framework of the Constitution of Nepal.
The UN office should have taken the permission from the Government of Nepal and then should not have involved public officials in the process. Sadly, this is not the first time the UN has been embroiled in controversy in Nepal. Former UN resident coordinator Jamie McGoldrick was widely criticized for misleading the UN Secretary-General about Nepal’s constitution. The government of Nepal then wrote a letter directly to the Secretary-General explaining the constitution. The role of heads of UN agencies in Kathmandu largely shapes the UN headquarters’ take on issues, from domestic politics to economy. Faulty reporting from Kathmandu’s UN offices will only build mistrust between the government and the UN. Sadly again, the UN allowed itself to be dragged in controversy this time around as well.
We urge the UN agencies in Kathmandu to support the government’s initiative to jumpstart our economy, which is the national priority at the moment, in line with the government policy. We have had enough of rights-based awareness campaigns and fancy conferences in Kathmandu in the name of development. What we need is real action on the ground that can change the lives of people. Individuals leading different UN agencies can be recalled at any time if the host country is not happy with their performance. We want the UN to be supportive of Nepal’s development efforts and work in sync with the government, and not undermine a sovereign country in any shape or form. It does not suit the global organization of great repute to involve in activities that generate criticisms rather than appreciation.