February 19, 2007
Carter Center working
to support peace and
democracy in Nepal
BY deborah hakes
A fter 10 years of civil strife, Nepal is transitioning to peace in a process highlighted by constituent assembly elections scheduled to take place in 2007. The Carter Center is actively working there to support the consolidation of peace and democracy.
Nepal is undergoing intense political change after the signing of a comprehensive peace accord last November between the government of Nepal and Maoist rebel leaders. The agreement calls for the creation of an interim constitution, disarmament of the Maoists to be monitored by the United Nations, establishment of an interim transitional assembly and government that includes the Maoists, and elections to a constituent assembly in 2007. The constituent assembly will then have two years to write a new constitution for the country.
The Carter Center has been invited by all political parties to observe the electoral preparations and processes for the constituent assembly elections. The Center recently opened a small field office in Kathmandu, Nepal, which will manage the Center's observation efforts on the ground, including the deployment of long-term observers.
"We are closely monitoring and reporting on electoral, political and security conditions in Nepal," said David Carroll, director of The Carter Center's Democracy Program. "As the process develops, we will deploy long- and short-term observers to assess the processes surrounding the constituent assembly elections and provide periodic public reports."
The political scene is calm at the moment, but progress toward change has been slow. Recent protests in southern Nepal have claimed the lives of at least 22 citizens over several weeks, even as Nepal's eight main political parties met in Kathmandu. Participation of international observer organizations is important in such an unstable environment, particularly organizations that are respected across the political landscape.
Currently in Nepal, the interim constitution has been officially approved and the interim assembly convened. The U.N.-monitored arms management of the Maoists is also in progress and voter registration is under way. Elections are tentatively scheduled for early June.
"Expectations of the pace of elections progress may be a little unrealistic," said Carroll. "The Carter Center is in a position to help defuse tensions and remove potential road blocks along the way."
The Carter Center will deploy long-term observers by late February, in time to witness some aspects of voter registration in greater detail. Closer to the elections, teams of short-term observers will arrive to monitor events surrounding election day.