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After India, UN backs constitution 'with widest possible support' in Nepal

world Updated: Jan 15, 2015 09:59 IST
Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times
Nepal Constitution

Even as Nepal's political parties stare at a confrontation - with parties in government threatening to push a constitution by vote and parties in opposition walking out of the process - the United Nations has come out strongly in favour a statute with the 'widest possible support'.

It has, in an unusually detailed statement, urged Nepali parties to complete constitution writing in a 'timely and inclusive manner'; and conclude the process through 'compromise, flexibility and inclusivity'.

The UN's statement comes two months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had explicitly urged Nepali parties to conclude the constitution on time, and through consensus. The constitution's deadline is January 22. UN has been careful not to use the word 'consensus' but the spirit of the message indicates it is on the same page as Delhi.

UN's Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, concluded a two day visit to Nepal and met all of the country's political leaders, including Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.

In his statement, besides reiterating UN's support to Nepal, Feltman said that he had conveyed several messages of Secretary General Ban ki Moon to parties.

He said that 'only (the) Nepalese can take the important political decisions that are needed for the full implementation of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement' and it was not for the United Nations to decide on the substance of the constitution or the timeline for its adoption.' But it did look to Nepal's leadership to complete the constitution-making process 'in a timely and inclusive manner'.

In a message aimed at Nepal's citizenship clause which denies citizenship through mothers, the UN said it was important that the constitution contain no discriminatory provisions.

Feltman added that the constitution was 'not a routine piece of legislation' - exactly what Modi had said in November- but a 'foundational document'. And so leaders must 'put aside narrow interests and exercise flexibility in reaching an agreement in the interest of all the Nepali people' and it should 'enjoy the widest possible support'. It was from that 'wide support' that the constitution would derive its legitimacy.

'That is why on behalf of the Secretary-General, I strongly encouraged the leaders to neither threaten a walk out nor force a vote, but rather to conclude the process through compromise, flexibility, and inclusivity.'

This was a balanced message - for it is Nepali Congress and Communist party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) which is forcing a vote while Maoists and Tarai forces have threatened a walkout.

Underlying the importance of the moment, Feltman said that time was running out; that this was a historic opportunity; and leaders must act like they did in 2006 when they signed the peace deal.

'The stability the constitution can provide is the key for prosperity. The adoption of the Constitution will be the culmination of Nepal’s historic peace process.'