Conflict resolution Role of third party mediation

Aditya Man Shrestha

We are debating profusely reflecting our personal and partisan bias, whether Nepal should accept the mediation offer made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in ending the violent conflict in our country. The debate is rather misplaced. The moot question should be whether mediation of some sort would be necessary for resolution of the conflict in which Nepal is badly caught in. On that point, no one has any doubt that it is indeed necessary. The Maoists have openly agreed to it. As far as the government is concerned, it has not rejected the idea of mediation. It has only declared that external mediation services are not necessary. On internal mediation, it is mum.

The proper question should be posed like this. Assuming that the protagonists are agreeable to mediation why do they not accept it from inside the country? Those who have opposed the UN mediation at this time have invariably said the Nepalis are able to sort out their problems among themselves. If so, where is the hassle in harnessing native mediation?

The most prominent and attractive offer in this regard has come from Narayan Singh Pun, chairman of the Samata Party. He has pledged to bring the Maoists to peace talks within few weeks given proper authority to do so by the government. He deserves serious consideration as he had the experience of working as a motivator as well as a negotiator on behalf of the government during the premiership of Lokendra Bahadur Chand.

Equally credible are other personalities like Padmaratna Tuladhar, Daman Nath Dhungana and Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya who are willing and ready to play the role of a mediator. They have worked as facilitators in the previous peace talks held between the Maoists and the government and are, therefore, better qualified to render the mediation services. They are fully aware of what went wrong in those talks and have learnt a lot from the weaknesses and mistakes of the past. They know how the potential peace talks should be conducted and what safeguards should be provided to make such negotiations successful. So the question should be asked as to why none of them has been asked to take up this responsibility for bringing about the much cherished peace in Nepal.

Take, for example, Kulchandra Gautam who is also available for peace-making efforts in Nepal. He is one Nepali who, as the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF in New York, commands not only native touch and understanding but also international recognition and support. On his occasional visits to Nepal, he has made it clear that he would be pleased to do his utmost towards achieving peace and development in Nepal. He can be requested to offer his mediation services in our conflict on his personal capacity propped up by his official high-profile. The question should, therefore, be asked, why it is not being done if we want peace.

There are some more possibilities seen for a negotiated settlement for peace. Among the civil societies, the Volunteer Mediators Group has come forward to offer the mediation services with a clear roadmap for peace and conflict resolution. The roadmap is a comprehensive document that addresses all issues of national importance and all questions that the political actors in present conflict have raised. It has also offered the definitive process to proceed toward resolution of the conflict. It is a well-exercised groundwork that can provide a firm basis for substantive discussions and for arriving at a settlement. The group has offered its voluntary services to mediate among the parties in conflict. But none of them has shown any keen interest in accepting it. The question should be raised why is it so.

Of late, the Civic Solidarity for Peace, a conglomerate of numerous non-governmental organisations has come up with a long list of solutions as to how to go ahead with the peace making and framing a new constitution for Nepal. It is by far the largest coalition of civil societies coming together for ending untold suffering of the people and bringing about peace. Similarly, many other civil societies have demonstrated their interest and concern on the deteriorating conditions in the country and are willing to offer their time, energy and services for restoring peace and security. But none of them are getting a proper hearing from the parties.

Even the political parties that are a part of the conflict on the non-violent side have expressed their desire to help end the violence in Nepal. UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal took the initiative in peace negotiation even going out of his way to Lucknow, meeting with the rebel leaders and facing undeserved criticism from his opponents. His efforts unfortunately fizzled out with no effect on the peace process. Lately, Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala got a specific mandate from his party to take appropriate steps to talk with the representatives of the state and the insurgency for peace process. It was a late but not too late measure coming from the leading political force in commensurate with the popular wishes for peace. There is however no headway hitherto made. So the question should be asked as to why even high-profile leaders like Koirala and Nepal are not making a breakthrough in the peace process that, we know all Nepalis want to see taking place soonest possible. Shrestha is coordinator, Volunteer Mediators Group for Peace and Conflict Resolution