Nepal being elected member of the UNHRC gives an immense opportunity to share experiences of the unique and successful peace process

Nepal has been elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the first time since its inception in 2006. In the election held in UN Headquarters, New York, Monday, Nepal was elected to the council from among the group of Asia-Pacific securing the highest 166 votes. Qatar, Pakistan and Afghanistan were also elected as members from the region as part of a total of 15 states elected from different geographical regions. The two-year term of the UN rights body begins on January 1, 2018 and ends on December 31, 2020. With Nepal being elected member of the UNHRC gives an immense opportunity to share experiences of the unique and successful peace process with the world and also learn from international peace practices. Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi has also said “it is definitely going to enhance Nepal’s image at international arena”. Similarly, permanent representative of Nepal to United Nations, Durga Prasad Bhattarai, has also said, in a statement, that “the election offers post-conflict Nepal an unprecedented opportunity to prove its worth as an international contributor to the cause of human rights in Nepal and around the world, over and above its contribution as a UN peacekeeping and civilian protection partner since 1958”.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Spokesperson Mohana Ansari also welcomed Nepal’s election as member of the UNHRC and said that Nepal is likely to receive higher amount of budget for programmes related to human rights and rule of law. But she also added that Nepal will have added responsibilities and challenges for the promotion and protection of human rights. Ansari said Nepal had also made certain commitments to the international rights body while applying for membership. The country will be under added pressure to fulfill the commitments made. Nepal had been lobbying consistently for the UNHRC seat since its creation through its mission to the United Nations in New York. While addressing the 72nd session of UN General Assembly on September 23 Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had also sought member states’ support for Nepal’s candidacy.

Although NHRC spokesperson Ansari did not explicitly say what sorts of commitments Nepal had made with the world rights body before contesting for the seat in the UNHRC, the UN body had been raising questions about the credibility and ability of both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation for Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) formed to settle human rights violations taking place during the insurgency. Both the commissions were formed by the government three years ago under a law focused to settle human rights violations during the decade-long Maoist insurgency beginning 1996 to 2005. The rights activists, UNHRC and even Nepal’s Supreme Court has cautioned the government and the political parties to make both the commissions at par with international standard. When they said this, they were calling for drafting laws which would be able to take legal actions against those found guilty of serious human rights violations as specified by the law from both the State and the rebel Maoists. But the law dealing with rights violations seems to be more re- conciliatory than taking punitive actions against rights violators.

Child labour

Child labour is on the rise in urban areas. It is believed that the number of such exploited children is increasing in the far-western region. Child below the age 14 are not allowed to work, but it is vexing that many under aged children  continue to do so. Children are found working in shops and hotels. Child labour is taking place even in areas where the officials of the local administration are present and they have little to bring these heinous crimes to a halt. Although child labour has been declared illegal, nothing is being done despite the rampant use of child labour even in risky works such as in brick kilns.

As such, there is a need to bring this practice to a complete halt which is not the case now as their numbers are increasingly on the rise. There are numerous NGOs and INGOs working to do away with this form of labour but they have not been successful. Therefore, there is a need to be extra vigilant so that those using child labour are punished.