A decade has passedIf the remaining parts of the peace pact are not executed, new conflict may ensue
Last Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended a decade-long bloody conflict. The signatories to the CPA made many promises to transform Nepal into a just, inclusive and prosperous country. But the full spirit of the CPA remained unfulfilled. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme, 216 peace agreements were signed globally from 1989 to 2011. Nearly two-thirds of them failed within a few years of being signed. Some of the pacts were never implemented while some contributed to a resurgence of violence.
Early warning signs
Fortunately, Nepal’s CPA has not yet fallen into the category of a ‘failed’ accord. However, not implementing the remaining items on the agenda of the CPA may push Nepal towards a new dimension of conflict. Rise of identity politics and interest groups, deep differences over some provisions in the new constitution, scant attention paid to the management of national and local level political processes and lack of progressive socio-economic development programmes can be considered as some early warning signs of a possible return to violence.
The Maoist commitment to end the fighting, pledges made by the political parties to institutionalise federal democracy, integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army, elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA), adoption of a new constitution and transformation of the Maoists into a democratic force are major achievements of the past 10 years. Similarly, the formation of a High-Level State Restructuring Commission, political inclusion and representation of traditionally marginalised groups and distribution of compensation packages to conflict victims are other accomplishments. Lately, the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) can be taken as a positive step towards seeking the truth and ensuring justice to conflict victims.
However, very little or no progress has been made on a number of provisions in the CPA, such as elimination of discrimination, adoption of a common development concept, scientific land reform, protection and promotion of national industries and establishment of the rights of citizens to education, health, residence, employment and food security besides socio-economic security of backward communities.
Shared values of fairness
A number of factors have contributed to the slow and weak implementation of the CPA. The political parties devoted several years following the pact to blaming and condemning each other. The formation of organisations similar to paramilitary structures like the Young Communist League, Youth Force, Tarun Dasta, Madhes Bahini and others also contributed to heightening suspicion among the parties. Lack of effective political and institutional mechanisms to direct the peace process, top-down approach of the peace implementation process, lack of political coexistence and changes in the power equation
after each CA election, vested interest-based negotiations adopted by the parties and lacklustre performance of civil society as a watchdog were other factors behind the sluggish implementation of the CPA. The CPA implementation process was further weakened by lack of solid political strategies to deal with new interest groups and inability of the High-Level Political Mechanism to resolve contested items on the agenda of the peace process.
The CPA advocates for ‘positive peace’. However, current political practices demonstrate that it is very hard to obtain positive peace unless political actors pledge to adequately implement the remaining provisions in the CPA, particularly justice and reconciliation. Prof Peter Wallensteen and Mikael Eriksson, after studying the comprehensive agreements made in Sudan, Liberia and Bosnia Herzegovina, have concluded that it is crucial to connect the peace pacts to shared values of justice and fairness.
A solid framework
In Nepal, the issue of justice and fairness is also the most critical agenda of the CPA implementation process. The signatories to the CPA seem to be generally happy with what has been decided so far about its implementation. They also have a strong desire to end the truth seeking and reconciliation process as it is in their mutual political interest. However, it will not be so easy for them to conclude the process according to their wishes as conflict victims, international community and Nepal’s human rights community are closely watching the progress made by the TRC and CIEDP. Thus, an internationally acceptable transitional justice mechanism and a locally acceptable and viable reconciliation mechanism seem to be quite vital to make the CPA a success. Guarantees of social justice and human rights should be the practical strategy of the signatories to make the CPA pro-victims.
The issue of compensation and reparation for conflict victims and victims of human rights violation is another critical issue. Payment of compensation and reparation should not be a long-running burden for the state. However, it will also be an injustice if victims don’t get anything from the state for many years. A solid framework for compensation and reparation needs to be developed by the TRC in consultation with conflict victims and civil society.
Finally, besides justice and reconciliation provisions, there are a number of other issues yet to be implemented. What happens with the unimplemented provisions of the CPA? It is a moral responsibility of the signatories to the CPA to publicly announce their plans in relation to the unimplemented provisions of the peace pact. It has already been 10 years since the CPA was signed, so it’s high time peace process was concluded, addressing the justice and reconciliation issue and involving the whole country in a comprehensive nation-building
process. The unimplemented parts of the CPA agenda should be carried
forward while drafting a detailed plan for nation building.
Bhattarai holds a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies from New Zealand and is associated with the Centre for Social Change, Kathmandu