Since 2006 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, Nepal has achieved many of the peace process goals, setting the country on the path to deeper democratization. However, many of the commitments in the CPA are yet to be met and Nepal is not yet out of its transition. Though the prospect of a return to armed conflict seems unlikely particularly after the recent promulgation of the constitution, there is still a likelihood of continued disgruntlement as the practical implications become evident. Experience elsewhere in the world has demonstrated that pathways to peace are fragile, non-linear and unpredictable.
The UN plays an important role in Nepal’s transition; however, previous major UN peace-building mechanisms have withdrawn (UNMIN departed Nepal in January 2011, OHCHR in the second quarter of 2012 and OCHA is phasing out). Residual responsibilities have been assumed by an integrated Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator’s Office (RCHCO) which has an expanded number of staff in Kathmandu and a network of three Field Coordination Offices (FCOs) which are piloting a new approach to managing such transitions through the Transition Support Strategy (TSS). The TSS aims at strengthening the UN Country Team (UNCT) and the UN system’s capacity to: provide peace building support and address emerging peace building challenges; strengthening the attention to the long term development dimensions of the peace process; and maintaining a flexible humanitarian and development response capability to respond to crises that could risk de-stabilizing the peace process. In addition to serving the UNCT, it serves the wider donor community and the government with a wide range of products and services.
The UNCT and the Government of Nepal signed an UNDAF in September 2012. Its implementation is expected to run till end 2017. The country analysis that preceded the UNDAF was centered on the concept of vulnerability and its underlying root-causes. The UNDAF that followed is built around ways in which to address such root-causes with a clear aim at improving the lives of Nepal’s most vulnerable population groups. The process of developing a new UNDAF from 2018 will be initiated in 2016 with evaluation and country analysis. The years ahead will therefore require a strong emphasis on this process including ensuring a focus on root-causes of vulnerability and facilitating close cooperation between UN agencies and partners.
The expanded RCHCO office has about 30 staff at the moment (about half in the field and half in Kathmandu), though its structure, set-up, and number of staff are likely to change in the months to come.
In the coming 2 years, the RCHCO will maintain a focus on four strategic issues, which affect the country and the peace process 1) follow-up on the earthquake response, recovery and reconstruction; 2) technical expertise in relation to remaining peacebuilding issues and transitional justice processes, including implementation of the constitution, the federal system and sexual violence during the conflict; 3) leadership and coordination of the continued efforts to ensure inclusion of vulnerable groups in all dividends and development gains, including through the adoption of a conflict sensitive and rights-based approach to programming; 4) and the adoption of information management and communications tools for evidence-based analysis, programming and risk management.
On all four areas, the RCHCO draws from its field based networks for information to inform and assist the UN and partners. Since 2014/2015 three field offices have been co-located with the UNDP CPP field presence to increase the collaboration as well as introduce greater efficiency in resource utilization. Following the earthquake on 25 April 2015, the RCHC also assumed the role of Humanitarian coordinator in Nepal and by extension, the RCHCO became the RCHCO, providing support to the RCHC, the HCT and the humanitarian community at large. Once the initial deployment of the OCHA office will diminish and close down by the end of the year, the RCHCO will need to ensure the smooth transition of residual coordination and humanitarian tasks, which OCHA is currently fulfilling.
The RCHCO will continue to work on a principle of flexibility as and when needed. Where there are residual coordination needs, the RCHCO will facilitate those, though in line with the intention of a diminished presence and 'one leader', where possible UN agencies and partners will take the lead. The intention of the RCHCO is to continue the reduction and nationalization of the office structure. It is foreseen that by 2017, the RCHCO will resume the size of most RCHC offices as the global level, primarily funded by DOCO.