May 13, 2011
“It is our absolute conviction that the logical end of the peace process in Nepal is not in May of this year, and certainly not when the last cantonment is closed, or the last mine is cleared, but in fact, a decade away.”
Born in Australia, Robert Piper, has spent his career moving between international development crises and trouble spots as a senior official with the United Nations Development Program. Posts have included Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, the United States and Kosovo. For three years, he served as deputy director of the UN's emergency response division. In 2005, he worked as chief-of-staff to former US president Bill Clinton in Clinton’s role as the UN's special envoy for the 2005 tsunami recovery.
Mr. Piper now serves as the UNDP Director in Nepal as well as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.
He came to Nepal at a time when the country was facing a particularly rocky time due, in part, to the controversy over the integration of the Maoist ex-rebels into Nepal’s Army.
Following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in November 2006 between the Government of Nepal and the Maoists at the end of the ten-year insurgency, the United Nations received a request for assistance, and established the political mission United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) in early 2007. UNMIN’s mandate was to oversee the ensuing peace efforts, including the 2008 constituent elections and to monitor both the legitimate army and the 28 cantonments set up to house the Maoist ex-combatants until they could be reintegrated into society. UNMIN’s initial headcount of ex-combatants was just under 20,000 people.
But in 2009, UNMIN’s verification process came under fire after a secret videotape of Maoist Supremo Prachanda – recorded in Shaktikhor, one of the cantonments – caught him boasting that he had duped UNMIN by padding the camps with young people who didn’t actually qualify. The real number of the People’s Liberation Army, according to Prachanda, was actually between 7,000-8,000.
Among other things, Prachanda said, “We will reduce them [the troops of the Nepal Army] systematically, and bring the army under our leadership. …The plan is to 'democratize' the army, which means to politicize it. It'll take five to seven years to do that. …Speaking honestly, we were few before the compromise. We were at 7,000 to 8,000. If we had reported that, we would have had 4,000 left after verification. Instead, we claimed 35,000, and now we have 20,000. This is the truth. We cannot tell others, but you all and I know the truth.”
As 2009 wore on, the government became suspicious that even that low number was inaccurate, saying that many of the Maoists (once sequestered in the cantonments) had long since left without Maoists leaders duly reporting their departures. This creative accounting made it possible for the Maoist party to continue to receive governmental stipends for cantonment residents who did not exist.
On 15 September 2009 the UN Security Council decided to dismantle UNMIN on January 15, 2010. In 2010, the UN oversaw the discharging of approximately 4000 ex-combatants from the cantonments. Since then, the UN has concentrated on the rehabilitation of these dischargees.
DUNHAM: As far as I know, no one has described, in a comprehensive manner, the back-story of the Maoist ex-combatants’ release from the cantonments and the resultant UN role to support their rehabilitation. Could you shed light on that process?
PIPER: Their actual physical discharge took place between January and April of 2010. We’re talking about 4000 people. 3000 of them were the minors who had been registered by the UN and should not have ever been in the cantonments. Another 1000 of them were so-called “late recruits”. The UN had established that they had been recruited in the PLA after the signing of the ceasefire. They had no real place being in the cantonments after the peace process had already begun. A very protracted negotiation process that spanned several year finally got us to January of last year, where we were finally able to hold ceremonies in the cantonments – the seven main cantonments – to get the minors discharged. Those, who were not present, were then discharged legally on paper, in April. So, technically, April 2010 was the end of the discharge process, at which point all 4000 had been officially discharged.
We’re one year on from April 2010. It’s been a very complex process. Firstly, only about 2300 of the 4000 were actually physically in the cantonments. The 2300 were the ones we met in person. In January 2010, we sat with these 2300 eligible “disqualified” ex-combatants, we gave them ID cards, we briefed on their options for the future and what we had to offer. We gave them our phone number, explained the vocational training options and the other things we had to offer. We saw them out the front gate and waited for them to be in touch with us. And almost all of them have been in touch us. (I’ll come back to that story.)
But the other 1700 of those 4000 were not there physically in the cantonments. We don’t know where they were. According to some of the commanders, they had left a week before – in disgust – at the packages on offer, and the way they were being be treated. Actually, we suspect that many more of them had left a long time before that. We don’t know if it was one year or two years. We don’t know if they are still in Nepal or if they went to India or beyond to find work. We have had contact with about 20% of them. But a lot of them are somewhat of an unknown.
The program, then, essentially offered services to any of those 4000.
We’ve offered vocational training programs to get them set up to find a job.
We’ve offered them small business programs to get them started with a small business.
We’ve offered them a return-to-school package for those who had missed out on years of education.
And finally, we’ve offered them a set of extended training programs to find work in the health sector – specific health-related jobs we know of in the public sector, that need filling. It’s a two-year training program.
The exercise has been complicate. Number one, these young people should never have been in the cantonments in the first place. They were given ridiculous expectations by the party, quite frankly, about what was in store for them for their future. We were always chasing an expectation line that was miles out of reach: from job guarantees in the government to senior jobs in the army, because, of course, they all considered themselves to be eligible for integration into the Nepal Army.
So we had tremendous expectation-management problems that had been created by the [Maoist] party, without question.
We had another huge problem, which was a mistake that we were a party to as well, (in retrospect), which was to employ the label of “disqualified”. That was a tremendous mistake both for the people who wrote the peace agreement and the UN, which participated in the process: We were all thinking in simple terms at that time. We understand how it happened. We were thinking of them as a group that had qualified to be considered for rehabilitation and integration and there were those who were disqualified from the process on the grounds of their age or the moment in which they were recruited.
But you can imagine: This “disqualified” label was a terrible label to stick on somebody’s forehead as they walk out of a cantonment because they took that, very much, as sort of “you are unqualified for anything”.
So this was a second huge problem in terms of the impact of that kind of label. This is something we don’t talk about. Once the penny dropped, we realized that this had been a pretty dumb label to apply, even though it was done in a sort of clinical way without thinking through this aspect of it. We switched, very much, to talking about “late recruits” and “dischargees” rather than “disqualified” people. But some of the damage had already been done.
The mislabeling affected the dischargees’ morale.
It was also challenging in terms of the economy and the opportunities that were out there for these young people. Nepal has an economy that is barely growing at the speed of the population growth. It is an economy where there is no foreign investment whatsoever, where the manufacture industry in shrinking, not growing. And it’s an economy that is heavily dependent on agriculture – a very low productivity of agriculture.
So it’s hard to generate a tremendous sense of optimism amongst these several thousand dischargees — that their civilian life is paved with gold. We really do need some breakthroughs on the economic front, which requires breakthroughs on the political and peace fronts, in order to get an economy that is alive. That hasn’t happened in anyone’s recent memory. And that’s a tremendous obstacle.
I guess I would fourthly flag the transition for some of these young people back to life outside the cantonments. It has been very difficult for some of them. We have a lot of mixed marriages, for example: inter-caste marriages. We have a lot of girls who left home at sixteen and return with a husband from a different caste, from a different community. We have women who were brought up, frankly, as girls with a very subservient role – very clearly demarcated – who are coming home very confident and outspoken and opinionated. And they are all having all kinds of complex transition challenges when they return home.
As it stands, we can say now, a year later, that about 2000 of the 4000 have been to see us – young people who have sat down and been counseled and have signed up for one or another of the UN’s options. The dischargees are starting at different points. Some of them didn’t contact us for nine months. Some of them just contacted us a week before we closed the gate, if you will, on signing up. So we have about – from memory now – about 300 or 400 graduates so far, from our different programs.
And so far, about 40% of those who we have been able to track have found their next niche – in a job, opening up their own business and so forth. Others are still in the program, others are just waiting for their programs to start, for example – the health training starts this August. So you have a lot of people at different stages.
But about half of the 4000 have been in touch with us or are in the program. Those 2000 represent about 85% of those we met [in January-April 2010] – those who were physically there in the cantonments as apposed to those who were absent. It’s gone relatively well, with all the ups and downs – trying to support a group with all kinds of real challenges, most of whom have been in a uniform from a very impressionable age for all the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to manage their transition – to be helpful – to a group who, without question, if they had been interviewed and asked “What do you want to do?” most of them would have said, “I expect to join the Nepal Army.” We are working against an expectation made by them, whether it is natural or whether it is indoctrinated. But if you start your working life at the age of fourteen in a uniform and in a cantonment and your role models have names like “Fearsome” [Prachanda], that’s probably where your career aspiration is going to take you. So to re-program, in a sense, those young people so that they feel that they have other options and that it’s not a compromise, has been a challenge on many fronts.
I think we’ve done pretty well but we’ve also had our fair share of criticism from them. They are unhappy. They were never going to be happy campers so, we never expected them to be enthusiastic. It’s as they graduate that we get a sense of real positive energy.
But it takes time.
DUNHAM: And I suppose one has to remember how young they really are.
PIPER: Yes, those who were sixteen, or even fifteen, when we registered them inside the cantonment, were eighteen by the time we got them out the front door. So the Maoists were saying, “They are not children anymore.” That’s not really the point, but you can see how easy it is to kind of twist that argument.
DUNHAM: The argument had traction with the media.
PIPER: Yes and with the government at the time, which had Maoists in and out of it, but with other parties mostly dominant, who have had very mixed feelings about the idea of compensating any of these people – letting the Maoists off the hook, in a sense.
1000 of these 4000, we recognize, joined the cantonments and the PLA after the ceasefire was signed. For the government, this is like, “And you’re going to pay them? You’re going to provide them with training? You’re going to provide them with opportunities? It’s wrong.” And it’s hard for them to defend politically to the widows of those who died during the conflict, who are still waiting for their justice. “And these guys are getting a package from the UN?”
So you can see, it is the right thing to do. They needed to be transitioned out of the cantonments. If they’re not assisted successfully, they will become tomorrow’s problem, if they are not managed well.
And so the UN proceeds. But we proceed within a very difficult environment. There are lots of people who are not necessarily willing us to succeed – who are not behind us. I think we’ve done pretty well, given that kind of equation. But these are things for others to judge.
DUNHAM: Prachanda’s leaked tape – the one recorded in the Shaktikhor cantonment -- certainly didn’t help in propping up the reputation of UNMIN. It made the UNMIN look as if they had been hoodwinked.
PIPER: Well, I think, firstly, the UN enjoys a tremendous amount of respect in Nepal. It is one of the countries in which we have such a positive relationship, not just with the government, but with the citizens. We have a brand that is valued here. And it’s tied up with Nepal being so active in peacekeeping missions and feeling, quite rightly, that it is an instrumental part of UN success, globally. And it’s been paid for in lives. Some sixty peacekeepers have lost their lives in UN service over the last 50 years. Quite rightly they share any success that we have had.
In premise, Nepal is an extraordinary place to work, when you work for the UN. You meet almost nothing but open doors and level of respect that we don’t take for granted around the world. So we are very fortunate.
The Shaktikhor tape is highly misleading. We challenge profoundly many of the accusations that were thrown at UNMIN by the government at the time and various parties; above all, the fact that these very same people who were saying, “Why isn’t UNMIN controlling the movement and counting of the people in the cantonment?” were the same political leaders who insisted, when UNMIN’s mandate was negotiated, that UNMIN would have a very narrow function – that UNMIN would monitored weapons, not people in the cantonments – that UNMIN would monitor the elections. UNMIN had a uniquely narrow mandate at the insistence of the political parties. There was never a suggestion that UNMIN would be head-counting in the cantonments. They were not asked to do that and they were not resourced to do that, at the explicit insistence of Nepali interlocutors, who had said, “This is our peace process. The UNMIN is here because we have an agreement. They are not here because the Maoists need to be controlled by anyone.”
That’s a different mission altogether – to control people, to keep them inside the camp. So, firstly, UNMIN was the victim, if you will, of political processes, where it became very useful politically to accuse them for x or y. The difficulty for some of those UNMIN people, who had been here from the start, was that, in some cases. it was the same people who had insisted on these rather narrow mandates and knew very well …that…they were accusing UNMIN of not doing things that actually they had never been asked to do in the first place.
DUNHAM: UNMIN became the whipping boy.
PIPER: Yes, the whipping boy. And I think we need to recognize too that one of UNMIN’s first jobs was to register those people in the cantonments and to figure out, precisely, if there were any minors in there, whether there were any late recruits that had no place there – in that first round of interview, there was something like 29-30,000 people. When UNMIN went back in to do the verification, the Maoists got quite nervous because they realized it wasn’t a passive process. The UN was asking difficult questions to establish whether someone was, indeed, at that battle or, indeed, of that age group. It wasn’t a walk in the park. By the time UN went back in for the verification process, there were only 23,000 people left. The signal had gone out that the UN was doing this professionally.
So I think, already, UNMIN was looking critically – not taking everything they were given as the truth. That pattern had started from the very beginning. UNMIN protected its credibility. Accusations thrown at UNMIN were somewhat unjustified and we will keep defending their reputation, even though they’re gone now.
DUNHAM: So you believe that the criticism hurled at UNMIN did not tarnish the UN’s reputation here?
PIPER: No, there was a very sophisticated sense that UNMIN was special – that it came in with a task. It had different vehicles. It had a different kind of look about it. It had a different job to do. It was staffed by people, who were not transferring expertise or dealing with poverty in the way that the rest of the UN was, say, delivering food. Instead, UNMIN had weapon monitors and people with different profiles.
I don’t think the criticisms of UNMIN went that deep. I think they were kind of politically engineered exercises in trying to tip the balance of negotiation processes that were really domestic, not international. It didn’t go down to the person in the street.
DUNHAM: Where are you now in terms of wrapping up the dischargees process?
PIPER: It will go on for a few years yet. Someone who is starting the two-year health-training program beginning this August has a couple of years before graduation. But we’ve now closed the registration period so anyone who wanted to access one of our programs would have to have signed up, come to us, sat with a counselor, entered the process by the end of April, which was one year from the final discharge ceremony. And you will have needed to start your program by July 2011. So you can take as long as it takes but if you haven’t started the program by July, you have missed the boat.
DUNHAM: What is the percentage of ex-combatants who chose educational programs?
PIPER: About a quarter of them, from my memory, which is a good number, remembering that almost all of them were over the age of eighteen by the time they came to us. Resuming education was very complicated for them. Firstly, many of them had very low education levels, so to take them back to school is to take a nineteen-year-old back to grade five.
DUNHAM: Thus creating additional stigmatization for them.
PIPER: Super difficult. And on top of that, we had offered an out-of-school option that we thought would work precisely for that age group. But very early on, we realized that it was too loose. We got a sense from one of the regions, at least, that that option was going to be exploited by a large group that had no real intension of earning an education, but could see this as a very easy way of earning their monthly stipend without any consequences for not showing up for their four-hour contact a month. We actually had to pull that option out of the menu – very regrettably.
But on the whole, the program is working very well. One of the very nice aspects of the education package is that the UN sponsors a third person, so for every two ex-combatants that come through a given school, the UN sponsors a third person – a student to attend the school – from a disadvantaged family in that community. The UN also provides a small grant for the school to do something, some kind of rehabilitation – a playground, or something like that. It sends a very nice message to the surrounding community that A) everyone needs to participate in the reintegration of these young people and B) that everyone can benefit from the process.
We’ve had a lot of success from the education program.
It’s been more difficult in terms of the vocational training program because these people are coming to a town to do their training, not necessarily going back to their villages. We obviously can’t offer a motorcycle-repair program in every remote village in Nepal. They’re not in their community when they are attending. They are staying in a hostel with us and it’s a bit harder to figure out who do you sponsor and how do you get that kind of dynamic. It’s much easier in a village setting. So these are the kinds of things that make the program work and make these people’s transitions back to their homes successful. So, wherever we can, we do that.
DUNHAM: What are the major programs, other than the ex-combatants programs, that the UN offers here in Nepal?
PIPER: The UN has a fairly broad horizon of programs. We’re talking about twenty agencies, $200,000,000 a year, 2500 staff. So we are touching many different sectors.
The largest by far is the World Food Program (WFP). Last year, it reached two-and-a half million Nepalis that are severely food-insecure.
UNICEF is another large program. Work is being done on water and sanitation.
UNESCO focuses on literacy.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) works on indigenous right issues.
The UNDP is working on constitutional support. We are heavily involved in supporting the Constituent Assembly members to write a new constitution.
So there is a broad spectrum of programs. Some of them are more short-term programs. Some of them are of a much more long-term nature. Most of them are heavily related, in one way or another, to the peace process. It is our absolute conviction that the logical end of the peace process in Nepal is not in May of this year, and certainly not when the last cantonment is closed, or the last mine is cleared, but in fact, a decade away. A decade of addressing these undertakings made in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to transform a political and social and economic system from one that is highly unequal to one that is more equal – from one that is highly exclusionary to one that is more inclusive – from one where impunity reigns to one where accountability will take root.
These are not things that are going to happen overnight.
We counsel political leaders – whenever they’ll listen – to maybe not create this false expectation that the logical end of the peace process is happening on May 28, or any time soon.
A lot of our work, then, in the UN system, is really to help get started on that long-term heavy lifting of social inclusion, of good governance, or rule of law. That is at the heart of the peace process, though not recognized by most. It is certainly very difficult work, indeed for a whole host of reasons.
DUNHAM: It’s not politically sexy to say, “It will take us ten years to have peace.”
PIPER: Well, in ten years, we are going to have achieved the kinds of transformations that have been promised by Nepalis – not by the UN. Only then, can we start to feel confident that the peace is irreversible. That’s the thing. We’ve seen one in two peace processes go backward, go belly-up, around the globe. It’s a very fragile period that Nepal is in today. It’s not unique. We know that the expectations, now, in Nepal, are wildly out of synch with what has been promised them, what is possible in the next twelve to twenty-four months. We know that the investors are watching with great nervousness. We know that the political leadership is highly unstable. And so, pushing forward long-term structural issues – policy issues – is extremely difficult in an environment when we have a new government on an average of every twelve months. How can you sustain a hard push on social inclusion in the public sector or in the military, etc., when you have that kind of volatile policy-making environment and leadership?
But it’s not unique to Nepal. This is the nature of post-conflict transitions.
So, we are bringing some of that experience to bear. But we are also working on the short-term stuff: Mine action, where the UN is heavily involved. By mid-June we should have cleared the last mine in Nepal, with the help of the Nepal Army, which would be quite a historic moment.
DUNHAM: How large is the UN staff, which works with the constitution-writing process?
PIPER: We have a forty-person team working in support of the constitution writing process, which I would consider a relatively short-term exercise, compared to social inclusion and rule of law.
DUNHAM: How does that work? What are your staff members doing in regard to the constitution-making process?
PIPER: Firstly, we’ve got access to a lot of expertise around the globe: successes and failures. We bring that expertise to bear to CA members through workshops, through one-on-one advise. We’ve built a center for constitutional dialogue, just down the road from the Constituent Assembly, which has very good meeting facilities and resource library. It’s very useful because we learned very quickly that a large proportion of those 601 members of the CA – 90% in fact – had never held public office before. They hadn’t been members of parliament. So we provided a whole range of very basic training – from computer literacy to parliamentary processes to experience with federalism.
DUNHAM: It’s also a fact, is it not, that a certain proportion of the CA members are illiterate?
PIPER: Indeed. We worked on a program that would read documents in Nepali so that someone could listen to rather than read the documents.
So, providing that expertise through workshops and trainings and reports, etc. – providing a space for these negotiations and dialogues – and this is very important to us as well – we provide multiple interpretations services for many different Nepali languages, so that you can have ten CA members in the room from ten different communities and everyone can actually understand each other.
DUNHAM: What a gift for the CA.
PIPER: It’s expensive and labor-intensive but it’s not a given and it’s worth every penny of it.
We are also extremely active – and the biggest, most visible part of our work – has been to work with citizens to engage them on this process. We now have, in some 4000-5000 communities, dialogues on democracy, events on federalism with potential new federal states, dialogues between the potential new federal states talking to each other, and now over 400,000 Nepali citizens have participated outside the Kathmandu Valley. It’s a huge amount of people. We feel very strongly that if this constitution is going to distinguish itself from the previous constitutions, it’s because it’s going to have to be owned by not just a small group of men that sit in a room somewhere and write it over a period of four months, but rather it’s going to have to have some sort of popular legitimacy and ownership so that, they too – the Nepali citizenry – become defenders if you will, of the constitutional order, which has never really happened so far.
We have put a huge emphasis on going out and getting people engaged in this process, making sure they know what’s at stake, answering their questions. We find even civil servants at the district level so grateful for a couple of day of training or workshops where they are informed of what has been discussed in Kathmandu. It’s quite troubling to find civil servants who feel so alienated, so ignorant of what’s going on in the capital.
At the same time, we are very careful to not pretend that we have a formula for Nepal. We don’t. Nepal is going to have to figure out its own constitution. It’s going to look different to any other constitution in the world. We can bring the highs and lows of other countries’ experiences to bear, but Nepal is going to have to negotiate the right kind of formula.
We do get off the fence on a few categories of issues though. One of them, in particular, is if the constitution-writing process is going in the direction of conflicting with Nepal’s international treaty obligations. That’s when we put up our hand and shout. Actually, we don’t shout; we whisper first.
And similarly, we don’t apologize for amplifying voices of disadvantages or vulnerable communities, whose voices will otherwise not be heard. As long as three years ago, we worked with the whole Dalit community to build a Dalit charter to the constitution-making process. We worked very closely with the women’s caucus in parliament. We work very closely with the indigenous people’s caucus. And we unapologetically do everything in our power to make sure that their voices are heard. We think that that is something that the UN should be doing as part of our DNA.
And, as I said, on the international treaty issues, we’ll speak up. Right now, we’re concerned about the language around “citizenship” – the manner in which it is being treated in the draft constitution – unfortunately, in an area where there is agreement between the parties: It is language that we consider to be at odds with Nepal’s international treaty obligations – in terms of the formula, which will create tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of stateless children, because of the requirement currently of both father and mother need to be Nepali in order to be able to transfer citizenship by descent, of which we can find only one other example: Bhutan.
A second dimension to it is where the current language, essentially, enables a foreign women marrying a Nepali male to acquire citizenship by naturalization very quickly in order that both mother and father can then pass it on. But for a foreign male marring a Nepali woman, it’s a fifteen-year requirement residency, which we can’t find anywhere in the world – anything quite as onerous, which leaves that child in the intervening period [without citizenship]. It’s highly discriminatory, obviously, because it is legislating that women should go and live with their husbands, basically, because if you want your child to have a nationality, you either go with your child and reside in your husband’s foreign country in order for that child to be eligible, or your child is stateless in Nepal. Effectively, you are legislating a social order, which we find highly discriminatory, although many Nepali leaders – a minority, but a powerful minority – insist this is the Nepali way. “It is our custom.” The UN doesn’t fully understand it.
So on issues like that we do quietly get off the fence and say, “You will make your own decisions but you do so knowing what we think and the repercussions – the next time you visit the Human Rights Counsel [and other organizations]. Don’t be surprised when there is an uproar about your citizenship rules.”
The whole area of the constitution work, which touches on expertise, convening and helping people come together to reach agreement, taking the constitution out to the public and engaging them, and then, sort of, if you will, playing a normative role in – very carefully – on issues around international treaty obligations or amplifying those quieter voices is where we kind of find our niche.
I would say it is the most important work we currently do in Nepal is in that area. If I had to pick a very strategic program, it would have to be that at the moment – because Nepal is renegotiating its compact between citizen and state and it’s restructuring – it’s all happening in that document. Its ramifications for the future are incredibly important. If they get it wrong, there will be very negative consequences and if they get it right, we can potentially harness the possibilities.
DUNHAM: To what extent does the UN address the issue of law and order in Nepal – or perhaps I should say the lack of law and order.
PIPER: We’re very worried about law and order and rule of law. In terms of actually working with security, we don’t play a big role. We hope it will expand because we sense a much bigger openness to assistance from development partners. We think it is super important for all the other things we have talked about like foreign investment.
Rule of law would have to be on the top of my list of the issues that are holding back the development potential of Nepal. It permeates everything. Again, that relationship between citizen and State is so important: What a citizen can be sure of and what is up to the citizen’s connections is just too blurry for most citizens to plan around. It’s too unpredictable.
Again, talking about long term situations – changing, turning rule of law around – requires sustained effort. You have to look at everything from legislative and legal framework to salaries and levels of compensation for civil servants, to the equipment you can provide to the law enforcement agencies. You have to take on some very, very vested interests in order to change the current status quo.
You know as well as I do that, now, five years on from signing the comprehensive peace agreement, there has not been one single prosecution of anyone accused of serious crimes and war crimes. Not one.
DUNHAM: Not on either side: the Maoists or the security forces.
PIPER: Yes, not one. The UN is very strong on indicators. And it’s been pressed on us that it’s no good telling us, “What a great job you’ve done.” How do you measure it? We’ve done a tremendous amount of work training and institution-building and support on writing laws and legislation. But at the end of the day, with not a single prosecution, you have to measure how much progress we have made. I think the answer is: Frankly, very limited progress so far.
There’s the debate that, maybe, this is not the right time to do it. It’s too destabilizing -- that justice will follow after we have the peace. That kind of thing.
DUNHAM: But that line of thinking does delay everything else.
PIPER: It holds up everything else and it touches every aspect of life. It’s not just the emblematic cases, like Maina Sunuwar, the girl who was killed by security forces. But it’s the day-to-day reality as well. It’s the line outside the passport office and what it takes to get yourself to the front of the queue. It’s the line outside the petrol stations. It’s the grey areas in Nepal’s administration and economy. All of these things really do affect every corner of life for the average Nepali citizen. It’s a huge problem.