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Former U.S. President and Carter Center Co-Founder Jimmy Carter's Address to Nepal's Parliament

It is a great honor for me to return to Nepal, where my wife and I first came as tourists. I was then 60 years old, and it was a thrill to visit the Pokhora region and to climb well above the Mount Everest base camp to a peak called Kala Patthar. Having just left the White House, I was privileged to meet the royal family and political leaders, as well as the wonderful Sherpa guides and to have leisurely visits among the monasteries in the high mountains. We then enjoyed the beauties of the Terai, on the border with India.

I have come this year representing The Carter Center, with no official status, no authority, and no relationship to the government of my nation. Our team has been here for most of this year, having been formally invited by the government, the major political parties, and the national election commission to observe the election of a constituent assembly to write a new constitution.

Our center has monitored 69 other elections around the world, and we look forward to this demonstration of your commitment to a transition from disharmony, discrimination, and conflict to peace, justice, and democracy.

Our experienced observers have visited all of Nepal's 75 districts, most several times, to evaluate election preparations, voter education efforts, the security environment, and access to the political process. They have met with leaders in district headquarters and at the village level, and with as many private citizens as possible.

In June and on this visit I have had an opportunity to consult with Prime Minister Koirala and other leaders of the major political parties, with members of the election commission, with Madheshi representatives, Dalit and women's activists, prominent members of civil society, leaders of the indigenous nationalities, chief of the army staff, P.L.A. deputy commanders, UNMIN head Ian Martin, and several ambassadors.

The international community is observing this process of peace and reconciliation with great admiration but with growing concern because of postponement of two scheduled elections and the government's failure to implement multiple terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

I am so proud and grateful, however, that parties formerly in conflict now persists in resolving differences within this legislative body through private negotiation and public debate. You know better than anyone that the alternative to success is the disillusionment of the Nepali people and a return to civil strife and possible bloodshed.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement and many others have been negotiated among government leaders, the Maoists, and the traditionally marginalized groups. It is crucial that these agreements be implemented, and not separated from the effort to schedule an election. The two are inseparable, and neither can be consummated without the other. The failure to keep promises already made has disillusioned the public and created distrust among political leaders. They are clear to all of us:

There is an agreement for the government to pay a monthly salary to P.L.A. soldiers in cantonments, to provide adequate living conditions in the camps, and to make arrangements to assist those discharged to resume normal life. This has not been done.

There is an agreement by the Maoists to discharge individuals from the cantonments who are ineligible and to account for funds received from the government. This has not yet been done.

It was agreed that all land seized during the conflict would be returned, but only modest progress has been made. A dedicated and competent land commission is necessary to complete this process.

Peace was to have been maintained, but there are frequent reports of violence harassment, and extortion by members of the Young Communist League. Such violence is unacceptable and is damaging the image of Maoists at home and abroad.

Additionally, large sections of Nepal, particularly in the Terai, are insecure due to violence by armed groups as well as a lack of government security presence and proper action by the police to maintain law and order. Without firm backing and direction from Kathmandu, fearful government employees are leaving their posts.

There has been no promised reform of the Nepal army, and the "special committee for the integration and rehabilitation of the combatants of the Maoist army" has been inactive.

The status of people who disappeared during the war is still not known, and compensation for war victims' families is long overdue.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement mandated the establishment of a national peace and rehabilitation commission, but it has not been established.

The exciting and innovative agreements signed with the Madheshis, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups have yet to be implemented.

These are serious matters, and cannot be separated from the election process. However, this lack of progress should not be a source of discouragement. The leaders of Nepal have demonstrated time and again your wisdom, patience, and determination to succeed. The agreements already reached have defined a future for your nation that is clear and inspirational.

You have already made the major decisions and a clear pathway to peace and democracy has been defined. A general consensus seems to prevail that this will be a republic, and this declaration needs to be made legally irrevocable.

Basic rights of the formerly marginalized peoples depend on proportional representation and quotas based on the most recent census. The primary political struggles now are about the minimal future strength of the major political parties. I have been in politics, and I understand these motivations t remain in office, but your paramount responsibility at this crucial time in this nation's history is the overall wellbeing of the general population.

The government holds executive power and members of parliament have a duty to take strong action to implement the agreements already reached, to establish committees to monitor progress, and to keep the public informed, my hope is that you will soon reach reasonable compromised on the controversial issues and will set a firm and timely date for the constituent assembly election.

Yours is a sovereign nation, an all the decisions about its future are in your hands. However, you should utilize fully the great interest of the United Nations and the international community and, when appropriate, accept financial assistance and support.

These are historic moments, as you fulfill the great responsibilities that have been placed in your hands. We wish you well.

Learn more about the Carter Center's work in Nepal

24 November 2007: Statement by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Nepal

23 November 2007: Nepal Peace Proposal

6 October 2007: Carter Center Statement on the Nepal Election Delay

3 October 2007: Nepal's Peace Process at Critical Juncture; Carter Center Appeals to all Nepali Political Actors to Work Together for Elections

10 August 2007: Carter Center Urges Nepal to Continue Progress for Nov. 22 Elections

16 June 2007: Statement by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Nepal

12 June 2007:  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to Visit Nepal

8 June 2007: The Carter Center International Election Observation Mission in Nepal: Second Pre-Election Statement

16 April 2007:  Pre-Election Statement: Carter Center Election Observation Mission in Nepal

9 March 2007:  The Carter Center Deploys Election Observers in Nepal

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