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Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the conditions in temporary camps housing Maoist sympathisers in Nepal. (109727)

Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (21 November 2006) by the Seven Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and subsequent Agreement on the Monitoring of Arms and Armies (28 November 2006), the combatants of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are moving to 28 military camps (or cantonments) around Nepal. The Agreements state that here they would be registered by the UN and have their weapons locked up and monitored by the UN. After the holding of Constituent Assembly elections, scheduled for June 2007, these combatants would either be integrated into the Nepal Army or helped reintegrate back into civilian life.

The Maoists have already moved several thousand of their combatants to the sites of these proposed camps. Given that infrastructure has not yet been set up, the conditions at these sites are extremely basic. As an interim measure, the GON has provided funds directly to the Maoists to enable them to purchase food and basic plastic sheeting shelter for their combatants. Due to Maoist sensitivities and the desire of GON to lead this process, donor projects cannot go to sites and make unilateral assessments.

However, given the importance of the success of the cantonments of PLA to the peace process, several donors, including DFID have offered the services of their rural infrastructure programmes located in the districts where camps are to be constructed to assist with setting up the camps. Assessments of need are being undertaken now, and the first proposals for providing immediate support are being developed.

DFID is working with the Government of Nepal to come up with appropriate and affordable solutions for establishment and management of the camps. Given the sensitivities of the parties involved, achieving consensus on the way forward is slow, but progress is being made.