Justice delayed, justice denied

António Guterres takes to Nepal Parliament as victims of armed conflict and the civil society highlight government attempts to sabotage transitional justice process


UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed a joint session of Parliament on Tuesday as part of his four-day visit to Nepal.

Guterres spoke about global conflicts, Nepal’s transitional justice process, and the impact of climate change on the Himalayas.

During his remarks, Guterres described Nepal as “a promoter of peace, a champion of multilateralism, and a staunch supporter of sustainable development and climate action.”

Guterres said he welcomed efforts to drive progress and find solutions in regard to transitional justice, and that the UN, “respecting Nepali leadership” stood ready to support Nepal.

“We know that transitional justice has the greatest chance of success when it is inclusive, comprehensive, and has victims at its heart--when it centres on truth, reparations and justice,” he said. “When women participate fully. And when all victims of human rights violations can find meaningful redress.”

Meanwhile, victims of Nepal’s decade-long armed conflict were gathered in front of Kathmandu District Court on Tuesday to demand amendments to the Transitional Justice Bill.

Conflict victims' groups appealed to the government and political parties to ensure that the transitional justice process adheres to international standards, the Supreme Court’s verdict, as well as the concerns expressed by survivors.

Transitional justice
Conflict victims gathered in front of Kathmandu District Court on Tuesday to demand amendments to Nepal's Transitional Justice Bill. Photo: SUMAN NEPALI

The UN Secretary-General then shifted focus to climate change and the need for “climate justice”, noting that although Nepal contributes negligible amounts to global carbon emissions, the country, especially the Himalaya have been significantly impacted by the climate crisis.

He also added that he has proposed a Sustainable Development Goal stimulus that would release at least $500 billion a year in affordable long-term finance for sustainable development and climate action in countries like Nepal.

Meanwhile, members of the civil society wrote to the Secretary-General to express gratitude for his stand on Gaza and the need for a humanitarian truce in the region, world peace, Nepal’s transitional justice, and the climate crisis. The letter also warned the UN Secretary-General about ‘national and international ‘spoilers’ wanting to foist a perpetrator-friendly ending to the peace process in the name of elapsed time and geopolitical expediency.’

However, the letter-- signed by former Commissioners of the National Human Rights Commission Gauri Shankar Lal Das and Sushil Pyakurel, MP and former Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Paudyal, activist Hira Bishwakarma, former advisor to the President Tika P. Dhakal, and writer/journalist Kanak Mani Dixit—also expressed disappointment at Guterres not having met with conflict victims.

Wrote the signatories: “It is the victims, as the main stakeholders, who ensured through years of lonely struggle that opportunistic politicians and other players did not derail our transitional justice process. While you did meet the two erstwhile warring sides, you were not able to meet the victims of conflict even though representatives of five organisations had submitted a letter on the morning of 30 October seeking an appointment."

Full text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres' remarks during the joint session of Parliament

Your Excellencies, the two presidents of the two Houses of the Nepali Parliament, Excellencies, distinguished Ministers, Parliamentarians and Friends, allow me, before I start, to express my deep gratitude for the wonderful hospitality that the Government and the people of Nepal have provided to me during these three days.

All the facilities that were put at my disposal have transformed this visit into an enormous success. I learned a lot and I commit to using what I learned to support Nepal in your struggle against climate change and for the development of your country.

When I am here, I am twice at home. I have been astounded. Tthis trip has been no exception. What I have seen and experienced in the past few days will stay with me always. The sunlight hitting the Himalayas, the warmth of the people, the richness of your cultural diversity and, of course, the sanctity of Lumbini.

I thank the Government of Nepal for your invitation, your hospitality and your welcome to me and to my delegation.

Excellencies, we meet today amidst a world in turmoil. Decades of progress on poverty and hunger are being reversed in large parts of the world. Inflation is undermining households and national budgets. Families and countries alike face financial crises. Women are underrepresented and underpaid.

I recognize the enormous effort that Nepal is making in the way for gender equality, full gender equality, and I praise your efforts and its results.

Violence and conflict abound. While the conflict in the Middle East is thousands of miles away, Nepalis were among the many victims of Hamas' brutal attacks in Israel.

I send my sincere condolences to the families of the 10 Nepalese students who were killed and express my best wishes for the safe return of Mr Bipin Joshi, who is missing.

Distinguished parliamentarians, as geopolitical tensions rise, global divisions are becoming deeper and more dangerous. And smaller countries fear becoming collateral damage in the competition between the great powers. And climate catastrophe is accelerating with a deadly force.

In responding to this crisis, the world could learn much from Nepal. This country is a promoter of peace, a champion of multilateralism, and a staunch supporter of sustainable development and climate action.

Nestled between two great powers, you have forged your own path to safeguard your sovereignty and your independence, and your journey over the past 20 years has been wonderful to see. A new republic, with a new constitution, with the UN Charter at its heart.

You were quick to embrace the Sustainable Development Goals, and are making progress on many of them, independently of the difficult financial conditions that developing countries face in today's unfair world.

Your country has successfully calmed the storms of conflict and moved from war to peace, a process the United Nations has been proud to support.

Dear parliamentarian colleagues, Nepal does not stand still. Your dynamic story of progress continues today. Your graduation from the Least Developed Countries status is imminent, and the United Nations is committed to supporting a smooth transition.

You are preparing the final stages of your Nepal-led peace process, healing the wounds of war through transitional justice. A process to bring peace to victims, families and communities haunted by questions and scarred by injustice, and one that will help put the past to rest.

Transitional justice can play a vital role in securing lasting peace. But we all know it's not easy. By nature, it is a delicate and complex process.

We know that transitional justice has the greatest chance of success when it is inclusive, comprehensive and has victims at its heart. When it centres on truth, reparation and justice, when women participate fully, and when all victims of human rights violations can find meaningful redress.

I welcome efforts here in Nepal to drive progress and find solutions in this regard, and want to tell you you are not alone. The United Nations, respecting the Nepali leadership of this process, stands ready to support you, with your victim-centred process and its implementation in line with international standards, and your own Supreme Court's rulings.

The United Nations and Nepal are old friends. Our cooperation runs deep. Nepal has long been a cherished member of the UN family and a powerful voice for developing countries, most recently as chair of the Least Developed Countries Group.

This relatively small country, compared with the big powers, has made an outsized contribution to international peace. Of all the countries on earth, Nepal is the second largest contributor of troops to United Nations Missions, military and police. I am sincerely grateful to the Nepali people for their dedication, their courage and their service in peacekeeping.

I would like to take a moment and ask for one moment of silence to honour those Nepalis who have lost their lives serving under the blue flag.

Their memory will never be forgotten, and the United Nations is proud of the exceptional contribution of Nepali soldiers and police officers in our peacekeeping missions.

Dear parliamentarian colleagues, on climate action, Nepal is a frontrunner. You are on target to reach net zero emissions by 2045. Thanks to extraordinary reforestation efforts, trees now cover almost half of the country. And you are one of the pioneers of the Early Warning Systems for All initiative, which aims to protect every person on earth by 2027.

Yet global crises are hitting Nepal hard, as they are developing countries around the world. The lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, and above all the climate crisis are threatening hard-won development gains and squeezing the funds available for investment.

Nepal contributes a minimal fraction of a percent to global emissions. But monsoons, storms, landslides are growing in force and ferocity, sweeping away crops, livestock and entire villages, decimating economies and ruining lives.

In August, landslides caused by heavy rains caused devastation and killed scores of people. And glaciers are melting at record levels.

I was a witness. Nepal has lost close to a third of its ice in just over 30 years. The effect is devastating. Swollen lakes bursting. Rivers and seas rising. Cultures threatened, and mountainsides exposed, inflaming the risk of rockslides, landslides and avalanches. Threats will continue mounting. Himalayan glaciers provide fresh water to over a billion people. As they shrink, so do river flows.

Now, we have too much floods. But one day in the future, Himalayan rivers like the Hindus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra will have their flows severely limited. Combined with saltwater intrusion, that will decimate deltas in this region and beyond. That could mean low-lying communities and entire countries erased forever— millions of people on the move and fierce competition for water and land.

Nepal is now one of the countries that is suffering the most. But other South Asian countries might become, in the future, terrible victims of the receding glaciers of Nepal.

Dear parliamentarian colleagues, what is happening in this country as a result of climate change is an appalling injustice and a scathing indictment of the fossil fuel age. I am deeply concerned by those communities in Nepal facing the brutal impacts of the climate crisis. The United Nations stands with them. The world must do the same.

That was one of the reasons why I took profit of my visit to the Everest Base Camp to issue a video for the whole world showing the drama of receding glaciers and the impacts that will have in the future.

Nepal and other developing countries need far greater international support to aid development, accelerate climate action and weather the current global storms.

I have proposed a Sustainable Development Goals Stimulus that would release at least $500 billion a year in affordable long-term finance for sustainable development and climate action in developing countries like Nepal. Member States welcomed the proposal at the General Assembly last month and committed to advancing it. I call on them to take action now to make this commitment a reality.

Unfortunately in our world, many times people announce commitments and then do not implement those commitments. These commitments about finance for developing countries and climate action must be implemented.

I urge leaders to act on climate without delay with the biggest emitters leading from the front. All countries must put the acceleration agenda I propose into effect to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C, and they must make COP28 count with a strong outcome building on the so-called global stocktake.

We also need to deliver climate justice. Developed countries must honour the promise of $100 billion a year to support developing countries in climate, and double adaptation finance as a first step of devoting half of climate finance to adaptation.

Investment in the resilience of communities, in the resilience of infrastructure is today a must, because climate change impacts are not a problem of the future, they are felt today by the population—and it is today that developed countries must support countries like Nepal to do the necessary investments in that regard.

The most vulnerable must be at the centre of efforts to build climate resilience. And all parties must operationalise the landmark Loss and Damage Fund at COP28 this year.

There is loss and there is damage. You can see it in Nepal. There must be compensation for it. The Nepali people depend on it, for families that have lost their homes to storms, for communities forced to abandon their villages by rising rivers. Loss and damage is not a negotiating point or a bureaucratic abstraction. It is a lifeline.

Dear parliamentarian colleagues, Nepal has long been a friend to the international system. And today their system is in dire need of refresh, revitalisation and reform. The world is in a state of flux. It is moving towards multipolarity. And that is a good thing. A multipolar world provides new opportunities for leadership and balance on the global stage. But this new dynamic requires strong multilateral institutions to maintain peace.

History shows us that. At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was multipolar. But without strong multilateral institutions, it descended into a war that engulfed the world. That is not a risk we can take.

We need strong, international reformed institutions that reflect the realities of today. But ours, like the Security Council or the Bretton Woods system, mirror the world in a different way. Since they were founded almost 80 years ago. They correspond to 1945—they do not correspond to what is the world in 2023. That must change.

Developing countries must have far greater representation in international institutions. I have called for reform of the outdated United Nations Security Council, and I have proposed measures to reform the global financial architecture so that it better represents developing countries and responds to their needs.

And these proposals are gaining traction at this year's United Nations General Assembly and beyond. But of course, there is always the resistance of those that benefit from the present unfair systems.

The United Nations Summit of the Future next year is an important chance to push further progress, and I count on Nepal's support to help make the change we need a reality.

Dear parliamentarian colleagues, multilateralism must both reflect the world and respond to it. That means creating the institutions and tools we need to address new threats and seize new opportunities.

Today, technology is an example of both. It can solve problems and spur development, or it can entrench divisions and inflame inequality. Today, it is doing too little of the former and too much of the latter.

We need a global response to the technologies that are changing the world at a stunning speed to harness them for the good of humanity. And all countries must have a say, not only the most rich countries in the world that have more resources to develop those new technologies.

My high-level board on Artificial Intelligence includes experts from G77 countries, the global source. It will report this year, so member states can consider global governance options for artificial intelligence. And it must also bring the benefits of technology to all and ensure that in a new technological era no one is left behind.

This is the purpose of the Global Digital Compact the United Nations is proposing. It aims to bring together governments and industries to ensure that technology works for all and accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals. And I hope the Summit of the Future will be an excellent chance to push progress.

As a steadfast champion of multilateralism, peace and developing countries' interests, Nepal will be a vital ally at the summit.

Dear parliamentary colleagues, it has been my great pleasure to visit this extraordinary country over the past few days. What I've seen confirms a simple truth. Nepal is a friend of the world. So the world must be a better friend to Nepal, and the United Nations will never stop fighting to make that a reality.

I thank you.

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