UNMIN is the UN's largest operational mission. UNMIN consists in all of a little over 1,000 persons and the total number of monitors working in the field is 242 from 4 different nations.
Nepal has been the scene of armed conflict since 1996. The Maoists' combat forces, known as the "Peoples Liberation Army" (PLA), took up arms in an attempt to change the government of the country in its own way. Initially the fighting was mostly between the police and the PLA but, after two years or so of fighting, the King brought in the Nepal Army.
Both parties committed serious breaches of what we call international law, leading to some 30,000 deaths and a great many injured. The Maoists controlled approximately 70 percent of the country's land area, but not the main urban areas, when the peace agreement was concluded on 21 November 2006. The so-called Comprehensive Peace Accord between the government of Nepal and the Maoist party is intended to guarantee, among other things:
- That the people of Nepal will be able to vote in democratic elections without having to fear for their own safety.
- A new era for Nepal's opportunity to become a democratic state, irrespective of ethnic origin, religion, gender or other factors.
- None of the parties to the conflict are to engage in tactical military movements.
- Weapons are to be collected and kept under guard.
- Soldiers under 18 years of age are to be sent home.
Nepal, including all parties involved, made a request to the UN asking for support for the peace process. This should be implemented through means which included the deployment "in the field" of suitably qualified civil observers who also possessed military competence.
In short, UNMIN's task was to assist in the recording of weapons belonging to both the PLA and the Nepal Army. Each party handed in exactly the same quantities of weapons and these weapon containers are guarded by UNMIN on a 24-hour basis.
The PLA gathered its army in seven "Main Cantonment Sites" (MCS) with one division at each site and these are constantly monitored by UNMIN. The Nepal Army is not permitted to leave its barracks without permission.
UNMIN has on two occasions also carried out the recording of PLA soldiers so that all those under 18 years of age, and those who have joined the PLA after November 2006, could be sent home. The intention is that, in the longer term, the PLA could be integrated with the Nepal Army or other security forces.
In addition UNMIN carries out mobile patrols or helicopter patrols throughout Nepal, making visits both to the civil local authorities and to the local population at large.
UNMIN will also assist with the work of preparing for the forthcoming government elections.
Sweden sent three monitors from the Armed Forces at the end of March 2007. SIDA also sent five monitors (all with military backgrounds) for a period of six months as a free service to the UN.