Election is not an end in itself but start of something bigger: UN Resident Coordinator McGoldrick

Monday, Nov 18, 2013 18:07 PM (6 years ago)Total Hits: 686

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In Nepal since August 10, 2013, UN Resident Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick is also Director of UN Information Center. Prior to his appointment in Nepal, McGoldrick was the Resident Coordinator in Georgia. He also served at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, Switzerland. Also former Chief of Humanitarian Coordination Support Section, McGoldrick also served as Chief of OCHA's Humanitarian Reform Support Unit in 2006. Having served as news producer and researcher in UK, McGoldrick has the experience of working in Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, West Bank and Pakistan. With the election just a day away, Mr. McGoldrick shared his views on the ongoing electoral process with Gopal Guragain for Ujyaalo radio and online. Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Nepal is having election tomorrow. What are most important things you think the Nepalese voters should consider in tomorrow's election?

I think the first thing they should do is go out and exercise their right to vote. They should then look for the party that offers them the best features for all the population of Nepal that accommodates and respects the diversity that's present here in Nepal, at the same time that is based on the principles of transparency and accountability. So to vote tomorrow is an opportunity for the people to decide who they think best suits for the interest of Nepal and the ones that don't suit the interest of themselves and Nepal.

This time we are having a significant number of youth voters. They are voting for the first time. Any messages for the ones who are voting for the first time?

Well, I think it is very important that anybody that has the ability to vote and the right to vote should exercise that right. In any country, having the right to vote is a hard-won battle. And the people doing it for the first time, I think, will have to take the responsibility of deciding who they think suits best for their views, who will take their views ahead and they progress the way they see it. And the elections are only one step in the direction Nepal is going. And hopefully, after the elections, we then start addressing people's concerns which are normal concerns of the economy, normal concerns of the ability to find jobs, good education and good services. So the election is not an end in itself. It should be the start of something bigger. And people should recognize that.

Lots of things are happening at the time of the election. One is the strike called by the parties who do not believe in this sort of exercise. And your previous statement also came under some controversy. Do you want to clarify on that?

The statement was made on behalf of the ambassadors of the international community here. The purpose of that statement was that people who are participating in the elections should be allowed to do so. People who chose not to take part, as long as they do it peacefully, that's not undemocratic. It is a part of a democratic process; it's the choice that people make. But people who interfere with other people's rights to exercise their voting, using violence and threats to intimidate or prevent people from voting is undemocratic. But peaceful boycotting is something different.

Tomorrow we are having election and still the bandh continues. The EC is facing a lot of obstacles while the violation of the code of conduct by the contesting parties and candidates also continues. Do you think under these circumstances, the election will be free and fair?

There have been bandhs and strikes. But we can see that hasn't interfered so much. There have been incidents but, from what I have been told, the incidents in terms of violence and intimidations, the fatalities are much lesser. So one would say that there will be an open competition; there is hope that the people will have the chance to voice their choices freely and the people will be able to go and undertake the democratic rights free from violence and intimidation. And that is what we would expect. It seems that will be the case. I think there are enough election observers here, both national and international. I think the security forces have shown enough discipline and restraints to allow the code of conduct to prevail.

Do you want to say anything to those who are trying to stop the election on behalf of the international community?

I speak on behalf of the UN. What the UN hopes for is that the people get the chance to vote, be allowed to use the vote to actually bring about the change they are looking for in Nepal. And some parties who wish not to take part in the election is their choice. However, I would say that beyond the election, there is a post-election world which looks at some of the bigger issues, which, I think, will have to be addressed – the local elections, drafting of constitution, the transitional adjust issues. And I think not just the parties but also the stakeholders and civil society will have to be engaged in those processes. And we must start some sort of dialogue for national consensus after the election process is over.

What are the roles the UN is playing to make this election happen, as I understand the UN is very much engaged in this election process?  

I see this as very much a government-led process. Anything that the UN or the international community does is to support the government in that regard. Specifically, the UN, along with the donor partners, is providing support technically to the Election Commission in many different ways from procurement to the supply of the paper, printing materials and machinery. On the other hand, we have been working on other parts with the international community to encourage this election to take place. We have got 10 international advisors, two each in the five regions in Nepal. They are there to work with the EC, CDOs and the other parts of the government structures to ensure that these elections are run along according to the international standards. The electoral observers come in here to ensure that the code of conduct is followed and to view the way the system works in this specific election.

People understand that the UN is supporting lots of development activities in Nepal. Tomorrow the people are electing the next government and the constituent assembly along with the parliament. Do you have any special message for those with whom you are working directly and indirectly?

This is the election for the people of Nepal to create the government for Nepal. We, as the UN, are here to support the electoral process. We are looking for the opportunities to further that engagement with different parts and hopefully, at one point of time, the local elections will take place and will have the local structure. Then we can build on to that to transparency and accountability that is required. What we're looking for is for Nepal to reach its development goals. It's an indication that Nepal is heading the right direction. There has to be more equitable spread of development because in some remote areas, people haven't been touched by the development as they should have. I think our task is, as international community and the UN, to make sure the people do feel the benefit of the international assistance and support to Nepal. 

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