Tassos Coulaloglou

Tassos Coulaloglou (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Tassos was born and raised in New Jersey. He attended the University of Wisconsin (UW) and graduated with his BS in Political Science in 2001. Tassos spent one year studying abroad at Utrecht University in Holland while in his final year at UW, After graduation, Tassos moved to Lithuania to become a freelance journalist and teach high-school history and English as a second language. In 2004, he returned to the States to work as a team leader with the League of Conservation's Envirovictory political campaign in Milwaukee. He returned to Eastern Europe the following year and resumed writing before starting graduate school. At the time of his fellowship, Tassos was studying for a Master's degree in International Relations and Diplomacy offered jointly by Leiden University and the Clingendael in Holland. After his fellowship, Tassos wrote: “...now in class, I try to break the Euro/America-centric positions that seem to dominate and ask what the Nepali view would be…this fellowship pushed me to understand a people, to think in their terms."

Arms monitors visit Baglung

18 Jun

Yesterday, I attended a meeting in Baglung held by the UN arms monitors for the western region of Nepal. It was essentially a meet and greet, an opportunity for the UN to explain what exactly they will be doing in the area and make clear their limited mandate. The current Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the Maoists and the seven political parties in Nepal asked the UN to supervise the activities and arms of the two sides.

For the Maoists, this means that their forces are confined to certain cantonments and their weapons are under UN lock and key every night. Essentially, these cantonments serve as barracks from which observers can monitor the activities of the Maoist units. The Nepalese Army (changed from Royal Nepalese Army after the people’s revolution last year) have also been monitored in their bases. Both sides must register their troop movements and many times are accompanied by UN observers when on exercise (this applies more to the Nepalese Army).

There will be three different departments within the UN mission: a static team to oversee the cantonment sights; a mobile unit to check military deployments of both sides; and Joint Monitoring Units to investigate noncompliance to the arms monitoring agreement.

UN arms monitors leaving the meeting with community leaders in Baglung.

In my opinion the most interesting aspect of the mission is the JMUs. There are two three-man teams, comprising one Maoist, army, and UN military official. Beyond their investigative role, the JMUs will attempt to diffuse potential conflicts that arise in the region, be they military or otherwise. Furthermore, as they roam their areas they will assess the humanitarian needs of the various villages they visit and report back to UN headquarters in Kathmandu who will find potential donors from member countries.

When the meeting finished, I was chatting with one of the UN monitors, a Finish officer who was one of the first to arrive in Nepal and was second in command of the arms monitoring program. I asked if it was standard UN operating procedure for military personnel to engage in humanitarian assessments. He said it was not.

“We’re not talking about major aid projects. The Nepalese soldiers, on both sides, know the people and if they see a need, they will report it back. These will be small things: a school room or water pump, not a bridge or a road.”

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Jun 18th, 2007

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