UNAMA: Good morning everybody, my name is Aleem Siddique from UNAMA Spokesperson’s Office. Welcome to our press conference this morning. We are very pleased to be joined today by the United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, who will be making some brief remarks about the work of UNAMA and our focus at the moment. We will be happy to take some brief questions from you after we’ve heard some remarks from the SRSG.
SRSG KAI EIDE
Thank you very much and thank you for coming here today. There are a few issues I wanted to raise with you today.
Let me first of all mention the incidents and reported civilian casualties in Nuristan and Nangarhar. Let me emphasise that this is of grave concern to us and I have discussed last week these issues with President Karzai in general terms. It’s a grave concern to him, and of grave concern to us. I’ve spoken yesterday and this morning with the Commander of ISAF about these incidents in particular. I strongly support the call by President Karzai for an investigation into these incidents. The Commander of ISAF has told me that they are conducting their own investigations into this. As is always the case UNAMA will also look into these incidents and try to verify what the facts are. But I must emphasise these kinds of incidents and reports are of very grave concern.
Then I wanted to say a few words about my trip to Islamabad last week. I met the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and also other high ranking officials there. I emphasised very strongly that the insurgency threat is a threat shared by both countries and they have to be addressed also by more regular and intense political dialogue between the two countries. I emphasised the importance of the Jirga [meeting of tribal elders] process that was established last summer and the importance of this process continuing and I was assured by the Pakistani authorities that they will be ready to do so. But I also emphasised the importance of the leaders speaking regularly to each other; and to speak to each other in a problem solving manner. And I would strongly warn against any statements or developments which could hamper or create further complications in the establishment of such a political dialogue.
Then a few words about our organisation UNAMA: As you aware we announced last week that we will open a new office in Tirin Kot. And today I would like to announce that we also have plans to open a new office in Pul-i-Khumri in Baghlan province. Our longer term perspective is to be able to open in total six new offices between now and autumn 2009. Now I must emphasise that where we open offices we must be able to provide added value. What do I mean by that? We must be able to reach the most vulnerable groups where we establish our offices. And we must be able to conduct a comprehensive political outreach and dialogue programme with various parts of the communities where we establish our offices. It means addressing those who are in the greatest needs and it means trying to bring people together in dialogue. Why do I emphasise this? It is because this is the way I want the United Nations to be perceived. I emphasise that we are at the service of the Afghan people. It is important to me I want that to be visible on the ground that this is what we are.
One other important element when we establish offices. It is important to me and to us that we are able to operate independently from international military forces. The roles must not be mixed or confused. And I want the Afghan people where we are engaged to see that we have a distinct, separate mandate and that we are independent. And I want to operate in a way which can ensure the trust and support of the Afghan people. It is an essential precondition for our efforts wherever we go.
To do what we want to do will require significant additional resources. And I am urging New York and the United Nations Headquarters to provide us with those resources. They are absolutely essential for us to be able to do what I want us to do. We have the support of the international community but I want that resource to be translated into tangible commitments, which means an ability to expand the mission both here and on the ground to do useful work. And I am going to New York later today to address the Security Council on Wednesday and this will of course be one of major pleas to the Security Council: provide me with the resources that I need in order to fulfil the mandate that you have given me.
A few words about the JCMB [Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board} meeting that we had yesterday. What was to me the main purpose of that meeting? The Paris Conference and the declaration coming out of that conference and the ANDS gave us a basis for a new start. But that new start now has to be reflected here on the ground in Afghanistan. I am pleased to say that the international community is united in its view and its perspectives on what we need to do. President Karzai has started the process of addressing all the challenges that the Afghan Government is facing as a result of the Paris Conference.
As I have said to all the participants yesterday that we cannot any longer continue as we have done so far, we cannot navigate by autopilot. We have to navigate by sight in what is a new landscape and until we get used to that landscape and then we can switch on the autopilot again but then on a new course.
There is no doubt in my mind that we have achieved significant results over the last years. But there are serious concerns with regard to aid effectiveness, with regard to corruption and with regard to accountability. We will try to monitor the aid flow and we will try to do that in a way that is in accordance with the commitments undertaken in the Paris declaration. We will certainly be there to support both the Afghan Government and the international community. But I insist that we also do our utmost to play a watchdog role.
At every press meeting and every meeting I attend I am asked the same question – Are we effective enough? Is corruption fought effectively enough? Is there accountability with regard to our resources? And if we do not manage to address it we will undermine the support that we have from the Afghan people and from the people in the donor community and we cannot allow that to happen.
Finally with regard to civilian casualties: We just heard an explosion outside in the vicinity of this office. This kind of act also puts a great number of civilian lives at risk. It’s cowardly and it has to be condemned in the strongest way.
And then to conclude we have seen over the last months repeated incidents of looting and burning of food provided by the World Food Programme to the most needy in this country. Our estimates at this stage show that between January and June this year that 466 tons of food have been looted or burnt. And what does that mean? It means food for about 7,800 families for one month or for 46,000 people. There is so much need in this country and we are trying to address those needs and these kinds of acts can only be characterized as shameful. And it deserves the attention of us and of the media and everybody in this country. Because what is happening is that the most vulnerable people in this country are deprived of what they need for their existence.
Thank you very much.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
BBC: You said that you are leaving later today for New York to address the Security Council. Right now what is your main concern regarding the security situation in Afghanistan and do you think that the security situation will have a big effect on the reconstruction in Afghanistan?
SRSG: Of course I am concerned about the security challenges. We are in the middle of the most difficult months from a security point of view. Let me say, nevertheless I find this period very challenging. I will also explain this to the Security Council. And of course it has a negative impact on our efforts for development and humanitarian assistance. As I have just described with regards to the food assistance it has a serious effect and it has serious effects with regards to our efforts to bring progress to the people of Afghanistan. So I am concerned about the situation we find ourselves in.
RFE/RL [translated from Dari]: You talked about the civilian casualties during two recent bombardments, and that they were killed by Coalition Forces. Did you talk with the international military forces? And if it continues like this, don’t you think it will create a gap between the people of Afghanistan and the military forces?
SRSG: As I said it is a matter of great concern to us. Yes I discussed this with the Commander of ISAF repeatedly, including this morning. And we will sit together and discuss these matters further. I must say I attach great importance to achieving as much clarity as possible with regards to such incidents. And therefore I am very much in favour of the investigations that the President has called for. It is really important, when you have different versions of events, that we manage to establish the facts as precisely as possible and that we are also able to make public and make known to the public what the facts are. And I can assure you that this will be part of the dialogue that I will have in the future both with the Commander of ISAF and with President Karzai whose concerns I share.
Ariana TV [translated from Dari]: This is not the first time that civilians have died in bombardments by coalition forces. Will you mention civilian casualties at the Security Council?
SRSG: It is obvious that civilian casualties will be one of the topics that I will touch upon when I am in New York and I will share my concerns with the members of the Security Council.
GMA [translated from Dari]: In your opening remarks you mentioned that you would not follow the approaches of the past and that you have new approaches in regard to aid effectiveness for example. Can you tell us what the differences between the old and new approaches are?
SRSG: We have all read the reports that have come out from various NGOs, institutions, etc in regard to aid effectiveness in the last months. The day I arrived in Afghanistan a report concerning aid effectiveness from ACBAR came out. I won’t go into a discussion on whether or not the figures are right. The precise figures really don’t matter much to me. That was not a scientific report but it pointed the finger at some of the important elements in the lack of aid effectiveness. I think we have come a long way over the last few weeks and it was manifested in the Paris declaration. It was there that the donor community took upon itself to spend more money inside the country, spend more resources through the budget, make greater use of local procurement of goods and services and ensure that it is Afghan plans and priorities that are directing our efforts and finally all the provinces are treated in an equitable manner. These are the precise commitments of the Paris declaration and now we have to live up to them. But the fact that we have these commitments, I consider it as an important step forward. It will also provide a basis from which we here at UNAMA will certainly try to bring the donors together.
But there is another part of this. I said this in Paris and I always have been saying this, that it is a two-way street. It is a bargain between two parties. It is a commitment between two parties, the international community and the Afghan Government. Everyday I am confronted with the question, is the money well spent, is corruption being fought? These questions have to be answered now. I am encouraged by the fact that we see progress with regard to legislation and we see that these issues are being more seriously addressed with regards for instance on establishing audit mechanisms on the Afghan side and jointly between the international community and the Afghan Government. Now we have to put these mechanisms in place to reassure the Afghan people that yes the money will reach you and we build your benefit. We have to assure the international community and the public in the international community that the money is well spent.
I want to add one thing. We often focus on summit meeting in Bucharest, ministerial meetings in Paris and that decisions are made there. But the real decisions are not made around these tables. The real decisions are made around [Afghan] kitchen tables. Hundreds of thousands of kitchen tables that form public opinion. They have to see, be it Afghanistan or partner countries that provide resources, they have to see that they can have trust, that the resources are well spent and reach those who need them the most.
SALAM WATANDER RADIO [translated from Dari]: You mentioned new approaches, especially in terms of the equal distribution of assistance to each province. Do you mean that those people who have received assistance equally in the past, should be hopeful from now on that they will be considered and assistance will reach them?
SRSG: I emphasize constantly that we have to take the nationwide perspective and not the perspective that is province focused. We have to make sure that those provinces that are peaceful and do not grow poppy, perhaps have a good governor – that they receive the resources that they are entitled to. There must be an even distribution – people must see that there is progress across the country and that resources are not only focused on certain specific provinces. That is important to bring the country more closely together and for people to feel that there is justice in the way we all address the development in this country.
TOLO TV [translated from Dari]: You said that assistance is provided on the condition that corruption is cracked down on, as well as providing for capacity building. What are your short-term or long-term plans on these two issues?
SRSG: The corruption issue I have already addressed. I have said in Paris and later, that I believe this country needs a massive, I repeat massive, institution building programme. There are important efforts going on I have no doubt, but we need to look at the various pieces in the institution building efforts and see are they sufficient. To my mind, they are not sufficient. If that is correct, how do we fill out the pieces that are not there? We need to create institutions that first of all that can deliver services and secondly, can provide trust. This is one of the priorities that I concluded after the Paris conference.
My second priority as I have mentioned before, are key economic sectors like agriculture and energy – let me just say a few words about agriculture. If you look at the production levels, year-by-year in Afghanistan – I saw one statistic where it can vary up to fifty percent from one year to another. And that to me is an illustration of the urgent need for agricultural reform.
One, absolutely final comment: Many of you are concerned about the way we spend money and you raise questions about this. But please focus also on those who ruin our efforts, and that’s why I mentioned the tons and tons of food which is being destroyed. Please focus on this as well because these are some of our best efforts to help the most vulnerable, people who we don’t always see, people we don’t always reach – the most needy, and those are the ones who do not receive the resources that will spend and spend well, in order to help the most vulnerable groups. So aid effectiveness is important; fighting corruption is important, but also addressing this shameful phenomenon of preventing people from obtaining the food that they urgently need.
Thank you very much.