The Council has before it a report of the Secretary-General that outlines all the major developments since last July. My briefing will therefore focus on a few key issues, and in particular, those which have arisen since I last had the privilege of appearing before the Council, on 19September.
As Members of the Council know, security remains a priority concern for the people of Afghanistan. Sporadic fighting continues to erupt from time to time, particularly in the North, the South East, and, to a lesser extent in the West.
The Government does not yet have the means to deal in an effective manner with the underlying problems which are the cause of these threats to security.
The Government, with the support of the UN, can only address the symptoms, and, like fire-brigade, the Government’s and our interventions aim at putting out the local fires, rather than preventing their occurrence. Once again, the factional leaders in the North, Generals Abdul Rashid Dictum and Atta Mohammad have been brought together to control those of their commanders who are responsible for the repeated incidents these past few weeks.
The Government has also intervened to stop the fighting between Ismael Khan and Amanullah Khan in the West. In the South East, it was hoped that the forcible eviction of Pasha Khan Zadora would put an end to insecurity in the region. This hope proved premature, however, and clashes continue to occur there. As a result of these incidents, we have to deplore the heavy toll of more than 50 deaths throughout the country and about as many wounded, many of them civilians.
In addition, and just as deplorable as the clashes between armed groups and the resultant loss of life, are all the daily abuses to which the civilian populations subjected to in many parts of the country, including Kabul. Speaking at a Seminar organized by the Supreme Court last week, President Karzai expressed his frustration and that of the people of Afghanistan in very strong terms and directed a blunt warning to those who were responsible for the continuing insecurity in the country.
There will be no long term solution to the security problems of Afghanistan unless and until a well-trained, well equipped and regularly paid National Police and National Army are in place. With Germany as the lead nation, work is proceeding well as far as the National Police is concerned.
Things are slower and more complicated with the National Army. The National Defense Commission has had some useful consultations in September and early October. But the results it has achieved so far remain unsatisfactory. It is hoped that the Commission will resume its work soon and produce clear, credible and achievable plan for the formation of the National Army.
In our opinion, Mr. President, such a plan needs to include the following elements:
a) The reform of the Ministry of Defense;
b) The firm commitment of all factional and regional leaders (who areal members of the National Defense Commission) to integrate their respective armies within the National Army through a process which would lead to part of their forces being phased into the National Army and the rest disarmed and phased out;
c) This would further require a comprehensive demobilization and reintegration programmer to help present and former combatants return to dignified civilian life, and, lastly;
d) The training started by the US, as lead nation and France should be integrated within a comprehensive national training programmer, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Defense.
It is encouraging that the Vice President and Minister of Defense Rahim Khan, as well as other factional leaders, have repeatedly expressed their commitment to these principles.
It is hoped that the necessary financial resources will be made available from donors to support the formation of the National Police and the National Army. Of course, the formation of a National Police and that of a National Army will take time. But if both programmers are firmly on track, the peace process will be consolidated and security very significantly improved long before the last policeman or the last soldier are trained.
In the meantime, I can only repeat what the Secretary-General and I have said consistently since the Bonn Conference: the Government and the people of Afghanistan need and ask for international support to provide security while the National Police and National Army are being trained.
The Political Process and National Commissions
Mr. President, a Drafting Committee to prepare the new Constitution has been formed and announced by the Government, one month later than called for in the Bonn Agreement. This delay will not affect the schedule of works the draft Constitution will only be submitted to the Constitutionally Jirga at the end of next year. The Committee has started its work and UNAMA is providing support as mandated by the Bonn Agreement.
At the Supreme Court Seminar, on 24 October, President Karzai also said that he would formally announce the creation of a new Judicial Commission this week. Considerable time has been lost in this regard as the earlier Commission was recognized as being insufficiently independent.
There is substantial and very welcome interest in the international community for both the constitutional and judicial reform processes. Promises have been made to provide generous financial support to both Commissions. The Government of Italy, as the lead nation for judicial reform, has already provided some funds to support the establishment of the Judicial Commission. We very much hope that additional funds will be made available soon to support the vast needs for judicial reform as well as for the Constitutional process.
We at UNAMA look forward to a well-coordinated international effort to support those processes on the clear understanding that in these fields, even more than in others, success requires strong national ownership and leadership.
Mr. President, despite gradual progress in some areas, the human rights situation remains worrisome in many respects. Underlying causes of the situation include the lack of security and the weakness of the central government, warlords, persistent factional conflicts in some parts of the country and a very basic and dysfunctional justice system.
Harassment, intimidation and other abuses against the Pashtun ethnic group in the North somewhat receded in the last month or two, but in many of the northern districts, Pashtun IDPs who were obliged to flee their villages are not yet able to return This is particularly the case in the provinces of Farias, Sari Pull and Jazzman. On 17 October, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, UNHCR and UNAMA agreed on the establishment of a “Return Commission for the North” to help overcome these problems.
I should note, however, that these problems transcend human rights and humanitarian concerns and threaten to have an adverse impact on the peace process itself. It is imperative for the Transitional government and other forces committed to the reconstruction of the country to strengthen the idea that Afghanistan belongs to all its citizens regardless of their ethnic origin or political affiliation. Unfortunately, at present local commanders continue to violate the rights of Afghans in remote rural areas with little or no response by any state law enforcement authority.
The situation of women, in spite of the progress made since the falloff the Taliban regime, continues to be a matter of concern in many parts of the country. Local authorities are apparently not intervening in serious cases of domestic violence. Forced marriages are still a frequent phenomenon and exchanges of girls are sometimes used as a dispute settlement tool between families and factions. In order to improve its capacity to identify significant trends on gender issues, UNAMA has encouraged the establishment of data collection, through meetings of a gender network that includes the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, other UN agencies and NGOs.
On the highly publicized issue of gravesites in the North, we are of the view that impartial investigations should commence as soon as possible. UNAMA agrees with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that the following steps should be taken:
(a) A multi-site investigation should be undertaken, reflecting a politically impartial approach;
(b) Investigations should at present have the limited objective of finding and preserving evidence. At this stage, given the conflictive and volatile situation in the North and the fact that we cannot provide effective protection to witnesses, we cannot go beyond that objective.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is negotiating on behalf of UNAMA with experienced forensic teams to carry out the technical aspects of the investigation into the gravesites which have been identified. Regrettably, we are now receiving answers from those forensic experts that it would be difficult to start the investigations before next spring because of adverse weather conditions during winter months.
We still believe that some preparatory work could and should be done before the winter, at least on the protection of the sites. [It will be important to convey our intention to proceed, in an impartial manner, and to defuse the tensions caused by the exclusive media focus on the gravesite addict-e-Lily.]
On a positive note, the support-project to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has now become operative. Donors have shown significant interest in contributing to the Commission, which will soon be able to recruit additional staff and start opening its regional offices throughout the country. UNAMA and the OHCHR are facilitating the provision of technical assistanceand expertise in accordance with the programme of work established bythe Commission itself.
UNAMA’ investigation and monitoring capacity has been strengthened with the arrival of new staff members assigned specifically to the area of human rights. The Mission now has one international human rights officer in each of its regional offices, and we envisage that each of these staff will be assisted by two national officers.
Two Especial rapporteurs have visited Afghanistan very recently: Ms. Asha Jahangir, special rapporteur on extra judiciary, summary and arbitrary executions and Kamal Hossain, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan.
Mr. President, another key component of the Bonn process is the preparation for elections, which are called for by the middle of 2004. As I informed the Council in September, the Electoral Division of DPA visited Afghanistan and consultations are underway with the Afghan authorities as well as with donors on how to proceed with the various issues that need to be addressed. Among these are the formation of an Electoral Commission, the determination of elector- identification systems, the drafting of an electoral law and other laws governing the functioning of political parties.
II. Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction
On the relief, recovery and reconstruction side, a very successful meeting of the Implementation Group (IG) was held in Kabul in mid-October, bringing together the government, donors, the UN and other multilateral and NGO partners. The government presented a working draft of its Development Plan and Budget, which outlines a vision for Afghanistan’s budget and its priorities.
The working draft was developed through a consultative process, led by a tri-partite group comprised of the Ministries of Finance, Planning and Reconstruction and supported by the Programmed Secretariats and UNAMA. This illustrated how far the government has come in developing policies and decisions through intra-ministerial processes.
The draft budget arranges the government’s programmer into 12 areas, organized within three pillars: 1) Human Capital and Social Protection, 2) PhysicalInfrastructure, and 3) Trade and Investment and Rule of Law/Security. The next step will be to present a full National Development Budget, before the beginning of the Afghan fiscal year in March 2003.
Pending the finalization of the budget, the government has identified number of national projects as priority areas for the period through March 2003. These are: the ongoing National Solidarity and Public Works Programmed, and projects in Education, Infrastructure, Urban Infrastructure and Water Resources Investment, National Governance and Transport (major roads and airports).
The government has received enough funds to cover its operating budget for the current fiscal year, and the donors are to be commended for this generosity. However, if the government is to sustain its efforts, further revenue from the regions will have to be returned to the government coffers.
Progression the New Afghan Currency
The Government has taken an important step to reform the country’s finances through the introduction of a new currency. This ongoing process aims to revitalize the financial and banking systems throughout the country and end the ability of other groups to print money. The UN is helping the government implement this important project.
One promising example of the UN’s effort to complement government-led efforts is the 2003 consolidated appeal for Afghanistan. Called the Transitional Assistance Programmed for Afghanistan or TAPA, it will set out the priorities, strategies and requirements for coordinated international assistance in support of relief, recovery and reconstruction during2003 and beyond.
It will be structured to fit in with the government budget cycle, and, most importantly, its programmers will build upon the priorities and programmers set out by the government during its budget process.
Thus, theta PA should reflect immediate and medium term aims for reconstruction and recovery as laid out in the National Development Budget, while at the same time addressing urgent humanitarian needs associated with the effects of drought, conflict and large population movements. Consultations between government counterparts, NGOs, donors and UN agencies are currently underway to finalize this document.
At the present moment, the government and the UN are giving a very high priority to preparing for winter, and putting in place the assistance which vulnerable groups will need to survive. Some 2.2 million people have been identified as the most vulnerable and in need of winter assistance, in the North, West, Central Highlands and South. Special attention is being given to those living in rural areas who will potentially be cutoff, and in need of support.
In urban areas, priority will be given to returnees and IDPs who lack adequate shelter or support mechanisms, and extremely vulnerable indigenous families. The UN has begun stockpiling and prepositioning food and shelter items, and plans are being finalized to ensure that access to isolated communities is maintained. However, there are still outstanding needs for shelter, fuel, blankets, and other items, for which additional resources are urgently needed from donors.
National Immunization Efforts
In the health sector, a three-day nation-wide immunization campaign against polio started in Afghanistan on 22 October, supported by the Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). Afghan health professionals have been making significant strides in recent years toward the global objective of polio eradication, a remarkable achievement given the circumstances they face. So far in2002, there have been only seven reported cases of polio, compared to27 two years ago.
With regard to the return of refugees, we remain concerned that Afghanistan does not currently have the capacity to absorb the large numbers of refugees returning. More than 1.5 million Afghans have returned this year from Pakistan alone. Work is therefore being undertaken to coordinate the return process with the host countries.
On 22 October, Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR held discussions on the return operations for the coming year, and an agreement in principle was reached regarding framework for the voluntary repatriation of Afghans from Pakistan. A similar tripartite commission comprising Iran, Afghanistan and Unscrews scheduled to meet on 3 and 4 November in Kabul.
National Counter-Narcotics Strategy
Mr. President, following the IG meeting, the government presented its counter-narcotics strategy at an international meeting in Kabul convened by the National Security Council, which is now in charge of coordinating Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics effort. Unfortunately, a significant increase in opium production is foreseen this year. Expectations are that it will take the best part of a decade before opium production is eradicated, as strengthened legal and security measures, and the creation of alternative livelihoods, become effective realities.
I am often asked if, in the light of events over the last 12 months, there is real scope for optimism in Afghanistan. My answer is a confident but somewhat qualified yes. Considering where it was a year ago, Afghanistan has made remarkable progress. But considering where it needs to go, Afghanistan needs continued commitment from its leaders to work together, to achieve genuine reconciliation, and as I said earlier, to accept and strengthen the idea that Afghanistan belongs to all its citizens.
There is also a continued need for international attention and sustained support to the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan are looking up to the United Nations in general and to this Council in particular to continue to mobilize and organize that support of the international community for the peace process in Afghanistan.
Kabul, 30 October 2002