Impromptu Remarks By the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan,Lakhdar Brahimi at the opening ceremony of the United Nations Operations Centre, UNOCA

This place will be put too much better use in a few days. I am sure they will be serving very nice food, which is much better than speeches. I think this is a very good day for all of us, we are setting up this compound where we are bringing in not only UNAMA but also a few other UN agencies, and perhaps one day the whole finally. This is a principle that was tried in some places a few years ago and I think the idea of UN House makes sense from every point of view and I hope we will end up having a useful, well organized UN house to better serve the people of Afghanistan in the years to come.

Forth moment I think this is really very impressive work that is being done by Kip [Perkins, CAO] and everybody else and we are very grateful to them and thankful to them for the efforts they have made. We are also grateful to Engineer [Yusuf] Pashtun, the Minister of Urban Development, who helped us obtain this site here to create the UN House in. I think that very soon we are going to have here not only our Administration, we are going to have the DDR people, we are going to have the Electoral unit here too, and I think UNICEF is coming very soon. UNOPS is coming. WFP is interested. I think UNHCR will ultimately come here, because hopefully all these organizations will be smaller. I think they will see the benefit of coming here to be part of this UN House.

Letme also address one or two issues that are on all our minds. The one that is always a concern to all of us is security. I think that there are problems, there are probably more threats than there were a few weeks, a few months ago and we have got to be ever more vigilant and careful. I am sure you may have seen in the press and perhaps heard from some NGOs or even some colleagues in the United Nations, that wearer understating the case for the security situation. That the security situation is much worse than what we are saying. This is one hundred per cent not true. There is absolutely no reason. It would be totally irresponsible on our part to underplay the security situation. If anything, I think we tend to do the opposite. I think we want to be more careful, not less careful. We have changed our approach to the way we protect ourselves and do our business in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a difficult country; Afghanistan is a country where there is a latent potential insecurity everywhere. So, I think anybody who has come from anywhere not knowing that, they are certainly in the wrong country.

Thesis a violent place; this is a place where there are security problems. In 2000 and 2001, of course our numbers were much smaller than they are now, what we used to do, I think, although we were calling our establishments in Islamabad provisional, in fact our main offices for all UN agencies were in Islamabad. The fiction was that it was provisional and that our seats were here but in fact our permanent bases were in Islamabad. So, actually we had people visiting Afghanistan and of course people who are visiting whenever there is a problem, they stop visiting. And so, the fiction was that we had withdrawn our people from Afghanistan because there was a security problem. The fact is that we were just not coming into Afghanistan. As you know immediately after Bonn we all decided that Afghanistan would be effectively our base that if we are a UN member agencies, programmers, UNAMA working in Afghanistan then our Headquarters should be in Afghanistan. This is what has happened. So, now we are in Afghanistan and we cannot say we just stopped going to Afghanistan if we had to take a decision, we’ve got to take the decision to leave Afghanistan. What we are saying is that if we have to we will leave Afghanistan. If it becomes insecure and whenever we think that there is a security problem somewhere then we address that security problem in the manner that our understanding of the situation requires. Sometimes we say we don’t go out of the city, sometimes we say we will stop for 24 hours and we will see. If necessary we will pull out our people from the place where the situation requires that we vacate. For example if the situation went really bad in Kandahar, we would pull people out of Kandahar. But if the situation is bad in Kandahar, why do we stop working in Mizar if work is possible in Mizar.

So, from now, I think the decision we have taken from the day we have moved here is that we calibrate our response to security threats, to security problems to the situation that really exists. And if the situation becomes bad in 90 per cent of the country and there is 10 per cent of the country where we can work, we will continue working in that 10 per cent of the country. So, this is our attitude, we are keeping our ears and our eyes open, we are in touch not only with the Government here in Kabul and in the regions but also with the Coalition, with various Embassies, with all the people who we think may know different things that we know and we gather this information all the time and reassess the security situation as we go along.

This exchange of information is by no means perfect. There are, even in the Government, I hear that the authorities in Kandahar had some knowledge of the fact that there were some groups who had popped up around that place where our colleague from ICRC was killed, and they did not tells. So, the exchange of information is not perfect. We are trying to make it perfect, we are insisting now, and I think we are establishing system of communication with the Governors, with the Ministry of Interior, with other parts of the Afghan Government, to make sure that they share with us what they know, so that we can assess the situation properly as we go along. And we are also meeting very regularly and insisting that the Coalition, the Ambassadors and of course ISAF do let us know what they know about the security situation.

Aim sorry, if I have gone a little bit too long on this issue, but I think it is important for all of us. I would like to reassure you that the security of everyone and our own personal security understandably is of paramount importance to all of us and this is not something wearer going to neglect.

Having said all that, you know, we may be surprised. There may be situations where we don’t know what is happening and we may be surprised. But I think each one of us, Afghans in their country – who know that there may be security problems blowing in our face – and foreigners, as I said, if they thought that they were coming to a place like Switzerland, then they were wrong and it is high time that they discover that.

Thesis not a safe place, there are a lot of weapons and mines. You remember that a colleague of ours was wounded working in a mine field and wisent an ambulance to pick him up and it was that ambulance which blew up and killed three people. So this is a dangerous place, this is palace where there are a lot of problems. But let’s pray and hope we will be as lucky as we have been until now and that also, more important, the security situation will improve even if for the moment there is an increase in the number of incidents. Quite few people who should know much more than we do about these things claim that it is not as bad as it looks, that you have always incidents like these but it’s not really unraveling or becoming worse as some people or some people in the press are saying.

Thesis one thing. The other thing is I would like to speak about very briefly is that time really flies fast. We are already in the fourth month of 2003. So, just to console ourselves we say we are in the first month of the Afghan New Year. But even if we start with the Afghan New Year, time is flying past and this year is going to be extremely important for Afghanistan and therefore for all of us. The things in which wearer directly involved and for which I think our work is significant are, first, the Constitutional process. I think in few days, any time soon really, the President is going to announce the composition of the full Constitutional Commission. The Drafting Commission has done a significantly important part of preparing a first draft of the Constitution. Once we have the full Commission of about 30 members, then we have to start preparing the activities in the provinces. The debate of the Afghan people to discuss the fundamental issues of their Constitution. Thetis going to be an important political activity, which we are trying to be involved. Then we will have to prepare for the Loyal Jirga hopefully in October to hopefully adopt the Constitution that will be prepared. There is a huge amount of work to be done. Not only the number of people who are going to do this work is going to increase a little bit amongst us, but I think we will all be called on in one way or another to help this process.

Then there is the elections. Rag Austin is now with us, and I even saw his office here and he is going to live here because he has so much work that he will not be able to travel all the way to UNICA every morning and every night. He is going to have also an extremely large number of people when we are at the peak of this activity, not only internationals, but I think probably the Afghans that are going to be involved in one way or another with this process. Just the registration process will be something like 3000 people this is just for the registration. Soya just imagine what kind of complicated, difficult operation it is going to be. And that there again, although these 3000 people are going to be directly working on election and only election, I think that most of you in one way or another will be called upon to help. These are two issues that we are going to do a very very big share of the work without Afghan partners.

Another extremely important activity is going to be, is already, DDR – Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of former combatants. There again, Sultan Aziz is slowly putting together his project. I think they are going to have also a building here and they also are going to have about 700 people. These are people that are going to work directly for there. And there again we are going to need the support and cooperation from most of you, especially from our offices in the regions. For the elections also the regions will contribute, as they are going to before the Constitution and DDR; these are major enterprises. None of these have a clear programmer of work that you know when you are going to start and when you are going to finish. It is really navigation by sight adieu are going to improvise and you are going to improve your system and you start by thinking that you can do it in 8 hours and then journalize that no it requires 15 hours, but it has to be done – for the Constitution by the end of October, for the elections by June-July 2004, and for DDR, I suppose also in about one year or one year and a half from the day that we start. So these are the activities that we are going to be directly involved in.

On the reconstruction side we are also going to work at higher level with the Government as well as with the donors. In Brussels, the donors, the Government with the support of the United Nations and everybody else requested something like US$2, 5 billion. I think the pledges were around US$2 billion but you’ve got to raise this money. People were sitting in Brussels and said look I am going to give you US$100million. But that 100 million is not going to come by mail next day. You’ve got to run after it. So that is one of the activities that we are going to do with the Government – chase this money. I think the Government shall (inaudible) to explain to everybody that it is all very nice to promise and even to deliver. Say that the 300 million or 400 million is for the budget, but if you all give it at the end of the year it is no use. Part of it is needed this month and another part is needed next month. So this is one part of the work. The other part of the work that we are going to do with the Government is continue to increase their capacity in Kabul and also help them establish their capacity in the provinces, cooperate with them, as they are thinking and trying to increase their capacity in the provinces. And also see how we, the Government, donors and everybody else will move from emergency and humanitarian into development and genuine reconstruction for the country.

Awe do this, I think we have realized that there are two elements that need to be done at the level of information. On the one hand, I think maybe we have allowed expectations to run too high, understandably the fact that the war was finished; people quite understandably and even quite rightly expected change in their life. Sure, fast, I think we’ve got to say that yes changes are happening, change is going to happen, but it is not going to happen overnight. On the other hand, I think also we are guilty of having downplayed what we have done. People are asking what is the UN doing, where are the UN, they are spending the money on themselves. Yes, perhaps, we are spending some of the money on ourselves and as I think you are all aware, I am very much for recognizing that we can do better, that we can do more with less, but having said that I think we are doing things and we should perhaps say it a Littlemore. These are some of the things that one is inspired to mention one day like this, but the important thing for us is that we are slowly establishing ourselves, as I said we are in a very, very difficult situation. Sometimes one says these things – it is a difficult situation, but we don’t realize how true that is. This is a country –it’s like somebody, who has spent 23 years destroying their house every day. Every day the Afghans got up in the morning and also their neighbours and a lot of other people, and they broke a little bit of the house. Then one day everybody decides, “No, this is not the right thing to do, let’s rebuild this house”. Well, journalize that what you have destroyed in 23 years, cannot be rebuilding 23 days. But it has to be done, it can be done and I think it Isa privilege, it is an honor and quite an experience for each one of us to have the opportunity of participating in putting this house back together. You know, what you are doing here is a little contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Hankou very much all of you, Kip and all your team for the work you are doing and thank you all for being here.

So,Tabriq, congratulations, I hope that this will be some kind of new beginning for UNAMA and United Nations and more importantly for Afghanistan.

Thank you very much.