Near-Verbatim Transcript of Impromptu Remarks of SRSG, Lakhdar Brahimi to the meeting of Field Staff

(For easier reading and due to the length of the presentation, we have grouped his comments by topic, not necessarily the actual order in which they were presented)

I said last year that the problem when you set up a big mission in a situation like the one that existed at the end of 2001/the beginning of 2002 is that you are like someone who is asked to run and tie his shoelaces at the same time. It is difficult but that is the only wait can be done. So we set up this mission as we were trying to negotiate in Bonn, and after Bonn as we were trying to help what came out of Bonn establish itself in the country, so obviously it was much less than perfect.

And in particular we have this habit of fashions in the United Nations. The fashion in the last few years has been for pillars, so it was a great achievement that we reduced the number of pillars from Kosovo’s three or four to two in Afghanistan. But I think our ambition is perhaps to give as a legacy to those who will set up missions after us, to set missions with one pillar.

I think this is what we would like to start doing ourselves – reduce two pillars to one pillar. I think we have gone some little way but we must continue and reduce the mission to one pillar. What it means really is to reduce the spare parts that we inherited ourselves to form this mission from past activities in Afghanistan and around Afghanistan.

The dream really further down the lines to have the whole United Nations when they go to a country like Afghanistan function as one organization, which we are supposed to be. The dreams to see the United Nations not having flags but having programmers, not coming here to establish organizations but really to help a country through a difficult period but that is probably a little bit furthering the future.

Another point I would like to make on this subject is that by speaking about integration in Afghanistan and by speaking of a light footprint we really did not invent anything. We just used other words for things which the UN claims to be wanting to do for a long time. I remember when I was in South Africa in 1993-94[Secretary-General] Boutros-Ghali asked us to have a house for the United Nations so that everyone is in one place and we got it. In Pretoria we have a UN house that was given to us by the government. This is again one of the aims that we claim to want to achieve. We would like to have lot of common services to start with and hopefully we must really reach the stage where the whole United Nations system plans programs and executes them together.

Also when we speak of a light footprint we haven’t invented anything. For years there have been many better expressions like doing more for less, reducing our costs and increasing our output, getting more for our dollars or other people’s dollars and this has been the aim for the United Nations for a long time. I believe we haven’t achieved enough of both these objectives -more integration and a lighter footprint.

When [Under Secretary-General for Peace keeping earn-Marie] Guehenno was here I told him that these objectives could not be achieved only in the field. I think a lot of work needs to be done at headquarters for us to be able to make progress. For example the bureaucratic requirements in administration in particular require that jobs that can be done by one person have to be done by three or four people. So I think there is a lot that needs to be done at headquarters to help us move a little bit forward and bring our heavy presence hereto a much lighter level. I hope that in the next two days that you are here you will address some of these problems and see how we can become more and more one mission, how we can be a bit less heavy, how we bring in more Afghans. I think we have made quite a bit of progress but we want to make a little bit more of this progress.

I’m sure you are familiar with my other slogan and that is when we come to a place like this we must never forget that our great objective, the ultimate achievement, is to be told thank you very much we don’t need you anymore. So I think our objective, individually and collectively, is to work ourselves out of a job and to make ourselves not needed any more. So these are some of the considerations which I’m sure you are familiar with.

One point and I try to read your reports, I think that when we met last we had agreed that we would not only ask for reports but we would also send you some ourselves. I don’t know how well we have done, probably not very well, but I realize that it is extremely important that this exchange must be a two-way process and that when you send reports without hearing from the people you are writing to, whether it’s any use, whether you are going in the right direction or not and also what decisions people in the capital are taking and where they are going, I know it’s very frustrating. I’ve been on that side so I understand this perfectly well and certainly we must improve this part of our work in Kabul. We must make sure we keep you informed, that we comment on the reports you send us regularly, so that the quality of our exchange improves as much as possible.

-Our work
now onto what was done and what we are doing. It has been a very long fourteen months since we moved here in December 2001, and a lot of work has been done. But you see in these situations, the more you do, the more you see how much remains to be done.

One definition of progress is that unjust take the same problem and put it in more complicated and difficult terms. When you speak of education, when you start, just deciding to build a school is a great achievement. When you build that school it’s really paradise but you come back five years later and the school is not big enough, there aren’t enough teachers, the kids have finished primary school and there are no secondary school possibilities and so on. So the more complicated the education problem is put the more progress you have made?

So I think it’s a little bit the same here, we came in December with about 30 people calling themselves an administration, a provisional administration who arrived by taxis from all over the place, and that is how it all started. If you remembering January just thinking of organizing the Loyal Jirga was a real challenge but that Loyal Jirga was organized. It was a huge piece of work done by those of you who were here and I think you will never be thanked enough for the amount of work you’ve done to make that exercise unprecedented in the history of Afghanistan and perhaps anywhere else become a reality.

The Loyal Jirga itself did not produce all the results it might have produced for a variety of reasons. Those of you who were there remember the poor management and the other problems that prevented the Loyal Jirga from producing all the results it should have produced. But I think it was terribly important that it took place and it has allowed the transition from phase one in Bonn to phase two that started with the creation of the present administration. It has opened the way for the political work that is being done now and which is going to be much more challenging than the preparation of the Loya Jirga and the political work that was done last year.

The more we move a little forward the more we understand what is required to prepare these elections, the more we realize what a giant task or series of tasks it is going to be for the Government of Afghanistan, for the people of Afghanistan and for all of you who are going to be involved in helping those elections take place by the middle of next year, 2004. When we were in Bonn again facing the difficulties of getting those 35 people to agree on something, it looked like the right thing to do. Simple, easy and doable to set up a Loyal Jirga six months after Bonn, a constitution one year later and elections two years away. It looked very, very far off and that we would have plenty of time. Winnow realize that is it not so and that we are going to have to work extremely hard against terrible odds to meet those deadlines and I think we need to meet those deadlines. I think it can be done at the cost of a lot of sleepless nights for a lot of people during the months ahead of us.

The constitution is a complicated, difficult and risky business. There again we thought that writing the constitution was the problem. The more we go on the more we realize that writing the constitution is not a problem at all. The problem is that there are three, four, five or maybe half a dozen issues of substance which are going to be difficult. It is not working out the options that is difficult, it is what they represent and what they may create in terms of problems, difficulties and so on. And those of you who attended the Loyal Jirga will remember how easy it is for two people who can quote two or three Amaya’s from the Quran, how they can hijack a group of people, 1500 in the case of the Loyal Jirga. The fact that the next Loyal Jirga will be much smaller in number doesn’t change the fact that this is also a risk that is going to be there.

All these processes, these political processes that are necessary, if they are perfect they unite a country, they create a state, they allow country in trouble like Afghanistan to move forward. But if it doesn’t work they divide, they create problems, and they create conflict. Elections in particular we have got to remember, I was telling some people here the other day, that even in mature democracies elections do not unite people, elections divide people. They pit neighbors against one another, members of families against one another, supporting different ideas, supporting different people. So in a country where you are going to have an election after a very, very long time where elections were at best a dream in the heads of some people, if we are not very, very careful, not only those of us in this room, but a lot of other people, if wearer not careful elections will take us in exactly the opposite direction in which we want to go. So we really have got to be extremely careful to protect this process from all the people who are still out there who are much more interested in the conflict than in its resolution.

Never forget that, in situations like this, you have people whose objective interest, it’s not that they are stupid, they are not stupid, their interest is in the existence of the problem, not in its solution. These people are there, they walk the streets of all the cities where you live and some others are not very far from the cities as well. So we’ve got to protect the process from these people and make sure that this process will takes towards the building of the state, achieving reconciliation, unity and so on.

there is of course the whole subject of development of the humanitarian activities I’m sure [DSRSG] Nigel [Fischer] and members of his team will be able to tell you everything you want to know and I’m sure you already know a great deal working on these issues every day. There again I think the philosophy is the same, we have got to remember, and we’ve got to remind our Afghan partners, that this is their country where they’re the hosts. We’re trying to help, we’re trying to cooperate with them but at the end of the day they will make or break their system.

We shouldn’t hesitate to remind our partners of this because very often we are asked the thing and its opposite: why haven’t you done this, why haven’t you done that and at the same time, why are you doing it? This is understandable, this happens. Many of you have worked elsewhere and maybe the words are different and maybe the background is different but the reality is really the same. People who need your help are grateful for it, but they also resent it at the same time. They resent the fact they need your help that is what they resent, that they are in an inferior situation, that they are in an inferior position and that they are obliged to comet you for help and to say thank you and so on. Nobody likes to be in that position. So I think we’ve got to negotiate our work without partners here to the best of our ability.

I remind our Afghan partners that we started saying they must be in the driving seat, not they. We have said from the beginning that they must be in the driving seat and we must be supporting them and that the more they do the better from our point of view because from time to time we hear a language from some of our Afghan partners as if we were trying to keep things in our hands and preventing them from exercising their authority and running their country. This is not the case, it is the opposite and the more they can do the better.

Even in questions of money again you hear this all over the place, the United Nations, the NGOs take our money and they spend it on themselves. I think the more money goes totem the better as far as we’re concerned, on condition and this condition doesn’t come from us, it comes from the donors and I think as people who are interested to see Afghanistan move forward we share that view, on condition that the capacity to use that money is there and secondly that corruption does not eat up the money. It’s bad enough if we pay salaries to ourselves, I think it’s worse if it goes into the pockets of twenty people, even if they are Afghans. So if these two conditions are met, by all means, any dollar which comes here that can be spent properly through the government for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan should go that route rather than through us or through NGOs. There is absolutely no problem from the point of view of the United Nations as an organization worldwide or from our point of view here. These are some of the considerations I wanted to put to you.

Let I just add a few words about the programmer for next year for the government, the year starting in a couple of weeks on the 21st of March. We very much hope that the President will take this opportunity to announce what his own programmer is going to be for the [Afghan] year 1382. I think that it can be summed up in three words – moving a little bit faster on the way to state building that is building the institutions of this country. The very first of them are definitely the police and the army.

-The police
I think coming from countries where the existence of the police and an army is not even noticed, we forget how important a police forces. Their presence is indispensable and in a country like this when we speak about something like drugs, yes we talk about alternative livelihoods and economic support and I don’t know what, but at the end of the day you’ve got to tell the farmer we are going to help yearn your living by doing something else but if you don’t, you’re going to go to jail. If you do not have the means of saying that you’re not going to achieve your goal because if you offer him 100 dollars, the drug barons will come and offer him 200 dollars. They make so much money that you cannot compete with them on that ground. So ultimately poppy cultivation will stop in this country when there is a policeman coming along with you to the farmer and asking what are your needs, we will try and help you meet them but if you don’t want to listen, if you think this is not enough then you are going to go to jail. I think the Taliban went only with the policeman they didn’t take anybody else or anything else they just said you stop or you go to jail and it stopped overnight. So the national police, the national army are indispensable.

-Disarmament and the new army
A lot of people speak about disarmament and somebody just two days ago was telling me that the United Nations hasn’t disarmed anybody; be careful what language we use. The United Nations does not disarm anybody anywhere in the world. What happens generally in conflicts like this is that the parties agree to disarm and the United Nations sets camp somewhere and waits for these people to bring their weapons to that camp, this is what the UN does. The UN has no means of running after people and taking their weapons away from them. Even less running after faction leaders and taking their tanks and their cannons, that’s not how it’s done. It is generally done through an agreement between the parties. We do not have that agreement, so the way to disarm in this country is through the creation of the national army.

The national army is going to allow some of those people who call themselves soldiers today to be phased into the new national army while others will be helped to be phased out of the existing functional armies through the [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] DDR programmer to go back to civilian life. This is what happens. It has taken a very, very long time to put together, it has been a very, very long time because we would have liked it to happen overnight but it cannot be much faster than that. In Mozambique whereof had practically the most perfect agreement and the most perfect implementation of the agreement the actual collection of weapons took about two or three years. In Angola it didn’t work at all and in Sierra Leone you have seen what the existence of those rather imperfect agreements has led to.

-Other reform in the Security Sector
It has taken a very, very long time to bring all the players, not only the Afghans but also the foreigners together, to understand, to have the same understanding of what we were really doing. That what we were doing was to get the concurrence of the parties, however reluctantly, to have this process started, to get the agreement of the Ministry offence to reform themselves and to get the agreement of the security, intelligence people also to reform themselves. I think the Ministry of Defense has just started now to accept the notion of reform and to becoming a really national Ministry of Defense. And we hope that things are going to happen now to make that a little bit more visible. Andy know that the perception of the country is that the Ministry offence is really in the hands of a very, very small faction and the Ministry of Defense is really the Ministry that wields influence and power in the country. Intelligence is thousands and thousands of people who are seen by the population as people who arrest them for no reason. This is what intelligence looks like and this has to change. There is an urgent need to reform the intelligence services so that they are perceived as part of the security forces which are there to serve the people, not frighten them.

Disarmament itself is not just collecting weapons, it is doing all these things at the same time. Putting all these programs together has taken a very, very long time because as told you the people whose interest is in the continuation of the present situation are not going to work with you just because you ask them. Also foreigners who have power, who have influence take time to understand the situation and also mobilize the will to participate in this activity.

We are getting there and these meetings of the so-called security sector reform are now taking a little more concrete shape. We are also very excited by the new Minister of Interior who seems to understand what is required in the Ministry of Interior, the police and so on.

I think national reconciliation is an issue that our Afghan colleagues will want me to talk about. If we go back to the so-called Brahmi Report- the Bonn agreement is a total nonsense – it has nothing of the basic requirements in the Brahmi Report. But I think that when we revise the report we’ll put this in that you’ve got to be opportunistic and avail yourself of what opportunities there are. Bonn was really the opportunity created by Osama Bin Laden blowing up those buildings in New York and Washington. We have taken this opportunity and put something together.

There was no agreement between the warring parties. One party was not there at all and that party had certainly been routed, been expelled from the capital but it has not recognized its defeat. To defend myself of not respecting the prescriptions I have meted out to others, if house the report we made to the Security Council in October 2001 I think we said where are the Taliban, what has happened to them, what are they saying, how many are there left and what can be expected from them. Ideally in Bonn we should have had the Taliban, weakened but as a party, to sign on to a whole programmer of ending the civil wars that have marred the country for so long. But it was not possible because of what happened on 11 September, because of the attitude of the Taliban, it was not possible to have them there.

The Loyal Jirga again should have enlarged the political base of the government much more than it has; it has quite a bit but not enough. Now this year it is vital that the real work of national reconciliation starts. National reconciliation means really making all the Afghans who are willing to accept peace to feel that this is their country, that they are welcome here, and that there is a place for them especially as we head towards an election. I think all the Afghans who want to participate in an election unless they are carrying bombs and want to kill everyone around, should be in a position to participate in the election if they want to. So the work of national reconciliation is an indispensable part of this programmer.

It is not easy at all, you know you have lots of people will tell you, there is a problem called the Pashtun problem. Other people will tallyho no there isn’t something called the Pashtun problem. The reality is that in the Pashtun areas there are conflicts between Pashtuns because the social pyramid was inverted by the Taliban. Now that the Taliban has gone that region is trying to find its balance again. But it Isa fact that the Pashtuns do not feel comfortable, when they come to Kabul they are pushed around, they are not well received, they are sometimes insulted in the streets. When you tell them that there are 20 Ministers who are in the Cabinet who are Pashtuns, they say of what use is that to me if, when I come to the capital of my country, I don’t feel comfortable. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, we can talk about it but there is very little that we can do directly. This is really thing that the Afghans have to do themselves but I think in the regions we need to speak about this more and more firmly, more and more openly and as effectively as we can.

Some things have been done, in the north the return commission is Avery good initiative of UNHCR the Minister of Refugees and UNAMA and it seems to be starting to produce results. It started in October and only now it looks like it is going to allow those Pashtuns who left the north to return hopefully. So there is a lot that needs to be done here to make this reconciliation process work. I hope that President Karzai will speak about this on March 21st or later but this is certainly part of the programmer.

There are of course plenty of other issues that one could talk about– maybe two issues that are fundamental to our work and they are complementary. When I was speaking about security sector reform, having police is very good, having an army would be great but when you have police you need jails where people who are arrested are also treated decently. You need lawyers and you need courts to take these peoplehood have arrested to, so the judicial reform is also an important part.

We have this national judicial commission who had a very painful start. It is there now and they have started to work. I think they will be visiting the regions, they probably already have, to see what the needs are, to see how much can be done to rehabilitate all these institutions, the courts physically, and the judges and all the people who work injustice and the prisons. The aim of all this is really to have the Afghans feel respected and feel safe. Feeling safe in a country like this is not only not being threatened any more by bombs or by guns but also being able to go to a judge if your rights have been attacked and younger to be sure that the policeman is not going to push you around. By the way I suppose you are aware that in many parts of the country, including the capital, quite a few of the crimes are committed by those who call themselves policemen and soldiers. That situation increases the feeling of insecurity.

this is really the issue of human rights in a country like this. Very often our visitors and the people who are interested in human rights when they come from abroad understandably they come with images from where they come from. They think of human rights as individual cases. Yes these cases abound here but here human rights is an issue of systems. I am not pushed around, I haven’t been beaten but I am afraid of being beaten anytime. Human rights, yes certainly if somebody’s beaten and you do something to help them that’s great, but more important is to take the fear out of the hearts of everyone so that is why institution-building here is terribly important. That is why we insist, difficult as it is, slow as it is, that there is no substitute to making the Afghans themselves capable of defending their human rights. Hence the importance of building the [Afghan Independent Human Rights] commission, again it is painfully slow, again it is not moving as fast as it should but there is no alternative. The alternative is not whatnot and I can do, that is not an alternative. It is building this commission and leaving it capable and empowering it to help the people of Afghanistan.

Why is Human Rights Watch so effective in America? It is because there is a police, because there is a judge, because there is assistance. If the system is not there, yes of course we will help the individual but those individuals we happen to know, those individuals we happen to hear about, we should be much more ambitious than that, the aim really should be to help the people of Afghanistan get to a situation whereas I told you the fear of being beaten up the fear of losing your property, the fear of being forced to give your daughter in marriage to somebody you don’t want to give your daughter to, is not there anymore. So this is really the agenda, it’s not an easy one, it’s not an agenda that’s going to be executed tomorrow, or next week, or next month or next year but I think it is an agenda worth contributing to, each one of us, for the time that we are here.

The last point that I haven’t spoken about and I will not say much about it is our part in what is called reconstruction. We’ve been doing humanitarian work, we meaning the United Nations, not UNAMA itself, we’ve been doing more humanitarian work than reconstruction and that’s understandable. When we were sitting in Islamabad we had no counterpart, so that we have two new challenges, one is that we are now in the capital with the government. As I said earlier we want them to be in the driving seat and now they want to be in the driving seat, so that’s perfect. So we have a government that leads whereas we used to just do our best and we had nobody to talk to. The second [challenge] is how we are going to move from humanitarian work to reconstruction, to sustainable development as the phrase goes. I think a lot of work has been done on the occasion of the [Transitional Assistance Program for Afghanistan] TAPA before we went to Oslo. It was very painful and we are extremely grateful to Nigel [Fisher] and his team for the leadership they have provided in driving this process forward. And now at the request of the government we are going to start negotiating again.

I think Nigel [Fisher] will tell you that one of the things that wearer thinking of here is how much we can do in the months ahead to help the government build capacity in the provinces. So discussions are going on with the government about how much we can do in the next few months to build that capacity but I’m sure that we will welcome your ideas on this subject.

-Staff security
I didn’t speak about security but I think we are well aware that security is a very big concern. I think the attitude we all have is that we are not going to run away, we are not going to panic but we will be careful. Incidents are increasing. If it is necessary and it becomes difficult in one place we will evacuate people from that place but we will not evacuate the whole of Afghanistan. We don’t want to panic but we don’t want to be irresponsible, and I don’t want any one of you individually or collectively to take any unnecessary risks. That is not the way to become a hero. Thank you very much indeed.