Press Briefing by Ariane Quentier Senior Public Information Officer

Today’s guest speaker
our guest speaker today is Marc Sparling, Programme Manager for UN Volunteers (UNV) serving with the “UNOPS Afghan Election Project 2005” and with UNAMA.

He will talk to you about the UNV Volunteer Programme in Afghanistan and also present the new UNV website and volume 3 of the UNV newsletter, which is called Unviewed.

Elections contribution
on the 1st of August, two Mondays ago, we reported to you that over $31 million dollars were still needed to fund the elections, and expressed concern that this gap may affect the on-going electoral preparations.

Ina matter of one week however, donors contributed an additional $12 million dollars which brought the funding gap down to $19.3 million dollars last Monday. However, since then, no new pledges or contributions have been made.

Wearer grateful to those governments that have immediately responded to our appeal. But the current funding gap remains a serious concern six weeks before the elections and we hope other donors will soon come up and make further contributions to fill, without delay, the remaining funding gap of $19.3 million US dollars.

Reintegration of ex-combatants
Reintegration is progressing at a steady flow with 59,210 ex-combatants either having entered or completed the reintegration process.

Anti-personnel Mines & Ammunition Stockpile Destruction Project
Regarding Anti-personnel mines and ammunition stockpiles, the surveying of caches, as well as the destruction and consolidation of ammunition is ongoing nationwide – you might recall there are now 8 ammunition survey teams which have been appointed to regions for this matter.

As of today, a total of 387 caches have been surveyed, including almost 500, 000 (488,716) packaged items of ammunitions and over 1.5 million (1,689, 0111) pieces of loose ordnance. The total weight is 20,613 Tons.

Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG)
Inters of disbandment of illegal armed groups, the Afghanistan New Beginnings Program (ANBP) has now verified 8,129 weapons handed over, including 4, and 222 belonging to candidates.

In addition, the Joint Secretariat (JS) has continued to conduct field missions to meet provincial committee members and Governors; Panjshir, Kunar and Herat were visited on 8th, 9th and 10th August respectively. Also, an instruction to all provincial committees and Governors reviewing the disbandment process once it is in its main phase – namely when disbandment will not be linked with elections – is also currently being finalized by the JS.

Once again, as elections draw closer, candidates are reminded that anyone found to be in violation of the election law will be disqualified and this stands until the results are certified. This regulation includes full compliance with the disarmament process, namely not to engage – or reengage- in any activity implying links to illegal armed groups and also not rearm. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) eventually has the authority to disqualify any candidate not complying with the election law and will not hesitate to exercise this power, should it be required.

International Youth Day
Tomorrow, August 12th is International Youth Day, and each year on this day we highlight the plight of young people around the world.

The statistics speak for themselves – globally half a billion young people survive on less than $2 dollars a day, and every day almost 30,000 children die of poverty and a further 7,000 young people become infected with HIV/AIDS.

In Afghanistan, the situation is troubling. Under-five mortality is so high that 700 children die every day around this country, many from preventable diseases. Half of Afghanistan’s population is under 15, which means this country has one of the highest proportions of children and youth of any country in the world.
The literacy rate remains one of the lowest. Despite a notable increase in School enrolment over the last four years, girls remain especially discriminated against in terms of education and learning opportunities. And limited opportunities for higher education, vocational training and employment, particularly in rural areas, are discouraging for young Afghans.

There has been progress. Since 2003 UNICEF has supported the training and education of more than 5,000 out of school and unemployed young people in an effort to provide them with constructive opportunities. And it is true that more young people are in school than ever before in Afghanistan’s history.

But more needs to be done for young people both in Afghanistan and abroad.

In his annual message on International Youth Day, the UN Secretary-General said that the global problems affecting young people can be overcome if we work together to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

“Poor countries have pledged to govern better, and invest in their own people through health care and education. Rich countries have pledged to support them, through aid, debt relief, and fairer trade”, the Secretary-General said.

Next month, Heads of State and Government will meet at the United Nations forth 2005 World Summit – expected to be one of the largest gatherings of leaders ever.

“I believe we will have a once in a generation opportunity to address some of the most pressing challenges of our era. Leaders need to be reminded of their promise to translate the Millennium Development Goals into reality “the Secretary-General concluded.

Meanwhile, here is Kabul the Afghan Ministry of Youth has organized a day of activities to mark International Youth Day. The event, which includes sports activities and music, is taking place today at the Nasal Hotel in Share-New from9am-3pm. Press are welcome to attend.

WFP Pre-Positions Food Stocks to Assist Afghans
Ahead of the winter freeze, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started pre-positioning food supplies for nearly half a million impoverished Afghans, who will be cut off from markets once the cold weather sets in.

Around23, 00 Metric Tons (MT) of food – including wheat, pulses, oil, and salt– will be distributed throughout Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

You may remember at the last briefing we mentioned the use of mobile theatrical performers to highlight the upcoming elections.

Now three mobile theatre troupes will use the same format to highlight the issues of disability and mine awareness.

Some252 shows, which are called “You and me together, ability forever “and “Let’s be aware of mine risks”, will be performed in 17 Provinces around Afghanistan over the next four months.

The campaign, which is organized by UNMACA (United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan) will be launched on Sunday 14th August 2005 at16.30pm at the Office of Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, Deh Afghan, 869).

Briefing by Marc Sparling, Programme Manager for UN Volunteers

There are a few pieces of news from my side.

Firstly, we are launching a website of UN Volunteers in Afghanistan – this website will be up and running today and on the side-table you can find the web address. Secondly, we have published a newsletter that contains stories from international volunteers on their work with the elections, their views on Afghanistan, and the role that they [the UNVs] are playing.

Volunteers have been working with the elections process since the beginning– since 2003. So far we have fielded over 900 volunteers to Afghanistan, both national and international. On the international side, as of today, there are 135 volunteers serving in the country and working in every province. They come from all 6 continents and we are very proud of them. Some have been here for as many as two years now, whereas others have just arrived.

Questions & Answers

There were no questions at today’s briefing.