Press Briefing by Adrian Edwards Spokesperson for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan

Human Rights Treaty Reporting Project officially launched
a ceremony yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saw the official launch of a Project on Capacity Building for Sustained Human Rights Treaty Reporting in Afghanistan.

The aim, in essence, is to promote human rights awareness and education throughout the government of Afghanistan.

The Special Representative, Jean Arnault, was present at the signing and remarked that the decision to report on human rights to the UN treaty bodies was a reflection of the commitment of the Afghan government to the people of Afghanistan in protecting their human rights. The reporting will also be a key to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the Government.

Project office will soon be established at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Afghanistan is currently signatory to six international human rights treaties. These are the two covenants on civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, the covenants on eliminating discrimination against women and racial discrimination, and the conventions against torture and on rights of the child.

UNFPA distributes orange scarves as a symbol for women’s rights
Last Friday, November 25, was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. To mark this occasion, and in support of efforts by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs at improving attitudes towards women, the UN Population Fund has been distributing orange scarves as a symbol of the need for change.

While the Constitution guarantees equal rights and the Government is undertaking number of initiatives to address the problems, women in this country are still subject to abuse. Child marriages are still common – UNICEF data shows that 14% of women marry by the age of 15. Rarely do they have say in the matter.

Early pregnancy, another problem, is a factor in giving Afghanistan the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

UNFPA’s campaign, “Orange for Change”, is part of the UN’s 16Days of Activism against Gender Violence which also began last Friday. The UNFPA has provided scarves for reporters.

Last Wednesday and Thursday a workshop held by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and UNIFEM on the elimination of violence against women and preventing child and forced marriages resulted in the signing of a protocol. The protocol includes measures to eliminate child and forced marriages.

FAO awareness workshop on Avian Influenza
An awareness workshop on Bird Flu is happening in Kabul as we speak. Asylum know, Bird Flu, or Avian Influenza (HPAI), has been increasingly in the news here following outbreaks in Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia this past July.

Shofar there have been no known cases of Bird Flu in Afghanistan or its close neighboring states. However the spread of Avian Influenza has prompted the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Food (MAAHF) with support from USAID, to undertake efforts to increase awareness of the risks, in particular among those working in the veterinary and poultry businesses.