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

Afghanistan Compact Update
Wearer now 13 days into the Afghanistan Compact. Work over the past week on appointments to the Joint Monitoring and Coordination Board has been continuing. On the Government side the seven appointments to the board have, I understand, been finalized, however I will leave to the Government of Afghanistan to provide you with the details.

On the international side, our new Special Representative, Tom Koenig’s, will be co-chairing in line with provisions of the Compact, and composition of the international side is still being finalized. As for Mr. Koenig’s himself, he is expected to arrive in Afghanistan to take up his post here during the course of this month.

For those not yet familiar with the Monitoring and Coordination Board, it is – as I’ve just described — a joint Afghan-International body, which will be supported by a small secretariat. Its purpose is to provide strategic coordination for the Compact’s implementation. The board will produce reports on progress. These reports will be made public. At the moment, our expectation is that the first meeting of this board will take place in early March. As you will know, the benchmarks of the Compact are time bound, so the board has a busy agenda ahead of it.

Updated UN Economic and Social Council report on women in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s social, economic and cultural context presents particular challenges for women and girls. The report recognizes that significant gains have been made by Afghan women and girls, particularly in parliamentary representation and the field of education. But it also states that progress has not been felt in all parts of the country and gender development indicators for Afghanistan remain among the worst in the world.

The Afghanistan Compact contains a number of benchmarks aimed at improving the overall situation, with some of these specific to women and girls. These include full implementation of the National Action Plan on Women by 2010, and a strengthening of women’s participation in governance. There are also benchmarks related to primary school enrollment for both boys and girls, and related to the numbers of female teachers.

DIAG: upcoming workshop, voluntary weapons hand-over, and payments to soldiers
weave a number of announcements from the Disarmament and Reintegration Commission.

This coming Wednesday workshop is being held at the Governor of Kabul’s office to explain processes involved in the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups. The aims to provide information on the implementation of the Gun Law to communities, Mullahs, Elders and former Commanders. Among the speakers will be UNAMA’s Deputy Special Representative Christopher Alexander.

DIAG’s on-goin collection of weapons and ammunition programmer registered a significant handover of weapons last week, when five truckloads of ammunition and126 weapons were turned in in Kapitsa and Bagola provinces.

To date close to 18,000weapons have been handed over along with significant quantities of ammunition.

Meanwhile yesterday (February 12, 2006) Afghanistan’s New Beginnings Programmed (ANBP) and the Ministry of Defense (Mood) announced they will proceed with retroactive payment of salaries to 112 guards of the 1st Division of Punisher whose units were disbanded in the framework of the DDR process.

The guards had not been paid for the last 10 months and after complaints, ANBP raised the issue with the Ministry of Defense who agreed to make the retroactive payments. The guards were watching nine ammunition depots in Punisher.

UNODC, FAO agree on joint agriculture survey
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently signed an agreement for joint cooperation on survey implementation. This cooperation aims to benefit from sharing the expertise of both UN agencies.

The FAO implemented Alternative Agricultural Livelihoods Programmed (AALP) has initiated survey to collect information on agricultural livelihoods in Balkh and Herat provinces in order to improve the understanding of farming systems and agricultural livelihoods and develop viable livelihoods options for rural communities. Data collection and analysis will be carried out between February and April this year with final results available by mid-2006.

The technical expertise in survey methodology and techniques is being provided by UNODC which will identify and train surveyors in interview techniques, and will establish the database and supervise data collection and entry.

Questions& Answers

Question: Do you have an update on the status of the two Nepalese guards that were abducted earlier this week?

Spokesperson: We don’t have much information. There are sensitivities involved and we have to be fairly delicate. These are not UN staff, but obviously we are concerned when anyone in the international community working herein Afghanistan as well as Afghans themselves fall into this situation.

Question:Can you give us details regarding the report on women in Afghanistan?Is the situation bad or is it improving?

Spokesperson: As I mentioned earlier the indicators on women in Afghanistan are among the worst in the world and very clearly there is the need for significant improvements. One of the main areas of improvement we have seen is women’s participation in politics. As you know the Afghan parliament has a relatively high proportion of women compared to many rich countries. Needless to say this alone is not sufficient and the report itself contains a number of recommendations and conclusions I urge you to look at. These include,for example, measures at addressing domestic violence and also the need to promote education among girls.

Question:(translated from Dari) Not related to today’s press briefing notes,but with regard to international assistance in the future it is being said that UNAMA’s mandate will change and will have a role with regards to the international assistance being provided to Afghanistan.Could you please give us more detail?

Spokesperson: I think the first place to look, if you want to know what UNAMA will be doing, is to look at the Afghanistan Compact. That establishes pretty clearly, in a fairly succinct form, what the engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is going to be over the next five-year period. Until now the mandate of UNAMA has been renewed on an annual basis each March by the UN Security Council. And while I can’t preempt the decisions of the Security Council it is our expectation that this will be renewed this March in line with the Afghanistan Compact and the priorities that it sets for us.