Press Briefing by Ariane Quentier Senior Public Information Officer And United Nations Agencies in Afghanistan

The Afghan government and UNAMA begin discussions of the post-parliamentary election agenda
Last Wednesday, the Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA initiated a series of discussions regarding future cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community, which, with the holding of the parliamentary elections and the completion of the Bonn process, will have to be revisited.

The close partnership between Afghanistan and the international community will remain the cornerstone of any future collaboration with a view to achieving security, full disarmament, justice, a competent civilian administration as well as the implementation of the Afghan constitution, a robust development strategy, and the promotion of human rights.

Number of other key principles will continue to mark the relationship between the Afghan government and the international community. These include the leadership role of Afghanistan in the reconstruction process; the need for an even allocation of funds throughout the country; the development of regional cooperation; the necessity to increase capacity building, combat corruption and develop public information as well as ensuring transparency and accountability in the allocation of resources.

Discussion of the post-election agenda will be an opportunity for a broader dialogue within the country, which will focus on priorities for the coming years, and the respective contributions that Afghans and international partners can make to this country.

The Security Council met last March (24th) and unanimously adopted resolution 1589 to extend the mandate of UNAMA until March 2006. UNAMA was established on 28 March 2002.

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants is continuing at good pace and expected to be completed according to the timeframe, which is by the end of June 2005.

The teams continue to work in Kabul and Bayan, having finished the disarmament process in all other regions.

As of today, a total of 58,543 former Afghan Military Forces officers and soldiers have joined the DDR programmer. From that figure, 48,605 former combatants have entered the reintegration process.

The total number of weapons collected to date is 33,280. In terms of Heavy Weapons there is no change to the figures we last reported (9,085).

Candidates with links to illegal armed groups to be given opportunity to disarm
As provided by article 35 a) of the Electoral Law, but also the Code of Conduct and the declaration signed by candidates when they filed their nomination documents, candidates are prohibited to participate in the electoral process if they have links to illegal armed groups.

Because the nomination period was short, it has been decided that those candidates who have not had the opportunity yet to sever their links with armed groups will be provided with the facilities to do so before final lists are established. The Joint Secretariat of the Disarmament and Reintegration Commission, supported by international military forces and the UN, will use its expertise to act as an advisory body to the Electoral Complaints Commission on this issue and indicate which candidates it believes have links with illegal armed groups and to what extent. On this basis, candidates will be given the opportunity to consign their weapons. If they do not comply, they will be formally disqualified – as provided by the law.

World Environment Day
Yesterday, June 5th, was World Environment Day.

This year’s theme is “Green Cities: Plan for the Planet”, which refers to the challenges posed by the rapidly increasing proportion of people who live in urban environments – and the subsequent damage to the environment – a challenge that definitely applies to Kabul and its fast growing population.

Innis annual message, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:

“By2030, more than 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Such rapid urbanization presents profound challenges, from poverty and unemployment to crime and drug addiction”.

“On this World Environment Day I urge individuals, businesses and local and national governments to take up the urban environmental challenge. Letups create ‘green cities’ where people can raise their children and pursue their dreams in a well-planned, clean and healthy environment”.

In Afghanistan, the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) and the United Nations Environment Programmed (UNEP) organized events to mark this special day.

Yesterday, the Director-General of the National Environmental Protection Agency visited the Kabul river-cleaning project, which has just completed the cleaning of a high priority 26 km stretch of the Kabul riverbed. The project, initiated on March 12th, was organized by Kabul Municipality and funded by UNAMA. It has employed hundreds of Afghan workers to dredge the Kabul River –the overall aim being to create a cleaner environment for the capitals inhabitants and to prevent potential flooding.

Meanwhile yesterday three Afghan Ministers – the Minister of Women’s Affairs (MOWA), the Minister of Urban Development and Housing, and the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), yesterday conducted tour of Bag-e Zane or the ’Women’s Garden’ in Kabul to raise the profile of green spaces for Afghan women in the country.

The Women’s Garden has undergone several phases of rehabilitation sponsored by the United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP) and the German, Japanese and French governments, and is now used by Afghan women and children as a safe social meeting place, as well as by female students who attend weekly literacy classes there.

Afghan Conservation Corps to rehabilitate natural resources while generating income
I will also use World Environment Day to let you know about an initiative of the Afghan government, the Afghan Conservation Corps or ACC, which was established in July 2003. The ACC is meant to address the dual priorities of rehabilitating the country’s natural resources while generating employment for thousands of Afghans. ACC’s projects for next summer range from income generation for women through home and community nurseries, to environmental programs for youth, continued training for government staff and communities, and revitalization of urban environments.

Inters of forestry, in the last two years ACC rehabilitated 53 nurseries for the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Food, totaling 499 juris, in 21 provinces. In the last12 months, the nurseries have produced 1,600,000 saplings of forestry, fruit and nut varieties.

In its reforestation efforts, ACC also planted 350,000 conifer and pistachio trees on 12,500 juris of government forestland in 13 provinces. These young forests are maintained by ACC and the Department of Forestry until trees become mature – which usually takes 2 years of dedicated care.

In addition to forestry, ACC helps the government and the communities to manage water and soil resources, as well as the natural and urban environments, with works such as the rehabilitation of public parks or the Kabul River cleaning project. Finally, ACC trains communities and officials as well as the public at large through public information campaigns.

Aches favored labor-intensive methods and has generated 550,000 labor days of work since it was created. It is supported by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). It works with the Department of Forestry and Rangelands of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Food, with the National Environment Protection Agency, the Kabul Municipality, the Green Afghanistan Initiative (GAIN), and other communities around the country. ACC is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of Agriculture.

For more information you can contact Rafael Rebilled who is the UNOPS environmental project coordinator at rafaelr@unopsmail.org or erinh@unopsmail.org

National Human Development Report regional launch
after successful February launch in Kabul, Afghanistan’s first National Human Development Report – ‘Security with Human Face’– makes its way to the rest of the country.

Initiated by the Government of Afghanistan and United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP), the National Human Development Report will be launched in Heaton June 7th, 2005. This will mark the first of seven regional launches.
Attending the launch will be the UNDP Assistant Country Director and Head of the External Relations Unit, Mrs. Zahra Virani and the reports authored. Dad Sabah and Dr. Omar Zakhelwal.

The launch will take place from 9:30 -10:30am at the Park Hotel, Shah-e now, and Herat.

 

Petition for Clementina’s return signed by Heads of UN agencies
This morning the 16 heads of the agencies making up the United Nations Country Team and UNAMA representatives signed a petition asking for the safe and immediate return of Clementina Canton, our colleague from the non-governmental organization (NGO) CARE, who was kidnapped in Kabul 3 weeks ago. The petition had also been signed earlier by hundreds of Afghan widows whom Clementina had helped and dedicated herself to in the last three years she spent in Afghanistan, as well as by heads of non-governmental organizations.

By signing the petition, the UN Country Team wants to express its support and solidarity for its friend and colleague Clementina.

Click here for the text of the petition and to download the pictures of the signing.

Sultan Baleen, Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) National Spokesman

I would like to make a correction to the figures regarding the number of women in Provincial Councils that we issued yesterday in our press conference. There are 270 instead of 240. The total number of candidates is 6070 out of which 2884 are for the Wolsey Jirga. For the Provincial Councils there are 3186, of which 68 are Koch’s, including 6 Kuching women.

Questions & Answers

Question: How significant is this process of discussions of the post-election agenda for UNAMA’s future?

Senior Public Information Officer: It is very significant. One of UNAMA’s main roles, according to its mandate, is to support the implementation of the political aspects of the Bonn agreement. And this will be done by September when the parliamentary elections are completed. So a great part of the mandate of UNAMA will have to be revisited because the political side of the Bonn agreement will have been implemented. Therefore the Afghan government – which is hosting the United Nations – and the United Nations, need to have wide consultations to see how they can collaborate in the future, to what extent, and according to which principles they can work together in the future – once the implementation of the Bonn agreement has been completed. So it is very important.

Question: Is there a plan that has been drawn up?

Senior Public Information Officer: If you read the joint statement that was issued yesterday, we have come up with a number of principles as to the way the government of Afghanistan, UNAMA and the international community will work together in the future. Based on these principles, a larger and wider framework for further cooperation, as proposed by the Afghan government, will be discussed.

Question: Do we have any reaction or information on the killing of an election worker in Uruapan province on Friday?

JEMB National Spokesman: Regarding the civic educator who was killed on Friday, this is very sad news for us. But our people in the field, the JEMB staff, and our partners are committed to continue our work.

Senior Public Information Officer: In the name of UNAMA, I would also like to add that UNAMA condemns any type of violence that aims to derail the electoral process or the democratization process that is ongoing in Afghanistan. By voting massively last year, the Afghan people have demonstrated how important it is for all of them to go and vote to rebuild- through elections – a democratic Afghanistan. This is the will of the people. We condemn any violence against the electoral process or the will of the Afghan people.

Question: Was it the first attack on the election workers this year?

JEMB National Spokesman: Yes it was the first incident involving election workers this year.

Question: What are your concerns regarding security in Afghanistan and how can you guarantee the security of your staff in the field?

JEMBNational Spokesman: This is the responsibility of theGovernment of Afghanistan and the Afghan forces that are responsible forthe protection of all Afghans including our staff. We have liaison officers who work closely with the security and also military forces.

Question:Are you satisfied with the security environment in the field?

JEMBNational Spokesman: As already mentioned, this is thefirst incident that has happened since the electoral process started. We hope that the security arrangements in the field will help us to continue our work as much as possible.

Question: Can this kind of incident affect your work?

JEMB National Spokesman: Any security incident can affect our work. As happened during the nomination time, the problems in Jalalabad delayed our work and that was one of the reasons we extended the nomination process.

Question: If there are no complaints by people regarding candidate nominations, how can we look into their eligibility?

JEMB National Spokesman: It is not only an individual’s that can challenge but also Afghan institutions. As you know, yesterday we requested the Joint Secretariat of the Disarmament and Reintegration Commission to provide information regarding links between candidates and illegal armed groups. So it will not only be the Electoral Complaints Commission working on challenges received from individuals, but there are also institutions, which will allow the Complaints Commission to look into the eligibility of certain candidates.