Press Briefing: 21 March 2018

Press Briefing by Manuel de Almeida e Silva
Spokesman for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan

21 March 2018

TALKINGPOINTS

  • SRSG Arnaut Addresses Opening of Afghan School Year and Calls for Education Funding Gap to Be Covered

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Jean Arnaut, is at the Amani School this morning to participate in the ceremony, presided by President Karzai, to mark the opening of the school year. In his speech he will note that since the beginning of the Bonn process Afghan men and women have passionately embraced the opportunity for a better education for their children.

Heist expected to note that, “at a time when the number of children returning to school is surging, more resources are needed to keep up the momentum. A huge funding gap of some US$173 million exists for this year alone.” The basic needs are: new school buildings, improved teaching materials, new curriculums and more teachers –especially women. “These resources are even more necessary in view of the state’s constitutional obligations, “he will remark.

Mr. Arnaut is also expected to note that the number of girls at school has increased year after year and, compared to 2002, there are thirty per cent more girls back in the classroom. The emphasis on women’s education in the new constitution should give further impetus to this positive trend.

“Against this background,” he will say “it is distressing to hear periodically about the actions of a few who continue to burn schools in different parts of the country. Let this be an opportunity once again to condemn these acts. And express the conviction that they will not be able to sway parents or slow the country down.”

The full text of Mr. Arnaut’s speech is available in English. It is embargoed until delivery time.

  • Community Based Schools to Bring Home Education to 500,000Afghan Girls – First Phase of Programmed Now Identifying Communities Where Girls Have No Schools

Inane effort to increase enrolment of Afghanistan’s girls in education, the Afghan Ministry of Education and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be launching a new programming 2004 to bring learning closer to home for 500,000 girl students across the country.

Ina recent study conducted by UNICEF Afghanistan, more than one-third of households questioned considered distance from the home to the classroom to be an obstacle to girls receiving an education. Nearly 1.5 million primary school age girls are still not attending classes.

In response to these issues, UNICEF will launch a new programmer in2004 to develop 10,000 community-based schools in areas lacking formal school facility. These schools will be based in existing structures within a community, such as a public building, the mosque or even private homes. UNICEF will also provide tent classrooms to villages where no existing structure is available for lessons. Teachers will be identified from within the community – in most cases these are expected to be respected women with the minimum qualifications required to deliver primary level education. These teachers will also receive training in the national curriculum and updated classroom methodology. The community-based schools will be provided with the same materials as formal schools, and will follow the standard curriculum. All community-based schools will be registered with the Ministry of Education, and officially recognized as providers of education.

UNICEF and Ministry of Education officials are currently identifying communities in six provinces – Farias, Ghazi, Herat, Kabul, Parwan and Takhar. These communities will be the first to benefit from the new programmer, which is scheduled to commence in late April 2004.

Last year more than 4 million children were enrolled in formal education in Afghanistan, including 1.2 million girls. In the 2004 academic year, UNICEF estimates that up to 5.5 million children will return to school as demand for learning continues to grow. The community-based school programmer is one element of a broad campaign to bring an additional one million girls into school by 2005.

  • National Deworming Campaign Launched for Primary Schoolchildren

In addition to the school initiative there is also one other very important one to improve the health of school children. It is a national de-worming campaign targeting the country’s entire primary school age population of 4.5 million six to twelve year olds. The results of baseline study carried out in 2003 showed a prevalence of soil-transmitted helminthes among Afghanistan’s schoolchildren, as well as shortcomings in basic hygiene-related knowledge, attitudes and behavior. The national de-worming campaign aims to reduce disease, improve physical and intellectual growth and ensure the effectiveness of school feeding programmers.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with WFP, WHO and UNICEF, agreed on a countrywide de-worming campaign linking drug distribution with a health and hygiene sensitization campaign. The Canadian Government is a main contributor to the campaign under its “Food Plus” initiative.

Soothe WFP and its partners in this project have asked us to inform you that the De-worming Campaign will be launched on Tuesday 23March at 9:00 a.m. at the Steal High School Auditorium here in Kabul.
You are all invited to attend and representatives of the different institutions mentioned today will be present and talking to you.

  • Illiteracy Cited as a Reason for Low Level of Women’s Voter Registration

Althea initiatives mentioned aim to improve the education of Afghans, in particular girls and women. During a visit to Kandahar, the Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Najera Sharif, said illiteracy was one of the causes of low levels of women’s registration in the Province. While there visiting the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) she also acknowledged that other reasons also included lack of free time from house hold chores, little access to media and television, security problems, cultural restrictions, lack of women’s organizations in the districts, and lack of support from male family members to take part in registration process.

Yesterday, all registration sites were closed across the country due to Nowruz. This means that the latest figures that we have for you only include one additional day from when we last briefed you. As of Thursday evening, 18 March, 1,519,809 Afghans had registered to vote. The gender breakdown is 1,092,166 men (72 per cent) and 427,643women (28 per cent). Since registration began in December women’s registration has risen from 14-15 per cent to 28 per cent. Registration sites have re-opened today.

On Tuesday of this week, mobile registration teams will be present at the base of the Afghan National Army for those soldiers who wish to register. Last week (17 March), some 1,500 soldiers were registered at the ANA base in Kabul. This included 700 soldiers from the First Brigade and 830 soldiers from the Infantry Division. I also understand that next week there will be a voter registration exercise at the ANA Officer Training School. I believe we will have more details for you by next Thursday.

  • Afghan National Army Swells to 9,000 Strong

Last Thursday the 15th, and 16th Kandace (battalion) of the Afghan National Army (ANA) had their graduation ceremony increasing the number of full trained soldiers to 9,000. Included in that figure are 700new Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of the 13th Kandace- a battalion-sized unit – who graduated on December 28, 2003.

The United States is the lead nation supporting the reform of the ANA and is currently training and equipping 15 army battalions. France leads the officer training efforts, and the United Kingdom is in charge of training NCOs. Gradually, the responsibility for training will be come under the ANA, with limited assistance from the Sand its partners in this process.

The creation of the ANA is part of the Security Sector Reform. Sectors in that reform include the Police with Germany as the lead nation; Justice led by Italy; narcotics led by the United Kingdom and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) led by Japan.

  • Preparations for Remaining DDR Pilot Phases Underway

To date some 5,378 ex-soldiers and officers have been demobilized while 3, 816 are going through the reintegration process. Vocational training and job placement continue to be the most popular choices at reintegration stage attracting 38.2 per cent of the former combatants followed by agriculture with 38 per cent. DDR is in its pilot phase and is happening at this moment in four cities: Kunduz, Gardez, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. There are four other cities that are beginning or about to begin their pilot phases soon and I will tell you about where some of those projects are rights now.

In Bayan the verification process has started for approximately 200o fficers/soldiers out of the 400 expected to be disarmed in the pilot phase due to begin at the end of this month. A Mobile Disarmament Unit (MDU) was deployed to Kandahar on 15 March while verification of officers/soldiers which started at the beginning of March is ongoing ahead of the pilot phase which likely to begin by the byte end of March as well.

In Mazar-e-Sharif reintegration of the nearly 2,000 soldiers began last week and 416 have gone through the process so far.

Aswe told you the Heavy Weapons Survey (HWS) teams were deployed to Kandahar and Gardez on 18 March and once the New Year activities are over will begin their work in those regions. The remaining teams will be deployed by the end of next week to their respective regions. The HWS should be completed within two weeks of deployment. These surveys will take place in the eight cities where DDR is ongoing or is scheduled to take place.

On18 March Japan contributed and additional US$24.5 million towards the budget of DDR. This brings Japan’s total contribution the Afghanistan New Beginnings Programmed (ANBP), which is in charge of the DDR programmer, to nearly US$$60 million. In addition US$10million have been received from Canada and US$3.5 million from the United Kingdom for an overall total contribution of US$73.5 million. The three-year budget for DDR is US$167 million.

  • Kabul to Host Annual Asia Regional Meeting to Ban Landmines

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is holding its annual regional meeting for Asia in Kabul from 26-30 March at the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel. Participants from across the region, including experts and campaigners from mine-affected countries like Cambodia and Sri Lanka, are expected to plan and coordinate efforts to secure total ban on the use, production, stockpiling and trade of antipersonnel mines in Asia.

There will be a press conference at 12:00 noon on 27 March at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Speakers from the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Landmine Monitor initiative will discuss progress achieved and the challenges ahead in the struggle to make Afghanistan, Asia and the rest of the world truly mine-free.

On28 July 2002 Afghanistan’s announced its adherence to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Convention). The Afghan Administration and the international community have developed a strategy to speed up the mine clearance process and to declare the country mine free in 10 years’ time.

For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Sue Wixley/Simona Beltrami on (+ 0093) 070 255227 or email: media@icbl.org.

I should also remind you that the ICBL, which is organizing this seminar, received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

  • On World Water Day 65 Per Cent of Urban Afghan Population Have No Access to Safe Water

Tomorrow, 22 March, is World Water Day. On the side table we have the message released by the Secretary-General to mark the occasion. This year’s theme is: “Water and Disasters: Be informed and be prepared.”

In the Secretary-General’s message, he says: “The international response to current world water challenges contains much admirable effort, but for the most part it has been inadequate. If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving, by 2015, the proportion pf people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water, we will need to make 270,000 new water connections per day.”

In Afghanistan, approximately 65 percent of the population in urban areas and 81 percent of rural communities do not have access to safe water, according to UNICEF. Primary responsibility for water resource management in Afghanistan rests with the Ministry of Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment with support from UN agencies and on-governmental organizations. Currently, FAO (Food and Agriculture Agency), AIMS (Afghan Information Management System) and AREU (Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit), with the support of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), are preparing a report entitled ‘The Watershed Atlas of Afghanistan’ and it will be made available in the coming months.

UNHCR Spokesperson, Mohammad Nader Farhad

  • IDP “Go and See” Visits Underway in Northern Provinces

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) and UNHCR have organized the second “go and see” visit by leaders of internally displaced people (IDPs) as well as refugee representatives from Baluchistan Province in Pakistan.

This latest effort to give thousands of IDPs and refugees firsthand information on general conditions in Jazzman and Badghis (their places of origin) began today with the arrival of eight IDP and refugee representatives in Jazzman for a week-long mission to meet with provincial and local officials, commanders, recent returnees and other members of minority communities.

A similar 8-member “go and see” visit is also being organized for Badghis Province and will leave on 24 March.

Asylum know, the first “go and see” visit organized last month to Farias Province has proven very useful in helping IDPs make decisions about their possible return back to their places of origin. With the help of UNHCR, IOM and other agencies,

Thirty families (128 individuals) are leaving this morning from Zar-e-Dasht camp for Maimana and the surrounding districts. The Governor of Kandahar is seeing them off at the camp.

Many of these families had fled the northwestern province nearly three years ago and were staying in Zar-e-Dasht camp in Kandahar Province. They are of Pashtun ethnicity and had left their homes due to conflict and human rights violations after the fall of the Taliban regime.

There turn momentum is picking up, taking advantage of improved conditions in the Northwest. About 100 more internally displaced families have expressed their willingness to return to their places of origin in Badghis Province and another 40 families are eager to return back to Farias Province.

Wearer very much encouraged by this surge in IDP returns, which starts– as a good omen – right at the beginning of the Afghan New Year. It is now essential that promises made to facilitate these movements and guarantee the safety of returnees – including pledges made by General Dictum – be kept and fulfilled.

UNHCR’s Chief of Mission Filippo Grandi travelled to Kandahar and Spin Boldak last week, encouraging northern IDPs to consider returning home.

“At this point, given the improvements, you must make your voice heard by returning to your homes, addressing your problems on the spot, and finally participating in the elections later this year –this will give you the political representation in the institutions which you are rightly demanding,“ Grandi told IDPs at Zar-e-Dasht Camp.

There turning families will receive an enhanced package with wooden beams, blanket, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, tents, lanterns, soap, hygiene clothes, agricultural kits (seeds, shovel, sickle, watering can, wheat seeds), family kits (spoons, bucket, cups, soap, bowl and plates) and WFP wheat flour.

UNHCR hopes to continue with the voluntary return movement from the south to the northwestern provinces. There are still an estimated 180,000internally displaced people or (IDPs) in Afghanistan.

Questions and Answers

Question: The DDR pilot phase is taking place. Can you tell us when will the second phase will begin – it seems to be taking a long time?

Spokesman: We hope that the main phase will start as soon as possible and not just because we want to get it done quickly but because we consider an effective DDR is essential for contributing towards an environment that is conducive to free and fair elections. If you ask the population of this country, Afghans from all walks of life from all regions, what they would like – they tell you they want security first and above all. And they associate that with the idea of disarmament. So with that in mind one acknowledges the fact that military groups need to be phased out first of all to create space for the new ANA– that is the main purpose of DDR. But also, as you enter an electoral period those who have arms should not have them so that there is no temptation to use force as a means of intimidation when people will be making their choice. People have the right to choose freely.

Question: Do you know when the electoral law will be passed?

Spokesman: No I don’t. I know it should be in the very near future and those working on it have been working very hard for some time now but I do not have date to announce to you. As you know, like every other law in this country, it must be adopted by the Government, and they have been working very hard on it.

Question: How many weapons have been collected in the DDR Pilot process sofa? What is the difference between the pilot phase and the main phase?

Spokesman: As of a week ago about 4,200 weapons have been collected through the DDR exercise. And I reiterate that the number of weapons collected do not tally with the number of soldiers disarmed because certain arms are not operated by one soldier. Weapons that are little bit bigger than light weapons – and maybe our military colleagues can give you a more technical explanation – need to be operated by two [or more] persons so hence the difference in numbers.

There is really no difference between the pilot phase of DDR and the main phase. The pilot is when we learn lessons. We see what works and what does not work. For instance one of the lessons we have learned and we have told you about is the fact that in certain areas, Kunduz, Mazar and Kabul in particular, after the former soldiers received the cash portion of their demobilization entitlement there was extortion by commanders who wanted if not the full payment at least a portion of it. So that was lesson learnt and nowadays that cash payment has been suspended in the pilot phase. Whatever the ex-soldiers were entitled is now being incorporated gradually into the salaries they get as they are reintegrated into civilian life. This is just one example of the type of lesson that is learnt and what will be done in the future.

A part of the effort for DDR to contribute to free and fair elections is the cantonment of heavy weapons. While it is not part of the original DDR programmer it is an activity that the Ministry of Defense and ISAF have been very active in implementing. As I mentioned today there are these teams going around the country to survey [heavy weapons]. The aim is that by elections 100 per cent of heavy weapons will be cantoned.

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