Afghan government invites UN expert on violence against women to visit

The United Nations expert on violence against women is to begin a 10-day fact-finding mission to Afghanistan this weekend at the invitation of the Government of a country where women's rights were seriously restricted under the Taliban regime ousted four years ago.

The Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Yakin Ertürk, will meet with Government and other national and local authorities, as well as with representatives of non-governmental organizations dealing with issues related to gender-based violence.

Ms. Ertürk will visit various regions of the country as well as spnding time in the capital, Kabul. The Special Rapporteur's mandate is to collect information on violence against women and recommend ways to eliminate gender-based violence and to remedy its consequences at the national, regional and international levels.

Forms of violence against women identified in the mandate include violence against women in the family, in the community and violence by State agents.

In a report to the UN Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) earlier this year, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that Afghan women had made "historic gains" since the fall of the Taliban Government, but their participation in public life was circumscribed by the continuing lack of security and reformers had to take care not to stir up the traditional hostility to women's advancement.

In other developments, Japan this week signed a $17-million agreement with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to address Afghanistan's simultaneous needs generated by peace and reconstruction, including long-term regional planning, training government staff, urban employment, increased agricultural productivity, and reducing the threat of landmines left over from decades of war.

Meanwhile, construction of a teacher training college library in the southern city of Kandahar, funded by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), has been completed. The project, begun last August, has cost $35,000 and includes the construction of the library, a study room for 50 teachers, a reception hall, an administration room and washrooms. UNICEF also provided equipment and learning material.