Afghanistan + 1 more

Afghanistan: Press briefing by Ariane Quentier, Senior Public Information Officer and UN agencies in Afghanistan 8 May 2005

TALKING POINTS

NDI offers training for political parties, independent candidates

As of today the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is offering training to political parties and to independent candidates on the procedures for the nomination of candidates for the September 18th elections.

NDI will provide a clear explanation of the procedures for nomination along with the required forms and associated paperwork. The training will also include a briefing on the basics of democracy and the roles of candidates and parliamentarians to assist prospective candidates to understand the responsibilities that they assume in presenting themselves as candidates.

Any political party or individual that wishes to nominate candidates for the elections should contact the nearest training centre to arrange a training session.

Flood Update

In Faryab province, flood and rain (on May 3rd) affected families in Quzat, Payan House, Sangy, Mullah Arify, Jee Jee, Talib Jar, Mulla Hossain, House malan-e-bala, Guldan, Chesham Sanginy, Lashy and Tagawek villages of Kohistan district.

The areas were quickly assessed by the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) who found 104 houses to have been partly damaged. No human and livestock casualties have been reported.

UNAMA and other UN agencies had previously pre-positioned tents, blankets and food stocks in Maimana, which means the needs of the affected families are covered. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is transporting the humanitarian assistance to the affected areas and families.

In Bamyan province there have been reports of flooding (May 4th), causing damage to cultivated land and livestock in the districts of Watana, Nihal, Plass, Aahanger, Nuruskhi, the Largar Valleys and Patu village in Waras district. A joint mission with the Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and UNAMA will be deployed as soon as accessibility allows; bad weather and flooded rivers have so far prevented their deployment.

Meanwhile, in Badakhshan the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) Concern and ARCS are providing urgent non-food items for the 18 families in Khiring village of Jurm district who were affected by an avalanche.

DDR now over 50,000 mark

A total of 50,514 former Afghan Military Forces (AMF) members have disarmed. From that figure 44,995 have entered into the reintegration programme. Again, the most popular area of reintegration is agriculture with 43.6 percent of participants choosing that option. Vocational training is a distant second with 26.9 percent participation.

Regarding the collection of weapons from disarmed units, the Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) has announced that 30,927 light and heavy weapons have been collected under the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. The discrepancy between the number of collected weapons and disarmed soldiers stem from the fact that certain weapons are manned by more than one soldier.

In terms of heavy weapons, to date 8,945 working or repairable heavy weapons have been collected and secured in guarded compounds throughout the country.

An added announcement coming from the ANBP, the Central Corps Commander Haji Sher Alam would like to announce the decommissioning of all AMF units which were under the control of Central Corps in Kabul.

Next Monday, tomorrow, a decommissioning ceremony will be held at the 10th Division Headquarters.

The ceremony will be attended by officials from ANBP and the Ministry of Defense (MoD). More than 1,000 AMF officers and soldiers will attend the ceremony and then disarm.

Joint Verification Unit visits regions

The Joint Verification Unit (JVU) of UNAMA and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) recently returned from its first-round of regional visits throughout Afghanistan.

Composed of one UNAMA and one AIHRC staff member, the Joint Verification Unit is traveling throughout the country and initiating dialogue with the field teams working on the Political Rights Verification Campaign (PRVC), as well as getting feedback on the overall challenges posed by the provincial council and Wolesi Jirga elections.

The JVU has already visited regional offices in Jalalabad, Kunduz, Gardez and Herat and is expected to visit Kandahar, Bamyan and Mazar in the next few days.

The visits represent an opportunity to discuss strategies with the regional teams, and meet with local Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) officials, as well as representatives of civil society, political parties, prospective male and female candidates, government officials and other authorities.

In general terms the JVU has found that there is great interest regarding the upcoming elections. However, there appears to be an urgent and immediate need for greater awareness training and dissemination of information about the electoral process among the population.

Afghan returns from Pakistan tops 50,000

Two months after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resumed its voluntary repatriation programme from Pakistan, more than 50,000 Afghans have returned with the assistance of the UN refugee agency.

The return operation in Pakistan re-started on March 7th following a winter break. Since then a total of 55,065 Afghans have returned home and UNHCR expects a total of 400,000 Afghans to return by the end of 2005.

Meanwhile in Iran, more than 7,000 Afghans have been assisted by UNHCR to return since the beginning of the year, and the UN refugee agency estimates that a total of 300,000 Afghans will return from Iran this year.

More than 3.2 million Afghans have repatriated under the UNHCR programme since it began three years ago.

Click here to read the English UNHCR press release.

New IOM website up and running

Along with its monthly newsletter the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a new Afghan specific website that focuses on IOM-related activities and programmes.

The website includes all relevant information and up-to-date statistics on various programmes being implemented in the country.

The monthly newsletters are available to the public and are published in English, Dari and Pashto.

The website address is www.iom.int/afghanistan.

UNDP releases May newsletter

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office recently released its May newsletter. The monthly, internal newsletter covers programmatic news, appointments and events.

It is also available for media simply as an information resource to keep you up-to-date with UNDP activities. If you would like to be on the mailing list, please contact Gary Holub at 070 201 122.

The newsletter can be downloaded from the UNDP website at www.undp.org.af.

UNIFEM releases newsletter

And one final newsletter to tell you about, the United Nations Women's Development Fund (UNIFEM) has also released its second 'Gender Advocacy in Afghanistan' newsletter, which presents, among other things, a discussion of customary law and the Badakhshan stoning case from a legal perspective.

This issue also presents information on men's literacy in Afghanistan - currently, the fourth worst literacy rate for men in the world.

Copies can be downloaded from the UNIFEM website at www.afghanistan.unifem.org.

Bronwyn Curran, JEMB International Spokesperson - 'Election update'

Good morning. Most of you by now have received the figures for the candidate nominations for the first week (April 30th until May 5th). If you haven't received them, please go to our website for an update. The information is there.

In the first week, more than 2,200 people came into our offices across the country in each provincial capital to collect their candidate nomination application kits. Of those more than 400 have gone through the full application process and submitted their nomination papers. Of those 400, a total of 323 are for the Wolesi Jirga, and of those 323 a total of 56 are women who have applied to run for office for the Wolesi Jirga.

In terms of provincial council applications, we have had 95 in total nationwide, and three of them are for women.

Meanwhile the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) is very encouraged by the strong turnout, particularly of women. At the moment we are at around 20 percent for the Wolesi Jirga, for women, and that is very encouraging. In fact in recent days, the Joint Electoral Management Body has finalized the distribution of reserved women's seats in the Wolesi Jirga. Sixty-eight seats are reserved for women, as stipulated in the constitution and the electoral law. The JEMB had to decide how to allocate those seats so in the last few days they have decided to give three of those reserved seats to Kuchi women. The remaining 65 seats have been divided across the provinces in direct proportion to their population by taking a seat allocation quota. And this is subject to a one seat minimum per province for women. So every province has at least one seat reserved for women in the Wolesi Jirga, and then a few more depending on the estimated population of each province.

The distribution of women's seats on the provincial councils had been decided a few week's back, as we have already stated, at least 25 percent of seats in the provincial council are set aside for women. The calculations have worked out at a range between three and eight seats on provincial councils set aside for women.

The JEMB reminds again all aspiring male and female candidates that they have until May 19th to formally come forward to nominate themselves as candidates. These coming two weeks are the only chance that you have to step forward and formally submit yourselves as candidates. The JEMB especially urges women to come forward and run for office and take their place because everybody wants to hear their voice and the seats are waiting for you.

Questions & Answers

Question: In terms of the reintegration of soldiers, thousands of soldiers have not received their reintegration package in Kunduz. Do we have any comment on this?

Ahmad Jan Nawzadi, ANBP/DDR Public Information Officer: As you know, ANBP was short of funds. But just a month ago, Japan provided an additional US$ 28.5 million in funds for reintegration. Soon the problem will be solved and the funds will be transferred to Kunduz.

Question: Is there any update on Panjshir, regarding the commander that you had problems with?

Senior Public Information Officer: If you talk about the 1st Division - no we have no progress and this issue has not been solved. But the 1st Division is not part of the Central Corps.

Question: There was an explosion yesterday in a café in Shahr-e Naw and there has been a robbery or abduction attempt against foreign people in the last few days. Are you concerned that foreign people will be retaliated against more in Kabul in the coming weeks?

Senior Public Information Officer: We are of course concerned at the security incidents and the increase of insurgency in certain areas of Afghanistan. This is something that the UN has always been following closely. You are probably aware, without getting into the details of security arrangements, that the UN has established specific mechanism to be able to monitor the security situation throughout the country - whether it is improving or deteriorating. Indeed, there have been a number of incidents in the last few days in Kabul, and more generally in the country, and we are looking at this extremely closely. We have put in place a number of measures for our staff, but there again I am not going to discuss security measures. That said, the way that the United Nations and the United Nations family is working in Afghanistan has not changed - at all - as a result of the latest incidents.

Question: Is there any update on the flooding in Farah province?

Senior Information Officer: The assessment mission to Farah province [to Purchaman district] is being hampered by the bad weather, but it will be deployed as soon as possible.