Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UN warns that funding shortfall could hamper September elections

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With parliamentary elections in Afghanistan only seven week's away, the United Nations mission warned today that a $31 million funding shortfall could hamper essential preparatory work and lead to a postponement, although it stressed that it expected the poll to go ahead as scheduled.

"We urge donor governments to reaffirm their commitment to the September elections by acting to address this problem as rapidly as possible," UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Kabul, the capital, of the polls aimed at cementing the transition from decades of war.

"If these funds do not become available very shortly it will hamper essential preparatory work such as voter education, the establishment of thousands of polling facilities and the hiring of over 140,000 polling staff. The consequence could include a postponement of the election and the loss of a huge investment made in the election this year," he added.

In answering questions, Mr. Edwards stressed that UNAMA expects the elections to go ahead and urged those who are providing funds to come forward quickly, noting that pledges and commitments to honour the full amount of $149 million have not yet been fully received.

"I think we need to make clear that our expectation is that the elections will go ahead and preparations are fully underway for that," he said. "The reason I've mentioned our concerns about funding is that this is a problem that can be fixed relatively easily. Not all the problems that Afghanistan is facing after so many years of conflict are [so simple to fix].

"Clearly when you are giving power to the people of Afghanistan to freely choose their parliamentary and provincial council representatives, this is a complex process. And we don't anticipate a perfect election. After so many years of conflict, this is a sad reality," he added.

"But we do believe that the Afghan people want these elections. We believe they want them now. We believe the environment is adequate for elections that the Afghan people can trust in, and which can produce credible results."

Pressed on what would happen if the $31 million was not forthcoming, Mr. Edwards re-emphasized that UNAMA expected the election to go ahead and again urged donors and the international community to come forward very quickly.

"Our expectation is that the election will go ahead on schedule - we need the money though," he concluded.