Afghanistan

Afghanistan weekly situation report Kabul 17 - 24 Apr 2003

GENRAL ISSUES:
Administrative Reform

Two draft decrees are being finalized presently that concern externally funded reimbursements (commonly known as top-ups) and the restructuring of public administration. They are initial, interim steps towards the larger objectives of full-scale pay-level reforms and institutional reform and reconstruction. The need arises due to the current distortion in the grading structure where often salaries/grades do not reflect the individual's responsibility, as well as the need to streamline ministries so as to avoid overlap of work.

1. Priority Reform and Reconstruction Decree

The objective of this decree is to facilitate reform and restructuring of ministries by the ministries themselves with the incentive that they can bring the best people forward to be transferred to an interim salary-scale. Main points of this decree include the nomination of key areas within ministries for reform, and a two-staged process. The first stage determines the case for reform. At this stage it will be established whether the ministry has serious political backing and if there is a team in place that is able to identify areas of reform. The second stage implies presenting a detailed description of what the impact of reform will be on that ministry.

An inter-ministerial group made up of key ministries will act as a steering group to drive the process forward and review applications for reform. This group will be situated within the Civil Service Commission. It will be the responsibility of the inter-ministerial group to determine where the most important function of ministries requesting reform lies.

The selection of eligible staff will be made by the ministries themselves who will have to indicate their criteria and reasons for selection as well as provide a list of rejected candidates.

2. The second decree entitled, " Externally-Funded Reimbursements and Allowances", aims to curb the amount paid in terms of 'top-ups' as currently the Government is unable to control external reimbursements. This decree puts the onus on ministries and civil servants not to accept more than the permitted level of allowance. Over the following two years the top-up system will gradually fade out and during this period it is aimed that pay and grading reform will be completed. This decree also covers secondments (of nationals), which will be limited to three years. Seconded staff will have to sign a document stating their return to their ministry at the completion of their secondment to serve a further three years there.

Allowances for returnees will depend on whether they return to the country as 'experts' or to a government post. In the latter case they may be entitled to be put forward to the scheme. To ensure the success of the decree international organizations need to support this process and ensure transparency on their own front.

Floods

Heavy rains have caused flash floods in various parts of the country blocking roads and causing damage to land and property, and in some areas, resulting in the loss of life.

In the Northeast, floods have been reported in Puli Khumri, Andarab and Dahana-i Ghouri in Baghlan, resulting in the destruction of land and houses affecting 559 families. Following discussions with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Baghlan, WFP is planning an assessment in the region this week, as the immediate need is for food assistance.

In the Central region, flooding destroyed four villages and 256 families were left homeless. Some families managed to escape to higher grounds while helicopters dispatched by MRRD rescued others. An assessment mission comprising MRRD, MoRR and UNAMA visited the area, where they were informed of the initial displacement of 200 families, numerous livestock having been washed away and between 100 and 160 hectares of farmland being flooded. Four children were confirmed to have perished in the flood. A subsequent emergency meeting with MRRD, MoRR and a number of UN-agencies resulted in the immediate distribution of a comprehensive package of non-food items for 200 families and some 13 MT tons of food. The MoRR also provided relief items and 5 MT food. Additional support was provided by a number of organizations in NFI, health, water supply and mine surveying in the following days.

In the Central Highlands region heavy rainfall resulted in flash floods in Kakrak and Lala Khil. It is expected that WFP will set-up Food for Work projects.

In the Southern district of Baghran, 45 houses were washed away. According to the district commissioner and head of the police, 30 people died and 8 people were injured. UN agencies and assistance actors have taken up assistance initiatives in the South for immediate action.

REGIONAL ISSUES:

NORTHEAST

The Afghanistan Evaluation Research Unit visited Badakhshan to review how local administration is functioning. The mission visited the districts of Zebak, Ishkashem, Baharak, Jurm and Faizabad. At a meeting with Government Department heads, UN and NGOs it was noted that the salary scale of the civil service should be reviewed and increased; capacity building of the civil service is needed; and that DDR is the first priority to allow full scale development work to begin.

CENTRAL

There was a fast response to the flood emergency and immediate relief measures are in progress. Flood victims have been moved to a resettlement site in Barikap. Central Government and provincial authorities now will have to decide whether to move the victims elsewhere or to develop the site into a proper settlement area. The Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development maintains that it does not approve of a permanent settlement in the Barikap location.

Two international NGOs have withdrawn their health services from the province of Kapisa. As dedicated emergency organizations, and according to their definition of emergency, MSF-F and ICRC decided their efforts could be utilized better elsewhere. Their departure leaves only Action Contre la Faim to assist the health services of the province with nutritional support. And even this NGO intends to withdraw from the province later this year. Historically organizations have worked in the northwest of the province, having once been under the Northern Alliance, whereas the south, east and interior of the province, historically under the Taliban, received limited attention. This trend remains to date and is of serious concern to the UNAMA Central Area Office. Seeking to assess conditions in the interior, ACF collected nutritional information in the districts of Alasay, Nejrab and Tagab. The official report will be available by mid-May, however preliminary findings indicate an acute child malnutrition rate as high as 17% in some locations. After ascertaining the reasons for this high level, UNAMA Area office will discuss actions with the relevant agencies.

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

The issue of the Buddha cave dweller communities, reported in previous sitreps, remains unresolved. The temporary shelters built by international NGOs are incomplete. Construction has been halted by MRRD on the grounds of poor quality of work. MRRD, the relevant NGOs and the Norwegian donor are jointly looking for a solution. UNHCR has agreed to repatriate those whom the Ministry of Repatriation has identified as genuine returnees back to their areas of origin.

On a cultural aspect, the recent collapse of part of the niche that contained the largest Buddha has highlighted the concern of the local authorities regarding the protection of the site. They suggest that UNESCO, the French Embassy, and the Ministry of Information and Culture become involved in finding a solution.

SOUTH

Concerns continue to rise regarding the negative effect that the unstable security in the region is having on the presence and work of assistance actors. In the aftermath of the killing of the international ICRC staff member, the latest setback came with the announcement of Oxfam, that it is suspending all its activities for at least six months in the area. Similarly de-mining activities have slowed down or not taken place in the provinces of Helmand, Zabul and Kandahar.

The UNAMA Security Head went on mission to Kandahar to meet with staff of all UN Agencies to discuss security improvements in the region.

WEST

An FAO team has been sent to Qadis district in Badghis province to assess the recent locust attack in the area. Control activities are in progress and it appears that the number of locust has scaled down also due to a spate of colder weather.

Since the beginning of the year, 3,000 IDP families have returned to their places of origin in various provinces in the West. Returns to some parts of Badghis have been put on hold temporarily due to recent inter-factional skirmishes.

A three-day workshop is planned with key stakeholders in each of the four provinces of the West to assist MRRD and other departments in programming resources in support of reintegration measures. More specifically the workshop is aiming to define and identify critical humanitarian/development needs at district level, specify assistance gaps and articulate responses.

As part of the strategy to promote safe motherhood, UNICEF is planning to establish an obstetric unit in each of the provincial hospitals to ensure safe deliveries. This program will be extended to district level in the future.

NORTH

The issue of poppy production in the North is of serious concern, as the level of production appears to have increased significantly over the last year. This has a number of implications, including security and the promotion of a reconstruction agenda. During the reporting period, UNAMA met with the Governor of Balkh Province and the Deputy of the Narcotics Commission to discuss this issue, regarding both short and medium term responses. It was noted that fields in at least three districts of the Province are ready for harvesting and there is an urgent need to mobilize government/security commission support to destroy the crop. This issue will be followed up in an emergency meeting of the Security Commission, UNAMA and the Governor's Office in the coming days.

For the medium term, the Narcotics Commission and the Governor's Office have taken the lead in organizing a workshop with key government departments and the assistance community to explore ways for addressing this problem. The participation of UNODC will be critical in this regard.

UNAMA hosted a second session of the Land Rights/Land Use Workshop on 21 April, attended by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, UN agencies and NGOs. This strategic planning session built on the proceedings of a meeting held on 14 April, during which multiple issues involved in land rights/land use in the North were discussed. Participants now focused on local initiatives that could be utilized to resolve land rights/land use disputes in respect to 1) land occupation (by force); 2) competing group claims to land; 3) ongoing land distribution/allocation. There was an acknowledgement that legitimate adjudication/arbitration mechanisms should be supported and strengthened. However, many of these mechanisms are still in formation and are unlikely, in the short term, to be effective in dispute resolution, and alternative mechanisms need to be explored.

Given the complexity of the issue, it was agreed that the Land Task Force of the Protection Working Group (made up of UNAMA, UNHCR, IOM, IRC and GOAL) would carry the discussion forward with the aim of generating concrete recommendations for a broader discussion.