Afghanistan

Press Briefing by Adrian Edwards, Spokesperson for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan 14 Jul 2005

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TALKING POINTS

Reintegration of former AMF Soldiers

To date 56,706 former Afghan Military Forces officers and soldiers have been demobilized and 54,995 have been registered for reintegration.

Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) has also collected 36,395 heavy and light weapons under the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process, of which 17,331 have been handed to the Ministry of Defence/Afghan National Army. The rest remain in safe storage.

The nationwide ammunition survey has so far identified 483,114 boxed and 1,230,610 unboxed ammunition sets in 357 caches throughout the country. Most of this ammunition has been identified as unserviceable and has been destroyed by our Implementing Partner (HALO Trust), while the useable portion have been transported to safe and standard storage. The teams are now surveying in the regions of Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz and Jalalabad.

Meanwhile, the ANBP was requested by the Elections Commission to verify weapons in the possession of illegal armed groups. To date a total of 15,252 weapons have been collected. Since June 12th 7,587 of these have been verified by ANBP weapons verification teams. Additionally, 16,764 boxed and 29,936 unboxed ammunitions sets have been verified under the DIAG [Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups] programme.

Radio quizzes to test Afghans' knowledge of elections

A series of radio quizzes to help educate Afghan voters ahead of the September 18th National Assembly Elections, are currently being broadcast throughout the country.

The quiz programmes, which are being funded by The Asia Foundation, are on air every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on the national short-wave radio station Salaam Wantander, and on Radio Killid in Kabul each Thursday at 4 p.m. Contestants have been chosen from communities throughout Afghanistan and are tested on their knowledge of candidacy, registration, general knowledge of the elections, and female participation.

A total of nine weekly shows are being broadcast and prizes include radios, televisions, and stationary equipment for schools.

EU Parliamentarians to meet the press

Seven Members of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee for Development will hold a Press Conference at 5pm Saturday (July 16th) at the European Commission's Offices in Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul.

The Parliamentarians are here on a fact-finding mission and their visit will focus on the current political situation in Afghanistan and the upcoming elections.

Click here for the English and Dari versions of the Press Release.

Human Rights Special Rapporteur press conference reminder

A reminder that next Monday, July 19th, Yakin Ert=FCrk, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, will be holding a press conference here at UNAMA in place of our regular press briefing.

Ms. Ert=FCrk has been in Afghanistan since July 9th on a fact-finding mission.

She has interviewed female prison inmates in prisons in both Kabul and Kandahar and met with the Kandahar Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal, and the Public Prosecutor.

In Kandahar she has also attended a joint UNAMA-Ministry of Women's Affairs capacity-building workshop, where she was introduced to representatives of the Department of Women's Affairs from all provinces in the South and West of Afghanistan.

Today (Thursday) she is attending a psycho-social support group in Kabul where she will meet victims of gender-based violence in Afghanistan.

Whilst we are on this subject, please note that the July edition of the UNIFEM (United Nations Women's Fund) Gender Advocacy in Afghanistan newsletter is now available.

Topics in this issue include; violence against women by women, women's employment in Afghanistan, women's higher education in Afghanistan, family planning and women's health in Afghanistan, and the Afghan Constitution and Parliament.

Click here for more information.

Afghan Ministry of Health, UNICEF, plan extended diarrhoeal disease campaign

In response to increasing cases of diarrhoeal disease in Kabul, the Ministry of Public Health - with the support of UNICEF - is extending its annual diarrhoeal disease prevention campaign for a further two weeks.

The month of July traditionally sees an increase in cases of diarrhoeal disease, especially amongst children, as warm weather combines with the prevalence of contaminated water. This year, the large amount of ground water, the result of melting snow and high river levels, has further raised the threat from the disease.

Click here for the full Press Release.

Around Afghanistan

IOM lends hand with construction of clinics, schools in Herat

To enhance primary health care and strengthen education in Herat the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting construction of 11 clinics and 28 schools in different districts of the province. All projects are under way and all should be completed by mid September. The costs, which are $1.37 million, are being donated by the US Agency for International Development (US AID).

UNOPS conducts road assessment in Central Highlands

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has finished conducting an assessment of 40 km of the Ghandak road in the Central Highlands. The road is an important alternative from Kabul to Mazar when the Salang tunnel closes due to inclement conditions during winter months.

UNOPS will be in charge of the road repairs, which will begin next week. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has provisionally approved US$80,000 for emergency road repairs to help alleviate damage from mudslides.

WFP Flood Assistance

The World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food assistance to the Nangarhar Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development for some 800 flood-affected people in the districts of Khewa, Kama, Mohmandara, Goshta, Lalpura, and Batikot. 87.2 Metric Tons of WFP assistance was dispatched on Monday and Tuesday for 4,800 affected people.

Students graduate from internship programme

A small group of graduate-level students has become Afghanistan's first to complete training under the Civil Service Commission Professional Internship Programme.

This new internship programme gives graduates the chance to work for up to six months in Afghan Ministries, and has been supported by UNDP and the French government.

One of the graduates Mr. Yama Yara is here today and is available to answer your questions after the briefing for any among you who may be interested.

Briefing by Bronwyn Curran, JEMB International Spokesperson

The final lists of election candidates are now on display in all JEMB provincial offices and on our website.

A total of 5,805 candidates are going to the polls on September 18th to bid for election to either one of 34 provincial councils or one of the 249 seats on the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of the National Assembly. Just over 10 percent of the candidates are women.

We have 3027 candidates for the provincial councils, and 2,778 candidates for the Wolesi Jirga, including 69 Kuchis who are contesting the 10 seats reserved in the Wolesi Jirga for Kuchis.

The largest number of candidates is in Kabul province, where 390 candidates are running for seats on the Wolesi Jirga. The lowest is in Uruzgan province where 19 candidates are running for Wolesi Jirga seats.

With the production of the final list right on schedule, the JEMB can now take the 69 separate ballots to the printers for the massive printing task. A total of 40 million ballots will be printed at printers in Austria and the UK.

With the final list out and the Voter Registry Update just one week off completion, we are in the final stages of preparations for polling. Some 5,000 polling centres are being identified and assessed, and recruitment will soon begin of 180,000 Afghans to staff the polling centres on Election Day. On that day, the ultimate choice, the final decision about who will end up in a parliament representing the Afghan people lies, only, with the Afghan people.

Through the ballot they will reject those candidates who they believe are unsuitable, and they will choose those candidates whom they believe are most suitable to represent them. Their ballots will be cast in secret.

Latest available figures on the Voter Registration Update show that as of close of business Monday, almost 780,000 people had been issued new registration cards. This includes around 680,000 entirely new registrants, over 90,000 replaced cards and around 8,400 corrections to cards for voters who have moved provinces since the last election.

Finally we would like to remind everyone that media campaigning is banned outside the official campaign period, from August 17 to September 15. Activities such as rallies, distributing posters and leaflets, and other forms of campaigning that do not involve the media, are allowed at any time.

Questions & Answers

Question: My question is on the weapons collected from illegal armed groups. Is the collection of the weapons in this [DIAG] campaign backed up by force, or is it just voluntary?

Spokesman: No, at this stage this is not being done by force. These weapons have been handed in voluntarily. As you know, these are not just by candidates taking part in the elections, but also by people who have surrendered their weapons on their own account.

Here I want to say something: With more than 15,200 weapons already surrendered, we are confident that the vetting process, irrespective of any limitations it might have, is making a significant contribution to overall disarmament and to bringing about a better environment for the electoral campaign and Election Day.

Disarmament does not end with this week's publication of the candidates' list. It is the intention of the Government and our own to take advantage of the momentum created by the vetting process to press for large-scale implementation of the DIAG programme. We will do our best to ensure that DIAG makes its own contribution to enhancing further the environment for the elections.

This being said, everyone has to recognize that disarmament will not be thorough by Election Day. Sadly but truly, no one can expect that the legacy of 25 years of war and militarisation to be erased in 40 months. The test for the parliamentary elections is not whether they will be perfect, but whether they will be meaningful and can result in a representative parliament and representative provincial councils - this is the Bonn benchmark and our own. We believe this objective is still very much within reach.

Further disarmament will help. So will the presence of observers and that of candidates' agents. And so will the determination of Afghans to go to the polls and vote according to their conscience. Like the presidential election, the upcoming election will take place under a system of secret ballot and we cannot emphasize enough how important it will be for voters to take advantage of this guarantee to elect those they trust to be their genuine representatives.

Question: What is the UN's reaction to the Human Rights Watch Report?

Spokesman: At our press briefing earlier this week I talked about our reaction that report. It is a report that has to be taken seriously. It is very important that this country's past is properly understood by everyone here. As you already know, the government has a transitional justice plan and is working on this plan. It has discussed this plan in The Hague with members of the international community very recently. We are talking to the government about this plan and a number of processes that not only include criminal justice but reparations for victims and truth - all these are essential measures that are crucial for ending impunity.