Afghanistan

Press Briefing by Adrian Edwards, Spokesperson for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan 1 Aug 2005

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TALKING POINTS

Statement on Election funding

UNAMA is concerned about the $31 million shortfall in funding for Afghanistan 's upcoming elections. This is worrying, less than seven weeks away from the elections. 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. We urge donor governments to reaffirm their commitment to the September elections by acting to address this problem as rapidly as possible.

For press representatives the JEMB's next regular press conference will be on Wednesday at 11am in the JEMB compound. The focus will be on women and elections.

DDR / DIAG update

Numerical indicators of progress are continuing to rise with Afghanistan 's various disarmament and reintegration processes. Figures provided this morning by the Afghan New Beginnings Programme, which is a government programme supported by the UN and donors, show that 57,597 ex-combatants have either entered or completed reintegration. This is an increase of 550 over the figures that were current as of our last briefing on Thursday.

In line with this process, a number of ex-combatants have recently graduated from two separate programmes . A ceremony for 98 ex-combatants who graduated from a construction project supervisor programme was held yesterday at Kabul Polytechnic, and 100 additional people will undergo similar training in the near future. With teacher training, some 180 people have now graduated and a further 142 are in training. The ammunition survey is on going throughout the country.

With Disbanding of Illegal Armed Groups 7781 weapons are now verified as having been handed in, 4052 of these from election candidates. Also verified at 5677 boxes of ammunition, and 17,311 individual pieces. Weapons collection points remain open in all provinces.

UNHCR facilitates voluntary repatriation of Afghans from Gujranwala

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has organized the first ever repatriation of Afghans from Gujranwala city, Pakistan - yesterday 150 Afghans left the city to return to Afghanistan under the ongoing repatriation programme.

Since March this year, more than 214,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan with UNHCR help. As you know, all UNHCR repatriations are voluntary.

Sima Samar appointed Special Rapporteur

The Chairman of the sixty-first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has appointed Dr. Sima Samar of Afghanistan as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan .

Dr. Samar is the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women's Affairs in the post-Taliban Afghan government and now chairs the country's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

The Special Rapporteur is an honorary position and is both part-time and unpaid. Dr. Samar will be continuing in her current post, although she is expected to undertake two missions to Sudan over the next year. She will report on the human rights situation in Sudan to the UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights.

FAO to support livestock production in Heart Province

Between 18 and 21 st July, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) dispatched a technical mission to Heart to assess livestock production in the province. The mission followed an earlier meeting between the new governor of Heart , Hussein Anwari, and FAO Country Representative Serge Verniau in which the governor had stressed the need to improve livelihoods among Kuchis and farmers.

The FAO team has since prepared proposals for two projects, one relating to development of poultry farming for women, the other related to integration of dairies. These include developing animal health and breeding systems as well as assistance to Kuchi farmers. They will be submitted to the donor community for funding.

By responding swiftly to the Governor's request as well as to the population needs in Western Afghanistan , the FAO believes its programme will be a success and expects it to be duplicated in neighbouring provinces.

[During the mission, the FAO team visited 73 rural families, dairy and poultry farms as well as rural poultry systems. The mission also visited the slaughterhouse, livestock, and poultry and feed markets, poultry medicine suppliers, dairy shops, veterinary and other governmental offices in Heart .]

UNICEF Regional Director guest speaker 4 th August

A reminder that this coming Thursday, Cecilia Lotse, the United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) Regional Director for South Asia, will be speaking here at UNAMA's 10am press briefing on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Ms. Lotse is currently travelling around the south, south-east and central provinces of Afghanistan , where she is meeting with local and government officials and visiting institutions including a maternal health centre, a girls school, a rural health clinic, and a women's literacy programme.

Questions & Answers:

Question: Regarding funding for the elections, why is this announcement at this late stage? Over the last several months, the JEMB [Joint Electoral Management Body], the [Afghan] Government and the United Nations said there were no indications of any problems regarding the funding of the elections - I have the JEMB's statement issued a few months ago that said there was no shortfall. Did they have poor estimates?

Spokesman: I think we need to make clear that our expectation is that the elections will go ahead and preparations are fully underway for that. 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. 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. A massive election programme to produce this outcome is happening and right now it is well underway.

Question: If this election was budgeted for months ago and a shortfall has suddenly appeared, does that mean that some donor countries have not honoured their commitments? And if so, which are those countries?

Spokesman: No it doesn't mean that countries are not honouring commitments. It means that pledges and commitments to honour the full amount have not yet been fully received. As I mentioned, we have a shortfall of USD 31 million at the moment, and the expected cost of the election is about USD 149 million.

Question: You say those funds have not been made available, where haven't they been made available from?

Spokesman: You would have to ask the donor community that. There are a number of donors involved in this process. Figures on who has pledged what and are giving what are available on the JEMB's website. We have here Bronwyn Curran from the JEMB - if you have questions on this, please refer to her after the briefing.

Question: If the USD 31 commitment does not happen, where will you find the money from?

Spokesman: Let me re-emphasize, we do expect this election will go ahead, we fully expect it to go ahead, and the effort for that is ongoing at the moment. What we need is, amongst those who are providing funds, for these [funds] to come forward quickly. The election is only seven week's away. The money needs to be forthcoming for these elections. There are real consequences if you do not fund an election. We expect the money to be forthcoming, and we urge donors and the international community to come forward with that very quickly.

Question: Why didn't you warn the donors weeks or months ago? Even if they come up with the money, could it still affect the date of the election?

Spokesman: The question of funding and discussions with donors is not something new, not something that has been forgotten or overlooked up until now. There have been discussions going on for some considerable time with donors. As you know, some of the funding was brought over from the last election. So this is an ongoing thing. The fact is that we are getting very close to these elections. That is why with this remaining shortfall, we think its important to raise this issue now and urge that action is taken about it.

Question: So it is not too late?

Spokesman: Our expectation is that the election will go ahead on schedule - we need the money though.