Press briefing by Ariane Quentier, Senior Public Information Officer and UN agencies in Afghanistan 12 Jun 2005


Today's speakers

Today's first guest is Mr. Grant Kippen. He is the Chair of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) the independent organization responsible for adjudicating electoral complaints. He will talk to you today about the ECC and the candidate's challenge process that is currently underway.

Today's second guest is Mr. Guiseppe di Gennaro, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He was the coordinator of the Italian Justice Lead in Afghanistan , and he currently chairs the workshop on prison law and its relationship to Human Right's principles. He will speak to you today about the rule of law and justice reform issues in Afghanistan .

UNAMA welcomes back released aid worker, Clementina Cantoni

I cannot start this briefing without saying how much the UN family and the international community are relieved and happy with the safe release of Clementina Cantoni last Thursday evening.

As you know, Clementina had been abducted in Kabul while driving home three weeks earlier. She had been in Afghanistan for almost three years. She was widely respected and loved for having dedicated herself to helping Afghan widows to survive the hardship of post-war Afghanistan .

Although a few days after the release of Clementina, UNAMA wants to welcome her back, and UNAMA would like to thank the Afghan authorities for making this happen. UNAMA also wants to thank the Afghan people who expressed clear outrage at the kidnapping of Clementina, and offered wide-scale public support for her safe release.

The disarmament of former combatants reaches 60,000 mark

A significant milestone has been reached today as Afghan New Beginnings Programme (ANPB) figures showed that more than 60,000 military personnel have disarmed. This represents a major achievement for the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programme (DDR) of former soldiers and officers of the Afghan Military Forces (AMF).

A total 60,076 ex-combatants have formally disarmed, while 51,353 have been demobilized and 49,431 have entered the reintegration process.

In terms of the reintegration choice, the agricultural sector continues to be most popular and has attracted 41.8%, whereas vocational training and job placement has attracted 25.3% and business options a further 22.4%.

With reference to heavy weapons, there is no change to the figure last reported (9,085).

The disarmament of AMF will conclude at a ceremony on 28 th June. Although many have disarmed and joined the program, efforts continue to ensure that all those entitled to join do so before the program closes.

Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups starting

The day before yesterday, Saturday, the Government of Afghanistan announced the official start of the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups, also known as DIAG. DIAG, which coincides with the completion of the disarmament and demobilization part of the DDR programme, will represent the next crucial step in the disarmament of all irregular forces in Afghanistan . DIAG will be led by the Government of Afghanistan with the support if the international community, including the UN.

During the launching press conference held Saturday by Vice-President Khalili, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan (DSRSG) Filippo Grandi said, "We are grateful with all those who cooperated with DDR and especially the commanders. The struggle is now to make renewed efforts to build a prosperous and democratic country. This will need the cooperation of all the people of Afghanistan "

Vice-President Khalili and other speakers at the press conference launching DIAG, including DSRSG Filippo Grandi, also echoed the recent Joint Electoral Management Body statement. This statement announced that weapon collection facilities are being offered to electoral candidates who are assessed as having links with illegal armed groups, and who must disarm in order to avoid disqualification from the electoral process. Weapon collection sites are being set up in all provinces and notified candidates will have until the end of June to consign weapons, in order to comply with the electoral law.

As provided by article 35 a) of the Electoral Law, but also the Code of Conduct and the declaration signed by candidates when they filed their nomination documents, candidates are prohibited to participate in the electoral process if they have links to illegal armed groups.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005

Last Thursday, June 9 th 2005 , the Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the Millennium Development Goals Progress Report at UN Headquarters. The 44-page publication contains up-to-date UN statistics for the 8 goals and 18 related targets, on income poverty, health, education and gender equality; environmental sustainability and slums; and on trade, aid and debt.

The report features regional and global averages on progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is the most comprehensive accounting to date on how far the world has come since the adoption of the MDGs. It represents the most complete official UN data set on the development goals, before the next September summit.

Overall the report shows that if current trends persist, there is a risk that many of the poorest countries will not be able to meet many of the MDGs. As the Secretary-General puts it, "considering how far we have come, such a failure would mark a tragically missed opportunity. This report shows that we have the means at hand to ensure that nearly every country can make good promises on the Goals. Our challenge is to deploy those means".

The new Afghanistan Millennium Development Goals Reports is currently in preparation, under the leadership of the government, and will be released before the September summit.

Transitional Justice Conference in The Hague , Netherlands

An international conference on peace, justice and reconciliation in Afghanistan , was held in The Hague , in the Netherlands on 6 th and 7 th June.

Hosted by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the conference was attended by an Afghan delegation headed the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and including the Minister of Refugees and representatives of the President's Office and the Supreme Court.

Other key participants included the Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan , Jean Arnault, the Special Representative for the European Union, representatives from major donor countries, as well as experts of the International Centre for Transitional Justice and the Afghanistan Justice Project.

Ideas put forward by the Office of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, based on detailed discussions with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA, resulted in the conference support for the adoption of a comprehensive action plan for peace, justice and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The action plan is to be based in countrywide consultations amongst the Afghan population on how to deal with the legacy of two and a half decades of conflict - with the aim of moving towards a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan . These consultations called for a wide range of transitional justice measures, such as public symbols, institutional reform, truth-seeking and documentation, reconciliation and accountability.

Flood Update

In Balkh province, reports indicate that heavy rainfall led to flooding in the Qaland village of Sholgara district on Friday and Saturday. A verification mission from the United Nations Mine Action Centre (UNMACA) has already been dispatched to the affected area, and will report back in the next few days.

In terms of response, the provincial disaster response committee, made up of the Department for Rural Rehabilitation and Development, the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), met in Balkh City yesterday. They agreed to send food and non-food items for 15 families. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also agreed to provide medical supplies if needed.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is transporting the humanitarian relief by convoy from Balkh City to the affected areas today.

Briefing by Guiseppe di Gennaro, former Coordinator of the Italian Justice Lead in Afghanistan , and current Chairman of the workshop on Prison Law and Human Right's Principles

Afghanistan is moving towards democracy, and as such, needs a functional and strong justice system.

Why does the United Nations deal with it? Since the beginning of the Bonn process, the United Nations have highlighted that there is a conflict in power between state and citizens and individuals. In terms of the relationship between justice and human rights - in a well-functioning democracy, it is necessary to be able to apply justice without violating the human rights of an individual.

Progress has been made. In recent years three laws have been enacted and these are the law on criminal procedures, the code of juvenile justice, and the Penitentiary law. Regarding the penitentiary law, a workshop is being conducted by UNODC this week. High-level Afghan authorities will be participating in this workshop to talk about the implementation of the new prison law and discuss its relationship with human rights issues.

Questions & Answers

Question: We recently marked the International Day of Child Labour. What is the United Nations view of this issue in Afghanistan ?

Senior Public Information Officer: As a matter of principle, any form of forced or slave labour is condemned by the United Nations and UNAMA. As to which specific recommendations have been made for Afghanistan , I will have to refer you to UNICEF, who is directly involved in the matter of child labour.

Question: With over 60,000 AMF disarmed, is the United Nations closing this chapter of DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration]?

Senior Public Information Officer: Indeed, we have a little over 60,000 military personnel who have disarmed since the inception of DDR. But we have another few weeks to go and we will probably go beyond 60,000 because there are still military personnel from the AMF needing to disarm. We think, and please remember the figures fluctuate, but we think there will not be more than 70,000 military personnel to have disarmed by June 28 th . That said the DDR programme is made up of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. What we are talking about is the completion of disarmament and demobilization. You might remember that the reintegration process is still ongoing and will take another year. So when we talk about the completion of the process, we are talking about the completion of disarmament and demobilization, not reintegration as we have another 12 months to go on this.

Question: Do you still have a problem with the division in Panjsher, the First Division?

Senior Public Information Officer: We have a problem with the First Division. We still have no compliance from the First Division and are still in a negotiating process. But we are hopeful and optimistic that by June 28 th we will have had positive negotiations with the First Division and will have completed the disarmament and demobilization process, including that of the First Division.

Question: With reference to the 'Challenge' period, a lot of people are concerned that the period only lasts for 4 days and that this length of time is not enough. Do you think 4 days is realistic?

Senior Public Information Officer: It was longer than 4 days. But what we recognize is that there are some parts of the country that might have difficulty in getting a particular challenge in, in that particular period of time. We will deal with those on an exceptional basis. If there is any issue and they do want to bring something forward, we can take it on an individual basis.