Afghanistan

Press briefing by Ariane Quentier, Senior Public Information Officer and UN agencies in Afghanistan 07 Jul 2005

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TALKING POINTS

DDR "Double D's" (disarmament and demobilization) come to an end

Today Afghanistan marks the end of the disarmament and demobilization components of DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration). DDR is one of the key elements of the peace process that started in Bonn in December 2001.

Since its inception in October 2003, the DDR programme has seen the decommissioning of 250 units, which includes ten corps, with their divisions, brigades and supporting elements. It has also allowed almost 63,000 Afghan Military Forces (AMF) personnel to disarm. This makes DDR in Afghanistan amongst the largest DDR efforts completed in the world.

The Ministry of Defence has collected 34,726 light weapons, but also - and this is a major achievement - over 9,085 heavy weapons. Weapons recovered through DDR are sorted and provided to the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) whenever possible.

The reintegration component will continue for another year until all disarmed ex-combatants have received their full benefits.

The successes that DDR is able to claim under the leadership of the Government of Afghanistan must be credited also to the strong support of donor governments - especially the Government of Japan; to ISAF and Coalition Forces; and to the effective work carried out by the Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) in cooperation with the Afghan authorities and the United Nations. But above all, the progress so far in disarmament has been possible thanks to the support of the people of Afghanistan, whose clear wish is to see peace fully restored and their country free of illegal weapons.

DDR is an important phase in the disarmament of Afghanistan, which has paved the way for wider disarmament efforts, namely the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups.

So far, in the framework of the programme offered to candidates to sever their links with Illegal Armed Groups, 163 weapons are reported as having been turned in Nangarhar, Nooristan and Badakhshan provinces in the past 24 hours. This brings the total number of collected weapons to 14,392 - 6,507 of which have been verified by ANBP verification teams.

Click here to read the official joint statement of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan, the Government of Japan and UNAMA in English, Dari and Pashto.

Voter Registration Update

As of the end of the day on Monday, 435,445 Afghan voters had been issued new or corrected Voter Registration Cards.

All but 8 of the 1,052 Voter Registration Stations were open and operating yesterday. The closed stations include three in Zabul province, (two because of staffing problems and one due to some problems with local elders and the location of the station), four in Kandahar due to staffing issues and one in eastern Khost

In Eastern Khost - Terzayi district, near the Pakistani border - a Kuchi Voter Registration Site was attacked in the early hours of Wednesday morning - July 6th. About 16 insurgents surrounded the site, temporarily abducted some national staff - later releasing them near the border - and stole registration materials. The materials have since been replaced by JEMB Logistics unit and the site is open again today.

Deadline for Withdrawals by Candidates and Responses from Provisionally Excluded Candidates

Today, at 4 o'clock this afternoon, is the deadline for withdrawals by any candidate wishing to do so as well as for repsonses from any of the 233 candidates who were provisionally excluded on July 2.

If candidates wish to withdraw from contesting the September 18 Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council elections, they must notify the JEMB Provincial Office where they submitted their candidacy. Otherwise their names will be placed on the Final List of Candidates and on the ballot and they will be considered as contestants for election.

Also any candidate who was provisionally excluded from the Candidate List and wishes to respond must submit a response form to the Electoral Complaints Commission by 4.00 pm this afternoon. Responses may be delivered to Provincial Election Commissions which are located at JEMB Provincial Offices. The ECC will consider all responses before recommending final exclusions. The Final List of candidates will be certified and published on July 12.

Japan to grant US$17 million to improve human security in Afghanistan

Yesterday, July 6th, the Ambassador of Japan, Noriho Okuda, signed a US$17 million agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The agreement provides for the short, medium and long-term needs of Afghans in addressing human security.

Human security is not just the absence of war, but also includes the ability to survive, a chance to live with dignity and the possibility of an adequate livelihood.

The funds provided by the Government of Japan will go towards the National Area Based Development Programme, under the leadership of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), which will facilitate long-term planning in the regions and the training of government staff.

In addition, the immediate needs for urban employment, increased agricultural productivity, and reduction of the landmine threat will be addressed in partnership with the Ministries of Urban Development and Housing, and of Agriculture, together with the UNDP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA).

Click here to read the official UNDP press release.

Task force for the elimination of violence against women meets Sunday

An Inter-Ministerial Task Force to Eliminate Violence Against Women, established by a presidential decree of President Karzai yesterday, will have its first meeting on Sunday, July 10th.

The task force's mandate is to supervise and coordinate action and policy on violence against women at the national level.

Led by the Ministry of Women's Affairs with technical support from UNIFEM, the Sunday meeting is from 10am to 3pm at the Insaf Hotel Popo Lano.

The meeting will include speeches by officials from the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Supreme Court, Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs, and Ministry of Justice. There will be a press conference afterwards.

For more information, you can contact Baryalai Barya: 070 236 514.

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women to conduct fact-finding mission in Afghanistan

At the invitation of the Government of Afghanistan, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Yakin Ertürk (Turkey), will conduct a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan from July 9th until July 19th.

The Commission established the position of Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in 1994. Ms. Yakin Ertürk was appointed in August 2003. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is to collect information on violence against women, to recommend ways to eliminate gender-based violence and to remedy its consequences at the national, regional and international levels. Forms of violence against women identified in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur include violence against women in the family, in the community and violence by State agents.

During her mission to Afghanistan, the Special Rapporteur's programme will include meetings with Government and other national and local authorities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations dealing with issues related to gender-based violence.

Ms. Ertürk's mission will include time in Kabul as well as visits to other regions of Afghanistan. She will hold a press conference at UNAMA at the end of her mission on July 18th.

Five public baths for women open in Kandahar

This past Tuesday (July 5th) an official ceremony was held in Kandahar to open five public baths for women. The "hammams" are located in five different districts and were officially handed over to the Government.

The baths, which cost US $500,000, were funded by the European Community through UNDP Project Implementation Unit, and were built by five different contractors. The baths will be open for service next week.

Construction of UNICEF-funded teacher training college in Kandahar now complete

The construction of a UNICEF-funded teacher training college library in Kandahar was completed last week.

The project, which began in August 2004 and was completed on June 30th, has cost US$35,000 and includes the construction of a library, a study room for 50 teachers, a reception hall, an administration room and washrooms. UNICEF also provided equipment and learning material.

Although the official handover to the Ministry of Education has not yet happened, 30 students have begun receiving training.

IOM signs agreement to reconstruct Herat feeder canal

This past Monday (July 4th), the Municipality of Herat and IOM (International Organization for Migration) signed an agreement to reconstruct the Pul-e-Rangina feeder canal. This was done in order to upgrade and further improve the sanitary situation of the city of Herat under a cost-sharing arrangement between the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Herat Municipality.

The total cost of the project, which will take six months to complete, is US $170,000, with the municipality covering US $50,000.

Questions & Answers

Question: Regarding the case of the four journalists who were arrested and detained in Kunar, has any progress been made for their release?

Senior Public Information Officer: The latest information I have heard on this is that, as you probably know, two of the journalists have been freed and two remain in custody. This is something, as I have said before, that we are concerned about and we are looking at ways of helping to resolve this very soon.

Question: Has the United Nations taken any action with the government authorities?

Senior Public Information Officer: UNAMA has been looking into it, and has also been in close contact with, and supporting the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission which is monitoring the case.

Question: What is your reaction to the Human Rights Watch Report and how do you view its recommendations with the setting up of a tribunal to try war crimes suspects?

Senior Public Information Officer: The report, as you know, has just come out today and we have not yet had time to adequately look into it. I think on that one, the best answer I have is that we will have to get back to you on that one at some point.