Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 09 Feb 2003

SRSG back in Afghanistan

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, is back in Kabul. He arrived yesterday afternoon. Tomorrow, as you just heard in the ISAF briefing, he will be attending the handover ceremony where the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force goes from Turkey to Germany-Netherlands.

Return Commission Findings

Findings of a recent study by the working group of the Return Commission have revealed that in addition to basic socio-economic difficulties faced by returnees in the northwest, there are a number of other key factors impeding returns to areas of origin. These include localized fighting; fear of repetition of previous incidents, which prompted departure in the first place; and lack of trust and confidence vis-à-vis personal safety.

These findings were the result of recent missions to Faryab, Balkh, Jawzjan and Sari Pul by the working group of the Return Commission of the North. The Commission was established back in October to assess the reasons for displacement of people in the northwest as well as the factors preventing returns to their places of origin. The working group is comprised of representatives of Jumbesh, Jamiat, Hizb-e-Wahdat, the Independent Afghan Human Rights Commission (IAHRC), UNHCR and UNAMA. The Working Group operates under the Chairmanship of the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation. The findings were presented recently in Kabul in meetings with the MORR, AIHRC, UNAMA and UNHCR as well as with national press and television.

The working group will present its final conclusion and recommendations for safe and sustainable return and as well as prevention of further displacement at the first full meeting of the return Commission which is tentatively scheduled for late February early March.

Consultative meetings and Bulletin Boards in the northeast

Hundreds of people have attended a series of consultative meetings held in the northeast organized by UNAMA's Kunduz office. The meetings were requested by Afghans as they saw information boards being put up in the region and they wanted to know more about what was happening in the country.

So far meetings with community elders, military commanders, women and professional groups have been held in Baghlan, the Chardara district of Kunduz and Takhar provinces. UNAMA staff has briefed people on the Bonn Agreement, the plans of the Afghan Transitional Administration, UNAMA's activities in Afghanistan and the security situation in the region. People discussed the new constitution, the establishment of the Government's Commissions and the role of UNAMA in the Afghan transition process.

Elders said they wanted a strong, professional, multi-ethnic army. One of the elders said that teachers' salaries have not been paid for five months. To give you an idea of how popular these meetings have been -- there were around 600 people at one meeting in the Baharak district of Takhar.

In the northeast there is little access to information -- the distribution of newspapers is limited in the remote areas, even receiving radio or television broadcasts is difficult. The information boards are another initiative aimed at keeping the people informed and 15 have been installed in three provinces in the north by UNAMA's Kunduz office.

These noticeboards, with information in Dari, are in key locations such as outside mosques, schools and in main squares in Kunduz, Baghlan and Takhar. Official statements and Presidential decrees are posted on the boards, along with information about what the UN and its partners are doing in the region and news from the local Departments of Information and Culture. News from these press briefings and from our radio programme has also been put on the boards.

Five more noticeboards will be put up in Badakhshan and consultative meetings in that province are planned after Eid.

Recruitment drive of Afghan women for Police Academy

Afghan women are being targeted in the latest recruitment drive for the Afghan Police Academy. The Ministry of Interior Affairs is looking for students from each of the country's thirty-two provinces and it is particularly interested in attracting women.

The Ministry says that priority will be given to women students who were deprived of their studies by the Taliban.

Men and women who are interested in joining the Police Academy must be literate and have had at least education at primary level. Applicants should go to the Department of Education with their birth certificate and four photographs of themselves.

There are currently 1,450 students already training at the Police Academy in Kabul of which 29 are women. Training for non-commissioned officers lasts one year and for officers, three years. The German Government has been advising the Afghan Transitional Administration on establishing the police force.

The training course for people applying now will start in March.

UNICEF -- Donation by German company, Siemens, Edward Carwadine, Communication Officer

Today the German corporation, Siemens, is making a contribution to UNICEF of 20,000 Euro which will be used to support a new project which UNICEF is currently discussing with the Ministry of Women's Affairs to hopefully set up a women's cooperative for the production of school bags for the forthcoming school year. This contribution is obviously gratefully received by UNICEF. Our office in Germany has a longstanding relationship with Siemens and this marks another step in the development of that relationship. For those interested, the presentation of this donation will take place today at Siemens newly opened office in Kabul which is on the Darulaman Road next to the Ministry of Trade. The presentation will take place at 3pm this afternoon.

The Spokesman announced that next Thursday there would be no press briefing because of Eid holidays.