Afghanistan + 1 more

Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 2 Sep 2004

News and Press Release
Originally published

Afghan Government And UN Launch Emergency Appeal to Combat Drought - US$71.3 Million Needed

Yesterday at a press conference with the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Haneef Atmar as well as the Minister of Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment (MIWRE) and Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MAAH), a non-governmental organizations (NGO) representative as well as Ameerah Haq, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Afghanistan launched a joint Government and United Nations Appeal to respond to what is being called the longest and most severe drought that this country has ever experienced . This drought is now in its sixth year. The appeal is for US$71.3 million which breaks down into US$51.8 million for food and US$19.4 million for non-food items which covers a period of six months from September 2004 to February 2005. The emergency response is to provide drinking water, food aid and other basic items to affected populations.

Following the establishment of the Drought Response Steering Committee on 11 August, which brings together MMRD, MIRWE, MAAH, the Ministry of Public Works (MOPW) in addition to a representative of the Ministry of Finance, an NGO representative as well as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, UN agencies and donors have already been able to make cash contributions to enable the establishment of a Provincial Emergency Fund. The initial, cash in this fund will make it possible for the governors of the 14 most affected provinces to initiate programmes to disperse drinking water for the affected populations. Each Governor with the support of a technical advisory group will have US$30,000 for this purpose. In the launch yesterday Ameerah Haq said the quick relief work starts immediately and has commenced from this provincial emergency fund, which I just mentioned to you. In addition the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have already programmed US$4.6 million for water while the World Food Programme (WFP) is assisting some 900,000 families with the provision of food.

A transcript of DSRSG Haq's statement is available as is a copy of the joint press release issued yesterday at the press conference to launch the appeal.

Instruction from Defence Ministry Stresses Important Role of Armed Forces in Ensuring Peace and Stability for Elections

I do not have numbers of voter registrants to give you today because I have not received new numbers from the Electoral Secretariat. As you know registration concluded on 20 August but data is still coming in from faraway places. So there is nothing to add to what we had given you in the last briefing. However, I will tell you something that we think is very important and we hardly saw this in the press and so we will take this opportunity to bring it to your attention.

On 29 August The Ministry of Defence issued instructions to the armed forces on how to behave during the electoral period. The instructions states that army units do not have the right to interfere in election affairs, or directly or indirectly support individuals, groups and candidates; they even do not have the right to inquire for whom a person is voting. Other points state that all individuals, persons, organizations and journalists are free to express their views and as long as there is no violation of laws, no one has the right to interfere in the activities of such organizations and individuals. The instruction goes on to say that the armed forces have the duty to ensure, with the help of international forces, a safe election atmosphere for every Afghan to vote according to his or her own choice. Armed forces further have a duty to observe the country's laws in full details, so that an atmosphere for activities should be ensured to the candidates, voters, journalists, and international observers.

The instruction concludes by saying based on the country's constitution and election law, armed forces personnel that armed forces personnel can go, without their arms and without resorting to propaganda, to vote for the candidate of their choice using registration cards as identification.

We have the original Dari version and an unofficial translation available for you.

Some months ago the Ministry of the Interior also issued similar instructions to all personal under its responsibility.

JEMB to Accredit Observers for 9 October Elections

Yesterday the Joint Electoral Management Body Secretariat (JEMBS) issued a press release on the accreditation of domestic and international Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and other foundations, that wish to field their representatives as observers for the 9 October Presidential Election.

Interested organizations have up until three weeks prior to the 9 October polling date to submit their applications to the JEMB provincial offices or to JEMB headquarters in Kabul depending on whether they are applying for observation at the provincial or national level.

"I believe the observers, whether they are national or international can play an essential role in the election process by adding to its legitimacy," Dr. Farooq Wardak, Director of the JEMBS said. "It will make people more confident of the process".

We have a press release from the JEMB with more information in Dari, Pashto and English.

Southeast And Central Communities Get Involved In Civic Education And Electoral Process

As we get closer to the election date initiatives to involve district communities in civic education and staffing for polling stations are beginning to take place throughout the country. The programme is led by and funded by the Joint Electoral Management Body Secretariat (JEMBS) with support from local authorities and UNAMA. It aims to promote the participation of shuras, tribal and religious leaders.

In the southeast the process began last week and will involve 66 communities in Ghazni, Paktya, Paktika and Khost. Meetings have already been held in 27 districts in these four provinces. During these meetings participants took part in mock polling exercises and were educated on electoral offences, vote-counting and on the exhibition and objection process to the published names of voters. Delegations were informed about the number and location of polling stations in each district and about staffing for the sites.

A similar process has also begun in the central area (Kabul and the surrounding provinces), where the JEMBS with UNAMA's support will be recruiting all polling staff but also relying on recommendations by the communities. Meetings are being held in districts all six provinces with provincial and district Governors as well as Shura leaders to introduce the process and explain the required needs. Committees have and are being established in each district to present lists of suggested staff.

Similar efforts will all be implemented in other provinces around the country.

Forty Political Parties Approved By Ministry Of Justice

To date the Ministry of Justice has approved 40 out of 63 political parties who have applied for accreditation. Of those 40, the Ministry of Justice has so far issued some 27 with accreditation certificates. We have a table on the side listing all 63 parties and their leaders and the status of their requests for accreditation.

Media Commission to hold Press Conference

The Media Commission will hold a press conference this Saturday (4 September) at 11:00 a.m. at the JEMBS Offices on Jalalabad Road. You should be there no later than 10:30 a.m. to go through security procedures.

Kandahar Commanders agree to Disarm 900 By October Election

You recall that in the last briefing we told you about a meeting on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) to be held in Kandahar last Monday. Due to technical problems with our aircraft that meeting id not take place on Monday but was held yesterday instead.

The meeting brought together key commanders in the region, members of the international community - the MOD and the Governor of the Province. Representing the international community were the Ambassador of Canada, the Charge d'Affaires of the Japanese Embassy as well as UNAMA's Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General who covers political affairs Filippo Grandi.

The commanders voiced concerns regarding the implementation of this last stretch of DDR in the south. They were primarily concerned with tribal balance and security. They reviewed all these aspects together with the MOD representatives who went from Kabul including General Karimi. The commanders were assured that the identification of military units for disarmament would take balance into consideration. Regarding their concerns about security they were told that as DDR happened and as units were decommissioned the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) would be deployed.

As a result of this meeting it was agreed that 900 soldiers from six military units in the Kandahar region would go through the DDR process before the Presidential elections.

DDR - Heavy Weapons Cantonment picks up

Yesterday (1 September) the MOD and ISAF at Hussein Kot in Kabul, cantoned the heavy weapons of the 8th Division and concluded the cantonment process in the Kabul region. The MOD and Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme's (ANBP) have now cantoned 200 Heavy Weapons in Gardez and 30 in Jalalabad. Cantonment continues in Mazar-i-Sharif and will begin soon in Kandahar, Herat, Kunduz, Faizabad and Baharak. To date 1,388 heavy weapons have been cantoned.

Number of Disarmed Passes 14,000

As of yesterday 14,012 ex-combatants had been disarmed and 10,859 weapons collected from them. Some 12,562 have entered or are about to begin reintegration programmes. In the week ahead, Kabul's Central Corp's 10th Division, the Panjshir-based 5th Corps and headquarters staff as well as Jalalabad's 1st Corps, 28th Division and 9th Division will begin disarmament. Yesterday, in Baghlan the 20th Division started the disarmament programme.

Efforts To Strengthen The Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement System For Prosecution of Drug And Organized Crime-Related Offences

To increase the capacity of the criminal justice institutions responsible for dealing with serious crimes, in particular illicit drug-related crimes, a new project will train judges, prosecutors and the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) in the areas of arresting criminals, investigation, trial and detainment /imprisonment of serious criminal offenders, especially drug traffickers.

The project, which begins in October, is called "Capacity building for prosecution of serious drug-related and organized crime-related offences". It will be implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) following the policies of the Counter Narcotics Steering Group.

According to UNODC, the criminal justice system in Afghanistan is almost non-functional regarding prosecution of drug related crimes. Although there have been seizures and arrests, especially by the CNPA, no prosecution and trial have taken place. It is reported that usually, the arrested people spend a maximum time of 24 hours in the prisons and later on released.

To support this project, UNODC is also developing a nationally based information campaign to raise awareness on the increased risk of unlawful activities.

Kabul Air to Have Quality Control

There was question in the last briefing about the air quality in Kabul. Today we can tell you that the Asian Development Bank has an "Air Quality Control Programme" which is scheduled to begin operating in Kabul in the third week of September for a period of nine months. This programme will cost half a million dollars.

The objective is to assess the city's pollution by setting up 12-air quality monitoring stations in Kabul to find out the magnitude of the pollution. With the information collected, the experts believe that the next step would be to raise awareness of people and leaders and establish standards to be followed/enforced as a means to reduce atmospheric pollution in Kabul.

New Radio Programme Goes On Air Targeting the Youth in Mazar

We would like to welcome a new radio broadcast that is to be launched in Mazar on 4 September. It is called "Saday-e-Jawan", which means "Voice of Youth". The new youth oriented radio broadcasts will be produced entirely by the journalism students and broadcast daily in a three-hour slot in one of Mazar's local station, Rabia Balkhi 87.9 FM. These journalism students have been trained in radio production and broadcasting at the University of Balk and with support from the NGO, Sayara Media and Communication. I understand that the University has a radio station that is not fully operational so therefore the programme will be broadcast on radio Balkhi but later on should move to their campus radio station.

David Singh's Farewell

After more than two years of working with you and UNAMA, this is David 's Last briefing. On Sunday he goes back to New York. Like you, my colleagues and I will miss him, his professionalism, cooperation and sense of humour. We wish him all the best and I thank him very much for these months we worked together.

Questions and Answers

Question: The Supreme Court said that Latif Pedram could no longer run as a Presidential candidate because he said a number of things considered to be un-Islamic? What is the view of the JEMB

Spokesman: Of course I do not speak on behalf of the JEMB but I did see the media reports ion this issue and according to those reports the Supreme Court was to send a notification to the JEMB, UNAMA and other bodies. I know that at UNAMA we have not yet received this and I don't know if this is the case with others but I am sure any institution would need to receive the notification and look into it before reacting.

Question: There was a report that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will not send observers to the October Election for security reasons?

Spokesman: Yes I am afraid you are right but it is not quite like that. The OSCE is not going to have a full-fledged observation team in the country as they have had in other situations. They are, however, sending an electoral support team, which while not as large as an observation team, will have a presence in key areas of the country. They will be assessing the process in order to contribute to improvements to this process. It is our hope that not only the OSCE but also the European Union who will have a similar approach, that while the process is ongoing they make their comments known through their proper channels to us, to the JEMB and the authorities. In this way their feedback can be taken into consideration as we go along because we all know that there are many difficulties and our job is to try and overcome them and make the process as good as possible. The Afghans are working very hard at it and we in the international community do have a responsibility, to not only support as we have been doing but to help improve conditions.

Question: Does this mean that the OSCE will not be able to work on certification?

Spokesman: I cannot speak for the OSCE but if you do not have a full observation team of course you are not in a position to issue the kind of statement that an observation team would issue. So as I said an electoral support team would be providing recommendation for the improvement of the process other than issuing a statement as an observation team.

Question: Some of the candidates said that they had given their complaints and demands to UNAMA and the JEMB. What exactly have they said?

Spokesman: You are asking me to reveal the content of face-to-face conversations with the candidates. If they are telling you that they are telling us that they have this and that comment it is not for me to say what they are telling us. They should you tell you. But yes it's true we are meeting with all the candidates as part of our work here just as we meet with all kinds of people and actors in this process. The 18 candidates became actors in the electoral process only fairly recently. Because it is only after they were confirmed as candidates that they became key and very important players in the process. And that is when we began this series of contacts - fairly recently because they became key players fairly recently.

Question: Have they asked for the reshuffling of the JEMB?

Spokesman: I don't know because I am not in these meetings. But I think that it is fair for me to say that many of their concerns have already been made public. So I don't think there is anything new for me to add nor is it appropriate for me as a spokesman to come and say what is it that was discussed in a private meeting. But as I said by and large the issues are the issues that are already in the public domain

Question: If there are not a vast number of international observers for the election will it not harm the credibility of the process?

Spokesman: I don't think we can say at this point that we are going to have or not have enough observers. We know for a fact that the OSCE and the European Union will not come with full observers teams but with assessment support missions. But we also know that there are a number of countries that are indicating that they are considering sending some of their people to be part of an observation exercise. We also know for example, of one Asian human and political rights network, the Asian Network for Free and Fair Election (ANFREL) who will be sending a larger team of Observers to the elections here. ANFREL work closely with and is supported by the Asia Foundation. There is a very large team of observers that is expected from the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) that will be domestic observers. So I don' t have numbers to give you at this point.

I can tell you, however, that what particularly concerns international observers in Afghanistan is security. People are concerned with security and that will certainly have an impact on the final numbers. I don't have exact numbers and neither do I have a list of additional possibilities through bilateral arrangements with some countries. The important thing I think is that while we would like to have as many observers as possible, because above all, the indications we have are that this would make Afghan voters feel more confident particularly with the international presence. But we do not always have what we would like to have and we have to do the best with what is available.

Since the Emergency Loya Jirga I believe this has been very much what we and above all the Afghans have been dealing with. We have been meeting the requirements of the Bonn process. I believe that it is fair to say that by and large and in a very satisfactory manner we are overcoming limitations. Difficulties have not always been the same. They have changed according to time, geography and situation and I am convinced that in spite of them - and let us make it very clear we are all going to have to face difficulties between now and the electoral process - that above all the Afghans are very realistic of what to expect and what is possible. The international community, which has been here for quite some time is also realistic and together we can overcome difficulties and make the best of what is possible.

Question: Does the UN have a strategy of its own for observation?

Spokesman: It would not be very appropriate for the UN to be observers. As you know the UN is playing an important role in helping to organize the elections and that it would be like you observing yourself. But our colleagues from the agencies and other organizations are very motivated to play a role in helping this process on Election Day and the days surrounding Election Day. Perhaps we cannot call them observers for the reasons I just gave you but I think an enhanced international presence in support of the process I think we can expect.

Question: On security - the recent bomb attacks in Kabul and outside; will they affect UN and NGO activities?

Spokesman: I hope not. You want me to guess what the reaction will be for all the international community. Security has been a concern for along time now. It is not as if yesterday nothing was happening and all of a sudden we have a bomb. It is not like that. We have had I believe since one year ago the killing of 25 aid workers in Afghanistan. Since earlier this year 12 electoral workers were killed and more that 30 wounded as a result of attacks against the process. So what has happened in the last few days is extremely sad and tragic and also very serious - the fact that there was such powerful bomb in the city of Kabul and the fact that there was an explosion in a school killing so many children in the southeast. Unfortunately these are not the first security incidents we have had to deal with. The UN security system, the NGOs and other organizations have security measures that they take which of course will not stop those who want to attack the process. But these measures have been and hopefully will continue to be elements, which reduce the risk for us, staff working here, internationals and Afghans, and also for the programmes that we are here to run in support of the Afghan initiatives.