AFGHANISTAN HAS MADE REMARKABLE PROGRESS,
NEW YORK, 30 October (UN Headquarters) -- Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told the Security Council this afternoon that Afghanistan had made remarkable progress, but needed a continued commitment from its leaders to work together to achieve genuine reconciliation, along with continued and sustained international attention.
Briefing the Council on the situation in the country since his last appearance before that body on 19 September, he said security remained a priority concern. Sporadic fighting continued to erupt from time to time, particularly in the north, the south-east and, to a lesser extent, in the west. The limited means of the Government and United Nations interventions allowed only putting out the local fires, rather than preventing their occurrence. As a result of recent incidents, there had been more than 50 deaths throughout the country and about as many wounded, many of them civilians.
There would be no long-term solution to the security problem, he said, until a well trained, well equipped and regularly paid national army and police force were put in place. In the meantime, international support was needed to provide security. With Germany as the lead nation, work on the national police was proceeding well.
Progress towards a national army, he said, had been slow, however. It was hoped that the Defence Commission would resume its work soon and produce a credible plan for that purpose, including the reform of the Ministry of Defence and the firm commitment of factional and regional leaders to integrate their respective troops within the national force and phase out the remainder. For that to happen, there must be a comprehensive demobilization and reintegration programme. Military training, started by the United States and France, should be integrated within a comprehensive national programme. It was encouraging that factional leaders had expressed their commitment to those goals; it was hoped that necessary financial resources would be made available by donors.
Regarding political progress, he said a drafting committee had started preparing a new constitution. In that effort, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was providing support, as mandated by the Bonn Agreement. The creation of a new judicial commission had been recently announced by President Hamid Karzai, as the previous one had been recognized as being insufficiently independent, causing the loss of considerable time. In this area, as well, more funding was needed, though success required strong ownership and leadership.
Mr. Brahimi said, despite gradual progress, the human rights situation remained worrisome in many respects, caused by, among other things, lack of security and weakness of the central Government, warlordism, factional conflicts and a very basic and dysfunctional justice system. The situation of women continued to be a matter of concern in many parts of the country. Local authorities were not intervening in cases of serious domestic violence; forced marriages were still a frequent phenomenon; and exchanges of girls were sometimes used as a dispute settlement. The UNAMA had encouraged the establishment of data collection through a gender network, including the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.
On a positive note, the support project to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission had now become operative. UNAMA’s investigation and monitoring capacity had been strengthened, and two United Nations special rapporteurs had visited Afghanistan very recently. In order to prepare for elections, called for by the middle of 2004, the Electoral Division of the Department for Political Affairs was consulting with Afghan authorities and donors on various issues, including the formation of an electoral commission and the drafting of an electoral law.
The Government had presented a working draft of its development plan and budget to the Implementation Group, organized within three pillars: human capital and social protection; physical infrastructure; and trade and investment and rule of law. The Government had received enough funds to cover its operating budget for the current fiscal year, and had taken an important step to reform the country’s finances through the introduction of a new currency, aimed at revitalizing the financial and banking systems.
Mr. Brahimi remained concerned that Afghanistan did not have the capacity to absorb the large numbers of returning refugees. More than 1.5 million refugees had returned from Pakistan alone during the year. On 22 October, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had held discussions on the return operations for the coming year. A similar tripartite commission comprising Iran, Afghanistan and the UNHCR was scheduled to meet on 3 and 4 November.
Following the briefing, the Council continued its consideration of the subject in informal consultations.
The formal meeting, which began at 3:20 p.m., adjourned at 3:50 p.m.
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