Press Releases

    16 December 2002


    Briefed by Peacekeeping Assistant Secretary-General; Building National Army, Combating Drug Traffic among Future Challenges

    NEW YORK, 13 December (UN Headquarters) -- One year after the Bonn Agreement, the Afghan people and the international community had much to be proud of, Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council this morning. But, he added, "we have not reached a point where the international community can afford to lapse into a state of complacency".

    The Council was last briefed on 30 October by the Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakdhar Brahimi. Since then, said Mr. Annabi, further progress had been made in implementing the Bonn Agreement. Just over a week ago, the main participants in the Bonn conference had reconvened there to review progress made so far in the peace process.

    Taking note of the many successes of the past year, he continued, they had identified a number of specific challenges, including: the importance of building an effective and ethnically-balanced national army and police; intensifying efforts to combat the production and trafficking of drugs; developing a culture of respect for human rights; establishing clear benchmarks and timelines for implementation of the Bonn Agreement; and the importance of the preparation of free and fair elections by June 2004.

    He said Afghanistan and neighbouring Member States had agreed to sign, on 22 December in Kabul, an agreement on good neighbourly relations, mutual cooperation and non-interference. On 1 December, President Hamid Karzai had signed a decree establishing an Afghan National Army of 70,000 that was unified, under civilian control and ethnically balanced. Mr. Annabi urged the international community to provide both political and financial support to the reform of the security sector. There had been an increase in armed robberies and murders in Kabul and rockets had been fired into the city.

    In the north, a formal commitment had been signed by Generals Dostum and Atta to refrain from violence. The west, however, had seen fighting between forces of the Governor of Herat and a local Pashtun leader. In Kandahar, three people were killed and several injured because of tribal rivalries. In the southern province of Uruzgan, several prominent Taliban leaders had been arrested, accused of seeking to revitalize the Taliban movement. United Nations premises had been damaged for the fourth time this year. The Commander of the Coalition Forces had recently briefed the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on plans to deploy teams outside Kabul, comprising 50 to 70 officers.

    He said corruption remained a significant problem. A key part of the Government’s strategy to assert its authority depended on its ability to raise domestic revenue. A President’s decree on corruption had also addressed the need for public income to be transferred from the provinces to the national treasury and for customs reform. A new Judicial Commission, including two women, had been inaugurated on 28 November, as the former Commission was thought to be insufficiently independent.

    The nine-member Constitutional Drafting Commission had been inaugurated on 3 November. It will be guided by the 1964 Constitution, Islamic principles, international standards and Afghan legal traditions.

    The Bonn Agreement, he said, called for elections by June 2004. Among the structural issues to be settled to complete the complex process on time was the lack of formal electoral institutions and laws regulating political parties. For that reason, UNAMA was exploring the establishment of an electoral commission by early 2003.

    He said the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had been developing its methods and practices, with the support of United Nations projects, and refining its modes of cooperation with UNAMA on human rights investigations. The two organizations were jointly looking into the recent demonstrations by students of Kabul University that led to fatal clashes with police. Apparent causes for the violence were poor living conditions, possibly exacerbated by political grounds, and excessive use of force by the Afghan police.

    Other human rights issues currently being investigated were reports of abuse of persons with knowledge concerning the mass graves of Dasht-I-Layli, as part of a pattern of intimidation and violence by regional and local commanders against civilians, persecution of the Gujur ethnic minority, and the rocket attacks on four schools for girls.

    Regarding winter preparedness, he said that a Winter Task Force had been established to ensure that provision of assistance to some 2.2 million highly vulnerable Afghans, mainly in the north, the west and the central highlands, was effectively coordinated. Ninety-five per cent of winter food needs was already pre-positioned throughout the country. Emergency repairs were also ongoing to keep the Salang Tunnel open during the winter, critical for access. Meanwhile, monitoring of winter requirements, for unexpected severity of weather, was continuing.

    The Government and the United Nations family, he said, had also agreed on joint programme reviews to assess progress towards national priorities. A similar review process had led to the completion of the 2003 United Nations Transitional Assistance Programme for Afghanistan for the period January 2003 to March 2004, a key objective of which was strengthening the Transitional Authority’s capacity to direct the recovery effort at national and provincial levels. The 2003 Programme sought $815 million, of which $67.5 million was for refugees in surrounding countries.

    Finally, regarding the Government’s currency exchange operation, he said that approximately 50 per cent of old bank notes remained in circulation. New Afghanis were difficult to supply to some provinces; in other areas there hoarding and other problems kept the operation from completion. The exchange deadline had, therefore, been extended until 2 January 2003.

    The meeting was called to order at 10:20 a.m. and adjourned at 10:50 a.m, after which the Council went into informal consultations to continue its consideration of the issue.

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