Press Releases

    16 January 2004

    Afghans, International Community Must Capitalize on Adoption of Constitution, Address Key Challenges to Peace Process, Security Council Told

    Lakhdar Brahimi Briefs for Final Time as Special Representative

    NEW YORK, 15 January (UN Headquarters) -- Afghans and their international partners could not afford to rest long on the laurels of the successful Loya Jirga, which on 5 January adopted the country’s new Constitution, the Security Council was told this morning.

    In his last briefing of the Council in his current capacity, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi described in detail the situation in the country and the outcome of the constitutional assembly, stressing the need to quickly capitalize on its success, “lest it did no more than raise false expectations”.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who opened today’s meeting, told the Council that the Afghans -- with the necessary support from the international community -- must now go on to address the impediments to the peace process that had existed before the Loya Jirga.  That meant tackling the deeply troubling security situation, ensuring an inclusive, broadly representative Government, and quickening the pace of reconstruction. Indeed, if the next step in the Bonn process -- elections -- was to be credibly achieved, those key challenges demanded immediate action.

    The Secretary-General congratulated the delegates to the Loya Jirga for the wisdom, flexibility and sensitivity they showed in adopting the Constitution -- a spirit that bode well for the hard work ahead. With that in mind, the international community, the Afghan Government and all Afghans committed to peace in their country should come together, assess the progress made and make the necessary commitments to complete the transition.

    Also this morning, on the occasion of his departure, the President of the Council and the Secretary-General paid a special tribute to Mr. Brahimi for his exceptional leadership and commitment.

    The meeting was called to order at 10:12 a.m. and adjourned at 11:06 a.m.


    When the Security Council met this morning it had before it the Secretary-General’s 30 December report (document S/2003/1212) on the situation in Afghanistan, which states that the peace process there has reached a critical juncture and the country’s fragile security situation remains a major challenge.

    Among the main accomplishments over the two years since the adoption of the Bonn Agreement, the document lists:  the establishment of the Afghan Transitional Administration; articulation of a national development framework; successful inauguration of a new currency; return of some 4.2 million children to school, one third of them girls; beginning of security sector reform; establishment of a national network of offices of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission; and road reconstruction efforts.

    The Secretary-General recalls that the ultimate aim of the Bonn process is Afghanistan’s transition from the war and instability of the past 23 years to a degree of peace and stability that is irreversible, with a constitutionally empowered and democratically elected Government and the necessary security and financial resources to provide a sound basis for the country’s continued development.

    During the reporting period, the most sensitive and potentially divisive steps of the Bonn processes began:  the pilot phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme on 24 October, the electoral registration on 1 December and the Constitutional Loya Jirga on 14 December. If successfully conducted, these processes together can move the State-building effort in Afghanistan forward by providing an agreed framework for a new political order, reducing the factional armies, creating space for the national army and police, and laying the ground for the new Government elections.

    However, Afghanistan has experienced a deterioration in security at precisely the point where the peace process demands the opposite. The reporting period saw an increase in terrorist activity, factional fighting, the illegal narcotics trade and unchecked criminality. Another source of insecurity continued to be the arbitrary rule of local commanders and the presence of factional forces in significant portions of the country. To counter this situation, it is necessary to develop credible national institutions responsible for the rule of law. This can be achieved through the development of the national army and police and the judicial reform effort.  In the immediate term, increased security assistance from the international community will be needed.

    During the Constitutional Loya Jirga, the people observed an open political debate of a kind that had been absent in their country for many years. Five hundred two delegates participated in the event, comprising 340 delegates elected from provinces, 110 elected from special constituencies (women’s groups, nomads, religious minorities) and 52 appointed by the President.  Of the latter, half were women.

    Credible elections will require an environment that allows the exercise of political rights, including freedoms of expression and association. Lacking this, the elections risk merely legitimizing those political figures whose current authority stems from the use of force. Successful elections will require overcoming major challenges in terms of geography and climate, culture, securing donor resources and security.

    In that connection, the report states that due to the lack of early donor response, the start of voters’ registration was delayed from 15 October to 1 December. To date, some $40 million has been contributed for the registration project.  In the first phase of registration, 28 electoral sites have been established in eight regional centres, and between 1 and 23 December, 125,240 voters were registered, 18 per cent of whom were women.

    The rate of registration, however, is far below the rate necessary to complete registration for elections in 2004. The second and third phases of the exercise provide for the deployment of registration teams to provincial capitals and remote rural areas, but current security arrangements are not sufficient to allow full access there.  Further reforms are also needed to broaden the representation of all sectors of Afghan society in the central Government. This, in turn, should help progress in addressing another vital challenge:  the need to increase the extent of the Government’s authority throughout the country.

    The planned expansion of international security assistance beyond Kabul can accelerate the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in a number of ways, including by monitoring the process, encouraging the factional commanders to participate and accelerating the build-up of national army and police forces in the regions. Here too, time is of the essence, as the expansion currently planned by NATO is not expected to take effect for some months.

    Also according to the report, the Afghan Transitional Administration and the international community have been partners in the Bonn process. However, those who wish to stop the process are reorganizing. Now, there is a race between those who support the Bonn process and those who wish to see it fail. The Secretary-General believes that this race certainly can be won, but complacency is not an option, and the international community must resolutely ensure success.

    One way of addressing the situation might be the convening of a new political and donor conference for Afghanistan at the beginning of 2004, to chart the way forward. Such an option has been discussed by President Karzai and Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdullah with the Security Council mission that visited Afghanistan last autumn.  It has also been outlined in a non-paper circulated by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan to the Afghan Government and diplomatic corps in Kabul. The aim of the conference should be to strengthen the gains made and accelerate the implementation of the Bonn Agreement.  It would also help ensure the success of presidential elections in mid-2004. A clear plan, coupled with finances conditional on its implementation, will provide a strong signal that the resolve of the Afghan leadership and the international community remains firm.

    Statement by Secretary-General

    Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN noted that since the release of his latest report on Afghanistan, an important and very encouraging development in the implementation of the Bonn peace process had occurred: the adoption of Afghanistan’s new Constitution on 5 January by the Constitutional Loya Jirga.

    The Constitution, he stated, which had now entered into force, provided a permanent foundation for re-establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan. It defined a political order through a strong Presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature. It established a judicial system in compliance with Islam. And it included provisions aimed at ensuring full respect for fundamental human rights, including equal rights for women. He congratulated the people and Government of Afghanistan on that major accomplishment. The delegates to the Loya Jirga showed wisdom, flexibility, and sensitivity to the needs of all Afghans -- a spirit which boded well for the hard work ahead.

    Of course, he noted, the Constitution would not, by itself, guarantee peace and stability. Afghans - ‑ with the necessary support from the international community -- must now go on to address the impediments to the peace process that existed before the Loya Jirga. That meant tackling the deeply troubling security situation, ensuring an inclusive, broadly representative Government, and quickening the pace of reconstruction. Indeed, if the next step in the Bonn process -- elections -- was to be credibly achieved, those key challenges demanded immediate action.

    He also thanked the international community for its sustained commitment to peace in Afghanistan. At the same time, he said it could be recognized that, for all the gains made under the Bonn process so far, there was a need to reinvigorate that process. With that in mind, he had suggested that the international community, the Afghan Government and all Afghans committed to peace in their country should come together, assess the progress made and make the necessary commitments to complete the transition.

    Finally, he paid tribute to his Special Representative for the superb job he had done in Afghanistan during the past two years. “Lakhdar, you have richly earned your honorary Afghan citizenship. You are also, of course, one of our leading global citizens, and the international community is that much stronger for having your skills and judgement at its disposal.”

    Briefing on Afghanistan

    As today’s briefing was the last one by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, at the opening of the meeting, President of the Security Council, HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) thanked Mr. Brahimi for his outstanding contributions to the cause of peace in Afghanistan. Equipped with characteristic astuteness, patience, steadfastness and integrity, Mr. Brahimi had been able to successfully discharge a number of assignments on behalf of the United Nations, spanning from the former Zaire to Afghanistan, he said.  All the members of the Council wished him continued success in whatever tasks he would undertake in the future.

    Briefing the Council, LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that since the Secretary-General’s report before the Council had been completed before the conclusion of the Constitutional Loya Jirga, he wanted to focus on the outcome of that event and discuss in broad terms the state of the peace process in Afghanistan. In the final analysis, after two years, the success of the Bonn Agreement would depend upon how far Afghanistan had managed to establish viable, accountable and representative State institutions that could ensure security for the people and establish a credible base for the development of the country.

    Since December 2001, the Bonn process had certainly accomplished a great deal.  Large-scale conflict had not returned, a humanitarian crisis had been averted early on, and the political timetable had, for the most part, been kept: from the installation of the Interim Authority on 22 December 2001 through the holding of the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002, the formation of President Karzai’s transitional administration and now the successful conclusion of the Constitutional Loya Jirga. The Afghan administration had overseen some worthy accomplishments, including the articulation of a National Development Framework and the national budget, adoption of the new national currency and the first steps in the formation of the national army and police.

    A further step had been achieved on 4 January 2004 with the near-unanimous acclamation of the new Constitution. Of the 502 delegates, 52 had been appointed by the President and 450 had been elected by the district representatives who had themselves been elected prior to the Emergency Loya Jirga in 2002. All in all, the turnout at the event reflected a determination to participate, but there had been clear signs that insecurity and disaffection in the South, had taken their toll, as well. The Constitutional Loya Jirga had been, to a large degree, representative of Afghanistan as a whole and included delegates from every province and from such communities as the Kuchis, Indu and Sikhs, refugees, internally displaced persons and the disabled, as well as other minority groups. Women delegates comprised approximately 20 per cent of the event.

    He went on to say that, to the best of his knowledge, there had been no widespread pattern of intimidation or fraud, and individual cases and complaints had been investigated by an Executive Committee, which had overturned electoral results in a number of cases where wrongdoing had been found. That did not mean that the process had been flawless.  The exercise took place in an insecure environment and extremists had repeatedly threatened to disrupt the process. Furthermore, with insufficient security sector reform and practically no disarmament, factional leaders had been left with leverage in the political context.  The elections had also shown a resurgence of some of the factional groupings, with stronger showings than for the Emergency Loya Jirga. That had potential consequences for the forthcoming legislative elections.

    Broadcast live on radio and television, the Constitutional Loya Jirga provided a type of public debate not seen in the country for many years, he said. While early consensus was achieved on some 120 of the 160 articles of the draft constitution, it saw difficult debate and hard bargaining on a number of issues, including the form of central government versus regional and provisional authority, and the role of the courts in constitutional review. Other issues were particular to the current Afghan context and were related to local and national identity.  As the Loya Jirga extended beyond its originally planned 10 days into a third week, there had been real concerns that agreement might not be reached.

    In the end, he continued, the delegates had proved willing to reach compromises and make concessions, and the Constitution they ratified reflected a balance of concerns. For example, the strong Presidential system had been revised to give the National Assembly greater oversight over Presidential appointments. Also, although Pashto was the language of the national anthem, the Constitution recognized minority languages as official in the areas where they were the language of the local majority. The Constitution also addressed the need to promote human rights and reserved at least 25 per cent of the lower house of Parliament for women. On the whole, the new Constitution and the process that achieved it should be a source of pride for the people of Afghanistan.

    However, so much remained to be done that, unfortunately, Afghans and their international partners could not afford to rest long on the laurels of a successful Constitutional Loya Jirga, he said.  First of all, it was necessary to make the Constitution a living reality. In the country where State institutions remained weak, the capacity of the Government to fulfil the promises of the new Constitution required a lot of hard work. The test of each element of the Bonn process would be whether or not Afghanistan could move towards the “irreversibility” of peace. The constitutional order would only have meaning for the average Afghan if security improved and the rule of law was strengthened.  And for too many Afghans, the daily insecurity came not from resurgent extremism associated with the Taliban, destabilizing as it was, but from the predatory behaviour of local commanders and officials who nominally claimed to represent the Government.

    Thus, he said, among the main post-Loya Jirga challenges were the need to ensure disarmament of factional forces, protection of the basic rights of every Afghan citizen, the demand for increased reconstruction, the reform of national institutions and better representation of the people.

    Continuing, he noted that further progress was needed in the effort to reform the national security institutions, the ministries of defence, interior and the intelligence services. The pace of the ongoing reform had been slower than required, in large measure due to limited cooperation in key parts of the Government. The appointment of a new top cadre of 22 defence ministry officials, welcome as it was, was not enough reform to show for two years of trying.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had also not progressed far enough.

    The factional forces’ threat to the peace process had been increasingly compounded by the terrorist tactics of extremists aimed at causing the peace process to fail altogether, he said. The pattern continued of challenging the central Government’s authority and attacking the targets of opportunity, including government officials, non-governmental organizations, United Nations personnel or ordinary citizens. Attacks had constricted the area of operations of the United Nations and the non-governmental organization community in the south, east and the south-east, blocking reconstruction and development activities and limiting the government presence in the affected areas. The United Nations Security Team had taken steps to minimize staff exposure to risk, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) would require further funding for security measures at compounds and other protective measures.

    The costly and intensive efforts to interdict extremist elements at the border by the United States and Pakistan deserved recognition, he said.  It was encouraging that Pakistani and Afghan authorities were now discussing issues of concern in a positive and constructive manner. It was important to ensure that the Taliban and other extremists did not gain from dissatisfactions of the population in the areas where they were operating.  The Government, along with UNAMA, United Nations agencies and international security forces, was working out integrated packages to improve district-level governance, strengthen the formal and traditional justice system, increase the presence of police and reach out with focused reconstruction assistance to communities.

    Continuing, he recounted the findings of the Secretary-General’s report regarding the electoral process, adding that a successful electoral exercise would require more than security for electoral staff. It would require an environment that allowed for a fair political contest.  The prominence at the Loya Jirga of leaders who continued to wield personal control over factional forces raised serious concerns in that regard and reminded him once again of the need for accelerated security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and increased international security assistance.

    One clear lesson that could be drawn from the first two years of the Bonn process related to the difficulty of carrying out a post-conflict transitional process without commensurate, dedicated security assistance, he said. Until Afghan security institutions were further built up, there would be a need in other parts of the country for the sort of assistance that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had so ably given in Kabul. The UNAMA, along with almost all Afghans, had received with great anticipation the news of the Council resolution enabling the expansion of ISAF, and the recent launch in Kunduz of the German provisional reconstruction team was a welcome sign that some form of expansion was beginning in earnest. He looked forward to the creation of more ISAF-led provincial reconstruction teams in the country. It was a cause of concern, however, that the pace of the deployment of those teams was running behind that of the political process, and forthcoming elections would require improved security.

    The drug trade continued to be one of the biggest threats to Afghanistan’s long-term peace and stability, he pointed out. It presently supported the criminal and factional agendas that aimed to undermine the central Government and legitimate economic activities. The 2003 Opium Poppy Survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that, at $2.3 billion, the income of opium farmers and drug traffickers that year was equivalent to more than 50 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Although the central Government had shown a commitment to tackling the problem, its initial efforts to draft relevant legislation and build the capacity of its Counter-Narcotics Directorate and the narcotics police had not had an immediate effect on the amount of opium. The problem would not be solved in the long term without development and achievements in other sectors, including in providing alternative livelihoods, building up the judicial and penal system and reducing demand for opium derivatives, both inside Afghanistan and abroad.

    Turning to the path ahead, he said that the Afghans and their international partners, including the Council, would have to chart the way forward carefully. The success of the Constitutional Loya Jirga and the political debate that had begun in the country offered hope, but it was a success that must be quickly capitalized on, lest it did no more than raise false expectations. The key challenges that must quickly be addressed remained the same today, after the Loya Jirga, as they had been described in the Secretary-General’s report before it:  broadening the popular base of the Government, strengthening a governance system based on the rule of law, improving security and increasing the pace of reconstruction and service delivery.

    Following its visit to Afghanistan in early November, the Council had recommended that the Secretary-General explore ways of giving a new impetus to the Bonn process.  Some of the possibilities had been discussed in the report before the Council. The UNAMA had circulated in Kabul a non-paper, which noted that a second conference was one possible way to re-energize the commitment of all concerned to address the gaps in the peace process.  Some interlocutors had observed that there may be other means to address those gaps and that a large conference was perhaps not necessary. What was important and urgent, however, was that some means be identified to improve and accelerate the performance of the Government and its international partners.

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