Thursday, September 3, 2015

UN’s Special Representative briefs media

UN SRSG KAI EIDE: Welcome everybody. This is not really a press conference, but I want to give some first impressions after the closure of the polling centres. First of all, let me remind you all of what our thinking was and about all the questions I got from you a couple of days ago. Those questions were: With all these security incidents and with this security situation will it be possible to hold elections in Afghanistan?

Now, we see that elections have taken place across Afghanistan and I believe that, that is in itself an important achievement.

There have also been a lot of discussions over the number of poll centres that the election commission will be able to open. Now we know that around 6,200 polling centres were open. The figures are not precise yet. But that is what we believe is the approximate number. That number is equal to the number that was open in 2005. And I must also say that, too, is an achievement.

I was worried yesterday – and this morning – that we will be faced with a security situation that will make it much more complicated than what we have seen.

I think we can see today and safely say that elections have taken place in an orderly manner as possible in all parts of the country.

As obvious to all: Those parts of the county that are particularly affected by the security situation have had a lower turnout than those who have a stable situation.

But, the figures that we have vary very much – not only from region to region – according to what sources that we have been talking to among Afghans and the international community. So it is impossible for me to say what percentage the turnout would be in each province and each part of the country.

The fact that the elections have taken place today across the country is, of course, an achievement for the Afghan people.

And I think we have witnessed also that, wherever possible, mobilization of political energy and interest that we have seen over the last few weeks, have also been reflected at the ballot stations.

There was one young voter who said that I am not going to allow people with rockets to steal this country away from me, and I want to go and vote.

I think that’s an attitude that many Afghans share. It reflects also that young Afghans, particularly, I believe, have confidence and belief in the democratic processes and want to take part in those processes.

So, overall, 20 August 2009 has been a good day for Afghanistan.

Now we will pass to the next phase which will be the counting of the ballots. It will be the handling of complaints by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and then eventually see the outcome of what has happened today.

But I would like to pay tribute to all the Afghans in the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the security forces and all the others who participated throughout this process for the achievement we can see today. Thank you.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

REUTERS: May I just ask you what you felt about the reports you heard today? What you felt has been the most the positive, and what has been the most alarming report you heard today?

UN SRSG KAI EIDE: The most positive certainly is the fact that the security situation has, in general, allowed people to take part in the elections. I understand that in some countries, the perception of security has been different than in the more stable areas. But, overall, the security situation has been better than we feared. That is certainly the most positive aspect of this election.

What are the most negative, as well? There are a number of complaints; there are claims that there have been irregularities.

I do not want to comment on them, it is not my job. It is up to the Independent Election Commission to take position and decide on complaints that they will eventually receive.

ASSOCIATED PRESS: I understood you will not comment. But, is there anything you have observed today, either in terms of results, or just low turnouts in some areas, that makes you worried about the Afghan people not accepting the results?

UN SRSG KAI EIDE: First of all, when it comes to the turnout: We don’t have any precise figures… we have indications. But I can tell you that only in the last 10 minutes I have talked to different sources with regard to the turnout in one particular province and those indications vary quiet significantly. Therefore, it’s really premature to give any indication on that.

With regard to the complaints: I will stick to my role. I have heard what you have heard. And my role is not to comment on violations that may have taken place.

In the aftermath of any elections of this nature – and in such a complicated environment – it is inevitable that you will hear complaints. I think it is also inevitable that there will be some irregularities. How to look at each individual complaint that comes in, that is really not my job.

RTA [translated from Pashto]: Now that the polling day for the Presidential and Provincial Council elections went well, there are some concerns of clashes and tension in the aftermath of elections. What is the UN’s position on that?

UN SRSG KAI EIDE: I expect the political leadership and other parts of the establishment of this country to make sure that there is no such instability and to get together after the election process is over – and I have said this over and over again.

The Afghan people as well as the international community expect that the political establishment will get together and unite behind a common agenda. They need this. The Afghan people do not need further fragmentation and division. We have to move forward that is why we are here. We have a commitment, here and we want to work with Afghan people who are united and where the political establishment can come together-what I will call a governance of consensus. I did not say a ‘government’ of consensus, but a ‘governance’ of consensus. And I hope, and I believe, that the political maturity that was demonstrated during the elections campaign will also be reflected in the aftermath of the elections day.

Let me add one final word: I have underlined over and over again the complexity of organizing elections in this country in so many ways…the conflict, weak infrastructure, weak institutions, and remote inaccessible areas. To organize such elections, in such a situation, is a tremendous challenge that I have never seen before in my life, and now I am a grown up person. What is the sense that feels me the most today when this Election Day is over? I can tell you: It is profound respect for the Afghan people, for those who have organized the elections, and for all those who have turned out, determined to take part in shaping the future of this country.

Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
Kabul, Afghanistan

Tel: 079 000 6121; +39 083 124 6121

http://unama.unmissions.org

“Women and Peace and Security”

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
At the Security Council open debate on
“Women and Peace and Security”

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Statement

Mr. President,

First, allow me to congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of the Council for the month of August, and thank you for convening the debate on this crucial topic. I would also like to welcome the report of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, which reflects both the appalling scope and devastating effects of this issue.

Mr. President,
Afghanistan remains fully dedicated to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 on the rights of women in conflict situations. It has become clear that the lack of a stable, secure state leads often to persistent violations of human rights, particularly women’s rights. Insecurity allows extremism to flourish, and makes it extremely difficult for governments and international organizations to provide even basic services to their citizens. Lack of resources and capacity limits the ability of governments to effectively enforce protective legislative and judicial mechanisms. Without the equal involvement of half of our populations in our civil societies, economies, and political systems, our nations are deeply incapacitated, and our children, economies, and even the stability of our countries suffer.

Mr. President,
Only eight years ago, under the brutal Taliban regime, Afghanistan had no provisions for the protection of women and human rights; but despite ongoing difficulties, we have made significant progress, particularly in education and healthcare. Women’s issues are taken into account at each stage of the national stabilization process and in national strategies like the ANDS. Afghanistan has the legal and judicial mechanisms in place to achieve success. We are also party to the relevant international mechanisms, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). However, the ongoing support of the international community for Afghan efforts is absolutely necessary, both to encourage our citizens’ bottom-up efforts towards success and to sustain the government’s top-down labors. We have emerged from the darkness of a long national nightmare, but we still have more work to do.

Mr. President,
In the past thirty years, Afghans have experienced violence on an almost unprecedented scale. Persistent poverty and other symptoms of conflict have disproportionately affected women. And for the first time in the 1990s, during a bloody internecine war, physical and psychological violence was accompanied by horrendous acts of sexual abuse. The scars of these abuses continue to be seen and felt today.

Women in Afghanistan still face not just sexual violence, but sexual discrimination and oppression caused and exacerbated by enduring insecurity and the terrorist activities of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In some particularly unstable parts of the country, where the Taliban are still active or where the rule of law is not yet strong, women attempting to work or hold office face abuse, threats, and physical attacks. Other women have their rights curtailed, and are forced into marriage and other exploitative situations. Even in areas free of the Taliban threat, a creeping Talibanisation promotes an un-Islamic, un-Afghan culture that denies women’s basic rights.

Mr. President,
Afghanistan supports the Secretary-General’s analysis that a central step towards preventing violence against women is to combat gender discrimination, and to give women a larger role in political and decision-making processes. Afghanistan’s experience shows that there is no better advocate for women’s rights than women themselves, and so we must do everything we can to help them be heard.

In the upcoming presidential and provincial elections, the participation of women will be crucial to success. We have had some praiseworthy victories: millions of women have registered to vote, and educational programs run by the Government, UNFPA, and UNAMA educate women about the voting process and their rights and opportunities as citizens. Our Constitution guarantees women at least 25% of seats in provincial councils, and 27% of seats in Parliament, and women have served as governors and in the Cabinet. A growing number of women have registered as candidates: a record-breaking 328 women are running for provincial councils, and 2 women are among the presidential candidates.
Nonetheless, Mr. President,
Some women parliamentarians have suggested that security concerns may prevent them from presenting themselves in the upcoming 2010 parliamentary elections. Even if the governmental mechanisms are in place to ensure equality, women are silenced within a culture of shame, and even more do not demand their rights due to a lack of awareness or support. My Government will continue to enlist cultural, political, and religious leaders to encourage a proper understanding of women’s Islamic and political rights, and to explicitly and publicly condemn all violence against women and girls; impunity only reinforces patterns of violence.

Mr. President,
Afghan women need the support and protection of the UN, the international community and the government of Afghanistan as they work to transform society. The role of the UN and international community in this struggle should be to support the Government of Afghanistan with resources, knowledge, policy guidance, and capacity-building. Led by this Council, we should also encourage a moral and legal awareness of women’s rights both locally and in multilateral forums, and keep violence against women at the top of the international agenda. With this support, we can work to strengthen judicial mechanisms and decrease reliance on local, ad hoc justice systems that frequently disadvantage women. We can increase the number of women in the Afghan National Police and have more units dedicated to domestic violence. We can also do more to combat extremism and educate the public about the rights of women by publicizing and enforcing international and Islamic human rights norms.

Mr. President,
The women of Afghanistan continue to suffer from violence. However, social transformation, like political stabilization and economic development, is a gradual process that requires security and continuity. We have learned that the surest way to improve the situation of women is to provide them education, protection, and support, and to give them a platform from which to speak for themselves. My Government remains fully committed to this cause.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Central Asia’s Northern Exposure

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN – Russian agreement to allow U.S. military over-flight rights to ferry lethal goods to Afghanistan was one of the signal achievements of the recent meetings in Moscow between Presidents Barack Obama and Dimtri Medvedev.

Last month in Moscow, Russian officials told us that Afghanistan was the area where American and Russian interests are most closely aligned, and cooperation on stabilizing Afghanistan may be the most promising area to “reset” our bilateral relationship.

Less publicized has been Moscow’s agreement earlier this year to allow for overland transit of nonlethal goods through Russian territory and on to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (with Kazakh and Uzbek agreement, of course) where they cross into northern Afghanistan at Heraton. These goods are shipped on trains that originate in the Latvian capital of Riga, and since the transit corridor was established, at least 20 rail convoys have made the trip. The supply trains have been given preferential right-of-way to speed the trip to about nine days.

Perhaps even less well-known is that Russian commercial cargo carriers have been shipping non-lethal goods out of the Middle East aboard massive Antonov 124 “Ruslan” cargo planes to Afghanistan for more than a year. To the great relief of the Pentagon, whose own cargo fleet is under tremendous stress, this heavy lift service was one of the few areas of U.S.-Russian cooperation that did not fall victim to the breakdown in the relationship last year over the Georgia war.

It seems a little odd that aspects of this cooperation on Afghanistan – one of Washington’s highest foreign and security policy challenges – are not better known. Perhaps that is because there remain questions about just how much Russia wants to see the United States succeed in Afghanistan. This issue was certainly raised earlier this year when the government of Kyrgyzstan announced that it would close the U.S. base in Manas, a decision that was reversed shortly before the Obama-Medvedev meeting last month, presumably with Russian support.

In our recent discussions in Tashkent with very high-level Uzbek government officials, this question came up repeatedly, and the answers we got were not reassuring. Uzbekistan is the key country in the establishment of the northern supply route, what the U.S. military calls the Northern Distribution Network. The United States needs the NDN both because of its over-reliance on a single line of transit through volatile regions of Pakistan and because its growing military force in Afghanistan will require a threefold increase in supplies.

Uzbek officials are deeply skeptical of Moscow. They believe the Russians see their interests best served by continued instability in Afghanistan. Instability will increase both the terrorist threat to Central Asia as well as the flow of drugs, and serve to justify a heightened Russian military presence in the region.

Afghan instability also prevents opening or expanding southern transit corridors for Central Asian exports that could quickly reach global markets from ports in either Pakistan or Iran. Instead, the bulk of goods from Uzbekistan and its neighbors must be shipped northward, leaving them dependent on routes controlled by Moscow.

The Russians already have a major military presence in Tajikistan, as well as an air base in Kyrgyzstan at Kant, near the Manas airport outside the capital of Bishkek. Moscow hopes to finalize an agreement soon to establish a new base in Kyrgyzstan near the southern city of Osh in the volatile Fergana Valley that would house a newly established Rapid Reaction Force – mostly manned by Russian troops – of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Tashkent views the growing Russian military presence in the region as a security threat. The manner in which Russian “peace-keeping” forces were mobilized in the Georgia war last summer made a deep impact on Uzbek policymakers, heightening their sense of vulnerability. Uzbek skepticism about Russian goals is so deep that several key figures intimated that when it comes to Afghanistan, Iran would be a more reliable partner for Washington than Moscow.

The Uzbeks we spoke with were unanimous in the view that eventual success in stabilizing Afghanistan requires as much attention to social-economic development as it does to military goals. Any security gains will certainly be short-lived if Afghanistan remains impoverished and economically isolated. Building a transportation infrastructure linking Afghanistan to regional and global markets will be essential for this success and should be a key element of President Obama’s regional strategy for Afghanistan.

For strategic and economic reasons, Uzbekistan wants to be a key partner for the United States and its allies in these efforts. Unfortunately, high levels of corruption and a highly complicated investment environment do not make it easy for American companies or U.S. institutions like the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to operate. Resolving these differences to enable greater U.S. economic engagement will be a critical and difficult step in strengthening U.S.-Uzbek relations.

Washington’s potential for success in Afghanistan will also depend to some extent on how well the new NDN supply line operates. There are still political and logistical kinks in the route. U.S. policymakers have to contend with eliciting cooperation from Moscow without compromising the sovereignty and independence of other Central Asian partners. Uzbekistan is key to the success of the supply route as well as broader Afghan stabilization, but the Uzbeks remain very concerned about Moscow’s announced doctrine of “privileged relations with its neighbors.”

Andrew C. Kuchins is director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Thomas Sanderson is deputy director of center’s Trans-National Threats Program.

By ANDREW C. KUCHINS and THOMAS SANDERSON

Source: The New York Times