Sunday, December 21, 2014

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

NATO Reorganizes Afghan Command Structure

NATO approved a reorganization of its command structure in Afghanistan on Tuesday to better coordinate the war there against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The Obama administration, which has moved to sharply increase the American military presence in Afghanistan, wanted the change to improve command efficiency over the NATO forces there, known as the International Security Assistance Force.

NATO agreed to establish a new Intermediate Joint Headquarters in Kabul under an American, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, to manage the day-to-day war. General Rodriguez will continue to report to the top American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

The decision was made at the first meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s governing body, presided over by NATO’s new secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister who started work on Monday.

The meeting, held by secure video conference, also included the new supreme allied commander of NATO forces, Adm. James G. Stavridis of the United States, as well as Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez.

All those involved emphasized that the alliance’s goal is “the equipping and training of Afghan security forces” so that the Afghan government can finally be able to defend itself from the Taliban, according to the NATO spokesman, James Appathurai.

In the prelude to the Aug. 20 election in Afghanistan, some 101,000 NATO and American forces are deployed there. The total includes 62,000 American soldiers, more than double the number a year ago. The United States is urging its European partners in NATO to send more troops and to keep in Afghanistan the extra troops sent in to provide security for the elections.

Mr. Rasmussen also briefed the council on his priorities as secretary general: Afghanistan, improving relations with Russia and with partner nations in the Muslim world, in North Africa and the Middle East.

On Monday, the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, met in Belgium for consultations on Afghanistan strategy with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq; Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez; and Admiral Stavridis.

source: The New York Times

By STEVEN ERLANGER

UN envoy: Afghanistan in 2009 – A Turning Point?

Two issues currently focus the international community’s perspective on Afghanistan: The upcoming Presidential and Provincial Council Elections on 20 August and the major military offensive started by coalition forces in the South following the military surge initiated by US President Obama.

Both illustrate the complex situation in the country, where efforts to consolidate democratic institutions and driving forward an ambitious development agenda run parallel with military operations aimed at curbing a resilient insurgency.

Elections
The 20 August elections, the second since the fall of the Taliban and the first Afghan run elections since the 1970s, are about more than choosing Afghanistan’s future government and political leadership. These elections are an important step in bolstering people’s confidence in the democratic process, in further strengthening the country’s democratic institutions and in providing legitimacy to its leadership. Electoral institutions have been built with impressive speed but the electoral process is still fragile in a country which is still in conflict.

The UN has been working with the Afghans to ensure a level playing field, providing the basis for a credible and inclusive election process and a result acceptable to the Afghan people. I have called on all candidates to campaign with dignity and to avoid inflammatory language that could incite violence, reminding candidates of their shared responsibility for ensuring that these elections lead to a strengthening of democratically elected institutions. UNAMA also called on Government institutions and officials to avoid interference during all phases of the elections process, protecting the integrity of state institutions, in line with a Presidential decree prohibiting government interference. We have been monitoring this closely and addressed violations when they occurred. Finally, we have appealed to all voters and Afghan citizens – without exception – to take part in the process and to use the ballot, not the bullet, to express their political orientation. These are their elections first and foremost.

Security
The security situation has deteriorated and the number of security incidents has been rising sharply. This has led to an increase in the number of international forces, in particular from the United States. It is of critical importance that these military forces are adequately prepared for the Afghan cultural and political context and that civilian casualties are avoided. I welcome General McChrystal’s commitment to a fundamental shift in attitude, putting security for the population first. The international community must ensure that its current and future military engagement in the country is supported by the people of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the main focus should be to strengthen the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. Recent decisions to increase the number of authorized army and police officers must now be implemented. This will require sustainable funding and training programmes, allowing Afghans to gradually take responsibility for their own security.

Maintaining the Momentum
Afghanistan in 2009, however, is much more than the election campaign and an intense fighting season. If managed well, the current situation offers significant opportunities and could become a turning point for development and aid coordination. Many promising and positive developments have gone largely unnoticed by the international community in recent months but require our sustained attention and support if we are to avoid backsliding. The new momentum shown by the government is impressive: we have seen progress in further strengthening security institutions, improving agricultural productivity, facilitating private sector development, increasing revenue collection and strengthening Afghan capacity and institutions.

Key ministries are more professional, focused and better prepared to work with the international community. International donors, in turn, are beginning to understand the importance of working through the government instead of bypassing it. The Joint Co-ordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) has recently been strengthened as the central platform for strategic coordination, joint policy formulation, problem solving and mutual accountability between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community. This positive momentum must be maintained and extended to other sectors of government after the elections to avoid stagnation and more disillusionment among the population.

An Agenda Beyond the Elections
After the elections, an ambitious agenda for the next five years needs to be developed, integrating a credible peace process into the overall strategy and finally bringing more government and basic services to the people in the provinces. The government and the UN will conduct comprehensive gap assessments over the coming weeks and months to identify concrete priority areas for engagement. Several elements of the post-elections agenda are already emerging:

Soon after a new government has been inaugurated, the international community will have to identify ways in which it can assist an Afghan led process leading towards a national dialogue for peace and unity bringing all elements of the society respecting the Afghan constitution together in an inclusive manner, overcoming fragmentation. Secondly, sub-national governance and institution building at the provincial and district level must be strengthened considerably. It is at this level, where most Afghans get in contact with their government and services need to be delivered to the people. It is at this level, ultimately, where the future of Afghanistan will be decided. Thirdly, but related, we must redouble our efforts to build Afghan capacity for civil servants and administrators, both at the Kabul level and in provinces and districts across the country.

Over the coming months, we will also have to build on initial progress achieved in the areas of regional cooperation and infrastructure development. The potential for regional cooperation goes way beyond the security sector. Trade, natural resources, energy and water management can bring Afghanistan and its neighbors together in a mutually beneficial way. Investment in key infrastructure programmes, including electricity lines and railway networks, could turn Afghanistan into a corridor for regional economic activities and provide the critical elements for Afghanistan’s own economic development. In those areas, we must be much more ambitious and broaden our perspective beyond the immediate geographical boundaries of Afghanistan itself.

Working together
In the past, donor coordination and aid effectiveness have been regularly criticized in international circles and rightly so. But many are still conducting yesterday’s debate. Over the past few months, the situation has changed and we are seeing encouraging signs of an Afghan government better coordinated internally and an international community much more willing to work together under UN leadership. The United States has reviewed its development policies and shows greater readiness to support well prepared and focused Afghan government programmes. Donors must be fully committed to further align their funding behind priorities identified by the government, avoiding fragmentation of aid programmes and ensuring development and assistance are delivered across the board and throughout all provinces in Afghanistan.

A Turning Point
This year is a critical year for Afghanistan. While this has been said before and the security situation looks dire, the present circumstances also provide ample opportunities. The picture is more mixed than ever. If we build upon recent progress and manage the situation well, this year could indeed become a turning point for Afghanistan. With a reenergized government, more competent Afghan ministries, strengthened Afghan security institutions, a better coordinated international community, a clearer road map for the next five years and continued commitment by international donors, we have an opportunity to turn a corner.

By Kai Eide, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan

This article originally appeared in the Estonian newspaper “Postimees”.