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Rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan is of great concern: UN chief

14 December 2012 - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a new report released yesterday that the conflict in Afghanistan continued to take an “unacceptable toll” on civilians and a rise in civilian casualties in the last three months was of “great concern”. 
Download the full report here

In his latest quarterly report to the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Ban said civilian casualties increased by 28 per cent between 1 August and 31 October this year, compared to the same period in 2011, in contrast to a downward trend recorded in the first six months of 2012. Overall, in the first 10 months of 2012, a 4 per cent decline in civilian deaths and injuries was recorded.

The report attributed the vast majority of 2,557 civilian casualties (84 per cent, up from 70 per cent for the same period in 2011) from August to October to anti-Government elements.

“Insurgents are intimidating communities and individuals as a deliberate tactic to extend influence and control, targeting those who challenge their authority or ideas,” the UN chief said in his report. “I reiterate demands for an immediate halt to their use and call upon insurgent leaders to publicly repudiate such tactics.”

On elections, which the Secretary-General called “the cornerstone of the country’s political transition”, he urged the Afghan authorities to develop transparently “a robust electoral architecture” ahead of the 2014 Presidential election. “This should include the passage of the two outstanding electoral laws, with debate leading to consensus on processes that enhance the credibility, inclusiveness and sustainability of elections,” said Mr. Ban.

The Secretary-General’s special envoy in Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, told a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels on 5 December that the UN was closely following the passage of the two electoral laws that are under discussion at various levels of Afghan institutions.

The first of the two laws defines the structure and responsibilities of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC), while the second is the main electoral law governing all Afghan elections. The laws are expected to create a strong legal fundament for credible elections in Afghanistan.

The report of the Secretary-General also sounded alarm on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, which saw nearly 50 per cent decrease in overall humanitarian funding – from US$ 900 million in 2011 to US$ 484 million in 2012. In contrast to this, overall development assistance has grown from US$ 4 billion in 2010 to US$ 6.3 billion in 2012.

“I support the call by the humanitarian country team in Afghanistan for donors to earmark at least 10 per cent of their official development assistance for humanitarian assistance,” said Mr. Ban.

According to the report, as at 31 October, 459,200 people had been assessed as internally displaced by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Conflict continues to be a significant driver, with 35 per cent of those newly displaced in 2012 (58,600 persons) citing conflict as the primary direct motivation for their flight, said the report.

New data from the World Health Organization (WHO) also revealed that, during the first 10 months of 2012, 540 health facilities had been forced to suspend activities owing to insecurity or lack of funding, an increase of 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2011.

“This equates to more than 20 per cent of the 2,600 facilities providing various types of health care in the country, with the largest number of inactive facilities located in the south, where between 50 and 60 per cent of the population has very limited or no access to basic health-care services.”

The Security Council is scheduled to meet next week when the Council will consider the report of the Secretary-General and discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

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