The Political Affairs Division at UNAMA supports political outreach, conflict resolution, disarmament and regional cooperation. The political mandate of UNAMA supported the implementation of the institutional and political objectives of the Bonn Agreement, signed in November 2001, as well as a range of peace-building tasks.
Political Affairs also includes an Election Support Unit, a Military Advisory Unit, a Governance Unit, a Police Advisory Unit and a Rule of Law Unit, which are responsible for coordinating international support for institution-building in each of those sectors.
The key aspects of the political mandate include: preventing and resolving conflicts; building confidence and promoting national reconciliation; monitoring and advising on the political and human rights situation; investigating and making recommendations relating to human rights violations; maintaining a dialogue with Afghan leaders, political parties, civil society groups, institutions, and representatives of central, regional and provincial authorities; recommending corrective actions; and undertaking good offices when necessary to further the peace process.
UNAMA plays a key role in promoting a coherent international engagement in Afghanistan, supporting regional cooperation, promoting humanitarian coordination and contributing to human rights protection and promotion, including monitoring the situation of civilians in the armed conflict.
Secretary-General's latest report
The UN Secretary General's report to the Security Council released on 5 March 2013 provides an update of UNAMA political development activities since 6 December 2012, listed below. For a full copy of the report, click here.
A. Political developments
3. The reporting period saw intense focus among Afghan authorities, political parties and civil society on the security and political transitions that will culminate in 2014 with the end of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and the presidential elections. Connected to those milestones is activity aimed at defining and shaping a potential reconciliation process, over which the Government of Afghanistan is increasingly asserting ownership.
4. On 24 December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in which it said that peace consultative meetings must take place in agreement with the Government of Afghanistan and inside Afghanistan. On 26 December, the President, Hâmid Karzai, reiterated that any peace process must be conducted under the leadership of the Government of Afghanistan and the High Peace Council. In a joint statement upon the conclusion of the President’s official visit to the United States of America, from 8 to 11 January 2013, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to an Afghan-led political process and support for an office in Doha for authorized representatives of the Taliban seeking dialogue with the Council. On 3 and 4 February, at a trilateral summit meeting held at Chequers, the country residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Kingdom similarly expressed support for the opening of an office in Doha. The three countries committed themselves to taking all measures necessary to achieve a peace settlement over the coming six months.
5. The High Peace Council continued efforts to build conditions conducive to reconciliation, including preparations for an ulema peace conference, marked by differences in approaches by the ulema councils of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continued to support the Council, in addition to undertaking political outreach, to help to build the conditions necessary for more formal talks. On 8 and 9 December, the Mission convened two round-table discussions with representatives of civil society and women’s groups, religious figures and political leaders, including members of the Council. Parameters for a UNAMA-facilitated intra-Afghan dialogue were explored. UNAMA, with support from the Department of Political Affairs of the Secretariat, also undertook three mediation workshops, engaging community leaders in Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul on conflict resolution. The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme continued efforts to reintegrate lower-level former fighters, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNAMA. According to the Programme’s joint secretariat, 6,193 insurgents had joined the Programme by the end of December.
6. On 17 December, the Security Council adopted resolution 2082 (2012), in which it made adjustments to the Taliban sanctions measures previously outlined in resolution 1988 (2011). Notably, the Council strongly urged Member States to consult the Government of Afghanistan before submitting listing and delisting requests to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011). It also indicated a readiness to consider expeditiously travel ban exemption requests confirmed by the Government.
7. The issue of the 2014/15 electoral cycle continued to dominate the political landscape. On 23 January, the President issued a decree in which he directed that the national electronic identity card project (known as “e-taskera”) should begin card distribution by the first day of the Afghan New Year (21 March). The Ministry of the Interior was charged with data collection and card issuance, while the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was accorded responsibility for supporting the project. The project aims to distribute 14 million identification cards by March 2014. Representatives of the Ministry of Finance have indicated that around $120 million will be sought through bilateral funding arrangements. It is envisaged that the cards could be used as a form of voter identification for the elections to be held in 2014 and, in the longer term, serve as the permanent process for generating a voter registry with lists specific to each polling centre. On 23 January, after the Government continued to insist on the primacy of the e-taskera effort, the Independent Election Commission announced a more limited voter registration plan that would rely on old voter cards and a top-up exercise. Scheduled to begin on 22 April, this plan would issue new voter cards to those who have come of age, returned to the country and/or lost or damaged their cards.
8. The UNDP electoral support project, ELECT II (Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow, second phase), continued to provide technical support to the Independent Election Commission, while UNAMA facilitated information-sharing sessions to help to ensure the alignment of international stakeholders as the Afghan electoral framework evolves. At the Commission’s request, a two-phase United Nations electoral needs assessment mission was undertaken from 27 November to 5 December and from 18 to 28 January. The head of the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs led the team and met diverse Afghan and international stakeholders to provide me with recommendations on appropriate parameters for the potential provision of United Nations assistance to the upcoming Afghan-led elections.
9. Political parties and civil society continued to be heavily engaged in electoral developments. The Cooperation Council of Political Parties and Coalitions of Afghanistan demonstrated increasing cohesion following the launch of its democracy charter in September, with 22 diverse parties now members. At a press conference on 12 January, the Cooperation Council expressed support for a permanent Electoral Complaints Commission as the electoral dispute resolution mechanism. On 22 January, it criticized the scaled-down voter registration top-up plan, objecting to what it considered Government interference in the work of the electoral management body by failing to support original plans for a full voter registration exercise. On 27 January, the leaders of the National Front of Afghanistan coalition — one of two main opposition blocs — and several other political personalities issued what they termed a “joint statement of jihadi and political leaders of the country”, in which they called for transparent, fair and free elections and an inclusive peace process. The signatories condemned plans to use old voter cards and demanded that electronic identity cards or new voter cards should be issued. They warned that a lack of reform in the electoral process, together with the international military drawdown, could lead to political crisis.
10. The National Assembly continued work on the legislative framework for elections. On 19 December, a joint committee was formed to resolve an impasse between the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house of the National Assembly, and the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house, over the draft law on the structure of the electoral management bodies. The Wolesi Jirga demanded an inclusive appointments mechanism for the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission, with two international members included on the latter. Both of those demands have been rejected by the Meshrano Jirga. The other key piece of legislation, a draft electoral law, was submitted to the Wolesi Jirga on 29 December. The bill provoked controversy, given that it would replace the Electoral Complaints Commission, as set forth in the draft law on the structure, duties and jurisdiction of the Election Commission, with a judicial body as the final arbiter of electoral disputes. Other proposed amendments related to, among others, candidate eligibility, the electoral system and the authority to postpone or suspend elections.
11. The Wolesi Jirga demonstrated continued dissatisfaction over low budget execution rates and, on 11 December, rejected the expenditure report for the fiscal year 1390 (21 March 2011-20 March 2012). On 14 January, the ministers of energy and water, education, urban development, the interior, economy, mines, higher education, counter-narcotics, commerce and industry, information and culture, and defence were summoned for interpellation over complaints that their institutions had spent less than half of the allocated funds. Only 7 of the 11 ministers appeared, with the Government pointing out that the remaining ministers had not been in office during the relevant period. The Wolesi Jirga refused to proceed and resolved to again summon all 11 ministers upon its return from its winter recess in March. On 20 January, the Wolesi Jirga approved the national budget for the fiscal year 1392 (21 December 2012-20 December 2013) after twice rejecting it.
12. The phased transfer of lead security responsibility from ISAF to Afghan security institutions continued. On 31 December, the President announced that the fourth tranche of the transition was set to begin in March, comprising 52 districts largely in the north and centre of the country. With that announcement, 23 provinces have begun, or completed, the transition. The fourth tranche includes areas home to 11 per cent of the population. Accordingly, when combined with the three previous phases, 87 per cent of the population is now under security for which Afghanistan bears lead responsibility. During the President’s visit to the United States in January, it was agreed that the fifth and final tranche would be announced in the first quarter of 2013, but would be implemented in the middle of the year.
13. Afghan and international stakeholders continued to discuss the shape and scope of international political and military engagement in the post-2014 period. Legal privileges and immunities for United States troops remained a delicate issue and, on 14 January, the President stated that such privileges and immunities could be approved only by the Afghan people through a consultative gathering, or jirga. On 29 January, Afghanistan and the United States launched a third round of talks on a bilateral security agreement. On 6 February, during an official visit to Oslo, the President signed a strategic partnership agreement with Norway, which set forth cooperation until 2017, with a focus on education, good governance, rural development, women’s rights and anti-corruption efforts.