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 7 March 2014 provides an update of UNAMA political development activities since 6 December 2013, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here
A. Political developments
1. Preparations for the upcoming elections remain on track for the scheduled polling date of 5 April. The formal campaign period for the presidential elections began on 2 February and that for provincial councils on 4 March. Vigorous political activity can be observed throughout the country.
2. On 5 January, President Hamid Karzai convened a meeting of all 11 presidential candidates at which he stressed the need for transparent elections and emphasized his commitment to non-interference by the Government in the process. Since the start of the campaign period, candidates’ banners and billboards have lined the roadways and large-scale rallies have been taking place in Kabul and throughout the country. A unique feature compared with previous elections in Afghanistan has been the number of televised debates, nine as at 25 February, providing candidates with opportunities to explain their views on diverse topics.
3. Election-related violence included an assassination attempt on vice-presidential candidate Ismail Khan, formerly Minister of Water and Energy and Governor of Herat, on 24 January. This was followed by the fatal shooting of two members of the campaign team of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in Herat on 1 February, with a third killed in Sari Pul on 7 February. The convoy of Mr. Abdullah came under gunfire when returning to Kabul from Nangarhar on 19 February; he was unhurt. Despite those incidents, a strategic threat to the elections has not emerged. In a significant political development that occurred in early January, the leader of the armed opposition wing of Hezb-e Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, instructed supporters to participate in the elections. On 16 February, a spokesperson for the group stated that the party supported the presidential candidacy of former senior party official Qutbuddin Helal, who is standing as an independent candidate.
4. Technical preparations for the elections remain further advanced than those for previous polls held in Afghanistan. By 31 January, the Ministry of the Interior completed a security risk assessment of 7,168 polling centres initially proposed by the Independent Election Commission. The Ministry concluded that Afghan security forces could secure 94 per cent of polling centres, although 796 of them were considered to be high-risk. On 19 February, the Commission, having considered this security advice and drawn on its own assessments, announced a list of 6,775 polling centres, with 21,663 polling stations (12,705 for men and 8,958 for women). The movement of electoral materials to the provinces began on 12 February. Furthermore, by 14 February the Commission’s top-up registration exercise had distributed an additional 3.5 million voter cards to those who had reached 18 years of age, lost their voter cards or moved since the holding of previous polls. Approximately 35 per cent of those receiving new cards were women. In order to support a maximum franchise, this exercise will continue at the provincial level until two weeks prior to polling day.
5. On 6 January, the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission referred allegations of serious human rights violations, war crimes and/or corruption against five presidential candidates to the Attorney-General’s Office for further investigation. On 15 January, the latter announced that the files had been closed owing to a lack of evidence. Scrutiny by the Commission of the eligibility of the 2,713 provincial council candidates continued. On 26 January, the Commission announced 25 disqualifications based on educational and/or age criteria, with an additional 19 on 16 February. This new institution continued to establish its infrastructure and organizational capacity. An interim strategic and operational plan was presented to donors on 16 January, and procedures for the registration, filing and adjudication of electoral challenges and complaints were published on 4 February. On 11 February, President Karzai approved the appointment of 102 provincial complaints commissioners. Of concern is the low number of women appointed (only six of the total) despite the efforts made to increase female representation.
6. On 22 January, the Media Commission, a temporary body established for the electoral period, issued amended regulations governing the conduct of media entities during the elections, and on 29 January it launched a series of 10 regional workshops to explain its mandate and regulations to media practitioners. Electoral observation will be undertaken mainly by Afghan groups, complemented by international missions at the request of Afghan authorities. As at 2 February, the Independent Election Commission had accredited 1,027 domestic observers (from 53 domestic observation entities) and 106 international observers (from 3 international observation entities), as well as 135 political party agents (from 24 parties). A total of 519 media representatives (375 domestic and 144 international) have also been accredited. Between 13 and 24 January, a European Union exploratory team visited Afghanistan, and on 23 January the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe published its exploratory team report, which foresees the deployment of a 15-member election support team.
7. Progress towards the establishment of a formal peace process with the armed opposition remained limited. On 22 December, a statement attributable to the Taliban denied reports that the former deputy leader Mullah Abdullah Ghani Baradar, who remains in Pakistan following his release from prison, was authorized to engage in formal dialogue on its behalf. On 12 February, a former Taliban-era official, Agha Jan Mutasim, announced that several leaders of the movement had met in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and agreed to launch an “intra-Afghan dialogue” to include the Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban and other insurgent groups. On 15 February, Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, followed a day later by the Afghan National Security Council, welcomed Mutasim’s announcement. On 19 February, a Taliban statement denied participation in the Dubai meeting or engagement in any type of peace talks with Afghan authorities and stated that Mutasim was not currently an official of the movement and did not represent it.
8. As at 31 December, the joint secretariat of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme reported that a total of 7,796 individuals had joined the Programme and that 164 small grants projects in 25 provinces had been approved, providing short-term employment opportunities. In continuing efforts to support an environment conducive to peace, a High Peace Council delegation visited Saudi Arabia between 28 December and 2 January to attend an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting of religious scholars. There was a positive response from OIC to the Council’s proposal to form a working group of international ulema to counter religious narratives that fuel militant violence in Afghanistan. On 21 January, the Council’s women’s committee launched a nationwide campaign, entitled “Afghan Women’s Call for Ceasefire and Peace”, to collect 300,000 signatures demanding the cessation of armed hostilities. UNAMA meanwhile continued to facilitate local dialogue to mitigate inter-ethnic and intertribal tensions and to build confidence among communities. Gatherings were held in Jawzjan, Kunduz, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Paktya and Takhar Provinces, with the participation of local government officials, traditional community leaders and civil society. In January, UNAMA also launched a series of seminars to promote the role of Afghan ulema in supporting the peaceful conduct of elections, drawing together clerics and religious scholars from Badghis, Ghor, Herat, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar and Nuristan Provinces.
9. Afghanistan’s bilateral security agreement with the United States of America remained unsigned. President Karzai continued to assert the conditions he had enumerated at the conclusion of the consultative loya jirga in November, including the official launch of a peace process. On 21 December, negotiations were initiated between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Afghanistan on a status-of-forces agreement to provide a legal framework for a post-2014 training and advisory mission. NATO has stated that this can be concluded only after the signature of a bilateral accord with the United States.
10. On 13 February, the Government of Afghanistan released 65 prisoners previously transferred to its authority by the United States. The Embassy of the United States in Kabul condemned the release of what it termed “dangerous detainees” linked to serious crimes, as contrary to commitments under a 2012 memorandum of understanding. On 17 February, Abdul Raqib Takhari, a former Taliban minister of repatriation who had been listed pursuant to the 1988 Security Council sanctions regime, was killed in Peshawar. The Government of Afghanistan described him as a “martyr of peace” and transported his body to his home province of Takhar for burial.