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 6 December 2013 provides an update of UNAMA political development activities since 6 September 2013, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here.
A. Political developments
3. Amid political, security and economic transitions, the situation in Afghanistan remains characterized by uncertainty, although some areas have shown progress and increased predictability. There was greater momentum in technical preparations for the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections during the reporting period, while the final candidate list provided greater clarity on the shape of political competition, which continues to evolve. The endorsement by a consultative loya jirga of a bilateral security agreement with the United States of America reinforced expectations of the approval by the National Assembly of an important framework for ongoing partnership and, by extension, continuity of broader international engagement.
4. During the candidate nomination period, from 16 September to 6 October, 27 individuals entered the presidential race, each with two vice-presidential nominees; there were 3,057 aspirants for seats on the 34 provincial councils. Women comprised 1 of the former and 324 of the latter candidates. The Independent Election Commission’s announcement on 27 September that the deposits of unsuccessful female candidates would be refunded and that support would be provided for their campaign materials was aimed at galvanizing the registration of women. On 22 October, following the process of verification by the Election Commission, a preliminary list of 10 presidential candidates deemed to have met constitutional and legal requirements was released. Sixteen nominees were disqualified, including the sole woman, and another was removed before the formal process began, apparently because of an incomplete submission. It is understood that decisions on disqualification were related mainly to a constitutional bar on holding dual nationality and a new legal requirement that there be 100,000 voter endorsements from at least 20 provinces. Provincial council candidates were reduced to 2,704 (of whom 309 are women). The main reasons for disqualification included not meeting age and educational requirements. Candidates and civil society objected to the three-day delay in the announcement of disqualifications and an alleged lack of transparency in the process, including the Election Commission’s application of a “tolerance” level to the verification of voter endorsements given incomplete voter data and the failure to individually inform disqualified candidates of the reason for their exclusion. On 28 October, the Election Commission provided written notification of the grounds for disqualification to concerned individuals.
5. On 15 September, President Hamid Karzai named five Independent Electoral Complaints Commissioners (four men and one woman). The new commissioners elected a political analyst and former presidential legal adviser, Abdul Satar Sadaat, as Chairperson. The Commission, now legally a permanent body, has worked to set up new premises, policies and procedures and to recruit personnel. On 23 September, President Karzai ordered that the Government provide the Commission with initial funding of 20 million afghanis (approximately $350,000) and premises in Kabul, as well as vehicles and protection for its members. On 9 October, donors approved funding structures for international assistance provided to the body. The Complaints Commission, which started to receive objections and complaints about candidate eligibility related to the preliminary list on 22 October, decided that adjudication would be conducted in Kabul and that its provincial presence would be established in time to receive complaints related to other steps of the electoral process. A total of 1,056 objections and complaints were received. Following adjudication, on 19 November, the Complaints Commission presented its findings to the Election Commission. The next day the final list, which included one additional presidential candidate and nine additional provincial council candidates (308 women), was released.
6. The 11 presidential candidates, in the order in which they will appear on the ballot, are: Abdullah Abdullah, Daud Sultanzoy (reinstated on the final list), Abdul Rahim Wardak, Abdul Qayum Karzai, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Sardar Mohammad Nader Naim, Zalmai Rassul, Qutbudin Hilal, Mohammad Sahfiq Gul Agha Sherzai, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaaf and Hedayat Amin Arsala. Three of the candidates have female vice-presidential nominees.
7. To maximize voter enfranchisement, on 17 September the Election Commission decided to extend the district-level voter registration update exercise by 45 days, until 10 November, with mobile registration teams to expand access. By the end of this phase, more than 3 million new voter cards had been issued, about a third of them to women. To promote inclusiveness of the electoral process, the United Nations in Afghanistan made “Political participation is everyone’s right: women as voters and candidates” the theme of its annual open day on issues surrounding women, peace and security. On 2 October, civil society participants identified the pervasiveness of male attitudes, insecurity, the location of polling stations, insufficient female polling and security staff, and low awareness among women as the main challenges to women’s full inclusion. On 3 November, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), working with local partners, launched 14 interactive events and panel discussions across the country to support awareness of poll-related issues and provide space for public debate.
8. The security of electoral personnel, candidates and supporters, voters and electoral material is recognized as being essential for active participation and strengthening confidence in the process. Both the Taliban and the armed faction of Hezb-e Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, have publicly called upon Afghans not to participate in elections, and there have been reports of threatening leaflets in some parts of eastern Afghanistan. Four districts in Zabul, Ghazni and Helmand Provinces (two in the latter) were not included in the Election Commission’s voter registration update exercise for security reasons. Since September, there have been 4 attacks on voter registration offices and 10 involving electoral personnel, including the killing of a Kunduz provincial election officer on 18 September. The circumstances of this incident remain unclear, and there is as yet no evidence of a strategic threat to elections. On 3 October, a code of conduct for security institutions during the electoral process was set out in a presidential decree, which emphasized the need for impartiality and respect for human rights in the discharge of duties. On 29 October, the United Nations-administered Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan steering committee, chaired by the Minister of the Interior, approved a proposal to recruit and train 13,000 female searchers to better secure access for women voters.
9. A legal bar on holding official positions while running for election meant that five ministers and seven members of the National Assembly stepped down during the candidate nomination period. Previously, on 25 September, following an earlier reshuffling, the Wolesi Jirga (the lower house of the National Assembly) confirmed Mohammed Umar Daudzai as Minister of the Interior and Mohammed Akram Khpalwak as Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs. Given election resignations, seven new representatives were introduced to the Wolesi Jirga on 19 October and another was introduced to replace a deceased member. On 27 October, President Karzai named Zarar Ahmad Moqbel Osmani acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Akbar Barakzai acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum, Shakar Kargar acting Minister of Commerce and Industry, Arif Noorzai acting Minister of Water and Energy and Din Mohammad Mubarez acting Counter-Narcotics Minister.
10. Efforts to establish a formal peace process remained stalled. On 20 September, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan announced the release of Mullah Abdullah Ghani Baradar, once the deputy leader of the Taliban, as requested by the Government of Afghanistan. The latter considers that Baradar has the potential to play a constructive role and welcomed the move as a sign of goodwill. On 9 October, the Taliban issued a statement in which it claimed that Baradar was still in detention and called upon Pakistani officials to clarify his status. The Chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council travelled with a delegation to Islamabad between 19 and 21 November, where he met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, other Pakistani officials and reportedly also Baradar. Council activities around the International Day of Peace included an international Ulema Conference on Islam and Peace, hosted jointly with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Kabul on 24 September. The event drew together 200 religious scholars from 13 countries, who issued a joint declaration condemning violence and extremism. On 26 September, a Council meeting with civil society representatives in Kabul resulted in a joint framework for future coordination and cooperation. Women’s participation in the peace process was the focus of a conference, on 22 September, organized by the High Peace Council and supported by UNAMA, in Jalalabad. Participants noted women’s particular role in mitigating differences across segments of society. On 5 October, an international conference on women, peace and security hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs underlined the need to enhance women’s role in Afghan political life.
11. The joint secretariat of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme reported that as at 19 November, 7,532 individuals had joined the programme and that 168 line ministry projects and 170 small grants had been completed or had commenced. Starting 1 October, UNAMA launched a series of local dialogues to mitigate inter-ethnic and intertribal tensions and build confidence between communities in Daikundi, Kapisa, Nuristan, Kunduz, Takhar, Gardez and Jawzjan Provinces. UNAMA also continued its support for the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace, a civil society initiative to develop provincial road maps in support of peace. Between September and November, 44 focus group discussions — of 200 planned in total — were conducted, involving 1,093 Afghans, of whom 486 were women. Measures proposed by participants included the removal of corrupt officials, ensuring merit-based appointments, and mechanisms for public oversight. 12. Negotiations between Kabul and Washington over a bilateral security agreement continued with increasing urgency, given the planning timelines for any future military commitments by the United States and other countries, including States members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member States. On 11 and 12 October, the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, and President Karzai, meeting in Kabul, agreed on a number of outstanding issues. Emphasizing the importance of broad consultation on matters of national sovereignty, President Karzai convened a consultative loya jirga, from 21 to 24 November, prior to the agreement’s being put to the National Assembly. On the eve of the gathering, the text of the agreement was circulated, together with a letter from Barack Obama, President of the United States. President Karzai spoke to more than 2,000 assembled delegates in support of the agreement, which would remain in force until 2024 and beyond, as it provided a chance to transition into stability. At the same time, he maintained that prior to signing the agreement there should be a demonstration of its benefits, including the delivery of peace before the 2014 elections. The overwhelming majority of participants supported the agreement, urging its finalization within weeks, yet the President repeated his preconditions. Earlier, on 23 October, in Brussels, NATO defence ministers had endorsed a strategic planning assessment for command and control arrangements and capabilities for a potential training and advisory mission following the conclusion in 2014 of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mandate. Any further development of the mission will depend on a legal framework regarding the status of any NATO troops in Afghanistan.