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 September 2013 provides an update of UNAMA political development activities since 13 June 2013 , listed below. For a full copy of the report, click here.
A. Political developments
3. The reporting period saw significant positive momentum in preparation for the 2014 elections, even as steps towards a peace process faced difficulties. My Deputy, Jan Eliasson, visited Kabul and Kandahar from 28 June to 2 July 2013, where he engaged with Government, political stakeholders and civil society, including women’s rights activists. On 3 July, one year after agreement on the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (see A/66/867-S/2012/532, annex II), a Senior Officials Meeting in Kabul brought together representatives of the international community and the Government of Afghanistan to assess the status of commitments and further focus efforts moving forward. With transition processes to culminate next year, the situation remained characterized by uncertainty, but efforts have generally proceeded as planned.
4. On 18 June, representatives of the Taliban and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar announced the opening of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Doha. A press release by the Taliban stated that the Office would “support a political solution” for Afghanistan’s future and that the movement would not allow “Afghan territory to threaten other countries’ security”. However, the Taliban’s use of the name and symbols of its former regime during the ceremony triggered a strongly negative reaction by the Government of Afghanistan and wider society. The Government has long insisted that any office be an address for authorized Taliban representatives to talk with the High Peace Council and not imply or legitimize a government in exile. There was further consternation at the Taliban statement’s emphasis on establishing relations with third countries and international organizations, noting dialogue with Afghan authorities only at an unspecified, later date. On 19 June, the Government declared that dialogue would be postponed pending guarantees that the process would be fully Afghan-led. On 24 June, the National Security Council was informed that the contested signboard and flag had been removed by officials in Doha. The Taliban subsequently announced that the Office would temporarily close. Its future remains uncertain, with a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating, on 12 August, that the Government was ready to establish dialogue with Taliban representatives in either Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
5. The joint secretariat of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme reported that, as at 24 August, 7,220 former insurgents had joined the Programme, with 160 line ministry projects and 164 small grants completed or in progress. Separately, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continued to support the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace. Between April and June, 100 focus group discussions — of 200 planned in total — were conducted across the country involving 1,733 Afghans, including 429 women. The second phase of the initiative aims to develop provincial road maps for peace, drawing on the recommendations of participants. Entrenched impunity, pervasive corruption and abuse of authority, unemployment and, in some cases, lack of equitable development were highlighted as reasons for discontent and the insurgency. Concerns were voiced about the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme and what was seen as a lack of vetting and accountability.
6. In response to events in Doha, on 19 June President Hâmid Karzai suspended high-level negotiations on the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States of America. A number of Afghan political stakeholders, including parliamentary and opposition leaders, opposed the decision, arguing that it could lead to the international community’s withdrawing entirely at this critical juncture. On 14 July, the President’s spokesperson confirmed plans to hold a national jirga to consult on the Agreement. The Cooperation Council of Political Parties and Coalitions of Afghanistan has rejected such a jirga, should it purport to have any legal authority, as unconstitutional and politically divisive. Concern has been expressed that the gathering could be turned to other purposes, including seeking to delay the 2014 elections or change the Constitution. On 22 July, while visiting Kabul, the United States Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, urged that the stalled Agreement be finalized by October. On 21 August, Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser and head of the Security Transition Commission was named, together with the Foreign Minister, to lead a new phase in strategic engagement on this issue. On 24 August, President Karzai stated that if the current Government could not reach agreement with the United States, then the latter would have to negotiate with the future Government.
7. Key legislation was agreed ahead of the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections. The Law on the Structure and Duties of the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (the “structure law”) and the electoral law were endorsed by President Karzai on 17 and 20 July, respectively, immediately after they were passed by the National Assembly. The new laws retained the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and made it a permanent body for adjudicating electoral disputes. The single non-transferable voting system, with all candidates for representative bodies standing as individuals in multi-member provincial contests, was also maintained. After heated debate, the 10-seat quota for the nomadic Kuchi community was kept, although there will now be seven regional zones rather than a national constituency. Reserved seats for women representatives were reduced, with Provincial Councils now having a 20 per cent quota — down from 25 per cent.
8. The consultative process for appointing commissioners to the two electoral management bodies set forth in the new structure law was swiftly implemented. On 28 July, the selection committee, composed of the Chairpersons of the two houses of the National Assembly, the heads of the Independent Commission for Oversight of the Implementation of the Constitution and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, together with the Chief Justice, presented the President with a shortlist of 27 nominees, drawn from over 200 applicants. Regrettably, civil society organizations related to elections failed to come to agreement and had no official representative in the selection process for the Independent Election Commission, as required by the new law. On 30 July, the President announced his final nine choices, who were sworn in the following day. The new members are broadly representative of Afghanistan’s regional and ethnic diversity; three of the nine are women and two of the men have previously served as Commissioners. On 3 August, the new appointees elected Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, a former governor of Herat, as Chair and, on 5 August, the President endorsed the reappointment of the Chief Electoral Officer. On 24 August, the process for selection of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission got under way.
9. Technical preparations for the election have proceeded as planned. On 27 July, the second phase of the voter registration top-up exercise commenced at the district level. Limited to newly eligible or returned voters, as of 21 August, 435,775 new voters’ cards were issued, 96,924 of which were to women. There have not been significant security incidents directly related to the process to date, but four districts proved inaccessible for security reasons, while centres in five other districts have yet to open amid logistical and staffing issues. The issuance of electronic national identity cards, which can also be used as a form of voter identification, is on hold pending passage of the Law on Registration and Population Records. On 31 July, the Commission approved its operational plan for the 2014 elections and, on 27 August, endorsed the United Nations electoral support project, ELECT II (Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow, second phase). Negotiations are ongoing between the Commission and the Ministry of Finance to ensure that a greater proportion of the US$ 129 million election financing is delivered through national budget processes.
10. Security for the conduct of elections is a major source of concern. On 29 July, the Ministry of the Interior provided the Independent Election Commission with its initial security threat assessment, estimating that 6,586 of 6,845 polling centres proposed by the Commission could be secured (3,435 assessed as secure, 945 low-threat, 1,074 medium-threat, 1,132 high-threat). Given child protection concerns, the Chief Electoral Officer agreed to discuss with Afghan security agencies the inclusion of a school impact assessment within the ongoing security assessment of potential polling stations. On 13 August, the former Chair of the Election Commission, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, stated in the media his belief that security officials were being unrealistic and had exaggerated preparedness for elections. The following day, the new Chair, Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, responded that there were many challenges, but he believed that security forces were capable of addressing them.
11. Political activity among Afghan stakeholders gained pace ahead of the candidate nomination period, which runs from 16 September to 6 October. Intra- and inter-party alliances remain fluid, with multiple overlapping efforts to build broad-based alliances. Jamiat-e Islami, a predominantly Tajik party, appeared to put aside plans for a party Congress, with a 30 June internal reshuffle in which the interim party head, Salahuddin Rabbani, was retitled acting party head, and the Governor of Balkh, Atta Mohammad Noor, named Chief Executive. On 16 August, spokespersons for the historically, mainly Pashtun Hezb-e Islami (Afghanistan) and predominantly Hazara Hezb-e Wahdat faction led by Vice-President Karim Khalili told the media that an electoral alliance was planned. The Cooperation Council of Political Parties and Coalitions of Afghanistan continued to emphasize the necessity of timely elections. In the predominantly Pashtun South, there have been, however, a number of gatherings demanding the postponement or replacement of elections with other solutions or mechanisms owing to the security situation. On 1 August, the Governor of Kandahar was reported to have said that, given military drawdown in 2014, it was not the right time for elections and the President’s term should instead be extended. The Taliban, in a statement purportedly by Taliban leader Mullah Omar to mark Eid al-Fitr, derided the upcoming polls as a “waste of time”, highlighting allegations of fraud and corruption in previous elections. Reportedly, the Taliban plan a campaign to discourage election participation.
12. On 22 July, in the lower house of the National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, the Minister of the Interior, Ghulam Mujtaba Patang, lost a vote of interpellation after a majority of members rejected his answers to questions on the security situation. President Karzai has since sought an opinion from the Supreme Court on the legal basis of the vote and has named Mr. Patang as Acting Minister.
13. There were a number of changes to provincial governors. On 1 July, Kunar’s Governor was transferred to Herat Province, which has been the site of intense rivalry between local powerbrokers. The same day, Farah’s provincial governor was appointed Acting Minister of Tribal and Border Affairs. In Takhar Province, tensions between Uzbek and Tajik factions saw large-scale protests triggering the 15 July replacement of the provincial governor. That was seen to revive alliances between the predominantly Uzbek Junbesh-e Milli and Hezb-e Islami (Afghanistan) parties, at the expense of Jamiat-e Islami. In Jawzjan Province, ongoing intra-party tensions in Junbesh-e Milli saw protests and the 20 July replacement of the Governor.