Level of women’s participation ‘a key measure of success’ of Afghan polls – Kubiš

5 Feb 2014

Level of women’s participation ‘a key measure of success’ of Afghan polls – Kubiš

KABUL - The top United Nations official in Afghanistan said today that the level of women’s participation in the upcoming Presidential and Provincial Council elections, slated for 5 April, will be “a key measure of success” of the polls.

“We all need to work together in encouraging women’s participation on polling day itself, and in every stage of the process,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ján Kubiš, in a statement released on the occasion of a national conference on women and elections, held in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

“Women are needed as candidates, campaigners and electoral workers. I would in particular highlight the need for far greater numbers of female election observers in safeguarding women’s votes,” said Mr. Kubiš, in the statement.

The UN envoy also noted that the legitimacy of any elections hinges on “a widely accepted result based on credible technical conduct of polling and inclusive participation.”

In order to encourage and secure women’s participation in the elections, which UN officials have described as critical to the country’s future stability and continued international support, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior is planning to deploy 13,000 female searchers at polling centres and to provide security to the 308 female Provincial Council candidates.

In his latest report on Afghanistan, released last December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said a timely and inclusive election in Afghanistan is “the surest basis of internal and international legitimacy and continued support.”

The April vote will mark the first ever transfer of power from one elected president to another in the country’s history.

Speaking at today’s conference in Kabul, Mr. Kubiš encouraged women voters to go out and vote on the election day although “conditions sometimes for women’s participation are not as perfect as you would like to have.”

The top UN official also said that the UN along with other partners are working with the Government of Afghanistan to hold the latter accountable for delivery on their commitments including the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) Law and on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Afghanistan is a party.

“We will continue with this effort as the United Nations because it is the overall environment for the women in the country that counts not only the electoral environment,” said Mr. Kubiš.

In his remarks, the UN envoy also reiterated the international community’s support, including that of the UN, to the Afghan electoral institutions for helping them create “the best possible conditions” for fair elections and better participation and security.

“These elections are Afghan-led, Afghan-managed and Afghan-owned; we can only help but we will continue helping and we will continue providing our support in a very proactive way,” said Mr. Kubiš.

Addressing the same gathering organized by a non-governmental organization, Equality for Peace and Democracy (EPD), the head of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC), Ahmed Yusuf Nuristani echoed the call of the UN envoy for more participation of women in the elections process.

Mr. Nuristani appealed for “massive participation” of women in the elections process. He said, out of some 21,000 polling stations, 9,000 will be for women voters.

Mr. Nuristani also said that out of 3.4 million new voters registered for the April elections, 35 per cent are women. There were 9.2 million registered voters in the last Afghan elections, in 2010.

“Thirty five per cent is not a desirable number but under the current circumstances and security challenges, this is not a bad result,” he noted.

[Click here for the full statement of Ján Kubiš]