Press conference with UNAMA Director of Communications and Public Information, Adrian Edwards
ATTACK ON UN CONVOY / ASSASSINATION OF LOGAR GOVERNOR
Yesterday’s attack on a United Nations convoy and Saturday’s assassination of Abdullah Wardak, Governor of Logar – bring into focus once again the difficult situation in Afghanistan, and the work of the United Nations here.
Let me take this opportunity, on behalf of the SRSG Kai Eide and all the heads of UN agencies here, to assure the Afghan people that the United Nations is committed to supporting them and Afghanistan in addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people in this country.
The Spin Boldak attack on our convoy killed two doctors working for the World Health Organization and one of our drivers. All were on a mission to save lives - to help eradicate polio among the children of Afghanistan – one of only four countries in the world where this disease is still endemic. For those responsible for these shameful attacks, we have one question: Why?
I draw your attention to the statements on these attacks from the UN Secretary-General, and jointly by Special Representative Kai Eide and Peter Graaff of the World Health Organization. Copies are on the side table.
PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN CAMPAIGN
This coming Sunday is International Day of Peace, which in Afghanistan is being marked by thousands of people in scores of events in nearly all provinces. Indeed, in contrast to the conflict and violence around us, the peace campaign in Afghanistan in 2008 is potentially the biggest this country has seen.
On Thursday last week 27 of the leading businesses in Afghanistan announced their support for this peace initiative. These include Pamir Airways, Kam Air, Asiana, Safi Landmark Hotel and Suites, Kabul Bank, the Chamber of Commerce. Pashtani Bank, Alokozay Tea and others. Shops across Kabul and Afghanistan will be hoisting blue flags for peace outside their businesses this coming weekend.
Educational establishments, including Kabul Polytechnic and the American University are supporting the campaign. A vast NGO network is doing its own peace campaign. Telecoms companies will be sending out SMS messages. National media organizations are running extensive peace programmes.
From Helmand to Jalalabad and Mazar peace activities are happening. In Bamiyan we’re expecting a major mine clearance announcement on Sunday. In Kunduz, residents are declaring a road where there have been three suicide attacks as a peace street. Numerous sports events are being held in Kandahar and across eastern provinces. There are scheduled gatherings of hundreds or thousands of people in Mazar and Herat. The scale of activities for peace day is in our view unprecedented. Overseas, Afghanistan’s efforts for peace will feature at a concert at the Albert Hall in London this coming week by the organization Peace One Day and associated international celebrities.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING SURVEY DOCUMENTS ABUSE, RECOMMENDS ACTION
A field survey was launched last week on human trafficking in Afghanistan by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The research provides an in-depth analysis of the trafficking phenomenon in, from and to Afghanistan, based on first-hand data collected mainly from expert interviews and a field survey conducted in Kabul and nine border provinces.
The findings will be shared with Afghan government ministries and other partners to develop effective future counter-trafficking strategies.
It represents the first attempt to interview such a wide range of victims and actors and is an important addition to an initial report on human trafficking in Afghanistan published by IOM in 2004.
The report discusses these push factors and the demographics of trafficked victims, including age, gender, place of origin and educational background, in comparison with smuggled migrants and victims of kidnapping. It also analyzes trafficking methods and destinations.
The report also looks at the roles of key counter trafficking partners, particularly the Government of Afghanistan, in order to recognize achievements and identify gaps in the areas of prevention, law enforcement and protection of victims. It also recommends short- to medium-term action to combat the problem.
NEW SCHOOLS FOR GHAZNI PROVINCE
Two new school buildings have been completed by UNICEF in Ghazni province recently. These schools are Imam Qayem Lycee with 6 class-room building, for 819 students, and Dawlat Khan Primary School 5 class-room building. The total cost of both buildings is US $ 89,383. Since 2006, UNICEF supported construction of 16 schools in Ghazni province.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
RFE/RL [translated from Pashto]: On Peace Day which organisations will carry out which kind of activities and what will the UN do itself and what does the UN expect people to do on that day? Also about the Pakistani refugees who have been seen in Charahi Qambar area of Kabul city and what assistance will be given to them?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): There are now so many organisations and groups involved that it’s hard to keep track of all; we do have a list of all the ones we know about and we will be happy to provide that to you. On the part of the UN we are organizing activities and working with all our partners to encourage people to really genuinely take on the job of doing something for peace. This is not a UN campaign; this is a campaign for every single one of us in this country. The question we are asking everyone is what can you do for peace? As you [journalists] know some of your own organisations are broadcasting programmes publicising this through the media. Every individual, every institution has the capacity to do something big or small. Last year we saw communities cleaning up their streets, repainting their buildings. It can be as little as doing something good for your family, for your neighbour. It starts with the individual.
You might remember that 1.5 million children were vaccinated against polio as a result of the peace campaign that was run last year in Afghanistan. Later this week you will be hearing about our efforts to reach children this year. Also the United Nations is very much involved in mine clearance operations and there will be announcement on Sunday in Bamyan about that. Here in Kabul there are many events going on. There’s an exhibition of cartoons on the theme of peace by Afghan cartoonists. Every one of our regional offices around the country is involved in one way or another.
What’s the aim of this campaign? What do we want from people? The aim is to give voice to those who want peace in this country. And what we are seeing is that the demand for peace is overwhelming.
UNAMA (NILAB MOBAREZ): As to the second part of your question I do not have much information for you but after this conference people from UNHCR will be able to provide you with further help.
AFGHANISTAN TIMES [translated from Pashto]: On the Peace day celebration: as you know it is a new phenomenon in Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan are not familiar with such a thing. What impact will it have on the people of Afghanistan and what do you expect from the people who are currently fighting in Afghanistan?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): We sometimes get asked why we bother with a peace campaign in an environment as difficult as Afghanistan? The answer is very simple: better to have a peace campaign in a country in conflict than in a country already at peace. The challenges are immense in a country like Afghanistan. But this isn’t a UN campaign. This is a campaign involving yourselves just as much as me. It is a campaign aimed at giving a voice to those who want peace. If you were at our press conference a couple of weeks ago when we had Peace-One-Day here you’ll have heard about how Afghanistan’s efforts to create a culture of peace amid conflict have become the subject of a major international film which was launched this year at Cannes. We think Afghanistan’s efforts can be an example for other countries in conflict too.
AFGHANISTAN TIMES: And the second part of my question?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): Well we would love them all to stop fighting. The aim of a 24-hour cessation of hostilities is explicit in the two General Assembly resolutions that established Peace Day. These are resolutions 36/67 of 1981 and 55/282 of 2001.
BBC [translated from Pashto]: There are reports of Iranian weapons found in Afghanistan. These reports were confirmed by one of the Taliban's commanders and as well as British forces. What is UNAMA’s stand on this?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): I don't have any particular information to share with you on that issue.
NEGAH TV [translated from Dari]: You talk about celebrating the peace day while the security situation was much better three or four years ago than it is now. As the security is deteriorating don’t you think it is the failure of the international community in Afghanistan?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): The deterioration in security has a great deal to do with an insurgency that is seeking to undermine the state. The strategy of the international community and its Afghan partners is being constantly looked at. And if you go for example to the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) which is a publicly available document on the UNAMA website you will see that this mandate is adjusted every year to reflect the realities and changes. Also if you look at the Paris Conference and the outcomes you will see new and different approaches to addressing the situation.
KILLID GROUP [translated from Dari]: Efforts are being made to celebrate peace day while the security situation is deteriorating. Have you convinced the warring parties to respect a ceasefire on this day? Besides asking the Taliban have you asked the coalition forces, who killed civilians in a military operation on peace day last year to comply with a ceasefire?
The second part of my question is addressed to Nilab. Tribal elders have warned they will attack Kabul if the coalition forces continue their military operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. What is the United Nations stand on this?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): We know that both the Taliban and the international military are aware of this campaign. As I said, this isn’t a UN campaign - we are here to help raise awareness among communities. We believe the voices for peace in Afghanistan deserve to be heard and we hope with this week that they will be heard.
UNAMA (NILAB MOBAREZ): You know UNAMA is working inside Afghanistan and supports the efforts made by the Government of Afghanistan. We all think about peace and as the supporting mission for Afghanistan we continue to support the Government of Afghanistan. For peace day the UN has asked what are you doing for peace in Afghanistan? And this is a very meaningful question.
PAJHWOK [translated from Dari]: My question is on the IOM report on human trafficking. Do you have any figures on the decrease in human trafficking?
UNAMA (NILAB MOBAREZ): With regard to the human trafficking survey, this is a field survey and may be the only in depth survey ever done in Afghanistan on this issue. The booklet you find here has all the findings about the report. The survey have been conducted in Kabul and nine provinces of Khost, Nangarhar, Herat, Balkh, Faryab, Kundoz, Badakhshan, Kandahar and Farah on human trafficking and was conducted between July and September 2007. A total of 220 community interviewees, 43 victims of kidnapping, 19 smuggled migrants and 20 victims of trafficking were interviewed. The survey has figures as well as sets of recommendations on the challenges for the Afghan Government while highlighting the achievements. The survey will be soon available in Dari and Pashto and we might organise a special press conference about its results with IOM.
AFP [translated from Dari]: What will the effect be of the incident on the WHO health workers on the polio vaccination campaign that you are supporting? Will it halt your activities or will you continue your efforts?
UNAMA (ADRIAN EDWARDS): So far this year, and according to figures from ANSO, and not including yesterday’s incident we have had 24 deaths of aid workers both international and national in Afghanistan. When you kill aid workers it has a severe impact on humanitarian space. We simply cannot access areas if our workers are being killed. So who suffers when you kill a health worker? I think the answer you know – it’s children who don’t receive vaccines, and of course it’s the family of the victim. So yes these things do have an impact and we have to be realistic and recognise that. On this campaign there is no halting for the peace campaign. We believe it has to move forward. On Thursday of this week I believe there will be a joint WHO and UNICEF press conference on the polio campaign. The mood I sense in this mission is that the best way we can honour the deaths of our colleagues is to redouble our efforts.