Press conference with UNAMA Spokesperson, Aleem Siddique
KABUL - Transcript of press conference by Aleem Siddique, Spokesperson, UNAMA Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit and Dr Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit.
CANDIDATE CHALLENGE PERIOD
On Saturday 16 May the challenge period opened for those who wish to register objections to candidates who have nominated themselves for the Presidential and Provincial Councils Elections on 20 August.
During this week, eligible voters, agents of political parties and candidates may file a challenge to the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) against the inclusion of a candidate on specific grounds.
Challenges can only be made against the criteria for candidacy or conditions of candidacy as set out in the Constitution and Electoral Law.
UNAMA would like to remind the Afghan people to make the most of this opportunity and examine the candidate list closely. If any Afghan citizen believes that a candidate should be found ineligible then they must bring this to the attention of the ECC. As the Special Representative made clear recently – the Afghan people must play their part in ensuring the credibility and transparency of this year’s elections.
This challenge period will end at 4pm this Thursday 21 May.
A factsheet from the ECC on the challenge period in Pashto, Dari and English is available on the side table.
IOM AND UNAMA APPEAL FOR HUMANITARIAN ACCESS IN FARAH
Following recent events in Farah province that have resulted in the loss of significant numbers of civilian lives and displaced many others in the Bala Baluk district of Farah province IOM is making efforts to reach the local population with essential humanitarian supplies. Unfortunately, as we speak IOM trucks loaded with food, shelter and clothing supplies for 500 families (1,500 people) have been unable to reach the local community because of the current security situation. We need safe passage for these supplies and call on all parties to respect the neutrality and impartiality of this humanitarian effort to allow access for our trucks so that we can help those who are in desperate need.
Also during the past few days IOM, in coordination with UNAMA and other UN humanitarian agencies have conducted an assessment of 1,179 newly battle-displaced families in Kandahar province who have left their homes from the neighbouring province of Zabul as the result of insecurity. IOM has dispatched household kits for distribution to all these families.
THIRD REGIONAL ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION CONFERENCE ON AFGHANISTAN
Many of you will be aware of the third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan that was hosted by the Government of Pakistan last week.
A copy of the final declaration from this conference is available for you on the side table.
You will see from the declaration that there was strong recognition and commitment from over forty regional and international delegations for the central role of Afghanistan in building stability within the region.
In particular conference delegates committed to:
- Increase regional trade by improving Afghanistan’s transport links with new rail links. The conference prioritized the development of an 80 kilometres railway link from Hairatan (on the Uzbek border) to Mazar-i-Sharif with support from the Asian Development Bank. Future rail links will look at connecting the Pakistani town of Chaman to Kandahar;
- A new Customs Academy to be established in Kabul linked to similar institutions in the region to share expertise and information to boost border control and revenue collection;
- 1,000 scholarships from the Government of Pakistan for Afghan nationals at Pakistani universities to build Afghanistan’s human resource capabilities and the Aga Khan Development Network also pledged with donor support to set up new vocational training centres for Afghan returnees.
For full details of the commitments made by donors and the international community please see the text of the Islamabad Declaration.
AFGHANISTAN RECEIVES TAMIFLU DONATION FROM WHO
More than 30,000 adult courses of Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), or more than 300,000 capsules, the anti-viral treatment for the new Influenza A (H1N1) have arrived in Kabul.
This is part of the millions of adult courses of Tamiflu the World Health Organization (WHO) has distributed to countries needing assistance to protect people against the new disease. There is not a single case of Influenza A (H1N1) detected in Afghanistan so far.
WHO says the preparations against the new disease have been stronger than in any other emergency situation the country has gone through in the past years.
NEW COMMUNITY BASED DEMINING PROJECTS
Three new Community Based Demining projects that will increase the incomes and quality of life in villages have been launched in Kunar, Kandahar and Ghor provinces.
Training for the deminers is underway and once supplied with the required equipment, they will be deployed to work with the oversight of experienced demining organizations.
In addition to these new teams, community based demining projects are ongoing in Helmand, Uruzgan and Kunar provinces.
Community based demining is a new concept that the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA) has launched, to engage and train the community to do demining in their own areas.
We’re also pleased to let you know that MACCA has a new website at: www.macca.org.af.
UNFPA SUPPORTS AFGHAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS TO PROMOTE WOMEN’S RIGHTS
The UN’s population fund, UNFPA has helped train 85 out of a planned 400 religious leaders in 17 provinces across the country to help promote women’s health and rights through awareness sessions with men and boys in districts and villages.
The initiative has been agreed with the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
Each religious leader will conduct sessions for 45-65 men and boys with monitoring from the ministries and UNFPA.
UNFPA’s support includes advocacy at the community level, development and re-printing of resource books on Islam and the family, family planning and the development of a comprehensive book on Islamic family relations.
SITUATION REPORT – FLOODS
Efforts are being made by all partners including national, international, governmental and non-governmental organizations to provide support to victims of floods this year. Flooding continues in the north, northeast and west, and is expected to worsen. The assessments are complete except for some remote northeast areas. Assistance is being distributed but there remains a lack of temporary shelters and funds for clearing blocked roads.
Floods have affected approximately 10,000 households in five provinces (Jawzjan, Faryab, Balkh, Samangan, and Sari Pul) of the northern region.
The humanitarian community in Mazar has identified the following priority gaps in the response: Clearing blocked access roads: funds for fuel and hiring of heavy machinery, emergency shelter (tents and/or tarpaulins), non-food items: blankets, charcoal, clothes and and sandbags.
More than 1,500 households in the five provinces of northeast (Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar, and Badakhshan provinces) have been affected, with assessments still on-going.
Distribution of assistance has started in some areas of Kunduz and Badakhshan –however remote areas remain inaccessible. Relief teams are asking for urgent road clearing and helicopter assessments.
The western region is under control and there are no major gaps reported in the ongoing response to flooding in all four provinces. Agencies are replenishing their stocks of non-food items, emergency health kits are pre-positioned, and UNICEF will conduct a technical assessment of water needs in all four provinces shortly.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
RFE/RL [translated from Dari]: Recent report from Amnesty International expressed concerns over the names of some of the people in the list of candidates who are warlords and human rights violators and asked for these names to be removed from the list. What is UNAMA’s position on this? Does UNAMA support the removal of these names from the preliminary list?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: In this regard we have repeatedly said that it is entirely up to the Afghan voters to decide. If they have such documents they can file a complaint with the Electoral Complaints Commission. As you know the UN Special Representative has made it clear that it is up to the Afghan people to play their part to ensure the credibility and transparency of these elections.
TOLO TV [translated from Dari]: You mentioned the lack of access to families displaced recently in the Bala Baluk district of Farah province and you asked for the safe passage of the convoys to reach the affected families there. You have made same appeals several times, I would like to know if these appeals have resulted in decrease of attacks on the convoys and also if you have any figures about the flood affected people in the country?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: On the first part of your question, yes these appeals had an impact. If you can recall our Peace Day campaign last year we asked all parties to allow safe passage for vaccinators to reach those insecure areas and it was effective. The answer was yes to our appeal. These appeals work to remind people that it is the people who are important. It has proved useful.
We do have two reports which talk about damages and casualties. It is as from 17 May. Please collect them from the side table.
RTA [translated from Pashto]: You talked about the arrival of some 300,000 capsules for influenza, please elaborate on when they will be distributed and if they are free of charge for people?
UNAMA [translated from Pashto]: These certified anti-viral capsules have been provided by World Health Organization (WHO). We must say fortunately no single case of influenza has been detected in Afghanistan. In case we have an outbreak – the Ministry of Public is ready to respond. If there is need for these capsules, they will be distributed free of charge through the facilities of the Ministry of Public Health.
BBC PERSIAN RADIO [translated from Dari]: Last week you said that a joint investigation was going on in Farah province to investigate the issue of white phosphorous and number of casualties; can you update us on the findings of this investigation?
UNAMA: Can I suggest that you ask them? At this point I’m not aware that they have issued any final report and it is vital that we allow the joint investigation team to conclude their investigation before we or others pass any comments on what has actually taken place in Farah. At this stage we are waiting for the final report from the joint investigation team.
Our priority at this moment in time is the welfare of the survivors and those who have suffered in this incident and you have heard Dr Mobarez earlier in the press conference talk about trucks which are packed with humanitarian supplies for that community. We are waiting to get into the affected areas to help those who need our help the most.
ABADI WEEKLY [translated from Dari]: My question follows our colleague who earlier asked, about General Fahim running with President Karzai in the upcoming elections. Mr Kai Eide, the UN Special Representative has told the media that he was not happy with this decision. I wanted to know if UNAMA still has the same position on this issue?
UNAMA: Allow me to make this very clear. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General has made no public comments on any of the candidates who are running in this year’s Afghan elections. The Afghan people need no assistance from the international community to pass their own judgements on the calibre of the candidates. It is for the Afghan voters to make their own decision on who is best placed to forge a better future for themselves and their country. Whatever private views we may have on the human rights records of the candidates it has to be the voters who pass the final judgement at the ballot box. Your opinion on Marshall Fahim and the other candidates is far more important than ours. You have the power on polling day to pass your own judgement and we urge you to do so.
NOOR TV [translated from Dari]: Some candidates have already started their campaign, while there is still time for the campaign period, how lawful does the UN consider these acts?
UNAMA: As the electoral cycle moves ahead I am sure there will be incidents where there are violations of the Electoral Law and of the procedures that are in place to protect the integrity of this year’s vote. There are procedures and there are mechanisms in place for individuals and organizations to raise such concerns with the Independent Election Commission and also with the Electoral Complaints Commission. It is vital that when such violations are identified that the Afghan people bring these matters to the attention of the authorities so that appropriate measures can be taken to protect the integrity of this year’s vote.
On our part, you will have heard the Special Representative a number of weeks ago share with you that we will be publishing three reports with Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission during this year’s election campaign to report on our findings in terms of the integrity of the campaign as we move forward.
So monitoring this year’s election is the responsibility we in the United Nations will share with the Afghan people, but let us not lose sight that these are essentially Afghan elections, run by the Afghan Government and Afghan authorities and it is essential that the Afghan people play their role by cooperating with the election authorities to protect your democratic future. And if you know of anyone who has violated any electoral law or any electoral procedure please bring that to the attention of the Electoral Complaints Commission now so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent any attempt to subvert the legitimate will of the people.
RADIO KILLID [translated from Dari]: There are concerns about the timeframe for the challenge period, given the high number of candidates; it is too short. What is UNAMA’s position on that?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: It is the Independent Election Commission who decides on these issues based on Afghan Laws. We support what the law prescribes.
AFGHANISTAN TIMES [translated from Pashto]: Concerns expressed by Amnesty International that some of the candidates are warlords and human rights violators and asked IEC to remove these names from the preliminary list. What is UNAMA’s position on that?
UNAMA: I think this is a repeat of the question that we had earlier in the press conference, if you speak to me after the press conference, I would be happy to brief you on that particular issue.
IRIN: Following up on the IOM trucks. Where exactly are these trucks stuck and who is impeding their access?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: The assistance has already been prepositioned near Bala Baluk district. A meeting is planned tomorrow and hopefully some of the problems will be discussed. Our appeal is to allow the safe passage to help the people in desperate need – so that the humanitarian corridor is opened for the people to receive assistance. These humanitarian actors are impartial and their only objective is to help vulnerable people and those who need assistance the most.
PAJHWOK [translated from Dari]: I just wanted a clarification on the trucks heading to Bala Baluk. Who is impeding their access, ANA, ANP or the Taliban?
UNAMA: In order to deliver this humanitarian assistance, we need assurances from the authorities and from the representatives of local communities that our staff can have safe passage to deliver these humanitarian supplies. As you can imagine tensions remain high in Bala Baluk district at the moment and we are continuing talking to representatives of the local communities and the local authorities so that we can alleviate some of these tensions. At this point we are appealing to all parties to allow us safe access to this area so that we can deliver these essential supplies. That is what we are focused on and trying to do right now.