UNAMA's weekly press conference
KABUL - Transcript of press conference in Kabul by Nazifullah Salarzai, Press Officer, UNAMA Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit.
This Thursday the United Nations is co-hosting the Afghanistan Conference in London with the Governments of the United Kingdom and Afghanistan.
More than sixty countries and organizations are attending.
The conference is aimed at helping Afghanistan chart the way forward and to build a more secure and prosperous country.
It is important to highlight is that this conference sees the international community coming together to align military and civilian resources behind an Afghan-led political strategy, with a focus on reform.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Hamid Karzai and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will be co-hosting and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Kai Eide and the British and Afghan foreign ministers will co-chair the conference.
At the end of the conference we are likely to see a conference declaration issued which will include commitments from the Government of Afghanistan to its people for the next 18 months to two years and corresponding commitments from the international community in support of Afghanistan.
The major conference on Afghanistan planned to be held in Kabul in a few months time will also ensure momentum for progress in Afghanistan continues.
UNAMA hopes the London Conference will secure the political commitment needed from Afghanistan’s international partners to build peace, ensure security and boost development.
The Government of Afghanistan will lay out its plans at the Conference to take ownership of these challenges while the international community will look at how support can be better channelled to the Government to empower Afghan leadership and maximize the impact of all the efforts in support of Afghanistan and its people.
Tomorrow Special Representative Kai Eide will also attend a conference in London of international and national non-governmental organizations working in Afghanistan.
For further information on the London Conference please go to the UNAMA website www.unama.unmissions.org and see the link on the right hand side of the page to the Afghanistan Conference.
UNAMA’s Special Representative Kai Eide has issued a statement on the Independent Election Commission’s decision to postpone Afghanistan’s Parliamentary elections until 18 September 2010 that you all will have seen yesterday.
This decision is based on Article 55 of Afghanistan’s electoral law which allows the IEC to postpone elections on the grounds of security, financial, or technical conditions.
The postponement gives the electoral institutions additional time to carry out the necessary preparations for the elections.
This would have been extremely difficult to do by the original date.
It also provides time to make improvements to the electoral process based on lessons-learned during the Presidential and Provincial Council elections in 2009.
As has been said before and demonstrated during the 2004, 2005 and 2009 elections the United Nations and all its election organizations stand ready to assist the people of Afghanistan in exercising their democratic rights to vote for their own elected leaders.
The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan has just published its latest newsletter which includes some good news statistics on demining in Afghanistan last year, 2009.
280 communities were declared impact free between January to December 2009.
51,743 anti-personnel mines, 1,152,738 explosive remnants of war and 746 anti-tank mines were destroyed.
430,989 women and girls and 655,018 men and boys received mine risk education courses across Afghanistan.
Dari and Pashto copies of the newsletter are on the side table and on the UNAMA website.
UNAMA MEETS WITH NEW PROVINCIAL COUNCIL MEMBERS
This week UNAMA will hold more meetings with newly elected provincial council members in the provinces of Nuristan and Kunar.
Political officers from UNAMA’s Eastern Regional Office in Jalalabad have already brought council members together in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces last week.
The aim of these sessions is to help strengthen relationships among the new provincial council members.
At the Jalalabad meeting members vowed to work with unity and maintain good relations with the international community, including the United Nations.
We’d like to urge the media to do as much as possible to report on the work of the provincial councils as they are an integral part of representing the voices of local communities.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
RFE/RL [translated from Dari]: UNAMA has welcomed the decision of the IEC announced yesterday. Can you tell us what the UN expects in the coming few months from the IEC?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: I refer you to the statement by SRSG Kai Eide yesterday. You can collect it from the side table.
The SRSG said he respects the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC) decision to postpone Afghanistan’s Parliamentary elections until 18 September 2010. This decision is based on Article 55 of Afghanistan’s electoral law which allows the IEC to postpone elections on the grounds of security, financial, or technical conditions.
The postponement gives the electoral institutions additional time to carry out the necessary preparations for the elections. This would have been extremely difficult to do by the original date. It also provides time to make improvements to the electoral process based on lessons-learned during the Presidential and Provincial Council elections in 2009.
RFE/RL [translated from Dari]: Do you think that after this delay the UN and the international community will support the elections?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: As I said earlier, and as we have said before and demonstrated during the 2004, 2005 and 2009 elections – the United Nations and our election organizations stand ready to assist the people of Afghanistan in exercising their democratic right to vote for their own leaders.
TOLO TV [translated from Dari]: Has the Government and the IEC sought your assistance so far? You have said that your level of support will depend on the level of reforms in all categories of the electoral process – do you still hold to that?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: The UN has made it clear repeatedly that our level of engagement in the upcoming parliamentary elections will depend on reforms that need to be made. On the issue of assistance, so far there has only been a request of a financial nature from the UN. In these upcoming elections, the government and the IEC have to ask the UN for assistance, and the United Nations Security Council, depending on the nature of the request will consider this. In March, when we have our mandate renewed annually, the Security Council will mandate UNAMA to assist Afghan institutions in certain areas.
ARIANA TV [translated from Dari]: The UN has been saying that their support will depend on the level of reforms in the Commission [IEC]. They [IEC] say that the main reason behind this was the budget. Did you not provide money because they didn’t have reforms in place?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: The decision we witnessed yesterday was IEC’s own decision. Let’s remember that financial resources were only one of them. Now that this decision has been made the IEC will have time to prepare for the upcoming parliamentary elections and at the same time it will give us the opportunity to use what we learnt during the 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections, so that we can have free and fair elections for all Afghans.
RADIO KILLID [translated from Dari]: You said we have learned some lessons from the past elections. What are they so that we can avoid them in the future?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: We all know that the 2009 elections were one of the most difficult we have seen with lots of challenges. But let’s not forget that it was the first elections conducted by Afghans. Logistics were a big challenge, insecurity and fraud were some of the other issues with these elections. On fraud, the mechanisms put in place by the electoral bodies worked; they excluded fraudulent votes from the final results. We eventually arrived at a result accepted by all. I said that all the problems and challenges we had left behind lessons for us all which can be used to improve the electoral process in the future.
HASHT-E-SUBH [translated from Dari]: Besides these problems, security has been another factor in the postponement of elections. What guarantee can the UN give that the situation will get better and by September?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: I do not think that the UN in this country will be able to give you guarantees over the issue of security. But we do think that the delay announced by the IEC and the additional time we have will give the electoral institutions the opportunity to make due preparations with the support of the international community. And at the same time use our lessons learnt from 2009 to improve the electoral process as a whole in this country. I again repeat we cannot give a guarantee and I think no one else will be able to do so.
IRNA [translated from Dari]: The UN discusses reform of the electoral process while the current commission has been in charge for the last five years. How sure are you that the timeframe of the delay will allow for these reforms to take place?
UNAMA [translated from Pashto]: No-one will deny that the 2009 elections had problems, as I said earlier, we had problems, we had challenges, but what we saw at the end was a result which was accepted. The lessons that these elections taught us, and the time we have ahead of us give us the opportunity to use these and make improvements to the process. We think that the delay will give the IEC the chance to make the necessary preparations and also, with the support of the international community, there can be further improvements in the process.