UNAMA's weekly press conference

13 Jul 2009

UNAMA's weekly press conference

KABUL - Transcript of press conference by Engineer Latif, Director 4th Kabul International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Basir Hamidi, Coordinator 4th Kabul International Documentary and Short Film Festival and Nazifullah Salarzai, UNAMA Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit.

Dari - Pashto


UNAMA today reiterates the appeal made by SRSG Eide on 3 May for media to play their parts in ensuring a level playing field throughout this election. We've noted the recent leadership on this issue shown by the Media Commission of the IEC [Independent Election Commission], and in this instance encourage both RTA [Radio Television Afghanistan] and Noorin to respect the decisions of the Media Commission. We are looking forward too, to seeing publication in the near future of the media law, which we hope will be a positive contribution to media development in Afghanistan.

UNAMA condemns last Thursday's bomb blast in Logar that killed more than 20 people, including children on their way to school. This was barbaric. The United Nations in Afghanistan has long made clear its deep concern about the use of suicide bombs and terrorist acts in populated areas. These are resulting in more civilian casualties in Afghanistan than any other military tactic, and must stop. The civilian population of this country has a right to be safe from violence and threats.

In June, the World Food Programme provided 630,700 beneficiaries with 11,300 tons of food assistance under the food-for-work initiative.

39,400 tuberculosis patients and their families also benefited from nearly 650 tons of WFP food assistance, contributing to their improved nutrition and a reduction in tuberculosis.

WFP provided food assistance to approximately 904,500 people through general food distributions. These included emergency food to the victims of natural disasters, internally displaced persons and those living in urban areas affected by high food prices and drought.

1.25 million children received WFP food in schools, including an added incentive to female students.

A total of 3,150 kilometres irrigation canals and 415 water channels (karazes) have been restored, 251,000 trees planted and 274 kilometres of feeder roads rehabilitated in the first quarter of 2009.

According to a new report by Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, 84,000 anti-personnel mines, 900 anti-tank mines and 2.5 million explosive remnants of war have been destroyed since 2008.

This has resulted in the clearance of over 50 square kilometres of minefields and almost 113 square kilometres of former battle grounds. 417 impacted communities in different parts of the country were cleared and given back to their communities.

In terms of area, MAPA has completed 54 per cent of the mine clearance target set by the Afghanistan Compact for 2011 and has fulfilled 38 per cent of the total clearance required by the Mine Ban Treaty for 2013.

In terms of numbers of hazards, MAPA has also completed 84 per cent of the mine clearance target set by the Afghanistan Compact for 2011 and 58 per cent of the total clearance required by the Mine Ban Treaty for 2013.
The full report will be released in the coming week. The highlights of the report are available on the side table.

Over 13,970 Afghan families will benefit from eleven Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups – or DIAG development projects that were signed by the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development yesterday.

The projects are worth around 1.6 million USD and will include three social and cultural centres, two basic health centres, 120 wells, two bridges, tractors and canals.

These projects will be implemented in seven provinces – Badakhshan, Takhar, Herat, Faryab, Panjshir, Samangan and Nangarhar.

MRRD is currently preparing and implementing DIAG development projects in 69 districts. Of these, eleven were signed on Sunday, eight have been completed and 26 are currently under construction.

DIAG is an Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme that is headed by UNDP. Since the start of DIAG operations on 11 June 2005, 649 illegal armed groups have been disbanded, 77 districts have been declared DIAG-compliant, and a total of 45,243 weapons have been collected.

As part of UNAMA’s continuing work alongside Afghanistan’s own media we have with us today as guest speakers Engineer Latif and Basir Hamidi, to introduce you to the upcoming 4th Kabul International Documentary and Short Film Festival, which runs from 18th to 23rd July.

ENGINEER LATIF [translated from Dari]: I would like to thank UNAMA for inviting us today and I would also like to convey my greetings to all of you here. As you know Afghanistan has had a very rich background in the area of cinema in the past. Decades of war in Afghanistan has affected this process, however, over the last seven years we have managed to make some progress in this regard. I do want to make one thing clear though, that despite all the assistance that has come into Afghanistan, we have not used a single penny to support our cinema over the last seven years.

I would say that Afghan cinema is proactive. And this is an opportunity for the youth to express their feelings. And the holding of this festival signifies this fact.

For the last four years, we have been supported by three organisations. The support has been for the convening of the festival, not for the production of films. These three sponsors are the British Council, the Goethe Institute and the French Cultural Centre in Kabul.

Each year we have gained more experience. I can tell you that this year’s festival will meet international standards and will have the support – and the credit – of the international film community.

My colleague, who is the coordinator of this festival, will brief you shortly. But, before that I would like to tell you how we have managed to hold this festival despite budget problems and other constraints.

In the past, as you know, we’ve had lack of contact with the outside world. However, over the last few years, by using this opportunity, our youth – our filmmakers have managed to compete with films that have been made outside of this country.

And this is the result of the open situation that we have today. It is also the result of the freedom of expression, that nobody can dictate and pressure our filmmakers and influence their work.

One of the ways we have managed to hold such international festivals is a result of something that we have in our hands and this is to show the world that we have what it takes to organise such festivals. I’ll take questions afterwards. I would now give the floor to my colleague to brief you about this festival.

BASIR HAMIDI [translated from Dari]: I would like to be very brief on this. As you know, in the world, including the neighbouring countries, have their cultural programmes, which includes film festivals and so we would like to have this festival in an even better way this year. I want to add to Engineer Latif’s comments that whatever assistance is given from outside to help to build the capacity – it is up to us to use this capacity.

This year we have received 140 films from inside and outside of the country for this festival, compared to last year, where we had 56 films. Because we have so many filmmakers, we have interest, and we have the courage to produce films. I would encourage you to watch all these films because they are very interesting films. All the organisers and leadership of this festival – the juries and the board who have selected these films have all tried their best to make this festival unique and you will witness this soon.

One of the important elements of this year’s festival is we are trying to provide the media with more information and materials – audio and visual materials regarding the festival so that media and journalists can go there with an understanding of the film festival and know something about it in advance, as it is different from the previous festivals. Previously we only distributed a brochure and this was just at the festival. This time we are trying to ensure we provide enough material and information in Dari, Pashto and English about the festival so that journalists can go there with full readiness.


Questions and Answers

BBC [translated from Pashto]: As you are aware some 2,000 IDPs [Internally Displace Persons] from Helmand have come to Lashkargah as well as to Kabul. My question is whether or not WFP has assisted these IDPs? My second question is for Engineer Latif. How does Afghan cinema benefit from such film festivals and how many Afghan movies will be shown at the festival?

UNAMA [translated from Pashto]: About 2000 families are reportedly displaced from six districts in Helmand at present. The provincial disaster management authorities are asking humanitarian agencies to pre-position food and non-food help for 5,000 families. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNAMA are organizing an assessment mission and monitoring the humanitarian situation respectively.

ENGINEER LATIF [translated from Dari]: Whenever a country or a cinematographer holds a film festival it shows the ability of that country to do just that. Fortunately Afghan movie makers now have that capacity and producing such movies that will have a role in advancement of the Afghan movie industry. In many countries there are no movies let alone film festivals. As Mr Baseer mentioned since last year, the number of Afghan film makers has increased and they were encouraged to produce movies that reflect the culture and traditions of Afghanistan.
NOOR TV [translated from Dari]: There are concerns about the fake voters’ cards. We witnessed about 500 voters cards yesterday ourselves with a delegation from The European Union who also saw 2,000 other cards. What’s UNAMA's position on that?

UNAMA [translated from Dari]: It’s important that such cases are brought to the attention of the Election Complaints Commission. To ensure credibility and transparency of the election it is a shared responsibility of everyone in this country to make it transparent and credible.

SABA TV [translated from Pashto]: There are reports of insecurity around the country. Do you think it will affect the conduct of the polls in this country? We have seen in the statement of the Special Representative Kai Eide calling on campaigners that in their campaigns that should conduct themselves with dignity and not use inflammatory types of language. What does UN think about this issue?

UNAMA [translated from Pashto]: The security situation is something we are all watching. And indeed there is ongoing close coordination between the various security actors on all aspects of the elections, from candidate security to distribution of election materials and looking after polling centers.

As to the need for candidates to conduct their campaigns with dignity and not using inflammatory language, I refer you to the essential guidelines on conduct during the electoral process issued by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan on 3 May. These clearly set out the expectations for all parties in the upcoming elections, and we encourage people to observe these.

THE KILLID GROUP [translated from Dari]: My question is about the festival. I want to know more details about it. How long this festival will last? How many films will be shown in this festival and from which countries? Which countries have participated? What would be the result of this film festival for Afghan cinema?

ENGINEER LATIF [translated from Dari]: Regarding the countries who will participate in this festival; we will have guests from regional countries, including Iran, Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan who will be represented in this festival. In addition to that, we will have France, Germany, the UK and Spain, and these films will be shown as information films. As for the consequences, the comparison of Afghan films with those from other countries who are participating shows respect and value to Afghan cinema. We received many films for this festival, 27 are Afghan films and 25 are from neighbouring countries. The total number is 52.

RADIO FREE EUROPE [translated from Dari]: Referring to the remarks regarding progress in Afghan cinema, I just want to know what kind of progress has been made? And how come this progress has not made its way into wider society yet.

ENGINEER LATIF [translated from Dari]: Well, we have two types of cinema here in Afghanistan. One is the commercial type of cinema, that includes action films which is something else. We cannot prevent these films – freedom of expression is free.

But the other type of film are the responsible cinema. These are the films that are linked to international film festivals, and where we can send films to compete in these festivals.