UNAMA's weekly press conference
KABUL - Transcript of press conference by Dr. Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA Spokeperson's Office.
UNAMA: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our weekly press conference, my name is Nilab Mobarez, from UNAMA Spokesperson’s Office. Following a few points on the activities of UNAMA in Afghanistan, we will be ready to take your questions.
AGREEMENT TO STRENGTHEN BORDER COOPERATION BETWEEN AFGHANISTAN, IRAN AND PAKISTAN
A top-level ministerial meeting concluded last week in Tehran with representation from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan who agreed new measures to strengthen border cooperation among the three countries to stem the flow of drugs out of Afghanistan.
The meeting, which is part of the “Triangular Initiative”, brokered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), approved practical measures to improve trans-border cooperation to fight drugs and crime. It was agreed to establish three Border Liaison Offices - one on each of the three borders - to plan and mount joint operations to tackle the smuggling of narcotics.
The full operational details will be worked out here in Kabul next month. All three governments also agreed to intensify the interdiction of precursor chemicals under Operation Tarcet – an operation to target the smuggling of acetic anhydride in and around Afghanistan. UNODC will provide training and equipment for this and Iran will establish a permanent secretariat and a regional centre for intelligence exchange.
WFP CONTINUES FOOD DISTRIBUTION TO MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE AROUND AFGHANISTAN
Three thousand five hundred families have benefited from the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) food-for-work project in the Watapoor district of the eastern province of Kunar. Two hundred and ten tons of food were distributed to the residents of the district who took part in the rehabilitation of a 20-kilometre-long road and cleaning of 7.5 kilometre long canal. The project was implemented with assistance from the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.
In the Golran district of Herat province nearly 55,000 people have benefited from different WFP projects. Residents of Golran received nearly 700 tons of wheat and some other food items under the food-for-work and food-for-education schemes. The programme, which is ongoing, will cover nearly 24,000 more people in the coming days who will receive some 860 tons of wheat and other food items.
Also in Panjshir Province, WFP has distributed around 40 tons of food to 2,200 people under general food distribution and plans to distribute additional 22 tons in the coming weeks. Additionally WFP will soon approve another food-for-work project to distribute 350 tons of food.
Since the beginning of January this year, 32,183 tons of food have been distributed throughout Afghanistan by WFP.
NEW SCHOOLS FOR SAMANGAN
Two primary schools and one secondary school were opened by the provincial Department of Education in Samangan province over the last two weeks.
With these new schools, 442 girls in the primary school and 112 girls and 184 boys in the secondary school will have a chance of a better future.
The total cost of the three schools is estimated at 133,444 US dollars, funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
AFGHANISTAN'S NEW BEGINNINGS PROGRAMME (ANBP) IN ACTION
Light weapons and a truckload of mines, ammunition and military equipment were handed over to the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) Programme by the police last week.
Since the launch of the DIAG initiative in June 2005, close to 40,000 heavy and light weapons have been collected. In addition, nearly 30,000 boxed and 35,000 unboxed ammunitions have also been collected.
DIAG is now being implemented in 71 districts across Afghanistan and to date, 31 districts have been declared as DIAG-compliant. It is also worth mentioning that 279 illegal armed groups have been disbanded while 450 illegal armed groups are currently being targeted.
VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION THROUGH PESHAWAR SUSPENDED TEMPORARILY
The UNHCR assisted voluntary return operation for Afghans through Peshawar in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan, has been temporarily suspended. This is due to security considerations in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, which have compelled UNHCR to close down the Encashment Centre in Jalalabad that assists Afghans returning from Pakistan.
Safe repatriation is a key concern for UNHCR, and they are hoping to reopen the voluntary repatriation centre shortly.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
IRIN: Conflict has displaced thousands of people in the Garmser district of Helmand province who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Has the United Nations done anything to help these people?
UNAMA: As you all know, conflict causes displacement of people. We have witnessed such incidents last year. As you mentioned there are some reports about people being displaced in the Garmser district. As soon we receive such reports we get ready to help. I cannot talk about figures as I don’t have them. UNHCR and others are ready to help and an assessment of the needs of these people is underway. We are concerned about this issue and the good thing about such displacements is that they are temporary and the people will be able to return to their homes soon. For further information, please contact UNHCR’s spokesperson who is present here.
PAJHWOK [translated from Dari]: In your remarks you said that the DIAG programme has been able to disband over 200 illegal armed groups and is targeting a further 400 groups. But another report says that there are 1,800 illegal armed groups.
UNAMA: I mentioned that 31 districts have been declared DIAG-compliant, 279 illegal armed groups have been disbanded and 450 illegal armed groups are being targeted. These are the latest figures we have and as soon as we have new figures we will let you know. Since June 2005, DIAG has been able to collect 40,000 light and heavy weapons, 30,000 boxed ammunitions and 35 000 unboxed ammunitions. A lot remains to be done, but we hope that one day Afghanistan will be free from such weapons.
RFE/RL [translated from Pashto]: When will the DIAG process be completed across the country? There are reports from certain provinces in the country of new weapons, said to be from Iran and China; don't you think that this is going to undermine the DIAG process in this country?
UNAMA: Concerning the first part of your question, DIAG was started in 2005 and has been extended this year. We hope it can be completed as soon as possible, but we will consult with the Government to extend it as long as is necessary. For the time being, 71 districts across the country have complied with DIAG. On the second part of your question, on weapons allegedly coming from Iran and China, we have no evidence, and therefore cannot comment on this, since this is based on rumors.
RAH-E-NEJAT [translated from Dari]: The Counter Narcotics Minister has confirmed that our northern neighbours such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan continue to supply weapons to anti-government elements in return for narcotics. You talked of three liaison offices established by Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan; how about the northern neighbours, are you going to establish similar liaison offices there?
UNAMA: The establishment of such offices is a positive and encouraging development with two of our neighbours, Pakistan and Iran. Whenever there is a new decision on the establishment of such offices, you will be updated in due time. Lots of things are going on in this regard, including preparation and training for the staff of these offices.
SABAH TV [translated from Pashto]: We have recently seen an increase in reports on violence against women, especially from the north of the country. There was a report yesterday from Andkhoy district of Faryab province that a woman was burnt by her family, what are the main factors behind this violence?
UNAMA: This is a broad question, and many institutions are concerned with the issue of eliminating violence against women, particularly UNIFEM in cooperation with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, recently they have launched a new national strategy to eliminate violence against women. Different factors can cause violence against women, including social factors, poverty and general insecurity during three decades of war. Serious efforts are being made, both by the Government and the United Nations agencies and NGOs to tackle this issue, but, as we have often emphasized, this is not just the responsibility of the Government, but of each and every one of us, at the family, district, province and finally national level to eliminate this. Violence is a serious problem and requires efforts from all of us. I would like to take this opportunity and thank the media for their constructive role in this regard. The media are crucial in advocating the elimination of violence against women, so that ultimately it will stop.
TAMADUN TV [translated from Dari]: It is said that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has sent a letter to the Government offering negotiations. Given that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is on the UN black list, what is UNAMA’s position on this? The second part of my question is about civilian casualties. Despite the new role of the SRSG being coordination of military forces, the Afghan security forces talk about a lack of coordination among international forces, which also results in the death of civilians. Your comments on this?
UNAMA: In regard to the first part of your question, we are not aware of this and we normally do not comment on rumours. We have not received any letter.
On the second part of your question, the United Nations position on civilian casualties is clear – we are against civilian casualties wherever they happen. Civilian casualties remain one of our main concerns and we have made inquiries to the fullest extent possible. The UNAMA human rights unit works on this and we are also in continuous contact with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The work continues and we are urging all parties to prevent civilian casualties.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is currently in Afghanistan studying some of these issues. On the current issue in Nangarhar province we are in touch with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and a representative of the community elders and we are trying to the extent we can to encourage a peaceful solution of the problems. Whenever there is firm proof of civilian casualties these are reported to the relevant authorities. Once again I want to assure you that the United Nations is paying attention to the issue of civilian casualties. Our aim is that no civilian should fall victim to fighting.
IRNA [translated from Dari]: Regarding the DIAG programme: given the fact that many opponents of the Government are involved in armed conflict and considering the arms trade in Afghanistan, how optimistic is the UN that these illegal weapons will be collected? And are there any statistics regarding weapons circulating in Afghanistan after three decades of war?
UNAMA: Our objective is to implement and achieve the goal that has been set, which is to collect all illegal weapons in Afghanistan. Pessimism and optimism do not have anything to do with this. We hope that this plan will prove to be successful. Regarding to the second part of your question on the statistics, I do not have the exact statistics here with me but when obtain them I will share them with you.