“Work with us” - UN’s deputy envoy in Afghanistan completes mission

25 May 2009

“Work with us” - UN’s deputy envoy in Afghanistan completes mission

KABUL - After six years in Afghanistan the United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Chris Alexander, is leaving the country.

Mr Alexander has worked in Kabul since 2003, first as Canadian ambassador, and then as one of two deputies at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) with responsibility for political affairs.

Speaking on his last day in Kabul, Mr Alexander said his message to the people of Afghanistan was to “work with us, the UN certainly believes in this, and work with the international community on a partnership of mutual accountability where Afghans lead, but in providing support where the international community has the right to hold Afghans accountable.”

From August 2003 until October 2005 Mr Alexander served as Ambassador of Canada to Afghanistan before joining UNAMA.

The units under his supervision included the Political Affairs Division, which supports political outreach, conflict resolution, disarmament and regional cooperation, as well as an Election Support Unit and a Military Advisory Unit.

Mr Alexander also supervised a Governance Unit, a Police Advisory Unit, and a Rule of Law Unit, which are responsible for coordinating international support for institution-building in each of those sectors.

Today Mr Alexander said much more had to be done in Afghanistan “but at the same time, sometimes many people both Afghans and foreigners forget what the starting point was. They forget how devastated, how isolated Afghanistan was in 2001.

“What I regret is that the scale of effort wasn’t larger at the beginning; fortunately it’s much larger now and the prospects for the future, if the Government takes the right decisions, if Afghans consider their options seriously in these elections, if they demand accountability from their elected leaders, the future can be bright,” added Mr Alexander.

“The challenge now is to scale up the effort, sustain the effort, not do the same thing that we did last year or the year before, but be creative and ensure that we get the best out of people and out of institutions.”

In August Afghanistan holds presidential and provincial council elections.

Mr Alexander has played a key role in maintaining outreach to political parties and institutions and to ensure the elections process is on track.

“They will be a time of drama, that’s the same for elections anywhere in the world. It’s an opportunity for people to literally consider their choices with regard to who should be in Government and in constitutionally authorized positions to lead and I think Afghans will take that question seriously. But they want to know from all of the candidates: What are you programmes? What can you deliver? If we vote what are we likely to get in return in terms of security, in terms of better governance (which is a huge priority for Afghans in terms of better services and development)? There will be some debate, there may even been some controversy,” he said. 

“I would simply like to add how grateful I am and I know many of my colleagues who’ve had the privilege of working in UNAMA are, for all of the friendship and support we’ve had from all of our Afghan partners. I have never felt more welcome in any other part of the world and that’s something which Afghans should be proud,” said Mr Alexander

In March 2009 the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon issued a statement in which he said he was “grateful to Mr. Alexander for his dedicated service in Afghanistan over the past three years, during which he made a valuable contribution to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) efforts to foster peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

Mr Alexander’s successor at UNAMA is Peter W. Galbraith from the United States who’ll be taking up his post in June.

Mr Galbraith is currently a Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and founder of the Windham Resources Group LLC, a firm that specializes in international negotiations and strategies.

He has many years of humanitarian and security policy experience with regard to negotiations on Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Timor-Leste.

Prior to this assignment, he served as Director for Political, Constitutional and Electoral Affairs for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and, concurrently, Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea in the first East Timor Transitional Government in 2000-2001.

He served as United States Ambassador to Croatia from 1993 to 1998 and was the co-mediator of the 1995 Erdut Agreement. From 1979 to 1993, he was a senior adviser to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, with major responsibilities for the Near East, South Asia and international organizations.

By Dominic Medley, UNAMA