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Top UN officials to attend Berlin donor meeting on Afghanistan's reconstruction

Top UN officials to attend Berlin donor meeting on Afghanistan's reconstruction

United Nations officials are gearing up to attend a donor conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan set to open in Berlin on Wednesday.

The two-day meeting is being organized under the auspices of the 16-member Afghanistan Support Group, which brings together major donor nations.

Among those invited to attend are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi; the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers; and the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Mark Malloch Brown, who has been named to lead early recovery efforts for the war-shattered nation.

Meanwhile in Islamabad today, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, emphasized that children and women must be at the heart of Afghanistan's long-term recovery. Noting that there were some 400 home schools in Kabul, Ms. Bellamy stressed that "the women who manage them will be absolutely essential to the recovery of education in Afghanistan - and that means they must be paid a decent wage and supported in their work."

The UNICEF chief also stressed the need to provide landmine education to women and children. "When I attended a landmine education programme for children managed by Save the Children (with UNICEF's support), I learned that until recently landmine awareness was only available in mosques - meaning that girls and women in affected communities did not get this life-saving information," she said.

Afghan women doctors, judges, teachers, psychologists and other professionals "represent an incredible resource, one that has been shamefully disused and disrespected in recent years," said Ms. Bellamy who has just concluded a five-day tour of Afghanistan and Pakistan. "It is absolutely essential that this change if Afghanistan is to have a chance at lasting peace."