UN opens meeting in Berlin on Afghanistan recovery effort

UN opens meeting in Berlin on Afghanistan recovery effort

Senior United Nations officials today pledged their agencies' support in rebuilding Afghanistan as a donor conference focusing on the immediate and longer-term needs of the country opened today in Berlin.

Led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN team at the two-day meeting of the so-called Afghan Support Group includes Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima, High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Mark Malloch Brown, who has been named by Mr. Annan to lead the recovery effort.

According to a UN spokesman, the 16-member group of donors was presented a paper on the humanitarian response and needs, as outlined in the updated Donor Alert for $662 million and a new 30-day Emergency Operational Assistance Plan. The meeting also received a six-month plan of action by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a preliminary strategy paper for the transition from relief to long-term recovery.

In his statement to the meeting, Mr. Lubbers declared the agreement for a new interim government in Afghanistan "an important and historic milestone" and pledged his agency's support in creating a lasting peace that will allow millions of refugees to return home.

Mr. Lubbers said the new UNHCR plan of action through mid-2002 for the region had four objectives: helping the voluntary return of Afghan refugees; providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons inside Afghanistan; maintaining an adequate level of emergency preparedness and supporting refugees in the countries of asylum.

The plan is expected to benefit some 900,000 people, including 500,000 internally displaced persons inside Afghanistan, 300,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 80,000 in Iran. Another 20,000 Afghan refugees in the Central Asian republics are also expected to benefit from the plan.

For her part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said in a statement that if the efforts of the Afghan people and the international community were to succeed, the country's future must be built upon strong foundations of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

UN action would be required in four principal areas, Mrs. Robinson said: help for vulnerable groups; the integration of human rights into all UN humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, political affairs and security support; assistance for the reconstruction and strengthening of domestic institutions of human rights; and ensuring accountability for past abuses.

The High Commissioner said her Office was seeking to ensure that human rights concerns were woven into the design of the new complex UN mission in Afghanistan and that the mission's human rights component had appropriate authority, resources, personnel and mandate to effectively respond to and address the human rights challenges.