Security Council discusses future UN presence in Afghanistan

Security Council discusses future UN presence in Afghanistan

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The United Nations Security Council today held a daylong discussion on the situation in Afghanistan as it focused on the latest report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlining the concept for a future UN presence in the country.

The United Nations Security Council today held a daylong discussion on the situation in Afghanistan as it focused on the latest report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlining the concept for a future UN presence in the country.

In presenting Mr. Annan’s report at the outset of the Council’s debate, which was chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette noted that the large number of non-Council members participating in the meeting was an encouraging sign of “the continuing interest and support of the international community in helping the Afghans rebuild their society.”

Detailing aspects of Mr. Annan’s report, the Deputy Secretary-General said the proposed UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) was based on two pillars – one for structure and one for relief and assistance. Human rights will be central to the purposes and functions of the new mission, both as it fulfils the provisions of the Bonn Agreement directly related to human rights, and as it seeks to fully integrate human rights into its humanitarian, reconstruction and political activities, including the rule of law and national capacity building.

As for recent developments in the country, both the Afghan Interim Administration and the UN had made education a key priority, the Deputy Secretary-General said. Last Saturday, the first day of the school year, had been a major step towards getting children back to school with 1.5 million students able to return. Supplies by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to schools around the country had provided materials for both students and teachers.

The increased rainfall had also left many farmers optimistic about their next crops after three years of drought, Ms. Fréchette said. That optimism had been reflected in a spontaneous population movement especially among internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of who had started to return home. In addition, an average of 10,000 refugees per day had crossed from neighbouring Pakistan into Afghanistan. To address that flow, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would open more registration centres in the next few weeks.

Ms. Fréchette pointed out that even though UN agencies were gearing up to meet the challenges, they were also becoming increasingly alarmed by the slow pace of funding. “Almost a month ago, in Kabul, we presented the Immediate and Transitional Assistance programme for this year, spelling out requirements of $1.18 billion,” she said. “We now urgently need to convert the generous pledges already made into actual contributions.”

The Deputy Secretary-General also noted that while the security situation in Afghanistan had apparently improved somewhat over the past few weeks, there had been further violent incidents in some areas, including reports that Taliban elements were regrouping in southern Paktia for a guerrilla campaign against the Interim Administration.

“The concerns about security expressed in the Secretary-General’s report remain all too pertinent,” Ms. Fréchette said, warning against complacency.

Following her statement, representatives of close to 30 countries, including all 15 members of the Council, took part in the debate. On Wednesday, the Council is scheduled to continue deliberations on the report in closed consultations.