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Political, humanitarian progress in Afghanistan 'very encouraging,' Security Council told

Political, humanitarian progress in Afghanistan 'very encouraging,' Security Council told

UN Security Council in session
After so many years of war and civil conflict in Afghanistan, the political and humanitarian progress of the last several months is very encouraging, although advances are by no means assured, a top United Nations official told the Security Council today as it held an open meeting to discuss the situation in the country.

"Security remains a major challenge in many parts of the country, and substantial financial assistance is still required," UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast said this morning in his briefing to the Council, the latest in a series covering ongoing developments in Afghanistan.

"I appeal to the international community to speed up the delivery of its assistance, and to broaden its scope to include unmet needs related to security," he added.

On the political front, Mr. Prendergast said Afghanistan’s emergency Loya Jirga – or tribal council – would comprise some 1,500 delegates, including approximately 1,000 elected indirectly by the people and 500 selected by the Independent Loya Jirga Commission. Given the logistical difficulties, the security environment and the extremely short time frame, even indirect elections presented a great challenge, he said, though phase one of the process had successfully begun on schedule.

Some results were particularly heartening to those who hoped to see a multi-ethnic, representative Government in Afghanistan, Mr. Prendergast noted, referring to the fact that Pashtuns had been chosen in areas where they were in a minority, and that at least one woman had already been selected. He added that the Independent Commission itself would select 160 women, although there was no limit on the number of women who might be elected.

Amid those signs of hope, a series of violent incidents - including a failed attempt to assassinate the Minister of Defence and a rocket attack on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - had heightened security concerns, Mr. Prendergast said. Afghanistan's Interim Administration had taken some actions, though its capabilities were limited, to respond to the deterioration of the security situation.

Speaking at the outset of the discussion, Sima Samar, Vice-Chairman of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan and Minister for Women, told the Council that women's rights were particularly jeopardized by the absence of security. Women continued to fear violence and worry about the imposition of Taliban-like restrictions. Unless more security was provided, she stressed, the inclusion of women in the Loya Jirga may be undermined, and the distribution of identification cards to enable their participation in future elections imperilled.