UN envoy says more Afghan women should register to vote

18 December 2003
Lakhdar Brahimi

The senior United Nations envoy to Afghanistan has called for greater female participation in the country's electoral process after early results from voter registration show that six men are signing up for every woman.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, asked Afghanistan's Chief Electoral Officer and the Gender Adviser of the UN Mission (UNAMA) to examine what can be done to improve female participation rates.

Today the UNAMA Gender Adviser is due to meet female delegates at the constitutional Loya Jirga (representative assembly) in Kabul to discuss proposals for change.

As of yesterday, just over 70,000 people had registered to vote in next year's scheduled elections for the national parliament and the presidency, but only 9,598 of them are women, according to UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.

He said the best female turnout has been in Bamiyan, where 39 per cent of registered voters are women. But in the city of Jalalabad, women comprise just 3 per cent of the total. Every Afghan citizen who is 18 or older by 20 June next year is eligible to register for the polling.

Meanwhile in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said security is key to a successful ballot in Afghanistan. "Without security you cannot have effective reconstruction. Without security you cannot travel around the country registering people for elections. Without security, candidates cannot campaign freely," he said.

Responding to questions at a press conference, Mr. Annan also pointed out that he had long been encouraging governments to expand the international presence in Afghanistan beyond Kabul and, in the case of countries with influence, to exercise control over the warlords.

Mr. Brahimi recently called attention to this issue. "It was legitimate that he sounded the alarm, and I urge Member States to pay attention to it and help us in improving security in Afghanistan so that we can get on with our work," the Secretary-General said.


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