Afghanistan: new UN envoy calls for halt to attack on schools and teachers

23 February 2006

The new top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan today called on opponents of the violence-racked country’s Government to stop attacking schools and teachers and pledged that the world organization would help to reopen schools that have been attacked as soon as possible.

“I cannot understand why anyone would target schools and teachers,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Tom Koenigs told a news conference in Kabul, the Afghan capital, a week after arriving to take over the leadership of the UN Mission Assistance in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

“These attacks amount to denial of human rights to education for Afghanistan’s children. I can only appeal to those who apparently disagree with the development Afghanistan takes: leave Afghanistan’s children alone.”

Mr. Koenigs said his priorities were human rights and development following the adoption last month of the Afghan Compact at a conference in London, a multi-billion dollar blueprint for partnership between the Government and the international community to bolster security, economic development and counter-narcotics efforts.

“I will work to orient our action to these two directions which does not mean I will neglect anything else,” he added. “I think these two topics are the two major driving forces in all human development all over the world and the United Nations has been established for bringing forward these two elements.”

He disputed a questioner who suggested that extremists groups who had violated women’s rights were becoming strong again but added: “Certainly Afghanistan has a history of women’s discrimination which is appalling and unique so each and every donor, each and every organization who supports human rights and the equality has to support the women’s rights in Afghanistan.

“Particularly the United Nations will always promote women’s right and I think we’ll all stand to do our best to do so.”

Mr. Koenigs said the London conference had set out the important task of forming a coordinating and monitoring board with the Afghan government and the UN representing the donor community. “We have to form this board as an institution soon,” he added.

The new five-year compact follows the Bonn Accord of 2001, which set out a four-year programme to bring peace and security to the war-torn country after United States-led forces ousted the Taliban regime following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

 

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