Citing enormous security, human rights and other challenges faced by Afghanistan as it struggles to rebuild its shattered society, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that the UN mission in the impoverished country should be extended.
In his latest report, delivered to both the General Assembly and the Security Council, Mr. Annan recommended that the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – which expires on 24 March – be extended for a further 12 months.
“Afghanistan continues to face enormous challenges in the areas of security, governance, rule of law and human rights, sustainable economic and social development and combating the illegal narcotics industry,” Mr. Annan said, highlighting security as the “foremost” among these.
“If the State is to gain credibility and enjoy the support of the population, it is imperative that meaningful progress in each of these areas be achieved,” he said, adding that while the Government must lead this process, considerable support from the international community would be needed for “some time to come.”
Mr. Annan stressed that it was essential that a “credible national Government” deliver on promises to reconstruct the country and convince the population that a democratic State is the best option.
“Regardless of the causes of the conflict in Afghanistan – continuing insurgency and terrorism, factional violence and disputes over resources that State institutions are still too weak to address and a thriving drug economy that provides fertile ground for criminal networks and corruption – the concept of a democratic State will only take root if the people of Afghanistan become convinced that what is on offer is better than any alternative.”
Despite these problems however, the Secretary-General said that there had been a “remarkable transformation” in Afghanistan’s political landscape over the past four years, highlighting in particular the inauguration in December of a fully elected National Assembly.
He also said that the Afghanistan Compact, a multi-billion dollar UN-backed blueprint for international engagement in the development of the war-torn country over the next five years, provided an “unprecedented opportunity” for reconstruction, but would also present challenges.
“The implementation of the Afghanistan Compact will put the country and its international partners to many tests. In addition to the challenge of security, it will remain vital to ensure that development occurs at a pace and in a manner that meets the aspirations and harnesses the potential of the Afghan people.”
“In order to carry out its responsibilities, and to justify the confidence placed in the United Nations, UNAMA must continue and, as circumstances permit, expand its outreach to the Afghan population,” he said.
Concluding his report, Mr. Annan said he was “increasingly concerned” over the safety of UN staff in the country, highlighted by the recent attacks on schools and teachers in Afghanistan, adding that the implementation of UNAMA’s mandate would depend on increased security.
Tom Koenigs, UNAMA’s new chief, arrived in Afghanistan last month, saying that following the adoption of the Afghanistan Compact at a conference in London in January, his priorities would be human rights and development.
“I will work to orient our action to these two directions which does not mean I will neglect anything else,” Mr. Koenigs 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.”