International community must help Afghanistan consolidate peace – UN report
While progress has been made in Afghanistan in coordinating national and international efforts for development and countering the insurgency in the south, mounting violence from an emboldened insurgency, popular alienation and human rights issues put the country and its partners at “a critical juncture,” according to a new United Nations report.
“It is time for the international community to reconfirm its commitment to Afghanistan and to move expeditiously to consolidate the accomplishments of the last six years,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his report to the Security Council covering the past six months, proposing a 12-month extension of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“UNAMA, together with its Afghan and international counterparts, is well positioned to assist in meeting some of the challenges,” he adds, calling for the Mission to focus in the coming months on promoting a more coherent international engagement in support of development, human rights and regional cooperation.
Mr. Ban notes that insurgency-related violent incidents for January were more than double those in January 2006, and that a record 77 suicide attacks occurred during the reporting period, up from 53 over the previous six months.
A September agreement between Pakistan and the local Taliban of North Waziristan did not prevent the use of the tribal area as a staging ground for attacks on Afghanistan, which had been one of the accord’s central stipulations. Security incidents involving insurgents instead rose by 50 per cent in Khost province and 70 per cent in Paktika.
“Coordinated efforts by the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to curb incursions into Afghanistan of opposition forces will therefore continue to be vital,” Mr. Ban says.
Popular alienation remains a key factor behind the revitalized insurgency, and stems from inappropriate Government appointments, tribal nepotism and the marginalization of those outside the dominant social and political groups. “The central Government’s frequent tolerance of weak governance has diminished public confidence in its responsiveness and its readiness to hold officials accountable for their transgressions,” he writes.
“In those cases where the centre has appointed capable governors, such as in Party, Cruzan and Kabul, it has failed to provide them with the resources necessary to maintain the goodwill that they have generated.”
Mr. Ban says lack of security remained the greatest challenge to the enjoyment of human rights, with teachers killed, education facilities attacked and civilians caught in crossfire. Curbs to media freedom continued to be reported, the ratio of detainees to sentenced prisoners rose while the Government continues to face “enormous challenges” in delivering economic and social rights such as sufficient food, water, health care and educational facilities, particularly for girls and women.
“Progress towards the realization of gender equality continued to be held back by discrimination, insecurity and the persistence of customary practices,” Mr. Ban says. “Honour killings of females by family members continue to be reported. Reasons included having been raped and elopement.”
In Afghanistan’s largest prison in Kabul, the capital, almost 30 per cent of female detainees are in prison for acts that do not constitute criminal offences, while a further 30 per cent are detained for adultery in breach of national due process standards. Widespread corruption in the justice system also remains a serious concern.
Mr. Ban stresses that the successful completion of the ongoing reforms of the Ministry of the Interior is a precondition for achieving a sustainable peace, not only through creating a more capable and motivated force to prevent insurgency and cross-border infiltration, but also to reverse the growth of narcotics trafficking and build public confidence in the rule of law.
“The narcotics economy, linked both to the insurgency and failures of governance and rule of law, poses a grave threat to reconstruction and nation-building,” he writes of the country which supplies more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin. “An urgent concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed to improve implementation of the national drug control strategy.”
And he repeats UN concerns that the adoption in both houses of Parliament of a resolution on national reconciliation could lead to amnesty for those prosecutable for human rights violations in a country that has known little but occupation by Soviet forces and then internecine factional fighting and brutality for nearly three decades.
“I welcome President [Humid] Kara’s launch of the Action Plan on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation in December, which states that no amnesty should be provided for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights, and outlines a clear road map for the future. I urge the Afghan Government to maintain this momentum,” he says.