Afghanistan’s political transition faces serious challenges – UN report


Afghanistan’s political transition faces serious challenges – UN report

The political transition in strife-torn Afghanistan continues to face a number of serious challenges, including terrorism and a booming drug industry, according to a new United Nations report, which urges an integrated approach among all international partners to stabilize the fledgling democracy.

“The Taliban and related armed groups and the drug economy represent fundamental threats to still fragile political, economic and social institutions,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report to the Security Council on Afghanistan.

“Despite tactical successes by national and international military forces, the anti-Government elements are far from defeated,” he adds.

The report notes that 36 out of the country’s 376 districts, including most districts in the east, southeast and south, remain largely inaccessible to Afghan officials and aid workers. “This hinders the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people, a situation exacerbated by the harsh weather conditions of the past few months.”

Other challenges include poor governance and limited progress on human rights, as noted by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour during her November 2007 visit. “Some continue to argue that human rights contradict local traditions and are a ‘luxury’ Afghanistan cannot afford,” the report points out.

The Secretary-General stresses the need for all partners to intensify their efforts in order to consolidate the gains that have been achieved and to face the challenges ahead. “To meet the security challenge and stabilize Afghanistan, a common approach is needed that integrates security, governance, rule of law, human rights and social and economic development,” he states.

In this regard, the partnership between the world body, the Government, the UN-led International Assistance Force (ISAF) and the international community remains “essential.”

In his report, the Secretary-General also highlights the need to begin preparations on voter registration and planning for the next elections, scheduled to be held next year, as well as “decisive” action by the Government to tackle the growing threat posed by poppy cultivation and drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ban’s Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan said he believes that while the country faces numerous challenges, the Afghan Government “is now stronger than ever,” and that over the past six months the level of international engagement in Afghanistan has continued to increase.

“There remains a strong consensus among partners and donors that this commitment should continue and even deepen,” Chris Alexander, who oversees the political efforts of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said at a press briefing in Kabul today.

“But the conviction is stronger than ever that the key to peace and security here remains the success of state institutions. For this reason, all of us, international organizations and donors, are preparing to support the Afghanistan National Development Strategy,” he added, referring to the Government’s overarching plan for promoting growth, generating wealth and reducing poverty and vulnerability.

Last week, Mr. Ban informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide as his Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, replacing Tom Koenigs of Germany, who completed his assignment last December.