On surprise visit, Ban reaffirms UN support for Afghanistan

4 February 2009
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Afghanistan

Making a surprise stop in Afghanistan today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged the United Nations’ strong support for development and the consolidation of peace and stability in the strife-torn nation.

“This year is going to be a very important and a crucial year for the Afghanistan people and Government in many aspects, in addressing security challenges and also establishing fuller democracy and development and prosperity with the Afghanistan people,” Mr. Ban said at a joint press conference in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai.

The Secretary-General expressed his determination to “see Afghanistan enjoy full democracy, full security and full development,” adding that “it is clear that Afghanistan will continue to face many challenges in 2009, but I think we can confront them.”

With presidential and provincial council polls scheduled for 20 August, he said the UN will ensure that the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission will receive the funds needed from donors.

Further, Mr. Ban said that the international military presence in the country is still important.

“We also need to balance political and military means to stability in Afghanistan, including through an Afghan-led political solution based on the Constitution,” he stressed. “Regional cooperation is so crucial to Afghanistan but also for its neighbours and it has a lot of potential.”

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will continue to work on political, economic and security issues in the region, the Secretary-General said.

“I fully share the concerns and frustrations that President Karzai has endured because of many tragic incidents where civilian people have been killed in the course of military operations in fighting against terrorism,” he said in response to a question on civilian casualties.

“As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in fact, this issue of civilian causalities has been a source of deep concern and I have expressed on many occasions a strong concern that while conducting military operations they must ensure that we have all civilian casualties over.”

In addition to talks with Mr. Karzai, Mr. Ban was briefed by his Special Representative in the country and UNAMA head, Kai Eide, who gave an update on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the UN’s efforts to support the Government.

An “integrated” mission established in March 2002, UNAMA has two main pillars: one dealing with development issues, and the other handling political matters.

Yesterday, the UN and its partners appealed for $604 million to help meet the needs of Afghans made vulnerable by natural disasters, lack of access to basic social services, increasing food insecurity and the worsening security situation.

More than half of the funds will go towards food aid, while almost $100 million will be used to rid the strife-torn nation of landmines, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in Geneva, as he launched the Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan for 2009.

The Plan, with a set of 112 projects from 39 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and eight UN agencies, also focuses on the delivery of education, water and sanitation, as well as on protection concerns amid growing insecurity in a country, where 42 per cent of the population lives on less than $1 per day.


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