While the overall security situation has not improved in recent months, Afghanistan has witnessed a number of positive developments, according to a new United Nations report, which urges continued international support for what is a critical period for the country.
Earlier this month, the Government hosted the Consultative Peace Jirga outside the capital, Kabul, with the participation of 1,600 delegates, including 300 women, to discuss the way forward for the country’s peace process.
“Despite rocket fire and thwarted suicide attacks during the opening session, the jirga proceeded undeterred,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report to the Security Council.
The final communiqué issued by the jirga endorsed President Hamid Karzai’s initiative to convene a national dialogue on ways to restore peace. It also requested the release of Afghans held in detention by the Government and international forces, the de-listing of individuals from the so-called “Consolidated List” of those subject to UN sanctions in connection with Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and safety for those who join the peace process.
“I am heartened by the outcome of the Consultative Peace Jirga, a step towards reaching out to all Afghans to promote an inclusive dialogue aimed at achieving stability and peace in Afghanistan,” Mr. Ban states.
“The United Nations supports such nationally driven efforts to end conflict in Afghanistan and remains fully committed to working with the Afghan authorities and people as they strive for a peaceful and inclusive society.”
The Government is now preparing for the international conference to be held in Kabul on 20 July – where it is expected to present an Afghan-led plan for improving development, governance and security – as well as for the parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September.
The conference, which the UN has been requested to co-chair, is a follow-up to the London Conference held in January, during which the Government and its international partners jointly endorsed a strategy of transition to greater Afghan responsibility for the affairs of the country.
Mr. Ban says he is encouraged by the state of preparedness of the Afghan electoral institutions for the upcoming polls, welcoming steps taken by the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission, while highlighting the need for more comprehensive and long-term electoral reform.
“Strengthened Afghan electoral institutions in the lead will instil greater public confidence in the electoral process and contribute to improved, more credible elections,” he stated.
The Secretary-General is particularly pleased that the preliminary list of candidates contains the names of more than 400 women, and stressed that adequate security must be provided to ensure that these women have equal access to the electoral process.
“Election security will remain a critical issue and the Independent Electoral Commission must balance polling centre security against the need to make the elections accessible to all Afghans.”
He also notes that, despite the considerable growth and reform plans for the development of the Afghan National Security Forces, the security environment remains unstable.
“A comprehensive approach on security sector reform needs to be supported by effective governance and progressive advances in the political process, to counterbalance concentrated military efforts,” states Mr. Ban.
He adds that the UN is committed to a continued long-term presence in Afghanistan, noting that this is a “critical” year in the country’s transition, and states that it is incumbent on the UN mission (UNAMA) to focus its efforts on a limited set of priority tasks where it can bring the greatest added value and deliver effectively.