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UN mission in Afghanistan expands presence to foster stability - envoy

19 February 2007 Responding to Afghanistan's need for greater stability, the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA) has established new offices in the provinces, its chief said today.

“Over the past months I have opened offices in Kunar, Badghis, Zabul and Khost,” Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Afghanistan, told a press briefing in Kabul. “On Saturday last I opened our newest office in Nimroz province. In the coming months we will open further offices in Daikundi and Ghor. And maybe others will follow.”

With the new expansion, UNAMA will nearly double the number of its offices to significant effect, Mr. Koenigs observed. “This outreach to the provinces reflects a critical need. Afghanistan needs stability, it needs peace, governance and development.”

He stressed the importance of having UNAMA in different communities. “Human rights violations including the violence of war, particularly against civilians, occur locally. Allegations of human rights violations have to be verified locally.”

With Afghanistan's provinces seeking greater prosperity, he pointed out that the new arrangements will maximize the UN's contribution. “What we find in all the provinces is that people want more development and faster development,” he said. “UNAMA will be there to bring other agencies and donors into the provinces, to support the local Governors and help coordinate the efforts of other aid agencies to ensure that development is efficiently planned.”

Mr. Koenigs offered a stark assessment of the situation in the blighted State. “Afghanistan is not a post conflict country. It's a country in conflict. One can even put it more dramatically – it's a post-devastation state facing a war of insurgency.”

At the same time, he noted that much progress has been achieved. “Dealing so much with the problems, we have to recall that Afghanistan has made enormous progress in infrastructure, construction, roads, services and telecommunications but also in the democratic process.”

The envoy emphasized the need to consolidate this progress, especially by guaranteeing fundamental rights. “One important aspect of this progress is freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” he said, voicing concern about reports of journalists being intimidated. “It's often said that the first victim of war is truth. We must prevent this from becoming the case in Afghanistan.”

As the Taliban continues its propaganda war, he emphasized that the Government and international community must persevere on a democratic course. “Fighting the insurgency we must not forget what we are fighting them for – we are fighting to maintain these successes and maintain democratic freedoms. That's why I repeat again that human rights must not be compromised as we fight this insurgency.”

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