With Tajikistan in need of continuing support for its peace-building efforts, Secretary-General Kofi Annan intends to keep active the United Nations presence in the country for another year, according to a letter released today at UN Headquarters in New York.
In his letter to the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani of Singapore, the Secretary-General says that the UN Tajikistan Office of Peace-building (UNTOP) has played a "very positive role" in the country over the past year and that the Government has concurred with his intention to continue UNTOP's activities until 1 June 2003. In response, Ambassador Mahbubani wrote to Mr. Annan that Council members took note "with appreciation" of the intended extension and the information on the Office's activities provided in the letter.
Established in June 2000 following the withdrawal of the UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan, over the past year UNTOP has focused on consolidating peace and national reconciliation; promoting the rule of law; strengthening democratic institutions; and supporting national capacity building in human rights. Another important priority of UNTOP has been political support for the mobilization of international resources and assistance for national recovery and reconstruction.
The Secretary-General says in the letter that his Representative, Ivo Petrov, and the Office, have played an important "catalytic role" in the promotion of national dialogue by organizing a series of Political Discussion Club meetings involving government officials and representatives from political parties, civil society and the media. The recommendations worked out within the framework of those meetings were brought to the attention of the Government and several of them were implemented, he notes.
Meanwhile, given the need for strict adherence to human rights standards, UNTOP, in coordination with local partners, has been implementing a human rights action programme aimed at improving public education and building a national capacity in human rights treaty reporting, the Secretary-General says. He adds that since the improvement of the human rights situation in the country requires strengthening of the rule of law, the Office is planning to implement several technical assistance projects to train the local police.
The Secretary-General also notes that one of the Office's key priorities has been the retraining of former combatants, their reintegration into civilian life and the creation of employment opportunities for them. UNTOP, together with the UN country team, has prepared several projects which were presented to the donor community in May 2001 in Tokyo. The meeting yielded $6 million worth of pledges, with actual contributions covering 80 per cent of the funding needs for the Office's projects.