|OTHER PEACE OPERATIONS|
Afghanistan: Beyond the Bonn Agreement
Following last year’s historic presidential elections that brought President Hamid Karzai’s government into office, Afghans once again headed to the polls in September this year to elect a new parliament, its first fully representative legislature in three decades. The birth of the new parliament also marked a successful conclusion of the Bonn Agreement, the political blueprint that has guided Afghanistan’s transition to peace and national reconciliation since it was signed in Germany in December 2001.
The parliamentary election highlighted the immense strides Afghanistan has made in a few short years. Civil society and the media participated actively at every step of the process, and there was a marked improvement in how government institutions managed the elections, particularly the military and the police.
Threats and attacks on election workers and candidates failed to derail the process. More than half of the 12.4 million registered voters went to the polls, with relatively few security incidents. About 5,800 candidates ran for election, with 25 percent of the seats reserved for women. In addition, women also won seats in their own right in about 13 of the 34 provinces. It took more than a month to count and certify the elections, and the final results were announced in early November.
In spite of positive changes, however, turnout was lower than expected in some parts of the country, and many electoral complaints were filed. The single non-transferable voting system, under which people voted for individual candidates not political parties, saw many candidates without affiliation to any political party being elected into parliament at the expense of established political parties.
The 2005 parliamentary provincial council elections, which were supported by the United Nations, also presented significantly greater challenges than in 2004, from the need for extensive civic education to the transporting of voting materials to more than 26,000 polling stations – roughly ten times last year’s volume – with some ballots listing hundreds of candidates. UNDP started training 270 parliamentary staff beginning in February to ensure the smooth functioning of the legislature. The new Afghan parliament opened its first session in December, signaling the birth of a new nation and the fulfillment of a promise made four years ago in Bonn.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continued its work supporting Afghan institutions in the face of several challenges that included persistent security problems, a booming illegal economy fuelled by opium poppies, a weak justice system and government institutions susceptible to corruption. Nonetheless, the groundwork that UNAMA and its international partners laid over the past several years enabled important steps to be made towards further stability and development.
The disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programme, which begun in 2003, was completed in July. Of the 63,380 ex-fighters who were disarmed under the programme, more than 60,000 had received or were undergoing training in agriculture or business. A few thousand combatants joined the Afghan National Army,which is expected to reach its target strength of 43,000 by September 2007, three years ahead of schedule.The current plan provides for the training of 62,000 police officers, two-thirds of whom were trained by the end of the year.
UNAMA has also taken an active role in mediating long-standing tribal disputes. The most successful was the settlement in June of a 60-year-old feud between the Balkhel and Sabari tribes in Khost province in the southeast. The dispute had caused the death of dozens of people in recent years, along with kidnappings, livestock losses, and the closure of an important road linking the affected area to the provincial capital.
Even without continued insecurity, Afghanistan faces enormous development challenges. The government’s endorsement in 2005 of Afghanistan’s first Millennium Development Goals Report, drafted with UNDP and UNAMA assistance, represented a crucial step.The priority of the UN family in the country will be to assist Afghanistan to meet the MDG targets.
Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.
© United Nations 2006