United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Rome on Tuesday, 3 July. There, the Secretary-General attended the Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan.
Prior to that meeting, the Secretary-General held a bilateral meeting with the Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, who was also attending the Conference.
The Secretary-General then met with Italy’s Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Massimo D’Alema.
After that, he attended the plenary session of the Conference, where he told participants: “ Afghanistan’s long night of injustice is nearing its end. Now, we must herald the rule of law and the era of the Afghan citizen.” He said that the international community’s efforts must align with Afghanistan’s own vision and national traditions; Afghanistan’s efforts to foster rule of law must flow from credible institutions; Afghan leaders have to muster political will behind the rule of law after decades of neglect; and “we must do better by Afghanistan’s women”. (See Press Release SG/SM/11075.)
The Secretary-General then attended a working luncheon hosted by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, one of the co-chairs of the Conference. As in his meeting with the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General stressed to the Prime Minister that, in countering the ongoing anti-Government insurgency, Afghan and international forces have to act strictly in accordance with international humanitarian law.
“We simply cannot hide from the reality that civilian casualties, no matter how accidental, strengthen our enemies and undermine our efforts,” he said. During his bilateral meetings, he also discussed the need to renew and reinforce international partnership to rebuild Afghanistan’s institutions, while at the same time emphasizing the need for transparency, accountability and political will on the part of the Afghan Government to uproot corruption.
The Secretary-General raised the same points when he met in the afternoon with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The Secretary-General then met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in their second meeting in a week, after the Secretary-General visited Kabul on 29 June. On their agenda was the high level of civilian casualties resulting from the operations of international forces and documented by the Independent Human Rights Commission in Afghanistan, as well as issues of governance, power-sharing and corruption.
The Secretary-General then participated in a joint press conference with President Karzai and Italian Foreign Minister D’Alema.
At that press conference, he said he was confident and encouraged by the strong support of the international community, financially and politically, to the country and the people of Afghanistan.
He said he was “very much saddened and troubled” by the increasing number of civilian casualties, and said that, during his recent visit to Kabul, he had said that such casualties were not acceptable. He added: “However difficult it may be, civilian casualties should be avoided and the military commanders should take all possible measures in cross-coordination with the Government agencies and with the local leaders.”
The Secretary-General on Wednesday travelled to Turin, where he visited the United Nations staff college. Afterwards, he was the guest at a luncheon hosted by the Mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino.
While in Turin, he issued a statement expressing his profound relief at the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston after his ordeal of 16 weeks in captivity in Gaza. The Secretary-General called for the earliest release, without conditions, of those abducted and detained in similar circumstances. (See Press Release SG/SM/11077.)