UN peacekeeping chief calls for mandate of Afghan mission to be sharpened


United Nations : The mandate of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) must be sharpened given the challenges the country has faced in the past year, including a resilient insurgency and a booming drug industry, the world body’s peacekeeping official said Wednesday.

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Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told an open debate of the Security Council that the insurgency is “more ruthless than we ever imagined,” and that “a massive illegal drug economy thrives in the vacuum of state authority.”

He added that the fledgling democracy’s governmental institutions are “fragile and without capacity,” and despite its commitment and generosity, the international community has been “insufficiently united on key issues of policy.”

Guéhenno acknowledged that “the UN bears its own share of responsibility for deficiencies in international coordination,” and he stressed the need for “the cooperation of our international and Afghan partners.”

To confront these issues and others, he pointed out that while UNAMA does not need additional powers, its mandate, which was negotiated with the Government and key partners in 2005, should focus on six key areas: enhanced coordination, political outreach, subnational governance, humanitarian coordination, upcoming elections and bolstered cooperation with the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

These areas were proposed in the latest report to the Council by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has also announced that he will attend an international meeting on Afghanistan to be held in Bucharest, Romania, early next month.

Also scheduled to be present at the Bucharest gathering are Afghan President Hamid Karzai, high-level NATO representatives, non-NATO contributing ISAF nations and representatives of key international organizations, such as the European Union (EU) and the World Bank, according to a statement issued by Ban’s spokesperson.

Taking part in Wednesday’s Council meeting, which heard from more than 30 speakers, was the new Special Representative and head of UNAMA, Kai Eide of Norway.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Eide expressed his pleasure that so many speakers participated in the open debate.

“It demonstrates the strong commitment of the international community to Afghanistan,” he observed.

Eide replaces Tom Koenigs of Germany, who completed his assignment last December.

Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram welcomed his appointment in the course of the Security Council debate. At the same time, he cautioned that “given the realities on ground, it is essential to avoid placing responsibilities on the United Nations which it may not be in a position to discharge and which could affect its neutrality and credibility”.