Panel at UN looks at progress challenges in Afghanistan over past year

Although the past year has seen much progress in Afghanistan, the international community cannot rest on its laurels, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message today to a discussion convened in New York on the 12 months since United Nations-sponsored talks in Germany led to agreement on steps towards the re-establishment of permanent government institutions.The Bonn Agreement set an ambitious schedule for 2002, the Secretary-General said in his message to the panel on “Afghanistan, One Year Later,” which was delivered by Kieran Prendergast, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. That accord called for the establishment of an interim Government, the convening of a Loya Jirga tribal council and the creation of a number of commissions, he noted.”All this, along with the provision of humanitarian assistance, was to take place in a land where infrastructure, both physical and institutional, had been destroyed,” Mr. Annan said. “And yet much of this has been accomplished.”In looking ahead, the Secretary-General stressed that the challenges facing Afghanistan remain immense, from security to development to creating the political and social institutions necessary for a stable, free and prosperous society with equal rights for all. “I hope, and expect, that in examining the past year you will also help us to light the way forward through the next year,” he said.Convened at the initiative of General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, the panel consisted of two sessions focusing on political and economic issues. In his opening remarks, Mr. Kavan said the discussion could enrich this year’s activities commemorating the first anniversary of the Bonn talks and could lead the UN to specific conclusions on post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan, thereby providing new recommendations for related UN activities in the future.For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed the event in a message read out at the discussion. “We find that this meeting, in the form of a panel, will serve to be instrumental in bringing further awareness to the problems facing Afghanistan, including a further reminder to donor countries to implement their commitments of assistance to Afghanistan,” he said.Participants included Jean Arnaud, the deputy chief of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Julia Taft, Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Mukesh Kapila, a former Special Adviser on Afghanistan, and Amin Farhang, the Afghan Minister of Reconstruction.Others who took part in the discussion included journalist Ahmed Rashid, Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies at the New York University Center on International Cooperation, Eric Morris of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Bernard Frahi of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. read more

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