The prospect of electoral reforms in Afghanistan, which are needed for new parliamentary elections, has been welcomed by a high-level UN official speaking at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting.
Electoral reforms are required to reassure the public that the democratic institutions and processes are able to meet their legitimate expectations, said Mark Bowden, the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. Mr. Bowden was speaking on behalf of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan at a NATO Defence Ministers meeting today in Brussels, Belgium. “President Ghani has announced that Parliament’s term will be extended, till the next parliamentary elections are conducted,” said Mr. Bowden. “The President has tasked the Electoral Management Bodies to propose election timelines for the next elections and an electoral calendar is expected to be announced within a month.”Mr. Bowden said that the international community has made electoral reforms a condition for continued international support for the electoral process.“We look forward to the announcement of the Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) which is expected shortly. The United Nations will continue to support the Government of Afghanistan, the electoral institutions and the ERC.”NATO Defence Ministers met at the two-day conference, where the focus is on how the organisation is adapting to a new and more challenging security environment. Among issues to be addressed will be a review of progress made since the launch of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan at the start of 2014 and the evolution of the mission.Mr. Bowden said that Afghanistan was facing ongoing security challenges, which have led to increased levels of suffering among civilians.“There has been an intensification of conflict across the country, including in areas previously considered to be safe. The rise in the number of civilian casualties in 2015 is of grave concern,” he said, noting that in the first four months of this year UNAMA tracked a 16 per cent increase on last year. “In a few weeks UNAMA will publish its mid-year report on the protection of civilians and I expect the first six months of 2015 will show an increase in the number of civilian casualties, continuing the unacceptable trend of 2014.”Mr. Bowden said that civilian casualties and the high levels of displacement observed in the latest offensives have led to increased levels of suffering. In addition, humanitarian aid workers are increasingly becoming targets with more than 30 killed in 2015.Afghanistan is one of the world’s most challenging countries for humanitarian workers and the intensifying conflict this year is taxing humanitarian capacities and widening the gap between needs and resources.“My concern is that resources available for humanitarian action are becoming ever constrained at a time when global demands for humanitarian assistance are at higher levels than ever before.”A number of positive meetings have taken place recently, said Mr. Bowden, which give hope for a continuing peace process: “That many are prepared to engage in such talks, especially Afghan women, is a testimony to the continuing desire for peace among Afghans.” “It is vital that we all continue to maintain our collective support towards Afghanistan and its people,” said Mr. Bowden. “The most vulnerable people in the country, in one of the world’s most protracted crisis, continue to need our assistance, and the Afghan people continue to look to their security forces and their international partners for the assistance that is needed in the years ahead.”Through its good offices mandate from the Security Council, UNAMA strives to facilitate solutions in Afghanistan, including through the promotion of peace and reconciliation, enhancement of regional cooperation and support for electoral reform and elections.