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UN News
Last Updated: 12/10/2009
Election News
http://www.un.org/news/

The world has witnessed many elections in the closing months of 2009. This is a compilation of recent UN News reports about elections in Afghanistan, the Philippines and Burundi.

The report highlights Afghanistan’s potential for development and peace in-light of the recent Presidential Elections and the announcement from the United States to deploy 30,000 more troops to the country. The compilation also features two articles about a recent election-related massacre in the Philippines. Finally, the 2010 elections in Burundi have already attracted UNDP assistance and international attention.


Afghanistan---

Senior UN envoy urges more coordinated assistance for Afghanistan’s development

9 December 2009 – The top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan today called for the country’s key partners to ensure they work together in a more coordinated and streamlined way to move forward with supporting national development efforts.

“There is no other choice. We all have to change our mindset and be more geared towards a coordinated approach,” Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said of the assistance rendered by the UN, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the European Union and key donors.

During his meeting in Kabul with United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Mr. Eide also underlined the need to avoid a situation where pressure for immediate results leads to an acceleration of quick-impact projects and draws attention further away from long-term sustainable solutions.

“This applies in particular to the building of civilian institutions and Afghanistan’s economic growth,” he stated.

The Special Representative cited new momentum in the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community with, among others, the launching of US President Barack Obama’s new strategy for the country, which includes the deployment of 30,000 more American troops, along with efforts to build the capacity of national institutions.

“However, that new momentum is still fragile and must now be consolidated with the appointment and work of the new Afghan Government and the preparations for the London conference on 28 January 2010,” said Mr. Eide.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the London meeting, and a further high-level conference to be convened in Kabul a few months later, as opportunities to discuss Afghanistan’s agenda in the wake of its recent presidential elections.

Secretary-General welcomes new United States plan for Afghanistan

2 December 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the new United States plan for Afghanistan announced by President Barack Obama, and said the United Nations remains committed to supporting a transition to increased Afghan ownership, responsibility and leadership for peace and development in the country.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Mr. Obama unveiled his new strategy for Afghanistan, which includes the deployment of 30,000 more American troops, along with efforts to build the capacity of Afghan institutions. Ban noted with appreciation the “proposed approach to balance military and civilian efforts and the emphasis on strengthening the capacity of Afghan institutions and Afghan security forces in particular,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General strongly feels that institution-building is a long-term but necessary process that will ultimately ensure the sustainability of the international community’s joint efforts in Afghanistan,” the statement added.

Ahead of Mr. Obama’s speech, the top UN envoy to Afghanistan had stated that the building up of Afghan institutions was vital to a transition strategy and could help ensure that the gains achieved so far are not lost.

“It really means pushing more and more responsibilities on to the Afghan authorities, allowing them to take more responsibilities,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, told reporters in the capital, Kabul, yesterday.

“If we are to deliver services to the people, it can’t be done by international parallel structures. It has to be done by Afghan institutions. That’s going to take time, but the longer we wait the more time it will take,” he added.

Press Conference by Senior UN Officials on Afghanistan’s Presidential Elections

October 7, 2009 -- An extensive investigation, launched Monday, into charges of fraudulent voting in Afghanistan’s recent elections was moving forward with the aim of delivering results as soon as possible, Edmond Mullet, United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said today at a Headquarters press conference.

Joining Mr. Mullet were Wolfgang Weisbrod Weber, Director of Asia and Middle East Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and Craig Jenness, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs.

Explaining procedure, Mr. Jenness said that the review was being undertaken to examine the issue of high voter turnout, and secondly, high numbers of votes cast for one candidate or another in the 20 August elections. A final determination on the number of participants at polling stations would be made after all ballots were scrutinized, including from the South. Only those considered legitimate would be counted.

On Monday, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), which were in charge of the inquiry, allowed television cameras in the room where the audit was being conducted. It was communicated to Afghans that the process was ongoing and that people were working hard to give them results.

“There is anxiety and everybody wants this process to be over as quickly as possible,” Mr. Weber added. The United Nations had pressed the ECC to conclude its work quickly without jeopardizing the process, so that if a second round was needed, it could be held two weeks after the final results were announced, as electoral rules stipulated.

Responding to charges that Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, had sided with the Karzai Government in endorsing the elections’ outcome, Mr. Weber clarified that Mr. Eide had sided with the two bodies tasked with carrying out the investigation: the IEC and ECC. His mission was to examine regulations, including on the question of fraud, which would strengthen those institutions. It was important to trust them and the mechanisms in place to detect fraud.

“We’ll see where the chips fall,” concerning the result. He would not prejudge the outcome.

Asked who compiled information on the number of people at the polling stations, and why “light monitoring” of those stations was needed if not to transmit such information to Afghan institutions, Mr. Jenness said the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had offices in 20 of the country’s 34 provinces. Over five days -– including election day -- UNAMA staff had examined the overall electoral environment by, for example, going out to at least four polling stations, talking to observers, candidate agents, local officials, police and military, and sending their assessments to Kabul.

That information had been collected and provided to both the ECC and the IEC “sometime after” 25 August, he continued. Only those taking part in the election process could file complaints, accompanied by evidence, with the ECC. However, the ECC was willing to take and consider information from various sources. In addition to the audit, it was reviewing the 2,500 complaints submitted by candidates. The United Nations had not filed a formal complaint.“If someone wants to get redress, we tell them where to go,” Mr. Jenness added.

Asked why Mr. Eide had confirmed on 30 August that he had not handed such information over, and defended his reasons for not doing so, Mr. Jenness said the ECC’s job was to respond to formal complaints lodged by participants in the Afghan electoral process: candidates, voters and observers. Secondly, it had agreed to accept information from various sources and it would be important to discuss with the ECC its methodologies. The responsibility for filing complaints was with Afghans.

Adding to that, Mr. Weber said that people from “UNDP Elect” were on the IEC and there was a constant real-time information flow. Moreover, three of the five ECC Commissioners had been appointed by the United Nations. He urged avoiding the word “monitoring”, as it carried a special connotation on elections. “We had no monitoring role,” he said. Information had been collected to allow the Special Representative to be a political actor, vis-à-vis the ECC and UNAMA.

Pressed to clarify whether the United Nations had provided the information to the ECC, Mr. Jenness said those not participating in the electoral process -- the United Nations, European Union and others -- had no right to ask the ECC to adjudicate their cases. It was out of an “abundance of caution” that the ECC had asked the United Nations and the European Union to send over any useful information. He did not know whether an 80-page internal report and spreadsheet had been handed over to the IEC or ECC.

As to remarks by the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar, that Mr. Galbraith had been recalled for trying to bring about anunconstitutional Government, Mr. Mullet said that that was one of various reasons. Mr. Galbraith wanted to close 1,500 of 6,900 polling stations, as they had been placed in volatile regions. In the end, only 500 of those stations had been closed. It was true that Mr. Galbraith had proposed annulling the elections and setting up a transitional Government. He also had made assertions that were “completely out of bounds” with UNAMA’s mandate regarding the elections.

Asked whether the United Nations had full confidence that Afghan courts would act according to the rule of law, Mr. Weber said that decisions to determine fraudulent voting rested with the ECC and he fully trusted that body. The Afghan courts had no role in that matter.

Jenness added that 3 per cent of returns in Afghanistan’s 2005 elections had been excluded, owing to fraud, in a decision made by the ECC. The highest number of excluded ballots had been from Paktika province.

Concerning complaints about a lack of voter registration, among other structural flaws, Mr. Weber stressed that “this is a country in conflict” and at the bottom of the development scale. Jenness added that “imperfections” had been well-recorded. What was important was that Afghans had accepted the process. “After all, it’s their election.”

To another query, Mr. Weber responded that the other two of the five ECC members had been appointed by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court.

In response to another question on Mr. Galbraith’s appointment, Mr. Mullet said he had been a candidate among other strong candidates. His citizenship in a country that played an important role in Afghanistan was taken into consideration. Weber added that meetings had been held with Mr. Galbraith to request that he not unnecessarily exacerbate the divergence of views in public.

As to concerns that President Karzai would not be seen by Afghans as freely elected, Mr. Mullet said that whoever won the election would have to reach out to all sectors of Afghan society. Afghans were waiting for the process to deliver results and until that time, they trusted the institutions to do their job.

Regarding concerns that the neutrality and credibility of the United Nations had been badly compromised by the electoral process, Mr. Weber rhetorically asked in whose eyes that credibility had been damaged. He had not seen the Organization’s credibility diminished in the Security Council. UNAMA’s credibility hinged on the credibility of the audit, how fraud would be addressed, and further, on how the new Government reached out to its people. “Credibility is a long-term task,” he added.

Philippines----

Philippines ‘massacre’ must spur reform, say UN rights experts

2 December 2009 – The recent killing of 57 people in the southern Philippines, including some 30 journalists, must be seen as a watershed moment for the country, two independent United Nations human rights experts said today, stressing the need to bring the perpetrators to justice and take measures to prevent such crimes in the future.

“The pre-meditated killing of political opponents, combined with a massive assault on the media, must be tackled at various levels that go well beyond standard murder investigations,” Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, stated in a news release.

The 23 November attack on a convoy in the province of Minguindanao, which took place in the context of a local election campaign, was condemned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova.

Calling the killings “a tragedy of the first order,” the two experts said the first step is to ensure that the police investigation is “comprehensive and independent,” and that must be followed by effective prosecutions of all those responsible for the killings.

At the same time, they added that “the massacre also demanded a more extensive reflection on the elite family-dominated manipulation of the political processes and the need to eliminate such practices” to ensure the future of democracy in the Philippines.

“This will require a thorough-going investigation of the broader context to be undertaken by a credible and independent body, appointed with full legal powers to carry out an effective inquiry and make recommendations.”

The experts voiced their dismay at what they described as “the wholesale killings of journalists” and emphasized that any broader inquiry into the political system would need to focus on the ways and means of enhancing protection for journalists in the future.

Noting that “elections in the Philippines have traditionally become occasions for widespread extrajudicial executions of political opponents,” they also called on the Government to immediately set up a high-level task force to identify measures to prevent killings that occur in the lead-up to elections.

Top UN official urges probe into 'monstrous' Philippines attack

27 November 2009 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today urged the Government of the Philippines to investigate the 23 November attack on a convoy in the province of Minguindanao that left over 55 people, including at least 27 journalists, dead.

“This monstrous crime must not go unpunished,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“I condemn this outrage and urge the Government of the Philippines to act swiftly, using all the resources at its disposal to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The barbaric killings of the people in the convoy – journalists and citizens alike – were clearly an attack against democracy and democratic processes. Furthermore, the killing of journalists violates the rights of the Philippine people to be freely and fairly informed of political developments,” she added.

The journalists were reportedly travelling with politicians and political supporters to file nomination papers for a gubernatorial candidate in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines, when the convoy was ambushed, UNESCO stated in a news release.

The agency said last week's deaths bring to 34 the number of journalists killed in the country this year.

Burundi----

Citing progress, Ban urges further support for Burundi’s peace process

3 December 2009 – The peace process in Burundi has witnessed significant progress in recent months but the country needs help to ensure successful elections next year and to tackle challenges such as human rights abuses, corruption and weak institutions, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.

“Next year is crucial,” Mr. Ban writes in his sixth report to the Security Council on the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), which is helping to promote peace and stability in the country following a brutal civil war.

“Burundi must be assisted to ensure that the gains achieved so far are consolidated before, during and after the 2010 elections, so the country can continue on the path of national reconciliation, democratic and accountable governance, and development,” he adds.

“It is clear that so much has been achieved in Burundi in such a short time, considering where the country has come from…”

In 2005 more than 90 per cent of Burundians approved a new constitution and separate ballots were held for parliamentary seats and for the presidency. Next year voters will choose a president, parliamentary lawmakers and local representatives.

Noting that it is primarily the responsibility of the Government and its national partners to create the “propitious” conditions for the elections, he commends political leaders for adopting an electoral code that enjoys wide consensus and is encouraged by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s assurance that the polls will be free, fair and peaceful.

At the same time, he remains concerned about reports on restrictions to the freedom of assembly and expression of opposition parties imposed by local authorities, and by the reports on militant activities of youth groups allegedly associated with certain political parties that are generating fear and suspicion.

“I call on the Government and the political leaders to remain vigilant and to take the necessary actions to put an end to these activities,” states Mr. Ban, who also voices deep concern about human rights abuses and “the prevailing climate of impunity,” including a number of serious crimes that remain unaddressed.

He also cites the need for the Government to address corruption, improve governance and stem the proliferation of small arms among civilians, noting that professionalizing the police and strengthening the judiciary will be crucial for these efforts.

Among the progress achieved in recent months, Mr. Ban notes that the Forces nationales de libération (FNL), the last rebel movement, disarmed and transformed itself into a political party, completing a major part of the last phase of the peace process.

“I encouraged by the effective demobilization and reinsertion of FNL combatants, as well by the successful disengagement of adults and children associated with the movement,” he states, adding that the longer-term socio-economic reintegration of former combatants, returnees and other vulnerable groups remains a challenge.

“Every effort must be made to ensure sustainable reintegration of these groups, in order to prevent them from becoming an added source of insecurity,” he adds.

To assist the country in its efforts to restore peace and stability, Mr. Ban recommends a one-year renewal of the mandate of BINUB whose mandate expires on 31 December.

“It is clear that so much has been achieved in Burundi in such a short time, considering where the country has come from,” says the Secretary-General. “Yet the situation remains fragile.”

UN agency unveils plans to support staging of elections in Burundi

24 September 2009 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has announced it will manage a $44 million fund to promote the peaceful staging of presidential, parliamentary and local elections next year in Burundi, which was been wracked by ethnically-based strife for decades.

Through the fund, UNDP will assist the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) organize the polls, promote civic education about the election process, encourage media coverage and try to boost the participation of women in the elections.

If the polls are successfully staged next year, it will mark the first time that an electoral cycle has run its full course in Burundi, where a UN Integrated Office known as BINUB operates to try to promote peace and stability after years of conflict.

In 2005 more than 90 per cent of Burundians approved a new constitution and separate ballots were held for parliamentary seats and for the presidency. Next year voters will choose a president, parliamentary lawmakers and local representatives.


These articles were originally published at http://www.un.org/News/
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