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Remarks by Ambassador Erfani at the Austrian Ministry of Defense’s Panel Discussion on Afghanistan

Remarks by H.E. Ayoob Erfani Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan in Vienna at the Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management of the Federal Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Austria at a panel discussion on Afghanistan

Vienna, 24 April 2014

 

Commandant Lt.-Gen. Erich Csitkovits,

Distinguished participants,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here today amongst such a distinguished group of participants. I would like to thank the Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, and in particular the director, Dr. Walter Feichtinger, for inviting me at today’s discussion to speak about Afghanistan’s past achievements and the way forward. Let me also welcome the panelists and thank you, dear Ladies and Gentlemen, the large turnout here demonstrates your great interest in Afghanistan. We also consider today’s event an excellent initiative by the Defense Academy and appreciate our cooperation.

I am pleased to be the Ambassador to a country, such as Austria, which has been a good partner of the International Community in Afghanistan’s stabilization efforts. On behalf of the Government and people of Afghanistan, I will also take this opportunity to once again express our gratitude to the Government and people Austria for its continued support and friendship.

We have gathered here this evening to discuss this critical year, 2014, a juncture in Afghanistan’s history. As you are most likely well aware, the Presidential and Provincial Council elections held in Afghanistan on 5 April 2014, constituted a historic milestone for Afghanistan. This remarkable success was only made possible through the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of the Afghan people, and our international partners, over the past thirteen years. On this note, however, I would like to add that Afghanistan’s democratic history did not begin at the end of 2001, as is commonly misconceived, and I would like to expand on that:

Afghanistan has a long and rich history and due to its specific geo-strategic location, has served as a land bridge for centuries, connecting people and civilizations in the region and beyond. From its independence in 1919, under the progressive King Amanullah, until the  invasion by the Red Army in 1979, Afghanistan had successfully developed  state institutions. Particularly during the “Decade of Democracy” in the 1960s, Afghanistan served as an active and healthy member of the international community and the Afghan people, and categorically Afghanistan’s women, could enjoy those rights, liberties and values, which we are struggling to secure again in the country today.

The 1979 invasion of Soviet Union troops was first followed by internal conflict, then, as of 1996, it was controlled by the brutality of the Taliban and other international terrorist organizations. This  marked the darkest period in Afghanistan’s history, coined by massive and systematic human rights violations, including the complete negation of the rights of women and children.

Afghanistan’s new era commenced with the ousting of the Taliban from Kabul on 11 November 2001, when the international community intervened in the country. The people of Afghanistan were left with nothing: no unity; no government, institutions or security forces; no infrastructure; no media; no health services; and no public spirit or collective consciousness – nothing. The Afghanistan which our people once enjoyed prior to the 1970’s was decimated. We needed to start all over again, from scratch.

 

Distinguished participants,

We have come a long way since 2001. Let me briefly exemplify our achievements in eleven key areas: women’s rights; education; media and civil society; elections and democratization; security; foreign policy; economy; infrastructure; refugees; and health.

 

1)    Our constitution of 2004, laid down the foundation for the democratization process and statehood institutions in the country. These foundations guarantee the equality of women and men, and the Government promotes full participation of women in all spheres of society, through respective legislation, institutions and policies – Without the equal involvement of our women, we will not be able to realize our potential as a nation.

2)    School enrollment has been increased from less than one million boys in 2001 to more than 10 million, with close to 40% of whom are girls in 2014. At universities we had 8,000 male students in 2001 and currently have 110,000 male and female students.

3)    There were no TV channels or free media in 2001. Today, we proudly boast 210 free and independent radio stations and 85 free and independent television stations, as well as more than 200 print media publications. Also, a vibrant self-organized civil society actively works to entrench democratic values and pluralism.

4)    We have developed all three branches of government, all relevant institutions, and held six elections since 2004.

5)    National Security Forces did not exist in Afghanistan prior to 2001. Today, we have 350.000 professionally trained male and female ANSF officer, that are capable to face any internal and external threat against Afghanistan and provide security for its people. At the same time, the government will pursue the peace process in the country, with all those who denounce violence and accept the constitution of Afghanistan.

6)    Afghanistan resumed its activities in the international fora, operating more than 60 global diplomatic representations, and signed and ratified a number of international law instruments, as well as bilateral agreements. In Vienna, we are working closely with our partners in UNOV/UNODC, IAEA, CTBTO, UNIDO, IACA and OSCE.

7)    Our economic upswing continues, the GDP (PPP) has risen from 20 billion USD in 2003 to more than 45 billion USD in 2013.

8)    Afghanistan’s infrastructure was in shatters in 2001. We managed to build 15,000km of roads, participated in transnational railroad and pipeline projects, and secured energy supply.

9)    Since 2002, 5.7 million Afghans have returned to their home country. This is an unprecedented scale of voluntary repatriation in the world.

10)  Access to medical treatment has been dramatically increased, resulting in significant improvements concerning life expectancy, child and maternal mortality rates.

11) There was no functioning government in 2001, now our Government has all the relevant state institutions, such as an established Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

According to the aforementioned achievements, the process of transition has been in three areas: economic, security and political transition, a process which began in 2001 and will be completed at the end of 2014.This demonstrates the will of the people to take control of their destiny, in achieving an independent and stable country.

From there, we will move forward into the Decade of Transformation 2015-2024, and will be shifting gradually from aid-dependency towards self-reliance. In this context, the Government has created a basket of six National Priority Programs: 1) Peace 2) Governance 3) Development of Human Resources 4) Infrastructure 5) Development of the Private Sector 6) Agriculture and Rural Development.

Afghanistan possesses huge water reserves and untapped mineral deposits, revitalized agriculture and human resources, which will ensure food security, generate jobs and income for our nation, of which almost 65 percent of our population are under the age of 25. Furthermore, regional co-operation remains a main pillar in our foreign and economic policy: Afghanistan’s strategic location will enable the country to again serve as a transit route for Eurasia and be a hub of connectivity in our region, which is sure to be a catalyst for economic growth.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While we are optimistic about our way forward and since Afghanistan is still in the process of transition to transformation, we require the continued partnership of the international community, with a view to addressing the following issues:

1)    Tackle remaining challenges, including the two interconnected menaces of terrorism and illicit narcotic drugs;

2)    Sustain past achievements and

3)    Further advance our development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In spite of all of our achievements, many of our partners, indeed also some of our own people have showed concern, rather than confidence, in Afghanistan’s ability to maintain our achievements and continue on the path towards further development after the end of foreign military engagement at the end of 2014.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

However, the 5 April 2014 Presidential and Provincial Council elections have proved sceptics otherwise.

Let me emphasize that these were not merely successfully executed elections, as the preparations and conduct of the vote, showed us and the world, how far we have come as a nation, and that nobody will ever take our achievements away from us. There are now new realities on the ground in my country: A new generation of young men and women, enjoying equal rights, with a fresh new mindset, who are committed to eventually changing the face of the country.

This election proved that the Afghan people, as a whole, are strongly dedicated to democracy and prosperity in their country. 7.3 million Afghans, many of whom are young, first-time voters, and women. Despite insurgent security threats and adverse weather conditions, voters went to the polling stations and cast their vote to elect their new president, thereby marking the first democratic transfer of power from one elected leader to another, in the history of Afghanistan. The Afghan people reiterated their urge for a democratic, internationally engaged Afghanistan, as they did in the Loya Jirga last year.

Many factors contributed to the great success of the elections: a free, independent and professional media, providing full coverage and opportunities for stimulating televised debates; professional candidates’ campaigns;  civil society was deeply involved through dispatching thousands of observers across the country; improved education levels tremendously contributed to the greater involvement of the Afghan people, including through fostering a participatory political culture in the country;  the electoral process has been continuously improved in the past few years: two important electoral laws were adopted in Afghanistan in 2013, and two election-related presidential decrees have been issued in 2014. Unlike the pessimistic views on the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the successful holding of the recent elections proved that the ANSF are both capable and committed to provide security across the country; last but not least, our independent election bodies, the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Election Complaints Commission performed extremely well.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, let me reiterate that we are optimistic about our future, despite remaining challenges.

Transition does not mean the end of co-operation between the IC and Afghanistan, the grave mistake that occurred in 1992. Indeed it will mark the beginning of a new era of the relationship, this time as an independent and sovereign Afghanistan, with its friends and partners in the international community.

We continue to require the assistance of our international partners, as has been agreed upon in Tokyo, Chicago and Lisbon conferences, in maintaining and furthering developments, and whose generous contributions and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

At the national level we are committed to using all of our resources, including the active   engagement of our women and youth, in order to unleash our full potential for a successful Decade of Transformation. Regional cooperation will play an increasingly advanced role as a main pillar of our foreign policy, while we will continue to be a reliable partner in the international fora and as a healthy member of the global family.

Failing is not an option for Afghanistan, neither is it for our partners. The new Government will build on current achievements, based on thirteen years of experience and will lead Afghanistan to a better future, where all Afghans can enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms, as we remember from the Afghanistan of old.

I thank you very much for your attention, for your interest and I wish you all a productive debate.

Ambassador Erfani’s Condolence Message for the victims of the hospital attack in Kabul

On behalf of the Government and the people of Afghanistan, and my colleagues at the Permanent Mission in Vienna, I wish to express my deepest grief and sorrow for the loss of three American citizens in a shooting at CURE hospital in Kabul on April 24. The three doctors were devoted to helping the needy people of Afghanistan and their selfless commitment to this noble cause will never be forgotten. We are deeply saddened by this brutal attack and wish to offer our heartfelt sympathy and condolences.  Our hearts and thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.

The Government of Afghanistan is committed to fighting such acts of terrorism and is investigating the incident, to ensure that offenders will be brought to justice.

Ambassador Ayoob M. Erfani

First assessment of the 5 April Elections in Afghanistan

Statement by

H.E. Ambassador Ayoob M. Erfani

first assessment of the

5 April 2014

Presidential and Provincial Council Elections in Afghanistan

at the 994th meeting of the permanent council of the OSCE

 

10 April 2014

Vienna, Austria

 

The historic Presidential and Provincial Council Elections were held on 5 April 2014.  Image:SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

The historic Presidential and Provincial Council Elections were held on 5 April 2014.
Image:SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Mr. Chairman,

Dear Colleagues,

 

On April 4, just one day before the April 5 elections, I made a comprehensive presentation on the status of Afghanistan’s preparation for the Presidential and Provincial elections before the OSCE’s Asian Contact Group Meeting.  Today, I wish to share with you the first assessment of the April 5 vote and brief the Permanent Council on the outcome of this historic event in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman, I would first of all like to thank all colleagues for their statements at today’s meeting and their supportive and encouraging messages and comments on the 2014 Afghan Presidential and Provincial Council Elections that took place last Saturday. These elections marked an historic milestone in the democratic process of Afghanistan and bears testimony to Afghanistan’s decade partnership with the International Community. Let me express my gratitude to Afghanistan’s international partners, many of which present here today, for their continued partnership with Afghanistan. Following this historic event, the importance of this co-operation to serve the cause of a better Afghanistan and to stability in our region and beyond cannot be overestimated. I wish to pay tribute to all military and civilian officials who have sacrificed so much for Afghanistan. I also thank the Election Support Teams of ODHIR for their valuable participation in these and all previous elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime has been ousted.

Mr. Chairman,

As previous distinguished speakers stated, this vote has been one of the defining political events in Afghanistan’s history. Just before polling day, in my presentation at the meeting of the Asian Contact Group, I stated that we regard these elections as a major opportunity to strengthen our young democracy, in particular in light of the 2014 transition and upcoming decade of transformation 2015-2024. Today, I can proudly announce that the people of Afghanistan bravely seized this opportunity.

The outcome of these elections exceeds our expectations and marks the first democratic transfer of power in my country. I can also announce a record turnout and a record participation of women, at almost 40%. Also, Afghanistan’s large youth population, many of whom were voting last weekend for the very first time, are ready to mobilize themselves and to have a say on their country’s future. The Taliban threatened to “use all force” to disrupt the elections, yet clearly failed.

The Afghan National Security Forces succeeded in providing security and the brave Afghan people, yearning for democracy, security and stability in their country, came forward and withstood the bloody threats by the Taliban and adverse weather conditions. Neither the announced fire of the Taliban, nor the water of the intense rain stopped them from expressing their free will. This is textbook democracy exercised by the courageous and committed citizens of Afghanistan, triumphantly lifting their ink-marked index fingers in the air.

Mr. Chairman,

Based on all this information, we can safely conclude that this election was historic for Afghanistan. As a matter of fact there was less fraud compared to previous elections, better security in all 34 provinces, and enthusiastic participation of more than 7 million voters implying a better turnout than ever before. We also witnessed the commitments of the brave Afghan people, the improved preparation of electoral institutions (IEC and IECC), the active role of Afghanistan’s vibrant media, the strong campaigns of candidates, the committed participation of both local and international observers and the excellent performance of Afghan National Security Forces. The international press response to these elections has been largely positive, with the events that unfolded on Election Day being heralded as a resounding success. The elections also were widely welcomed by the International Community including the UN, EU, NATO and other partners and friends.

This election proves, once again, that Afghanistan has established all necessary institutions for a better future and we thank our partners in the International Community for their continued support during the Decade of Transformation. It is a fact that this election took place with an unexpectedly high voter turnout, despite vile threats from terrorist organizations, harsh weather and logistical barriers; and it is a fact that the Afghan people took this opportunity to say no to violence and terrorism but stood up defiantly for their right to vote.

Mr Chairman,

At the same time, we are aware that there are a number of issues that still need to be addressed, primarily in the areas of logistics, technicalities, alleged irregularities and possible frauds. However, the reports by observers indicate fraud in the 2014 elections was significantly lower than in the 2009 vote and it will not undermine the legitimacy of April 5 elections.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC) are working hard to resolve all remaining problems; to respond to any alleged malpractice and election law violations and investigate all complains to secure the credibility of the elections.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I would like quote a prominent female member of parliament: “It was my dream come true – That was a fantastic slap on the face of the enemy of Afghanistan, a strong rejection in the face of those who believe Afghanistan is not ready for democracy.”

Thank you

 

ANNEX — FACTS AND FIGURES

Turnout More than 7 million / 60% of the 12 million electorate
Female participation 40 %
Active polling stations 6218  (out of 6423)
Partial results to be announced At the end of this week
Announcement of Preliminary Results of Presidential Election 28 Apr
Presidential Election Complaints Period 7 Apr – 27 Apr
Adjudication of Complaints of Presidential Election 7 Apr – 7 May
ECC Final Decision and Its Submission to IEC 8 May
Presidential Election Final Results Announcement 14 May
Implementation of IEC Decision 22 May
Presidential Election Run-off 28 May
Counting of Votes of Provincial Councils Elections 21 Apr – 12 May
Announcement of Preliminary Results of the Provincial Councils Election 17 May
Adjudication of Complaints of Provincial Council Elections 22 Apr – 30 May
ECC Final Decision and Its Submission to IEC 31 May
Provincial Councils Election Final Results Announcement 7 Jun

 

 

Appointment of OSCE Chief monitor Special Mission to Ukraine is welcomed


H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Apakan of Turkey as Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

Vienna, 10 April 2014

At today’s meeting of the OSCE’s Permanent Council, Ambassador Erfani welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Ertogrül Apakan of Turkey as Chief Monitor and of Mr. Mark Etherington of the United Kingdom and Mr. Alexander Hug of Switzerland as Deputy Chief Monitors of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, as announced by the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship.

“I had the privilege to work with Ambassador Apakan at the United Nations in New York, and I know that he brings vast experience and expertise to this mission”, Ambassador Erfani said. “I can only congratulate the OSCE for appointing such a seasoned diplomat in these difficult times for this sensitive mission – and I wish you, dear Ambassador, and your team every success for this challenging and important task”, Ambassador Erfani concluded.

 -END-

A provisional assessment of the 5 April election in Afghanistan

H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani provides a provisional assessment of the 5 April election in Afghanistan

Vienna, 10 April 2014

Today at the OSCE, Ambassador Erfani provided a provisional assessment of the Afghan Presidential and Provincial Council elections held on 5 April 2014. In his statement before the meeting of the Permanent Council, the Ambassador expressed his appreciation to Afghanistan’s international partners, many of which OSCE participating States (including the delegations of the EU, the United States, Canada, the Russian Federation and Turkey) for their continued support and encouraging statements following the elections. He also highlighted the valuable OSCE/ODIHR Election Support Teams’ recommendations over the past ten years, and paid tribute to all military and civilian officials who have sacrificed so much for Afghanistan.

“Before polling day we stated that we regard these elections as a major opportunity to strengthen our young democracy, in particular in light of the 2014 transition and upcoming decade of transformation 2015-2024. Today I can proudly announce that the people of Afghanistan bravely seized this opportunity”, he said with reference to the historical significance of the vote.

Ambassador Erfani emphasized the record overall turnout and the record participation of women and the young, as well as the clear failure of the Taliban and other terrorists to disrupt the elections, due to the clinical job performed by the Afghan National Security Forces and the strong will of the Afghan people. The vibrant free media in the country clearly did an excellent job of publicizing the elections and informing the population, as over 7 million Afghans voted that day for the future of their country, an increase of over 50% on the participation in the 2009 elections. One particularly welcome statistic is that female participation currently looks to have been around 40%.

H.E. Ayoob Erfani also made reference to remaining election-related challenges, primarily in the areas of logistics and technicalities, and security: “I will admit that Afghanistan faced its fair share of challenges on Election Day with security being a major issue”, he stated. He then explained the elections roadmap for the next month and the role of both the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Election Complaints Commission.

In conclusion, Mr. Ambassador quoted a number of positive remarks made by world leaders, praising the success of the electoral process, reiterated the key role of empowered women and educated youth for a stable and democratic Afghanistan, and commended once again the Afghan people: “Neither the announced fire of the Taliban, nor the water of the intense rain stopped them from expressing their free will. This is textbook democracy exercised by the courageous and committed citizens of Afghanistan, triumphantly lifting their ink-marked index fingers in the air”, he said.

-END-

Statement of Ambassador Ayoob M. Erfani on the upcoming Presidential and Provincial Council Elections in Afghanistan

PRESENTATION BY H.E. AMBASSADOR AYOOB ERFANI AT THE OSCE’S 2 ND MEETING OF THE ASIAN CONTACT GROUP ON THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL AND PROVINCIAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

 4 APRIL 2014

Statement by Ambassador Erfani at the OSCE on Afghan Elections April 5

Statement by Ambassador Erfani at the OSCE on Afghan Elections April 5

Mr. Chairman,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would firstly like to express my gratitude to the Ukrainian Chair of the Asian Contact Group, H.E. Ambassador Igor Prokopchuk, for organizing today’s second meeting of the Asian Contact Group. Let me also thank H.E. Ambassador Thomas Greminger, Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE Permanent Council, as well as the Secretariat, for their close partnership with Afghanistan. Afghanistan highly values its partnership with the OSCE and I would like to emphasize the importance of this partnership in fostering stability in our region.  I also wish to welcome the other speakers at today’s meeting of the OSCE’s Asian Contact Group.

There are now 13 hours and 40 minutes remaining until voting opens for one of the defining political events in Afghanistan’s history: the Presidential and Provincial Council Elections of 2014.

I thank you, therefore, for providing me with the opportunity to discuss the latest developments surrounding these historic elections. Afghanistan regards this year’s elections as a major opportunity to strengthen our young democracy, in particular in light of the 2014 transition and upcoming decade of transformation 2015-2024. Afghanistan became an OSCE Partner for Co-operation in April 2003 and significant progress has since been achieved based on the Afghan Constitution of 2004, which codifies free, universal, secret and direct elections. This progress includes the adoption of legislation and the creation of electoral institutions. Let me hereby express my appreciation of the valuable ODIHR recommendations, which contributed to this process.  

Dear Colleagues,

Tomorrow, Afghan citizens will go to the polls in their millions to elect the new President. This is a historic moment in Afghanistan’s history. The 2014 presidential elections will be the first democratic transfer of power ever in the history of Afghanistan based on our 2004 Constitution. It will also be a crucial moment in defining our Decade of Transformation; Afghanistan is currently balanced between trepidation and enthusiasm and a strong political groundswell is building across the country for the first time since the elections in 2004. A recent survey conducted by the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), indicates that more than 91% of respondents support the holding of these elections for April 5, and more than 74% want to participate.

Dear Colleagues,

I would now like to provide you on the slide, a brief overview of the five previous democratic elections held in Afghanistan since the removal of the Taliban, all of which were participated in by OSCE/ODIHR ESTs. There were two Presidential in 2004 and 2009, and two Provincial elections in 2005 and 2009, respectively, and two Parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2010. In the 2010 Parliamentary elections, more than 2,600 candidates ran for office and a total of 4,218,594 votes were cast. This proves that the people of Afghanistan have embraced previous opportunities to participate in the decision-making process of our young representative democracy, and I am positive that based on this experience the turnout will be even better this time around.

Mr. Chairman,

Let me express my appreciation to the OSCE for their positive response to the IEC’s invitation (dated 10 September 2013) to send ODIHR’s exploratory team to the country in January of this year. I am also thankful for their comprehensive report, dated 23 January 2014. Following this response, on behalf of the government of Afghanistan, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with H.E. the Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier, on 7 February 2014 on the deployment of an ODIHR Election Support Team (EST) to Afghanistan.  We are appreciative of the activities of the Election Support Team.

As part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen the electoral institutions in the country, two electoral laws were adopted in Afghanistan in 2013: The “Law on the Structure, Duties and Authorities of the IEC and the IECC”, which defines the composition and rules of the IEC and the IECC, while the “Electoral Law” stipulates voting procedure. Additionally, two elections-related Presidential Decrees have been issued in 2014: 1) the decree on Code of Conduct of Security Forces in Election Process and 2) the Code of Conduct for Government Department Officials and Staff. I believe that most of the recommendations of our international partners, including those recommendations made by previous OSCE/ODHIR ESTs on the independence, transparency, accountability and credibility of the electoral process are addressed within the new laws and regulations and their effective application is essential for the success of the 5 April elections in the country.

The IEC started its preparations in good time and developed a strategic plan to safeguard free and fair elections. Altogether, the Commission tasked with guaranteeing further transparency in the electoral process has issued credentials to 67 national observer organizations, 16 international observer organizations, 71 national media outlets, 45 international media outlets, 31 political parties, 7 presidential candidates, and 1,817 provincial candidates. As a whole, more than 265,000 observers, agents and reporters received IDs from the Commission, who will serve as election watchdogs, which is vital for the transparency of tomorrow’s election.  Furthermore, the IEC held consultation meetings with representatives of the presidential candidates and Afghan civil society groups, the most recent of which was held on 3 March, with the Free & Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA). FEFA, an Afghan NGO, is set to send up to 10,000 citizen observers to the elections.

In this context, Afghanistan is proud of its thriving, independent and free media landscape, which will certainly contribute to a positive outcome of the elections. Today there are 75 television channels and 175 radio stations, as well as hundreds of print publications, which are giving the presidential campaign wall-to-wall coverage. Also, the IEC’s Media Commission which started its work in December 2013 will oversee fair media coverage. Additionally, televised debates that have been broadcast on the nearly 80 TV channels positively affect our perception of a vibrant democracy. Afghanistan’s civil society and media and the Afghan people as a whole, particularly women and youth, have never been so deeply involved in an election.

As far as technical matters are concerned, I can inform you that according to latest figures, the IEC will set up 6,423 polling centers throughout the country. Furthermore, the election will be safeguarded by over 350,000 national and international security forces.

I wish to also quote UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, who expressed in Kabul on 24 March his satisfaction over the 2014 election preparations and reiterated the International Communities’ strong commitment to stay engaged and support Afghanistan in post-2014. He also urged all eligible Afghans to participate in the vote.

Mr. Chairman,

I will now present the latest information on the candidates and their programs for the Presidential Election on the 5th April.

Eight presidential candidates are running for office and each candidate has nominated two running mates designated as Vice-Presidents. President Hamid Karzai is not eligible to run, due to constitutional term limits.  This year, there has been a wide range of opportunities for coherent, successful and modern electoral campaigns including televised debates, articles in Afghanistan’s thriving free and independent media and many opportunities for candidates to travel around the country and share their policies with citizens on a first-hand basis, gathering huge crowds.

I believe that despite differences in their policies, most of the candidates running for election are extremely grateful for the sacrifices and support of Afghanistan’s partners in the international community over the past 12 years and share the importance of long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the international community.  Candidates have been trying to share their vision and their programs in key areas of security, development and foreign policy, including on partnership with the international community. The candidates addressing the concerns and demand of the Afghan people, are promising to protect the progress that has been achieved since 2001 toward a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, including democratic values and human rights, in particular the rights of women and children. The candidates are all committed to fight the challenges of illicit drugs, corruption and other scourges currently damaging Afghan society and victimizing its people.

Excellencies,

I would like to provide you with some information now regarding the timeline and plans for the running of the elections. The election is in two rounds, similar to the French system. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the first round among the 8 candidates, a second round will be held between the top two candidates on May 28. That means that although the poll is set for April 5th, the process may continue for a number of months. Information about the schedule of events following the run off is displayed on the current slide.  IEC printed 14 million voting cards and is prepared to service 13 million people at polling centres. Overall, female participation should be at around 40%. According to the IEC, the total number of newly registered voters for this election is 3,801,084 people, of whom 35% are female.

Unfortunately, although they are legally allowed to vote, 4 million refugees in Pakistan and Iran will not be able to vote this time around due to technical difficulties and lack of available funds of the IEC.

Announcement of Preliminary Results of Presidential Election 2014 24 Apr
Presidential Election Complaints Period 2014 7 Apr – 27 Apr
Adjudication of Complaints of Presidential Election 2014 7 Apr – 7 May
ECC Final Decision and Its Submission to IEC 2014 8 May
Presidential Election Final Results Announcement 2014 14 May
Implementation of IEC Decision 2014 22 May
Presidential Election Probable ( Run Off )* 2014 28 May
Counting of Votes of Provincial Councils Elections 2014 21 Apr – 12 May
Announcement of Preliminary Results of the Provincial Councils Election 2014 17 May
Adjudication of Complaints of Provincial Council Elections 2014 22 Apr – 30 May
ECC Final Decision and Its Submission to IEC 2014 31 May
Provincial Councils Election Final Results Announcement 2014 7 Jun

 

Mr. Chairman,

We are aware of the challenges facing the upcoming election. Given the threats on the part of Taliban to “use all force” to disrupt the elections, security has become our main focus. The Afghan National Security Forces are ready and committed to providing security on and after Election Day. International humanitarian law forbids all attacks targeting civilians and civilian structures; however, the terrorists have since carried out heinous targeted attacks against civilians, among them an attack on Kabul’s Serena Hotel on the 20th March and two attacks against the IEC office, killing civilians including women and children. The past month has been particularly deadly, with more than 100 civilians killed. Let me express my deepest condolences to all those affected by this brutal violence. In response to the attack against the IEC office, IEC officials stated at the “Women and Elections” program that the Taliban will not succeed in sabotaging Election Day, and I quote the Deputy Head of the IEC: “I advise terrorist organizations that your acts of terrorism will never undermine Election Day [or prevent it] from occurring”. All concerned institutions will take all necessary measures to secure safe, transparent and fair elections so that the legitimacy of the vote will not be thrown into doubt.

We are aware of the fact that circumstances on the ground are challenging. Spring is just beginning now in Afghanistan, meaning it is still very cold and many voters in mountainous regions will have to travel across treacherous terrain in order to vote. Public awareness of the elections in remote areas of the country also remains an issue.

We are determined to thoroughly address the problems of election deficiencies and low voter turnout. Afghanistan’s election bodies, the IEC and the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC), the latter tasked with solving electoral disputes, will respond to any malpractice and election law violations.

We must not allow the country to be destabilized again and cannot risk losing the trust of our people in democracy and the implementation of the Constitution. The terrorists’ strategy of intimidation unmasks their fear of elections and democracy, in neither of which they can play any constructive role. The people of Afghanistan will freely choose a new government.

Excellencies,

In order to reduce cases of electoral deficiencies, the IEC has presented a number of technical measures including better ballot protection. These measures include the issuance of new voting cards for 3.8 million people, 1.2 million of whom are women, with a view to avoiding multiple voting, which has been a concern including in the  recommendations made by previous ESTs.

Afghan authorities have done their best to respond to concerns raised by the international community. And as I explained in the previous slides, efforts have been made to address the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. As a young democracy with an evolving electoral system, Afghanistan is taking a long-term approach to electoral reform. We must bear in mind that full electoral reform cannot happen overnight and is a long-term process, which requires continued efforts. However, as shown by recent surveys, Afghans consider an inclusive electoral process as the best and only opportunity to express their free will, given the challenges they face at this juncture. A survey by the FEFA also reveals that most Afghans want to protect the gains of the last decade. The government of Afghanistan has already started preparation for the smooth and legal transfer of power and responsibility to the next elected administration in the country.

It is my opinion that without the full and equal participation of women, who make up more than 50% of Afghanistan’s population, we will never have a stable Afghanistan. This empowerment is essential for the education of the youth in Afghanistan, and is especially dear to my heart. Let me emphasize that during this election, women will be facing more challenges than anyone else, and it will take time for women’s full empowerment and their equal role to be realized. We are facing challenges, and these challenges will not disappear during the election. Despite this, I would like to provide you on slide, with some excellent statistics and facts about women’s participation in tomorrow’s election:

–          In the 2010 parliamentary elections, more than 2,600 candidates, 400 women among them, were running for office and a total of 4,218,594 votes were cast. In this most recent election, 39.2% of the total votes were cast by women.

–          The IEC remains committed to promoting gender equality at elections, in line with the international human rights instruments that Afghanistan has signed, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) ratified in 2003. In order to achieve greater participation of women in the electoral processes, the IEC established a body for gender mainstreaming in May 2009. The IEC works hard to ensure higher levels of female participation in the electoral processes as voters, candidates, electoral administrators, and observers. As a result of this commitment to gender equality, more than 13,000 women will be helping with security during the election.

–          There are three female vice-presidential candidates running for election this year alongside male presidential counterparts.

–          30 percent of the appointed IEC staff members across the country are women.

–          Out of 1,450 community mobilizers appointed by the IEC in 34 provinces, 33 percent of them are women.

–          21 percent of the 3,198 regional election observers are women.

–          Out of 2,713 candidates running for Provincial Council positions, 11 per cent are women.

–          Out of 3.8 million new registered voters, around 35 percent are women.

–          41 percent of the polling stations in the country have been specified for women.

–          18 percent of the IEC election observers, both national and international, are women.

Mr. Chairman,

Excellencies,

I wish to thank the United States and other OSCE participating States for their generous contributions toward our electoral processes, as well as our fellow OSCE Partner for Co-operation Japan for recently extending a grant to the IEC in support of free, fair and credible elections, following the signing of a USD 16.7 million agreement with UNDP. Furthermore, Japan stands as a long-term partner of the IEC in capacity-building and kindly contributed USD 82 million during the 2009 and 2010 elections. I am also grateful to the Swiss Chairmanship and give my appreciation to all OSCE participating States who contributed to the adoption of the 20 March 2014 Permanent Council “Declaration on the Upcoming Elections in Afghanistan”.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank all our partners here at the OSCE who have generously contributed towards the democratization process in Afghanistan since 2001. I thank them for the sacrifices they have made, and I wish to pay tribute to all the brave women and men who have served and supported Afghanistan in the spirit of humanity.

Excellencies,

We know the challenges that this election faces and we are not expecting the excellent one, but the fact that these elections are being held is the most important thing and reflects the way that democratic practices have begun to become a part of Afghan society.

An increasing number of Afghan citizens are realizing that elections such as this one are vital for the stability of our country. The Afghan people are committed to have tomorrow’s elections and remain undeterred by vile threats from the Taliban and other terrorists, in their desire to have their say on the future direction of their own country. These elections will happen, and these elections must happen. For a better Afghanistan.

I thank you.

Elections in Afghanistan – OSCE Asian Contact Group

H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani makes a presentation on the 5 April 
elections in Afghanistan, at the Asian Contact Group meeting of the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Elections Afghanistan at the OSCE

Elections Afghanistan at the OSCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vienna, 04.04.2014 

Ambassador Erfani today gave a comprehensive
presentation at the 2 nd meeting of OSCE’s Asian Contact Group in 2014, on
tomorrow’s presidential and provincial council elections. He stressed the historical
significance of the vote, in light of the 2014 transition and the upcoming decade of
transformation 2015-2024, calling the elections “a major opportunity to strengthen
our young democracy”.

The Ambassador thanked the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights (ODIHR) for once again deploying an election support team to Afghanistan.
H.E. Erfani also highlighted the crucial role of local and international civil society
and media, with around 265,000 observers, agents and reporters serving as
election watchdogs. In this context, H.E. Erfani stated that he takes pride in the
thriving, independent and free media landscape in the country: “There are now 75
TV channels, 175 radio stations and hundreds of print publications and blogs in
Afghanistan, which are giving the election campaigns wall-to-wall coverage,
including televised debates, and positively affecting our perception of a vibrant
democracy.”

The women and the young of Afghanistan play a role of particular importance in
tomorrow’s elections: “Without the full and equal participation of women, we will
never have a stable Afghanistan, and their empowerment is essential for the
education and well-being of Afghanistan’s youth”, the Ambassador stated. At the
same time, women will be facing more challenges than anybody else during these
elections. 350,000 national and international security forces will secure the almost
6,500 polling centers throughout the country, responding to threats by the Taliban
and other terrorist groups to disrupt and sabotage the elections. H.E. Ayoob Erfani

emphasized that “this is a historic moment for the people of
Afghanistan, witnessing the first-ever democratic transfer of power.” He thanked
the United States, Japan and other present partners of Afghanistan for their
tireless efforts and generous contributions with regard to electoral processes,
while expressing his deepest grief for their sacrifices and giving his condolences for
the loss of a German journalist killed in an attack earlier today.

In conclusion, H.E. Erfani underlined that these elections are going to happen and
that the Afghan people remain undeterred by threats because their strong desire
to have their say on the future of the country outweighs their concerns. The
Afghan people are unified in their wish for a better Afghanistan, which is precisely
what they deserve.

In reply to the presentation by Ambassador Erfani, a number of OSCE participating
and partner countries including Greece (on behalf of the European Union), the
United States, Canada, Turkey, Australia and Japan reiterated their support for the
5 April elections, a milestone in the history of Afghanistan.

-END-

 

H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani welcomed the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) by the IR of Iran and the 5+1 group

Vienna, 24.01.2014   H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani addressed the IAEA Board of Governors Special Session on Monitoring and Verification in the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the Joint Plan of Action Monitoring Irans Nuclear Program. Ambassador Erfani praised the  progress on the ongoing implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on November 24th, 2013. He stated that “We congratulate the Islamic Republic of Iran on the ongoing positive and promising development in relation to the cooperation between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic of Iran; and we welcome the start of the implementation process of the JPA on January 20, as an initial and practical step of the implementation process of the Geneva Agreement by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the 5+1 group”.

Ambassador Erfani reiterated  Afghanistan’s  position on the peaceful and diplomatic solution of Iran’s nuclear programme and expressed his hope that the implementation of the JPA could mark a practical step to restore the international community’s confidence on the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, that could lead to a comprehensive, lasting and peaceful solution of Iran’s nuclear issue.

He added that “Afghanistan reaffirms its position on the inalienable right of all states to access and use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and reiterates its position on the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free-zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East,  as a positive step towards our continued call on the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the region as well as attaining the objective of global nuclear disarmament”.

H.E. Ambassador Ayoob Erfani statement at OSCE Permanent Council on 17 January terrorist attack that occurred in Kabul

Thank you Mr. Chairman

Last Friday January 17, Kabul fell victim to another indiscriminate and criminal terrorist suicide attack. The attack took the lives of 21 innocent individuals in a Lebanese Restaurant  with no regard to their nationality, race, religion, creed or color. Among the victims were 13 internationals and 8 Afghans.  I had the honor of knowing most  of the victims and had personally worked with some of  them during my tenure in Kabul.

Our heart, thoughts and condolences go out to all of those who have suffered losses through this terrorist attack. I would like to take this opportunity to express my delegation’s sincerest condolences to the families, friends and governments of the fallen victims. We are deeply sorry, and strongly condemn and deplore the acts of senseless violence and intimidation as committed by the terrorists and enemies of the Afghan people.

Having had the opportunity to work with some of the victims, I can say with confidence that despite nationality, religion or belief we were gathered around one mission and one dream, to work for peace, development, human rights and humanity and a better future for Afghanistan.

HE President Hamad Karzai has condemned this terrorist attack and extended his sympathies to the families of all victims.  The President also received  HE Mr. Jan Kubiš the SRSG in Afghanistan, and expressed his condolences for the fallen UN staff members.

The people of Afghanistan are committed to continuing their journey during the decade of transformation, and are determined to face all remaining challenges including terrorism. The people of Afghanistan are grateful for the last 12 years  of support and sacrifices of our friends, and appreciate their commitments and continued support for Afghanistan which remain vital in the coming decade of transformation 2015 – 2025.

Thank you.

 

Ambassador Ayoob Erfani was received by H.E. Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer

Ambassador Ayoob Erfani was received by H.E. Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer at the New Year’s Reception at Hofburg Presidential Office