Development News from Afghanistan

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Archive for November 2007

WB launches initiative to reduce AIDS stigma

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WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The World Bank, in collaboration with the UN and private-sector partners, has launched an initiative to identify and fund innovative approaches to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.

Aimed at dealing with the issue, the Development Marketplace for the South Asia region would cover Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Stigma and discrimination seriously undermines efforts to fight HIV and AIDS, said Praful Patel, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia region. It also marginalises people at risk and living with the disease contributing further to their social isolation and rejection.

Patel added: This competition offers a unique opportunity to channel small grants directly to community organisations and NGOs to implement imaginative approaches that will help change the attitudes and practices that undermine effective programmes.

Titled Tackling HIV and AIDS Stigma and Discrimination: From Insights to Action, the Development Marketplace competition is reaching out to communities across South Asia seeking proposals for local, small-scale projects with the potential to be scaled up and replicated.

Mailed to Pajhwok Afghan News, a press statement from the World Bank said the winners would be selected by an international jury of the Bank and independent HIV and AIDS experts at the Development Marketplace event on May 15, 2008 in the Indian city of Mumbai.

According to the press release, the HIV epidemic in South Asia is mainly driven by high risk practices such as sex work, injecting drug use and unprotected sex between men.

Many of the people most at risk for HIV around the world deal with stigma on a regular basis, posing challenges to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot.

“It is encouraging to see innovative steps being taken towards addressing these issues in South Asia, where stigma and discrimination remain serious problems.

Written by afghandevnews

November 29, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Health

Juvenile correctional facility inaugurated in Kabul

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KABUL, Nov 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A juvenile correctional facility, constructed at the cost of $490,000, was inaugurated in Kabul on Tuesday.

The two-storey building having separate dormitories for boys and girls was constructed in three years with financial support from Italy, officials said.

Justice Minister Sarwar Danish said a child under 12, who committed a crime, would not be punished in accordance with the relevant law. Those aged between 12 and 18 would be kept in the juvenile correctional facility if they committed offences, he added.

Danish revealed up to 140 juvenile offenders, currently living in a rented house in the Darul-Aman area of Kabul, would be transferred to the new building. The children have been divided into groups.

Those who can go home at night are called open group and those staying at the centre day and night are included in the closed group.

Miss Raza Ali, first secretary to the Italian ambassador in Kabul, attended the inaugural ceremony. She said: “Children at the centre should not be punished; they are the future of society and have every right to be properly guided.”

According to figures provided by the Justice Ministry, 950 children are being kept in juvenile centres across the country. The juvenile offenders are imparted education and vocational trainings.

Written by afghandevnews

November 29, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Afghanistan’s Judiciary Rebuilding Under New Supreme Court

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Training and monitoring efforts can help strengthen the rule of law

By Stephen Kaufman
USINFO Staff Writer

November 28, 2007

Washington — A fresh team of Supreme Court justices appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2006 is determined to build up the professionalism of the country’s judiciary, which has suffered from Afghanistan’s 30 years of war, destruction and instability.

“People saw the change in leadership of the Supreme Court, so people are expecting a lot,” said Afghan Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi. Azimi spoke with USINFO November 27 during a five-day visit to Washington where he and other Afghan judicial officials met with U.S. lawmakers, judges and administration officials.

Afghanistan is dealing with a judicial system in disarray, neglected like many of its other institutions until very recently. With continued corruption and many poorly trained judges remaining in their positions, Azimi places his most immediate hopes on internationally funded rule-of-law training efforts for the judges.

One of the donors, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), reports that since the Taliban government was removed, more than 600 sitting judge (more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s judiciary) have been trained. An additional 350 judge candidates have been trained or are currently in training. As part of USAID’s Afghanistan Rule of Law Project, the agency also provided funding for the redesign of the country’s law school curriculum.

“We are working on how to upgrade the knowledge of our citizens … and identify who can stay and continue” as judges, as well as those who should be removed, Azimi said.

However, a large-scale purge of unqualified judges is not practical, he explained, because there are few qualified candidates to replace them. “What is necessary immediately, and one of the greatest challenges, is to upgrade the knowledge of those who are supposed to stay and remain in the system,” Azimi said, because Afghanistan needs them despite their inadequacies.

Afghanistan also hopes to create a new generation of judges, but this will be a longer term project, even with international donor support, since a current high school graduate is still decades away from becoming qualified. The country is working to rebuild a vast range of professions, Azimi said, “not just judges.”

Supreme Court justices play a key role in selecting new judges, a task that requires considerable time over and above the large number of legal cases demanding their attention. To prevent nepotism and corruption in the process, committees were created to screen and select potential judges based on applicants’ education and background, and each committee must include a member of the Supreme Court.

In addition, each justice has been assigned to monitor the lower courts in one of the country’s eight judicial zones. The justices travel regularly from Kabul to their respective zones, Azimi said. Their involvement sends the message that the central government is paying attention to the issues in the provinces and also encourages local judges to ensure that their behavior meets ethical and legal standards.

Azimi said one of the most important results from the new Supreme Court’s yearlong tenure is the completion of a five-year strategic plan designed for foreign donors, listing all of the judiciary’s needs and setting cost estimates and priorities. Prior to this, despite the availability of international donors, “We didn’t tell them what we need. We didn’t submit to them an established plan,” he said.

To help increase the rule of law and end corruption, Afghanistan is seeking $360 million for its judiciary. But the chief justice stressed it is not right for the country to simply expect aid, since the donors are also “expecting assurances that we are functioning correctly” and using the money properly.

“It is a very critical time. There are very sensitive issues and we lost everything and we are supposed to work a lot,” he said, calling on the Afghan people to “feel they are responsible to build their country and to do their job for their country in a positive way.”

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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November 29, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

UNAMA ready to work with ARCS

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The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is ready to work with national non-government organisations (NGOs), including ARCS, particularly in areas where the UN has access problems, said Adrian Edwards, a UNAMA spokesman.

UN agencies do not have access to large swaths of southern and southeastern Afghanistan due to insecurity problems.

However, the UN prefers to work with organisations, which “do the best job” and ensure accountability, the UN spokesman said. “Funding is not so much the issue, but capacity to deliver programmes on the ground.”

Gailani said UN agencies should work closely with the ARCS on long-term capacity building and ease off on reliance on short-term arrangements. “The ARCS is a national institution and will last a long time, while NGOs come and go,” she said.

Challenges remain

Afghanistan is considered the fifth least developed country in the world and millions of its estimated 24.5 million people suffer from protracted food insecurity, lack of access to health services and a variety of other deprivations.

Six years after an international intervention, and despite the spending of large sums of aid money, the suffering and needs of many vulnerable Afghans are yet to be addressed, aid agencies say.

“People are asking what the UN and other donors are doing here,” said Fatima Gailani, adding that inaccessibility and security concerns alone cannot justify the shortcomings.

Written by afghandevnews

November 29, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Aid, Development

Red Crescent calls for closer cooperation with UN, donors

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KABUL, 29 November 2007 (IRIN) – The growing humanitarian needs of Afghans must come ahead of political and strategic priorities and the UN and other international donors ought to “better recognise” the pivotal role of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) when dealing with humanitarian emergencies in Afghanistan, Fatima Gailani, president of the ARCS, told IRIN on 29 November.

Lack of resources, funding and professional capacity has complicated ARCS’s ability to respond effectively to overwhelming humanitarian needs across the country.

“Afghanistan’s humanitarian response capacity has remained very weak and vulnerable despite large amounts of aid money spent by various donors,” Gailani said.

Established in the 1940s, the ARCS has about 37,000 volunteers country-wide and is involved in different humanitarian operations, including health services, landmine awareness, disaster response and relief activities.

The ARCS acknowledges support and assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the past 15 years, but criticises the UN for lack of “interest, coordination and support”.

“In the last three years, the UN has not approached the ARCS to see if there are things which we do better together,” Gailani said.

Written by afghandevnews

November 29, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Aid, Development

Mines kill, wound 62 Afghans monthly

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Xinhua / November 29, 2007

Mines and unexploded ordnance left over from the past nearly three decades of wars and civil strife kill or wound more than 60 people in war-torn Afghanistan monthly, said a statement of the European Commission received in Kabul Thursday.

“On average 62 Afghans are killed or injured every month by anti-personnel mines,” the European Commission delegation to Afghanistan said in the statement.

Afghanistan is one of the heavily mined countries in the world. More than 12 million mines had been planted during nearly 30 years of war, foreign occupation and factional fighting and of these, 5 million mines have been defused or destroyed, according to officials.

“More than four million Afghans are living in one of the 2,374 mined communities and are struggling to cope with the legacy of Afghanistan’s brutal war,” Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The post-war Afghanistan, according to its foreign ministry, has destroyed more than 500,000 stockpiled anti-personnel mines in the last four years and is committed to destroy all its anti-personnel mines by 2013.

The EC has pledged another 600 million Euros (about 891.12 million U.S. dollars) to continue supporting Afghanistan reconstruction during the years 2007-2010, the EC statement said.

As a major contributor in the rebuilding of the post-Taliban Afghanistan, the European Commission pledged one billion Euros for the period 2002-2006 and of these, 80 percent has already been disbursed.

Written by afghandevnews

November 29, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Demining

Afghan agency rejects claims of prisoner abuse

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Thu Nov 29, 3:27 AM ET

KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has rejected allegations that prisoners transferred to its custody by NATO nations are ill-treated and tortured.

The agency said Wednesday it had looked into the charges in an Amnesty International report this month and found they were based on interviews with opponents of the government and on incorrect data.

“This report is baseless and not based on accurate information,” Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (ANDS) spokesman Sayed Ansari told reporters.

London-based Amnesty said prisoners captured by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and transferred to Afghan custody faced whipping, beatings, exposure to extreme cold and food deprivation.

It urged ISAF nations to stop such transfers. Rights groups in Canada, one of the 37 countries in the military alliance, are trying to stop prisoners being handed to Afghan custody because of alleged torture and abuse.

Ansari said the attorney general’s office, authorised to visit prisoners in ANDS custody, had “so far have not found any indications of prisoner abuse.”

He said the International Committee of the Red Cross and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission had visited the its holding cells and said they “appreciated the way prisoners are treated.”

ISAF nations who handed the detainees over were able to visit the suspects in detention and “have never had any such complaints,” the spokesman added.

The report was “based on interviews with people freed from ANDS custody who are in opposition and enmity with the Islamic government of Afghanistan,” he said.

ISAF has also rejected the Amnesty charges, saying it had no evidence of systematic mistreatment and torture of its detainees once they were in the custody of Afghan authorities.

Written by afghandevnews

November 29, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Human Rights