'Afghan political transition faces serious challenges'

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United Nations, Mar 11: The political transition in strife-torn Afghanistan continues to face a number of serious challenges, including terrorism and a booming drug industry, according to a new UN report. The Taliban and related armed groups and the drug economy represent fundamental threats to still fragile political, economic and social institutions, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in his latest report to the Security Council on Afghanistan. Despite tactical successes by National and International military forces, the anti-government elements are far from defeated, he added in the report, which was released yesterday in New York.

The report noted that 36 out of the country's 376 districts, including most districts in the east, southeast and south, remain largely inaccessible to Afghan officials and aid workers. This hinders the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people, a situation exacerbated by the harsh weather conditions of the past few months. Other challenges include poor governance and limited progress on human rights, as noted by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour during her November 2007 visit. Some continue to argue that human rights contradict local traditions and are a 'luxury' Afghanistan cannot afford, the report pointed out.

The Secretary-General stressed the need for all partners to intensify their efforts in order to consolidate the gains that have been achieved and to face the challenges ahead. To meet the security challenge and stabilize Afghanistan, a common approach is needed that integrates security, governance, rule of law, human rights and social and economic development, he stated.

In this regard, the partnership between the world body, the government, the UN-led International Assistance Force (ISAF) and the international community remains essential. In his report, the Secretary-General also highlighted the need to begin preparations on voter registration and planning for the next elections, scheduled to be held next year, as well as decisive action by the government to tackle the growing threat posed by poppy cultivation and drug trafficking.


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