UN steps up efforts for Afghanistan’s reconstruction

BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) — The appointment of a new United Nations envoy for Afghanistan is the latest effort of the world body to speed up reconstruction in the war-torn country and it is expected to reinforce the international presence in face of a growing Taliban insurgency.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday named Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide Eide, a former Norwegian ambassador to NATO and who also once worked as a UN envoy in the Balkans, as his new envoy for Afghanistan.

    Known for his working style of getting things done, Eide, 59, is expected to play a more significant role in beefing up coordination of the international reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, where NATO is fighting a growing Taliban insurgency seven years after the militant group was ousted from power.

    Eide became one of a handful of candidates for the post after Afghan President Hamid Karzai turned down British candidate Paddy Ashdown.

    Kabul expelled two British nationals in December who worked as senior employees for the United Nations and the European Union, saying their activities were undermining their authority.

    Eide is expected to be tasked with coordinating the work of the UN, NATO and various other international, charity and nongovernmental organizations, and extending the UN presence throughout the country, according to a diplomat from a Security Council member country.

    Some countries also hope that Eide would play more of an international role, the diplomat said.

    A stable security environment is vital to reconstruction work in Afghanistan, which has suffered years of war and is now struggling to cope with such thorny problems as refugee flows and drug smuggling, observers say.

    With a long-term commitment, the UN has been stepping up efforts to promote the country’s reconstruction and development in the fields of economy and education, as well as coping with security issues.

    The UN World Food Program (WFP) on Wednesday began to distribute emergency assistance to about 650,000 Afghans suffering from food shortages due to a surge in the price of wheat, which has risen by 70 percent over the past years.

    The UN and the Afghan government joined forces in January to appeal for more than 80 million U.S. dollars in aid to help those affected by the rise in food prices. The WFP has already received pledges for two-thirds of the 77 million dollars it requested as part of the joint appeal to deliver 89,000 tons of food to the poorest Afghans.

    The UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan (UNODC) has also called on the Afghan government to do more to dismantle major trafficking and criminal networks in the strife-torn nation which remains the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin.

    UNODC is assisting the government in several ways to tackle the drug problem, including by training intelligence officers within the Afghan police and providing legislative assistance on issues such as extradition.

    In February, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization delivered some 80 tons of feed for the livestock of Afghan farmers who were badly affected by the harsh winter, and it appealed for more than 2 million dollars.

    In the same month, the United Nations Fund provided learning materials and teacher kits for Afghan schools in efforts to ensure that more than six million Afghan children could start their new school year in time.

    Early this year, the UN also allocated more than 100 million dollars in grants for lifesaving work in some of the world’s trouble spots, including Afghanistan.

    Taliban-related violence and conflicts claimed more than 5,200 lives in the Central Asian country last year alone.

    The Taliban, which was toppled in a U.S. invasion in late 2001, has waged a year-long war against the Afghan administration and the international troops currently being deployed to fight militants and keep security

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