Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2001
140. If this fragile peace holds in Northern
Alliance controlled areas and security is dealt with, we will
be able to avoid a humanitarian disaster in terms of starvation;
is that what you are saying?
(Ms Bertini) Yes.
141. Does that include the southern bit controlled
by the Taliban as well?
(Ms Bertini) Yes. Our distribution systems have been
working throughout the country but the area of greatest concern,
and you will see on the map we have given you, is actually in
the north. Now there are many more routes opening up because of
the political changes so we are able to reach many more people
by truck. We do intend to get more than our target so that we
can pre-position food for the winter, but if we cannot reach everywhere
then we will resort to air drops to reach those that we cannot
reach by truck. The south is not a problem and, if anything, the
concentrations of people in the north are the ones that are most
at risk and the hardest to reach.
142. Are you able to reach them?
(Ms Bertini) We believe we can reach them. It is not
perfect. I do not want to give you the impression that everything
is wonderful, the systems are greatno, we need still communications
throughout the country and, our staff need to come back and the
NGO staff need to come back and we still need additional support
for this trucking system and all of those things still need to
happen, but we believe we can reach them.
Mr Robathan: Excellent.
143. Just to be absolutely clear, if there had
not been the 11 September crisis, there would still have been
an impending crisis anyway for Afghanistan because of the 20 years
of civil war and the drought, so it seemed to me that there was
a food crisis before 11 September?
(Ms Bertini) Yes.
144. Did you have sufficient stocks and resources
before 11 September? Have you got sufficient resources because
we know there has been more money put together now as a result
of the coalition to back up the stacks? Is it simply now a matter
of distribution? We did hear a couple of weeks ago that the difficulties
would be compounded by winter closing in which seemed to create
the impression in any event that the trucks would not go through
and also drivers were scared of driving into Afghanistan because
they would be threatened. What plans have you got for back-up
and organised airlifts so that the programmes are received on
the ground, as it were, rather than bombed from 30,000 feet? If
you would just say how far forward you are.
(Ms Bertini) To go backwards, firstly, as far as the
airlifts are concerned, if necessary, we have got a couple of
options. One option is the Southern Sudan-style air drops that
some of you may have seen where we fly an aeroplane in and drop
food out of the back. We have already been working within the
UN to set up that structure and to make sure that we have trained
people. We are planning to bring some in from Southern Sudan.
You need people on the ground to manage it on the ground and now
the security situation is getting better we may be able to use
that resource if we need to. Then we have to manage the distribution
on the ground. We have the plans in place if we need to use them.
We do have the air drops from high above as a contingency, but
it is biscuits or small packages of wheat. That is the last of
the last resort if we need to. We are already flying food from
Quetta up north so that we can then truck it in. That is already
under way. We had stocks in the region before because, as you
said, this was a disaster beforehand. We never could have moved
as much food as we dideven initially when you saw those
bags of food moving in in the picturesif we did not have
stocks in the region. Most of the stocks at the time were in Pakistan.
A lot of our challenge has been to move them around, get approvals
(which we got) from the Iranian authorities to move food through
Iran, and be able to use that route, use routes from the north,
so we have been successful in being able to do that. We are about
65 per cent resourced. We have given you a resource chart in your
packet for foodand I am referring to foodand we
are getting additional contributions in from the European Commission
which will up that. It is important that we get all the pledges
before the end of this calendar year because if somebody is shipping
food it takes three months to get it there. If they give us cash,
which at this point we prefer because we have got a lot of food
in the region, we can buy it locally.
(Ms Bellamy) I am forever addingand she is
wonderful about remembering thisthat non-food items constitute
a part of humanitarian intervention as well. By that in this case
I am talking about blankets, I am talking about simple medicines,
I am talking about water purification stuff, again very simple
kinds of things, but we have been getting convoys in that way
and others have as well, so this is something that has to go along
with the food (although the food is just as critical for starters)
and also therapeutic feeding back-up as well for those kids particularly
Chairman: I am going to ask Tony to ask
his question and then I am going to ask whether UNHCR colleagues
have anything they would like to add to anything that has been
said so far.
145. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the
situation has improved dramatically, I would suggest, over the
last few days. You are also describing a situation over the last
few months which does not quite gel with what we have been told
by a number of NGOs over the last evidence sessions that we have
had in terms of the ability you have had to feed the people of
Afghanistan through this very difficult period. Do you believe
the NGOs have been unduly pessimistic or have exaggerated, if
you like, the situation?
(Ms Bertini) I like to see the glass half full and
some people like to see the glass half empty.
146. That is a very diplomatic answer but I
would like to press you further because you are describing the
situation. I think you said that only one of the warehouses actually
ran out of food at any time over the last two months and yet we
have previously been told that people are literally days away
(Ms Bertini) I have to say that when we did not deliver
food from the 12th until the 21st there was a lot of criticism
not at the very beginning because nobody knew what was going to
happen but in the last few days before we started again on the
21st the NGOs were saying,"Where's the food? Where's the
food? Where's the food?" It was never not inside Afghanistan.
We could back up and we can dig out from our charts how much was
147. That would be very helpful
(Ms Bertini) But there were a lot of other problems.
For instance, as was mentioned before, we increased our request
based on the drought and everything else so we were feeding 3.8
million people, for instance, during the summer. We had already
said we needed to increase that to 5.5 million people, now it
is 6 million people, that is why we had food already there. So
we were moving that food in, a high volume of food already, at
about 30,000 tonnes a month up until the 11 September, so there
was food in the warehouses. Remember the Kabul warehouse that
was taken over one day by the Taliban; it had 5,000 tonnes of
food in it. The Kandahar warehouse had 1,500 tonnes of food. We
will get you this information on how much food was in place over
time. But there are two other problems. There was the problem
of moving the food from the main warehouses to the small warehouse
or to the distribution sites. As I mentioned, the NGOs do most
of that work. The WFP does the bakeries and some of the general
distribution but most of it is done by NGOs. They were limited
by their staff there. They were limited by communications. When
we were expanding they could not communicate with their staff
about how to expand and how to use the increased amount of resources,
none of us could. There were problems there as well. What we have
tried to do to help with that is that now we do not only leave
food in Kabul, but we also take it to the locations beyond in
the jobs that especially the NGOs used to do. Since the facilities
are not available we take it the next step and they pick it up
from there and it has worked better.
148. Representatives of UNHCR, are there any
comments you would like to make on anything we have said so far?
(Mr Morjane) On three points, if you will allow me.
First of all, to come back to the women issue
149. Thank you.
(Mr Morjane) It is an issue that we should address
immediately. I do not think whoever will be in Kabul will have
a better position than the Taliban. We have to be very careful
about that. We as an international community should push for it
and push for it in advance. We have been doing together with UNICEF
whatever we could in the camps for the education of girls, for
the women but it was not easy, it was a daily fight in order do
it. It is a question of good governance and human rights. The
international community should not impose a government but a certain
way of doing it, not touching the traditional values of the society
but at least when it comes to women certainly it is very important.
Let's not forget that we are in a country with just ten per cent
literacy and that was before the war and certainly with all those
who have left the region in Afghanistan the situation is more
difficult and certainly it is even more difficult for women. My
second comment is on the food situation. It is not at all to contradict
Mrs Bertini but I would like to address the non-food items. When
it comes to non-food items our position in UNHCR when it comes
to the funding of our activities is not that good. Today we still
have some problems with our annual programme compared to the special
programmes for this emergency. My last point is about security.
Tomorrow, in principle, we will have a team going to Kabul in
order to assess the security situation before we will be able
to sendall of us, the UN as sucha team including
the Deputy Special Representative. We have lost six of our colleagues
during the last ten years in Afghanistan, but the issue is not
only the security of the humanitarian actors, it is also the safety
and security of the people themselves. We cannot help them if
they do not feel secure and they cannot get whatever assistance
all of us will bring them. Thank you.
150. All of you have a challenge in front of
you, particularly in view of the fast-changing military situation
in Afghanistan, and I wish you well. As you know, the World Food
Programme is to take the lead in establishing a Joint Logistics
Cell using staff on secondment from other agencies and you have
got money from the DFID up to $.4 million towards this project,
and I wish you well. I am going to ask you a few questions but
I will ask them altogether. In practice, how does the UN achieve
co-ordination of all actors across the wide region? How is co-ordination
achieved across and within the different regions of Afghanistan?
To what extent are UN offices co-located. What are the pros and
cons of co-locating offices? Are there any coverage/security benefits
from having a number of offices for the different agencies? A
number of questions which may have quite a lot to do with the
efficiency of the delivery of the programme which you have in
front of you.
(Ms Bertini) The perfect person to answer that is
Ross Mountain from OCHA, the co-ordination unit for humanitarian
(Mr Mountain) Thank you very much indeed. In terms
of the co-ordination of all actors, that means not just the United
Nations' actors but the vital non-governmental partners that we
have. First of all, I need to underline that even prior to this
immediate crisis the whole Afghan consolidated strategy (indeed
there was a Strategic Framework for Afghanistan) included very
much the non-governmental organisations and thus dealt with the
different facets of how they work together. That is the concept.
Coming down to practical structures, this breaks down into various
committees, some of which used to meet in Islamabad, but others
of which met inside the country and in regions. The structure
inside the country was to have Regional Co-ordination Offices
which brought together not just the OCHA co-ordination offices
but also representatives of all the agencies and non-governmental
organisations. If I may, in relation to the situation we have
now, when all the international staff needed to be withdrawn,
these groups were repositioned across the border from the area
for which they had responsibility. For example, the team that
is in Herat was moved to Mashhad in Iran. The team that was in
Mazar was moved first of all to Turkmenistan and they are now
in Termez, Uzbekistan. The idea was that they should help cross-border
efforts but, as my colleagues explained, also be positioned to
move back in quickly inside Afghanistan when conditions allowed.
Many of the UN offices in different centres are co-located but
where that is not possible they are obviously in close touch.
In terms of security, each of these Regional Offices has a civilian
security officer attached to them. We are very grateful to DFID
that it has come in and strengthened our capacity at this time
through the UN Security Co-ordinator to provide the additional
assistance we need to have trained security personnel not only
within each of these teams but in each of the surrounding countries.
All agencies have strengthened the capacity of UN offices in Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan, in addition to the
Afghanistan team so that they could in fact operate more effectively
in supporting the total operation. I want to underline the importance,
as my colleagues have, of non-governmental organisations to our
operation. This has meant in the Central Asian Republicswhere
there is in general a rather limited experience of dealing with
non-governmental organisations, facilitating their operations
under the UN umbrella in many cases. Mr Oshima, the Emergency
Relief Co-ordinater, was out there recently (I accompanied him)
and he spent a considerable period of time negotiating with the
authorities so the NGOs could overcome problems with visas and
access permits in order to be able to get to the border and operate
inside Afghanistan out of these countries in the north.
(Ms Bellamy) Just to follow up, when things really
began heating up in September, called by Mr Oshima at OCHA, the
principals of the four agencies here got together and we agreed
in the course of one week on each of us nominating a regional
person (because this covers several countries at this point).
We each have one of those people, Nigel, UNICEF, we each have
one. We agreed upon the person who would be the overall co-ordinater,
Mike Sackett, who was the OCHA person. We have pretty regular
conversations, at least phone conversations. In the course of
yesterday, just to give you an idea, HCR, OCHA, World Food and
UNICEF were at three separate meetings with different groups (but
together as organisations) on the humanitarian side. I would also
report on the development side that there is already a development
group working. We are co-locating some warehouses. You also asked
why something does not work or why it might not be advisable.
You will find, since you are going to Pakistan, that the building
that a lot of the UN agencies are in in Pakistan is of concern
to us because it is the tallest building in Islamabad and it sits
there as a perfect invite for anybody who wants to create any
problem. So every once in a while we also have to take a look
at whether it is inadvisable that you are in the largest target
in a particular area.
151. What sort of co-ordination assistance and
help will you be seeking from the local community in order to
overcome the difficulties of language or culture or any other
problems you may face during that period? You have previous experience
and you can depend on that experience and you may not be able
to find the right kind of people, those that are able to help
you. What are you going to do about that?
(Ms Bertini) A small minority of our staff are international
staff brought in from somewhere else. The vast majority of our
staff are local staff in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We could not
operate without those people. We count on their advice, direction
and contacts. Even on the point of women in the bakeries in the
major cities in Afghanistan, it was WFP female staff members who
convinced the Taliban that since women could not work and there
were many widows who would otherwise starve that there needed
to be bakeries run by women funded by the WFP to keep those widows
going. So we count on their expertise.
(Mr Fisher) Can I give a very specific example on
inter-agency co-operation and then move on to that question. In
each of the regions within Afghanistan there is a team led by
OCHA and each of us are members of that. When international staff
were forced out of Afghanistan in early September those teams
relocated as a group to neighbouring countries. For example, the
teams from Kabul and Jalalabad went to Peshawar and from Herat
they went to Mashhad and from there they co-ordinated cross-border
movements. That worked very well. On the other area, besides what
Catherine said, we have been working also with local NGOs to work
out very systematically their capacity on the ground and their
capacity for distribution so that we can report very accurately
on what they are doing. There are a lot of very qualified Afghans
whom we are contacting to see how in the recovery process we can
involve them so they can have a very strong participation role
because they fear greatly that the international community will
"pre-cook" a lot of the solutions from which they will
152. My question follows on from that and what
Carol was saying as well. We have been told that there are three
elements to this emergency: one, the military, and we have got
to hope that comes to a full successful end soon; the political,
which is really Mr Brahimi and the development of a new government;
and the humanitarian, and you have described that and OCHA's central
role which, compared to other situations, seems to be working
pretty well. Surely there is a fourth element which is the development
element that we are now in a situation where if we do not put
the development structure in place we are going to have disorder,
we are going to have uncertainty, these kids have got to be got
to school, we have got to get medical services there, water, all
those things have got to be done. I am not at all clear what the
structure is for doing that, not on a British basis or an NGO
basis but on a United Nations' basis. Can you help?
(Ms Bellamy) It is not all in place at this point.
I want to make also the point that I am sitting here with my humanitarian
colleagues but I also need you to look at them as development
colleagues as well because none of these four agencies will leave.
It is not as though there is a big wall that stops. We will go
back and work on the water and kids and others but, that being
said, there will be more actors that will come in as well. On
the development side that is starting to be put together. Already
among the UN development agencies there is an outline which we
hope, even by Tuesday, we will be able to have more on because
there is going to be this sub-ministerial meeting in Washington
on Tuesday. That will have representation, I believe, from a number
of governments, a number of development banks and will focus largely
on recovery and reconstruction with the Afghan support groups
which meets a week later focused mostly humanitarian issues. That
will begin to identify some of the key areas, whether it is water
or governance or the judicial system or food or refugees, those
issues, and identify responsibilities, so that is in the process.
The planning for that has already gone on. It is not as far developed
at this point as the humanitarian, as you might expect, but it
is actually moving ahead quite rapidly.
153. Can I just follow that through because
no matter how successful Mr Brahimi is, this talk of creating
a government, you do not do that overnight, you do not get it
functioning overnight and there is no civil administration, as
far as I can see. There is nothing in place. We do not want to
pre-cook itI think that was your expressionfor the
Afghanis. Does this not mean there has to be some kind of UN protectorate,
some kind of structure that is creating this? We have to convince
the people that things are better than they were before September
11 and are going to get better still. How is that going to be
(Ms Bellamy) Do you want a go at that, Ross? I think
the Secretary-General of the UN, through Mr Brahimi, has made
quite clear that we do not think the UN should be running the
country. The model of a Kosovo or East Timor is not the model
although I think the UN is certainly prepared to try and provide
advice and support and as much guidance as possible.
154. Support and advice to whom?
(Ms Bertini) Good question.
155. Catherine said good question.
(Ms Bellamy) You are pushing us a little bit beyond
our own mandate at this point. It is not as though we do not want
to respond to you but we really think that these are questions
which have to be dealt with by some of our other colleagues, if
I might say.
156. Ross is bursting to say something.
(Mr Mountain) I do not think I would put it quite
that way. I think Carol has covered well the position that has
been taken under the leadership of Mr Brahimi in terms of what
we do not want to do and what we are prepared to do, which is
to provide support, and notionally the support is to a provisional
council or a transitional administration made up of Afghans. That
has been the basis of his recommendations. It is hoped, as I understand
itas Carol said this is beyond our remit indeedfrom
the presentation that Mr Brahimi has made to the Security Council
that they are looking towards trying to bring together a meeting
of key Afghans and Afghan institutions even as early as next week.
I am reporting what others are doing.
157. My question is primarily to the representative
of UNHCR. The reports out of Afghanistan are saying that the Taliban
is sort of melting away. Clearly the report we have had is that
in Makaki camp near the Iranian border the fighters have mixed
in with the civil population in the camps. We all remember what
happened post the Rwanda massacres and how the Interahamwe moved
across into the Congo and actually took part in the refugee camps
set up by UNHCR and others. I think a number of us are getting
very concerned that the Afghans in the camps could be used as
possibly human shields or recruiting for in fact the Taliban to
be able to fight back. Could I ask what lessons you have learnt
in a sense from the Rwandan situation that you are now going to
or are implementing in the camps both within Afghanistan and in
Iran and in Pakistan to ensure there is not a repeat, as it were?
Are you ensuring that anyone who comes into the camp is disarmed
and there is no way there can be any recruiting or any human shield
(Mr Morjane) Thank you. It is certainly a very important
question for us which during the last few weeks created a lot
of problems for UNHCR, not only with the government but also others.
This is why we refused to intervene in the two camps at the Iranian
border. It was for the same reason that we decided that we would
not be there because we cannot guarantee the civilian nature of
these camps. Despite all the pressure which was exercised on us
by especially the Iranian Government, because they sent the Iranian
Red Crescent to be in charge, even foreign NGOs were involved
there but we said we could not do it for two reasons. One because
we believe that whatever is the situation it is the principal
that borders should be open even if we have to look into practical
reasons and pragmatic solutions. We drew the lesson, yes, from
the Congo. I was in charge of the operation in Rwanda in 1994.
Certainly I remember the time when the Secretary-General asked
for forces in order to make these camps and to take the military
elements out of the camps in the Kivu, out of 60 countries60
governmentswhich were asked to give military forces in
order to do this, we got only one reply.
(Mr Morjane) Bangladesh and nothing else. They found
it would cost a lot and they could not do it. I think the Congo
paid for it. As you know I have come back from the Congo so I
know exactly what the situation is today. This is why we took
this position in Afghanistan because we might have the problem
the other way. The Talibans will be leaving Afghanistan and there
are some indications, as you knowwhich we have heard already,
which I cannot confirmthat they are planning to cross into
Pakistan. There were indications that 80 of them managed to enter
and of course we have to make sure that they will not go to the
camps. This is again the responsibility of the government and
this is why also we had all the difficulties with the Government
of Pakistan when it comes to the places and the sites where we
should put the refugee settlements.
159. Is there a code of conduct as to on what
basis UNHCR will go forward?
(Mr Morjane) Yes.
2 Ev 103-4. Back