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Multiple humanitarian challenges in 2008 – outgoing UN envoy

Tom Koenigs served as Special Representative  of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) from March 2006 to December 2007.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), returnees from Iran and Pakistan, food-insecurity, widespread poverty and conflict-related disasters are some of the main humanitarian challenges that millions of Afghans will face in 2008, Tom Koenigs, the UN Secretary-General’s outgoing special representative for Afghanistan, told IRIN on 30 December.

“The humanitarian situation has partly improved; the food security is better, but partly things have gone worse because war-affected areas have produced IDPs, and also the expulsions of Afghans from Iran have caused internal displacement,” said Koenigs, who has headed the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) over the past two years.

UNAMA was established on 28 March 2002 through UN Security Council Resolution 1401 to assist in, and coordinate, the post-conflict rebuilding and development process in Afghanistan. The UN Secretary-General is expected to appoint a new special representative to head UNAMA, UN officials said.

To address the challenges ahead, the UN will increase efforts to better coordinate humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs said.

However, access to volatile parts of the country, where needs are greatest, has been restricted by a shrinking humanitarian space where aid workers have faced increasing attacks by Taliban insurgents and other criminal groups, aid agencies and UN officials say.

Weak coordination

Despite more than six years of massive international aid disbursements to Afghanistan, the landlocked country is still ranked the fifth least developed country in the world, with most of its estimated 24.5 million people still in poverty and lacking basic services.

Aid agencies such as Oxfam International have repeatedly raised concerns about weak coordination among various players in Afghanistan which, they say, has badly affected aid effectiveness.

The outgoing UN envoy conceded there were problems arising from weak coordination among donors themselves and within the Afghan government.

“Donor countries are very diverse and their interests are very diverse and it needs a huge effort to bring all these countries together,” said Koenigs, adding that the government of Afghanistan should also improve coordination within its own institutions.

“The UN is a good coordinator, but there is need for people who want to be coordinated,” Tom Koenigs said without naming donors which did not comply with coordination mechanisms.

Weak coordination and the implications for aid effectiveness have caused frustrations among Afghans who want faster progress for their country and a quicker end to their long-standing miseries.

“The UN shares the frustration of Afghan people,” said Koenigs. “The international community should increase efforts to maintain the support of Afghans,” he added.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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