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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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Canada Announces Support for Upcoming Elections in Afghanistan

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 03/04/09 -- Today the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation and Vice-Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan and the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan, outlined Canada's support for the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections in August of this year, as well as the parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for 2010 in Afghanistan. For the first time since the fall of the Taliban, Afghans are leading their own electoral process through the Afghan Independent Election Commission with the support of the international community.

"Canada will continue to work with Afghanistan as it approaches another pivotal milestone in its democratic history," said Minister Oda. "Patience and perseverance will be required by all those inside and outside Afghanistan as this Afghan-led process takes shape. I am encouraged with the progress made to date, particularly as it promotes participation of women as candidates and voters."

International electoral assistance is being coordinated by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and is expected to require more than CDN $260 million in overall international funding for the 2009 process alone. Canada's contribution of up to $35 million from now until 2011 makes Canada a leading participant within a coordinated multi-donor effort.

"It will be up to Afghans to shape the success of the upcoming elections," said Minister Day. "While Canada's contribution is designed to support elections that are credible in the eyes of Afghans, it is crucial that Afghans themselves see the electoral process as legitimate. It will also be important to ensure that Afghans, from all regions of the country, have the opportunity to participate in the electoral process."

Canada's contribution to the Afghan electoral process will be directed at supporting the core components of the elections process, including voter registration, recruitment and training of election officials, production and transportation of election materials and verification of results.

This will help strengthen the Independent Election Commission as the lead Afghan agency administering the elections process through direct assistance and through Canada's contribution to the United Nations Development Programme Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (UNDP-ELECT) who will be playing a major supportive role to the Afghan Independent Election Commission.

Reports on the progress of voter registration and other election-related processes will be published in Canada's quarterly reports to Parliament on its engagement in Afghanistan. Despite challenges, as of March 2009, more than 4 million voters have registered to vote, including almost 550,000 in the south, of which more than 300,000 are in Kandahar alone. These are new voters in addition to the approximately 12 million voters already in the existing national voter registry (2005), although some overlap may occur for individuals with lost registration cards, etc.

For more information and to subscribe to regular updates regarding Canada's engagement in Afghanistan, please visit www.afghanistan.gc.ca.

BACKGROUNDER

ELECTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

For the first time since the fall of the Taliban, Afghans are leading their own electoral process through the Afghan Independent Election Commission with the support of the international community. Canada's contribution of up to $35M from now until 2011 makes Canada a leading participant within a coordinated multi-donor effort led by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Canada will contribute a large portion of its funding towards the United Nations Development Programme Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (UNDP-ELECT), who is supporting Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission. By working directly with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan, UNDP-ELECT offers the main vehicle through which Canada can support the core mechanisms of these elections such as voter registration, recruitment and training of election officials, production and transportation of election materials and verification of results, while respecting Afghan ownership over the electoral process. The programme will also assist the creation of key bodies such as Electoral Complaints and Media Commissions. In partnership with others, UNDP-ELECT will also support complementary programming on voter education and outreach as well as police training.

Afghanistan's last elections were administered jointly by an Electoral Management Body, which included both Afghans and the international community. The October 9, 2004 presidential elections marked a watershed moment in Afghanistan's transition toward a democratic, self-sustaining state. President Karzai won that election with 55.4 per cent of the popular vote.

The subsequent parliamentary and provincial council elections were held on

September 18, 2005. Again, the elections were successful, with a voter turnout of almost 7 million Afghans. Of particular note, almost 43 per cent of these voters were women - a landmark achievement in a country where women were previously banned from political life.

Afghanistan's emergence as a young democracy was also marked with the inauguration of its first parliament in more than three decades on December 19, 2005. The National Assembly is composed of 249 elected members of the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and 102 members of the Meshrano Jirga (upper house), some of whom were appointed. Afghans now have a voice through their elected members, as they work to rebuild and reshape their country.

To view a photo gallery of voter registration efforts for this election and the previous one, please see the featured photo gallery on AfCam at www.afghanistan.gc.ca. High resolution images are available upon request.

Contacts:
Office of the Minister of International Cooperation
Michelle Coates
Press Secretary
819-953-6238

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Media Relations Office
819-953-6534
media@acdi-cida.gc.ca

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