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IRIN Asia | Asia | TAJIKISTAN | TAJIKISTAN: Interview with Vladimir Sotirov, head of UN peace-building office in Tajikistan | Democracy, Economy, Education, Health, Human Rights, Peace Security, Refugees IDPs | Interview
Wednesday 28 December 2005
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TAJIKISTAN: Interview with Vladimir Sotirov, head of UN peace-building office in Tajikistan

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Vladimir Sotirov, the head of the United Nations' Tajikistan Office of Peace-building

DUSHANBE, 26 May 2005 (IRIN) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has prolonged, by agreement with the Security Council, the activities of the (UNTOP) for another twelve months until 1 June, 2006.

UNTOP was established on June 1, 2000 after the withdrawal of the UN observer mission from Tajikistan. It has been instrumental in helping to build democratic institutions and foster peace in the country in the vulnerable post-civil war period. The UN body provided technical assistance before and during parliamentary elections in February 2005.

UNTOP is headed by Vladimir Sotirov. He spoke to IRIN in the capital, Dushanbe, about what had been achieved in the last five years and about the challenges that lie ahead.

QUESTION: Why has the mandate of the UNTOP been extended?

ANSWER: The mandate of United Nations Tajikistan Office of Peace-Building should end on 1 June this year. In this connection, the government of Tajikistan approached the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, with a request to prolong UNTOPís mandate. On the basis of this request, Mr. Kofi Annan sent a letter to the Security Council of the United Nations, in which he described the UNTOPís activities and achievements. In his letter, he stated his intention to prolong the mandate of our office. The Security Council discussed UNTOPís activities at its assembly.

It was emphasised that UNTOP is an effective and well organised mechanism. UNTOPís political presence for the period of the following presidential elections in Tajikistan was underlined. On 18 May, the Chairman of the United Nationsí Security Council sent his consent to prolong the mandate of our office till 1 June 2006.

Q: What is UNTOPís mandate?

A: The main task of the office is to help create the political conditions and to strengthen internal mechanisms to secure irreversibility of the peace process [that followed the 1992-97 civil war] to strengthen capacity building of the society in the area of conflict prevention.

UNTOP is one of the most successful examples of the useful participation of the United Nations not only in civil conflict resolution but also in the prompt alleviation of many of the tragic consequences of this war in Tajikistan. Similar UNTOP offices operate in three other countries: Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Liberia.

Q: What has been the main thrust of your work over the past year?

A: UNTOP has been busy strengthening democratic institutions and working to strengthen trust, to develop dialogues in society and to create new forms of social partnership. In this respect, the Political Debate Club, something we established, is unique; it involves members of parliament, political parties, the local authorities and the mass media. Significant political, economic and social aspects of development in Tajikistan are discussed at the club. It is a unique way of achieving transparency in governance and accountability to the population.

For the last four years, there have been over 40 sessions of the debate club in various regions of the country, in which about 4,000 people participated.

Another important aspect of the officeís activities is to strengthen human rights and freedoms. We actively cooperate with the government and the commission that prepares human rights reports under six international contracts.

We also render assistance to improve textbooks and teaching processes at secondary and higher educational facilities, at which human rights are studied as a special subject. In October 2002, a human rights information resource centre was created in order to execute the governments programme on the study of human rights in the education system. Now it successfully functions in Dushanbe. Those who wish to study human rights, use the internet at the centre and receive legal consultations from lawyers on human rights issues they are interested in.

A third aspect of UNTOPís work in Tajikistan is assistance to strengthen supremacy of the law. In particular, assistance is rendered to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in reforming the law enforcement structures of the country.

Three criminological centres were created under our support. Together with the UNDP, we train employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to increase professionalism within the police, to help them conduct objective investigations and to decrease instances of subjective influence, like torture or other forms of coercion, during the investigation processes. About 1,100 employees of the police have undergone advanced training in these fields so far.

An important project was implemented in 2004 to increase legal awareness among district and local election commission members. Over 300 people from 41 district commissions and 3,000 local election commission members took part at a series of seminars with the participation of local and international experts. Delegates looked at international election standards, election laws in Tajikistan as well as election procedures on the ground.

Q: What are UNTOPís priorities for the next year?

A: We plan to continue the Political Debate Club and look in particular at small and medium business development. We have decided to work closely with public councils in regions to make them more effective and productive. These councils debate vital regional issues and try to find ways to solve them.

In cooperation with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], we are going to increase professionalism within the press services of the certain ministries and departments, as well as journalists, so that they can receive information in a timely and objective way. We believe that the mass media plays an essential role in fostering stability in the country.

We are going to continue to support the human rights information resource centre in Dushanbe.

In the area of strengthening the law, we will continue training employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We plan to implement a number of other projects with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We plan to support the idea of creating a lyceum for orphans of the civil war as the further development of the national reconciliation process.

In the area of conflict prevention, we will support the activities of seven conflict prevention and peace centres in various regions of the country.


 Theme(s) Democracy
Other recent TAJIKISTAN reports:

At least 17 killed by mines in 2005 ĖTMAC,  13/Dec/05

Sharp rise in trafficking arrests,  13/Dec/05

Gender NGOs receive support from UN,  9/Dec/05

Border guards seize 122 kg of heroin,  28/Nov/05

Rate of HIV/AIDS infection up by 20 percent,  23/Nov/05

Other recent Democracy & Governance reports:

IRAQ-MIDDLE EAST: Street children face hunger and abuse, 26/Dec/05

YEMEN: World Bank cuts support by a third citing slow progress, 26/Dec/05

AFGHANISTAN: ADB approves US $55 million for post-conflict country, 23/Dec/05

NEPAL: UN welcomes Maoist statement on aid and development, 23/Dec/05

WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 309 covering 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

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