Kofi Annan should mark the  award of Nobel Peace Prize 2001  by averting the looming Afgan humanitarian catastrophe, convening  an emergency  Security Council meeting to stop US-led air strikes in Afghanistan to save innocent civilians from the rain of bombs and  provide humanitarian aid to Afghans before onset of winter

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan are to be congratulated for winning  the Nobel Peace Prize this year  for "their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."

The United Nations was cited for being at the forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world and  Annan lauded for "bringing new life to the organization."

There is no better way for Annan to mark the award of Nobel Peace Prize 2001 than to avert the looming Afgan humanitarian catastrophe, convening an emergency  Security Council meeting to stop US-led air strikes in Afghanistan to save innocent civilians from indiscriminate aerial bombardments and  provide humanitarian aid to Afghans before the  onset of winter.

United States President Bush should heed the growing chorus of international calls to stop air strikes in Afghanistan not only to save innocent civilians from the rain of bombs but also to provide humanitarian aid to Afghans facing massive starvation.
DAP had right from the beginning called on the United States to cease air strikes and to resort to international legal co-operation to end terrorism  as the  terrorist attacks of September 11 were criminal acts  and the perpetrators of the crimes should be brought to justice through the international legal system.

Yesterday,  the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad urged the United States to stop air strikes against Afghanistan as the military offensive would not help in the fight against terrorism and innocent Afghans and not terrorists had ended up as victims.

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson has also called for  a  suspension of air strikes against Afghanistan in order to provide aid to civilians before the onset of winter.

Describing  the situation for civilians in Afghanistan as  ``desperate'' where hundreds of thousands - perhaps up to two million - Afghans “desperately need food”, Robinson said that the real wish of the humanitarian agencies  is for “a pause in  order to enable huge humanitarian access … to use this window until  about the 15th or 16th of November when the winter snows will prevent access and the people will freeze and starve to death because they will have neither food nor shelter”.

As Robinson rightly said: ``It is absolutely wrong that 6,000 people were killed in the terrible events of September 11 but equally we  must have regard for the population in Afghanistan.''

Afghanistan ranks among the most destitute, war-weary countries in the world in terms of human development. The  socio-economic indicators for Afghanistan recently released by  the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Human Development Report Office provide grim reading.

With an average life expectancy of about 40 years, a staggering mortality rate of 25.7 percent for children under five years old, an illiteracy rate of 64 percent, 70 percent of the Afghan population are estimated to be under-nourished and only 13 percent have access to improved water sources.

The UNDP said: "In most aspects, Afghanistan is worse off than almost any
country in the world. The country's social and economic indicators are comparable, or lower than the indicators for sub-Saharan Africa."

Among 187 countries, only seven have lower life expectancy than Afghanistan, including Sierra Leone and Zambia - countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS or armed conflict. One of every four children born alive in Afghanistan will not survive until their fifth birthday. Only three of the 191 countries surveyed have higher levels of mortality for children under five years: Angola, Niger and Sierra Leone.

With less than one-third of children enrolled in schools in 1999, Afghanistan lags catastrophically behind other countries and regions. Only 14 of 172 countries surveyed have lower school enrolment than Afghanistan, which is the only country in the world that bars girls from attending school.

Annan should use his new stature and influence to secure the support of the UN Security Council to save the Afghan people from the looming humanitarian catastrophe before the onset of winter by stopping all US-led air strikes in the country while forging  an United Nations-led global anti-terrorism alliance to bring the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to meet their just deserts, as well as address the root  causes of terrorism -  as resolving conflicts in all parts of the globe, including the search for lasting peace in the Middle East and an international commitment to eradicate poverty and under-development.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman