KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Afghanistan stands at a critical juncture but must work to ensure political and security gains are not wasted, the U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a statement Tuesday during her first official tour of the country.
International forces are stepping down as national forces stand up after more than 10 years of war. The country holds nationwide elections next year.
"Afghanistan is clearly at a critical juncture with the ongoing political, security and economic transition concluding in 2014 -- all of which will have an impact on the human rights of its citizens," Pillay said in a statement. "There have been some distinct human rights achievements during the past 12 years, but they are fragile, and many Afghans are expressing fears that the overall human rights situation is deteriorating on several fronts."
Pillay said she discussed women's rights as well as the need to ensure citizens are protected enough to move freely to the voting booth next year. As one of the pioneers of human rights initiatives outlined after World War II, Pillay said Afghanistan should work to ensure it has a secure future.
"I urge an extra effort by [President Hamid Karzai] and his government to ensure that the human rghts gains of the past 12 years are not sacrificed to political expediency during these last few months before the election," she said.