INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST MOVE QUICKLY TO HELP AFGHANISTAN AS EFFORTS TO SECURE PEACE, STABILITY ‘WERE BEING PUT TO THE TEST’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
5641st Meeting* (AM)
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST MOVE QUICKLY TO HELP AFGHANISTAN AS EFFORTS TO SECURE
PEACE, STABILITY ‘WERE BEING PUT TO THE TEST’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Despite Laudable Progress, Continuing Challenges Include Mounting
Violence, Drugs, Corruption, Weak Institutions, Say Senior UN Officials
Warning that Afghanistan's security situation continues to be dragged down by an ever-expanding opium economy, endemic corruption and mounting violence from an emboldened insurgency, two senior United Nations officials today told the Security Council that the international community must move quickly to help the Government and long-suffering Afghan people create a sustainable environment for socio-economic development and reconstruction.
“Afghanistan remains a place of hope and challenge …as unprecedented efforts to improve governance, help development and register military gains were being put to the test,” said Tom Koenigs, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), briefing the Council alongside Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who reported on the results of the latest opium crop survey carried out by his Office.
Despite some significant progress, the threat to peace had not diminished, Mr. Koenigs said, noting critical challenges including the Taliban-led insurgency gripping southern parts of the country, widespread judicial corruption and the possible failure of the nationwide counter-narcotics strategy. The need for strategic coordination of military, political and development efforts was stronger than ever. “I am counting on the support of the Council to make the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) work,” he said of the Afghan Government’s overarching strategy for promoting growth, generating wealth and reducing poverty and vulnerability.
“It will only deliver results if everyone contributes to the process: to be candid, international participation needs to improve,” he said, requesting, through the Council, that all donors ensured meaningful participation by their representatives in the ANDS Working and Consultative Groups ahead of the 30 April meeting of the Afghanistan Development Forum, and the next meeting, on 1 May, of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), the principal framework guiding the Government and the international community in the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact.
Mr. Koenigs also pressed the Afghan Government to do more to fulfil its role as called for in the Compact, a five-year United Nations-backed blueprint launched early last year which sets benchmarks for certain security, governance and development goals. “The continued passivity of many Government agencies –- in the expectation that the international community will come to their rescue to meet the Compact objectives -– only serves to delay progress and in some cases undermine it,” he cautioned.
Mr. Costa, who is also the Executive Director of the United Nations Office at Vienna, updated the Council on the latest Afghanistan survey, which he said offered a “mixed picture”, marked by some progress but also serious threats posed by the nexus between terrorism and illicit drug revenue. While opium cultivation in the central-northern part of the country was decreasing, thanks to improved security conditions and development, in the south, “the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorism and terrorism supporting drug lords is stronger than ever”, he said.
“ Afghanistan’s drug problem occurs in a security vacuum, where illicit crops co-exist with other criminal activities that support such cultivation.” Mr. Costa recommended improved border management, bringing major drug traffickers to justice and stamping out corruption as three tactics to combat Afghanistan’s illicit drug production. Turning to the issue of corruption, he said the Secretary-General’s latest report rightly recognized the cancer of corruption, bribery and dishonesty as major threats to Afghanistan, chiefly as they undermined the rule of law. He said the overall goal should be to help strengthen the country’s legal and administrative capability, and among other things, educate a new generation of young and honest civil servants, promote anti-corruption investigations and prosecutions, and recover illicit proceeds placed abroad.
“Terrorism, narcotics, weak State institutions and the slow pace of reconstruction are among our main challenges,” Afghanistan’s representative told the Council. “As such, it would be safe to state that we have jointly underestimated the magnitude of the challenges facing Afghanistan.” Citing the gains the country has made since 2001, when the oppressive Taliban regime was ousted, he said that it is “ever more obvious that the renewed commitment of the international community is required to address the remaining obstacles and consolidate the gains of the past years”.
Highlighting the regional dimension of Afghanistan’s problems, he cited the presence of foreign sanctuaries, which trained, equipped, recruited and indoctrinated extremist fighters to carry out attacks within Afghanistan. To that end, it had become evident that, unless the external sources of insecurity were addressed in a comprehensive and resolute manner, all efforts to achieve a stable and prosperous Afghanistan would be in vain. The threat posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremists was not limited to Afghanistan and put at risk the stability of the wider region and beyond. “We are pleased to note that this fact has finally been acknowledged by the wider international community,” he added.
Pakistan’s representative said his country’s frontier regions had been deeply affected by the three decades of war and conflict in Afghanistan. As part of its programme for modernization and rapid socio-economic development, it was in Pakistan’s vital interest to eliminate Al-Qaida terrorists, Taliban militancy and the “talibanization” of those frontier regions, which housed 1 per cent of the country’s total population. Peace in Afghanistan would enable Pakistan to realize its strategic objective of serving, together with Afghanistan, as the hub for trade and economic cooperation between the adjacent regions of South, West and Central Asia.
Despite media reports and “some unfortunate public allegations”, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan was close, cooperative and intense, he said. Outlining some of the measures Pakistan was taking to contribute to the campaign for peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s frontier region, he said that the Pakistani army had captured over 700 Al-Qaida terrorists and had captured and handed over to Afghanistan 1,500 militants. However, most of the Taliban activity was within Afghanistan, as were its command structures and financing through drugs. Moreover, border control was a joint responsibility of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the international coalition forces, and Pakistan could not accept the entire responsibility for that.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy also spoke, as did the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Slovakia, Panama, Ghana, Russian Federation, United States, Qatar, China, Peru, Congo, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany (on behalf of the European Union), New Zealand, Netherlands, Japan, Belarus (on behalf of the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization), Canada, India, Iran, Norway and Iceland.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 2:15 p.m.
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document S/2007/152), which reviews the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since the previous report, dated 11 September 2006. It recommends that UNAMA, due to expire on 24 March, be extended for a further 12 months.
According to the report, there was a marked increase in insurgent forces prepared to engage in conventional combat operations against Government and international security forces -- as well as a significant improvement in the insurgents’ tactics and training. The peace agreement, concluded on 5 September 2006 between Pakistan and the local Taliban of North Waziristan, had not prevented the use of the tribal area as a staging ground for attacks on Afghanistan (one of the agreement’s stipulations). Popular alienation remains a key factor behind the revitalized insurgency and stems from inappropriate Government appointments, tribal nepotism, monopolization of power, and the marginalization of those outside the dominant social and political groups.
Regarding suicide attacks, the Secretary-General notes a record number having occurred during the reporting period. That number -- 77 -- was up from 53 over the previous six months. While the “Strengthening Peace Programme” had some success in reaching out to Taliban foot soldiers, most had not been significant actors, and thus, their pledges had a negligible impact on the insurgency. Meanwhile, in the northern part of Afghanistan, factional violence and criminality continued to pose a significant challenge to the authority of the Government and present a danger to the international assistance community.
Turning to political developments, the report notes that the National Assembly has developed into a vibrant forum for debate, providing an increasingly powerful counterweight to the executive branch. Three multi-ethnic opposition blocs, including jihadis, leftists, independents and women, were formed: the National Independence, National Observer, and Progressive parliamentary groups. On regional developments, trade between Afghanistan and key economic partners in the region –- Pakistan, China and Iran -- had grown, exceeding $2.5 billion in 2006. Additionally, and in an encouraging sign of cooperation, the Afghan and Pakistani Ministers of Health launched a cross-border polio vaccination campaign supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAMA in December 2006. Relations between the two countries remained tense, however.
On the topic of security institutions, the Secretary-General writes that only limited progress has been made with the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) programme. Despite the launch of DIAG’s main phase, the rate of weapons handovers was not encouraging. On the Afghan National Police (ANP), while the most recent appointments had been largely based on merit, the reform process continued to present difficulties as some of those proposed for posts lacked the requisite qualifications. ANP also remained dependent on the Law and Order Trust Fund (LOTFA), administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for the provision of remunerations and other support. As for the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Ministry of Defence announced a new target strength of 64,000 by the end of 2008. In that regard, he notes that logistics support, administrative systems and the fabric of the institution are improving.
Turning to other matters, the report states that a lack of security remained the greatest challenge to the enjoyment of human rights in Afghanistan. According to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), insurgency-related violence led to an estimated 134 civilian fatalities between October 2006 and January 2007. Meanwhile, progress towards realizing gender equality continued to be held back by discrimination, insecurity and persistence of customary practices. Honour killings of females continued to be reported. Furthermore, there was no significant progress on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, despite an expert mission to Afghanistan of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
While the appointment of a reform-oriented Supreme Court Chief Justice and Attorney General in 2006 was a promising development, widespread corruption in the justice system remained a serious concern. The capacity of the Ministry of Justice remained limited, particularly its legislative drafting unit, which was overburdened by the number and complexity of legislation awaiting drafting, scrutiny and review, he states.
The report notes that Afghanistan is still in the grip of drought and the displacement of 15,000 families in the south has been a major cause for humanitarian concern. United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations have been called on to provide assistance. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is prepared to assist a total of 250,000 Afghan returnees in 2007.
Economically, the rate of inflation continues to decline and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it was lower than 4 per cent at the end of 2006. At the same time, poppy cultivation and the drug economy continue to grow. While the National Drug Control Strategy was successful in some regions, implementation was unsatisfactory due to shortfalls such as insufficient attention to rule of law activities and the slow delivery of alternative livelihoods to poppy farmers. Furthermore, the Counter Narcotics Trust Fund (CNTF) has received only $42 million out of the $74 million committed.
According to the report, the Security Council, while reaffirming international support for the Afghanistan Compact, noted that, for it to deliver visible change to the Afghan people, Government-led coordination efforts would need to be strengthened and streamlined. The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) gained momentum as the principal mechanism for facilitating cooperation between the Government and the international community. Continuing its mission to assist the Afghan people, UNAMA will maintain its current presence in 8 regional offices and plans to increase the number of provincial offices from the current 7 to 11.
To conclude, the Secretary-General states that Afghanistan and its international partners once again find themselves at a critical juncture in the country’s transition. In the coming months, the Mission should focus its efforts on the following: promoting a more coherent international engagement in support of the Afghanistan Compact; strengthening its humanitarian coordination role and contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights, including monitoring the situation of civilians in armed conflict; and extending its good offices role through outreach in Afghanistan and support for regional cooperation.
Statement by Secretary-General’s Special Representative
TOM KOENIGS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, said Afghanistan remained a place of hope and challenge as unprecedented efforts to improve governance, help development and register military gains were being put to the test. While the conflict continued in the south, the need for strategic coordination of military, political and development efforts was stronger than ever. While the threat to peace had not diminished, the joint response by Afghan institutions, by NATO/ISAF, by donors and by the Afghan people was encouraging.
He said coordination efforts could be improved further. JCMB was the principal framework guiding the Government and the international community in the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. It was crucial to ensure that the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) worked well and delivered. Afghan ministries were currently drafting their five-year strategies. He was counting on the Council’s support in that regard. “To be candid”, he said, “international participation needs to improve.” He requested that all donors ensured meaningful participation in ANDS, starting immediately in the run up to the Afghanistan Development Forum to be held on 30 April and the fifth JCMB meeting on 1 May.
The Afghan National Assembly, he continued, needed to become more engaged in the Compact’s implementation by including relevant discussions in its plenary agenda. Many other wings of the Government, including the Ministry of the Interior, would need to take more seriously their responsibilities under the Compact. “The continued passivity of many Government agencies –- in the expectation that the international community will come to their rescue to meet the Compact objectives -– only serves to delay progress and in some cases undermines it.” It was of fundamental importance that the Government took seriously the issue of top-down reform of key ministries, particularly the Ministry of the Interior. Improved utilization of development aid and accelerated budget execution, together with a strengthened international military presence and reinforced Afghan security forces, remained key prerequisites for the success of both development and military efforts during 2007.
He said ISAF, together with Afghan national security forces, were engaged in large-scale operations against Taliban forces. Past experience indicated that intensified violence could be expected as the weather got warmer and spring began. The ability of Taliban forces to acquire and retain the military initiative was now under active challenge in many districts, however. Its symbiotic relationship with drug-trafficking networks in Helmand had been exposed as never before. Moreover, the Taliban model of governance remained broadly unpopular. He welcomed the commitment of new forces to ISAF, which would generate a credible theatre reserve for the first time.
As military action increased, he said, the protection of civilians had emerged as a burning concern. Taliban-led terrorist and insurgent groups bore sole responsibility for the high toll of deaths and injuries caused by suicide bombings. There had also been a number of cases of civilian casualties caused by Government and international forces. Beyond the tragic loss of innocent human life, the resulting disaffection and civil unrest, loss of public support, as well as victims’ right to justice, place the international effort under additional stress. The United Nations Mission had aimed to position itself as an impartial and credible advocate on behalf of civilians by conducting objective verifications of those incidents and sharing the information with key actors.
As a complement to military action, he went on, there was considerable potential for improved security through political outreach to disaffected tribal groups and commanders. There were signs that more groups than ever were receptive to the Afghan Government’s overtures when they were credibly made. However, a number of provincial governors continued to underperform in that respect. Support to the provinces from the central Government was sometimes insufficient, as was shown by the current situation in Helmand province. A credible strategy was urgently needed to enlist support of tribal leaders and their communities. A successful counter-narcotics policy in Helmand, Uruzgan and elsewhere would depend on the reestablishment of governance and strong community engagement. The new UNAMA provincial offices were meant to open doors and initiate dialogue with a wide variety of groups whose role would be critical in ending the conflict.
He said the Policy Action Group (PAG), led by President Karzai, must be made increasingly operational at the provincial level. There was a strategic consensus on the need to disrupt Taliban leadership networks. The continuing impunity of terrorist networks based in Waziristan but operating in Afghanistan remained of high concern. He welcomed as a very positive step the recent arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the former Taliban Minister of Defence and a key figure on the sanctions list established under resolution 1267. Regional cooperation remained essential to resolving the insurgency. Existing practical initiatives to increase regional trust and dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan –- notably in infrastructure, health and private sector development –- could be further developed as confidence-building measures.
On 10 March, the Wolesi Jirga had approved a revised “Reconciliation and General Amnesty Bill” that grants amnesty to all political and belligerent groups involved in the armed conflict before establishment of the Interim Administration in 2001. If the right of individuals to seek justice with respect to individual crimes was not affected, that initiative was welcome. The principal framework for action in that area remained the Action Plan on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation, launched on 10 December 2006. The key elements of the Action Plan included establishing the truth about atrocities committed between 1978 and the fall of the Taliban, measures to honour victims, reconciliation initiatives and recommendations for an accountability mechanism.
He said counter-narcotics efforts continued to be an area of utmost strategic priority. Initial reports indicated that there would be a record poppy harvest in 2007. Eradication was ongoing, but did not have a critical impact in the southern provinces. A significant decrease was expected in the north, where incentives had succeeded and governance had been strengthened. Eradication activities must be accompanied by both effective alternative livelihood programmes and enforcement measures against drug networks.
Widespread corruption within the justice sector was also a major concern and the reform process urgently needed to address the issue of low salaries for judges and prosecutors, he said. There was a strong case for the establishment of some form of multi-donor funding to meet those costs. The justice institutions would need further restructuring and reform for greater accountability, improved service delivery, better resources and security for justice officials.
In conclusion, he raised the issue of the continued lack of a secure environment that severely limited the ability of UNAMA to implement its mandate and exposed its staff to considerable risk. Recruiting and retaining qualified staff represented a major challenge. That issue had to be addressed, also in terms of financial resources.
Statement by UNODC Executive Director
ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, said that, since he had briefed the Council last year, the members had had the chance to see for themselves “the debilitating effects that drugs and crime have on Afghanistan”. Briefing the Council today on the results of the latest opium crop survey carried out by his Office, he said that, while it was easy to be pessimistic about the opium situation, UNODC’s recently released Winter Assessment had revealed a new, possibly encouraging phenomenon: divergent cultivation trends between the central-northern and southern areas of the country.
In the central-northern area of Afghanistan, security and development were slowly taking hold, he said, adding that UNODC’s experience in other parts of the world had shown that greater stability and more assistance would help farmers turn their backs on drug cultivation, which had been the case in the Andean region and in South-East Asia. “It is now happening in parts of Afghanistan, where a balanced system of retribution and rewards is creating an opium-free belt across the middle of the country, from the border with Pakistan in the south-east to the border of Turkmenistan in the north-west,” he said.
He was especially happy about the establishment of a well-resourced Good Performance Fund to reward provincial administrations that eradicated poppy cultivation. That could help lead to the doubling of the number of opium-free provinces from 6 in 2006 to 12. If that happened, it could mean that a third of the country would be without opium cultivation by mid-2007.
But he said that the story was very different in the southern part of Afghanistan, where the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorism and terrorism supporting drug lords was stronger than ever. The ever-increasing opium cultivation in five provinces in that region –- Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Nimroz –- was “an issue of insurgency as much as a drugs problem”. He said it was therefore vital to fight them both together and with the same weapons, adding that, during a recent visit to Kabul, he had been glad to hear that both military and counter-narcotics agents now understood that argument and were developing complimentary rules of engagement.
“Afghanistan’s drug problem occurs in a security vacuum, where illicit crops co-exist with other criminal activities that support such cultivation -– foremost among them, the import of precursor chemicals needed to produce heroin, and the export of illicit proceeds derived from the opium economy,” he said, stressing that the relevant numbers were so big that their lack of detection was in itself a revealing story. He asked the Council to consider that last year alone, more than 1,000 tons of acetic anhydride had been smuggled into Afghanistan, along with five times as many tons of other chemicals needed for drug refining. Also over $3 billion in illicit drug money had been moved in the opposite direction, into havens where it was laundered and put out of the reach of authorities.
“Stemming these tides requires tighter border control in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries,” he said, stressing that, among other things, border management needed to be improved. But at the moment, the Afghan Government was in no position to control its territory. Therefore, neighbours and all those with a stake in stopping the flow of drugs, chemical precursors and money must help. He said that UNODC had recently proposed a major initiative to assist Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan improve border management and anti-narcotic intelligence cooperation. The initiative included physical structures such as border posts, trenches and containment walls, together with border security encampments.
He said that operational measures would also be improved, with joint interception exercises, intelligence-led investigations, common border liaison offices and compatible communications systems. Controls at the sea boarders of Iran and Pakistan needed to be reinforced, together with better checks at freight crossings into Afghanistan, especially in the areas currently not patrolled. “We envisage devoting special attention to container security and to the interception of cargos that are mislabelled to hide chemical precursors,” he added, urging Council members to support that proposal, to complement the vast ongoing bilateral assistance for security sector reform in Afghanistan, and its border management.
“We also need to bring major drug traffickers to justice,” he continued, applauding the Council’s decision last December to add major traffickers to the consolidated list of individuals and entities supporting Al-Qaida and the Taliban. In general, the challenge was to strengthen Afghanistan’s criminal justice system and prosecute people who were profiting from drugs and crime. In particular, he noted that Council resolution 1735 (2006) would make it easier to interdict the incipient Afghan drug cartels, prevent their leaders and operatives from travelling internationally, confiscate their assets and facilitate their arrest and extradition.
Turning finally to the issue of corruption, he said the Secretary-General’s latest report rightly recognized the cancer of corruption, bribery and dishonesty as major threats to Afghanistan, chiefly as they undermined the rule of law. Those crimes were especially ominous as they lubricated the drug machinery and provided the context for criminal activity. They also facilitated the evolution of the narco-economy into a tolerated form of enrichment, and helped illicit revenues sink their buying power into legal economic activity, Government structures and provincial administrations.
He noted that Afghanistan had recently ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and said that the overall goal was to help strengthen the country’s legal and administrative capability, and, among other things, educate a new generation of young and honest civil servants, and promote anti-corruption investigations, prosecutions and the recovery of illicit proceeds placed abroad.
MASSIMO D’ALEMA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Italy, said his country was proud to have contributed to the reform of Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior, developing the country’s parliamentary institutions and advancing progress in transitional justice. However, Italy recognized that more needed to be done regarding security, governance, socio-economic development, regional cooperation, human rights protection and counter-narcotics. As addressed in the draft resolution, UNAMA must be given the political support it needed, as well as the requisite resources, to fulfill its mandate and to develop a stronger humanitarian coordination role and human rights monitoring functions.
He added that creating a sense of Afghan ownership was essential to success. To help bring that about, Italy was organizing a conference in Rome on the rule of law, with the involvement of the Afghan Government and the United Nations. Italy was also committed to the success of the upcoming European security and defence policy mission, which was expected to pay special attention to the link between rule of law, counter-narcotics and police reform. Meanwhile, Italian troops had been committed in large numbers to ISAF in order to prop up security, in cooperation with the Afghan army.
Citing the need to stem the insurgency, he said one way to lend support would be through an international conference. Italy welcomed the meeting of the “Group of Eight” Foreign Ministers plus Afghanistan and Pakistan on 30 May as an important step in the right direction. The meeting should be followed by an international conference in the format of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board meetings, co-sponsored by the Afghan Government and the United Nations, stressing a political commitment at a high level, particularly from within the region; the development of confidence-building measures; and support for President Karzai’s national reconciliation process.
EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said the work of UNAMA was central to everything being done in Afghanistan. Last year, the country had faced a major threat by the Taliban and a vicious insurgency was going on in southern and eastern Afghanistan. However, international and Afghan forces were taking action. Their efforts should be in parallel with actions taken in the economic, political and counter-narcotics areas. Better information should also be disseminated to the people. The United Nations Mission was uniquely placed to play a role in that regard as a member of JCMB, the primary mechanism to implement the Afghanistan Compact. As UNAMA’s provincial presence was also an asset, he strongly supported the proposal to increase the number of provincial offices from 7 to 11, taking into account security constraints.
He said tackling the challenges, including the insurgency, drugs and the Taliban, was a long-term project. Although another year of high poppy harvests had been predicted, there also appeared to be cultivation reductions in those areas where there was better security and development. Donations to the Counter Narcotics Trust Fund could therefore be of help. Regional cooperation was vital to the stability of Afghanistan and the region as a whole, as well as with regard to economic issues. Increasing prosperity through regional cooperation was therefore important. Because the challenges facing Afghanistan were long-term, the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan must also be long-term. The United Kingdom had made that commitment.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said the Special Representative had given a mixed picture of the situation in Afghanistan and security remained of concern. However, progress made since the launching of the Bonn process should not be down-played. The economy was growing and institutions were functioning, among other things. Only through the building of Afghan capacities would development be enabled and stability take hold in the country.
He said the myriad challenges facing the country could not be solved by military action alone. The international community must remain committed to the rapid improvement of living conditions, and to building Afghan capacities to combat corruption, fight drugs and strengthen coordination of efforts. The United Nations Mission was to play a major role in that, but must have the tools to carry out its mandate. He supported a one-year mandate extension of UNAMA, including strengthening its coordination role at the local level, stepping up the functions of its good offices, and contributing to the promotion of human rights and protection of civilians. It was essential that UNAMA give more attention to the freedom of speech and the situation of the media. The Mission’s expansion through the opening of provincial offices should continue.
JOHAN C. VERBEKE ( Belgium) said his delegation shared the view that Afghanistan and its partners were once again at a critical juncture. In order for the situation in Afghanistan to become more stable and for development to take hold, a comprehensive approach was necessary. That was to say that, while security enhancements were critical, positive and decisive steps must be taken on political and economic fronts as well. All stakeholders must cooperate, including the United Nations, ISAF and the Afghan Government, among others. He also noted that pressing ahead with regional cooperation measures was crucial to ensuring stability in Afghanistan, an area in which UNAMA had an important role to play.
Turning to the drug problem, which continued to be a serious threat for Afghanistan, he said that the international community should redouble its efforts to help the country eradicate the scourge of opium poppy cultivation. At the same time, all the news in that area was not bad and it appeared that, in provinces where security permitted eradication programmes to take hold and where alternative crop initiatives were under way, there were prospects for real improvement. He also called on the international community and the Afghan Government to work to curb corruption in the country.
DUSAN MATULAY (Slovakia) said that implementation of the Afghanistan Compact was slowly moving ahead, despite the very difficult circumstances and the insurgency under way mainly in the country’s southern provinces. There were many positive signs that social life was rebounding and that reconstruction projects were under way, including the building of infrastructure and the creation of new small business opportunities for women. But he noted that there was also plenty of evidence that Afghans were more insecure than two years ago, with insurgency and counter-insurgency campaigns spawning ever-more violence.
Security sector reform, justice sector reform, efforts to combat impunity and counter-narcotics initiatives were all severely lagging, he added, calling on the international community to intensify its support so that Afghanistan could reach training targets for its national police force by 2010. He also noted that corruption was at the root of many of the setbacks facing Afghanistan, particularly within policymaking bodies and the judiciary. Corruption undermined the Afghan people’s trust in the Government and its institutions, and the present culture of impunity could only lead to more instability. He called for more efforts to address that issue, as well as to ensure gender equality throughout Afghan institutions. He specifically called on President Karzai to appoint more women to the Cabinet, Supreme Court and the civil service.
Finally, he said that Afghanistan’s neighbours had an important role to play in ensuring the country’s recovery. They must step up efforts to prevent the cross-border movement of insurgents, to fight the flourishing narcotics trade and to find solutions for Afghan refugees living inside their borders.
ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) said the information provided was in some aspects better than that received in the past, but a reduction in violence did not mean that the insurgency had been put down. The reconstruction process in the south could only begin when peace and stability had been established. Although he supported the creation of the Policy Action Group, he expressed some concern about that Group’s plan for the establishment of a national auxiliary police force. He questioned the capability of such a force if its members received only 10 days of training. Screening was also of concern. The link between the record poppy harvest and violence in the south had been clearly shown over the last year and opium production in 2007 could increase. Counter-narcotics programmes should be better financed and coordinated.
He said foreign support received by the Taliban was a major obstacle to reconstruction and stability. In that regard, he welcomed the meetings of the Tri-Partite Commission. Enhanced border control was required to deny access to those in Pakistan who coordinate and carry out attacks on Afghan and international forces. Constructive efforts should be taken in the border areas and dialogue with Pakistan resumed in that regard. JCMB was crucial for the successful implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, but that Compact should set clear priorities. He supported a mandate extension of 12 months for UNAMA, hoping that, during the coming years, greater efforts would be made to combat overall corruption, and to improve the status of women and children and the humanitarian situation in general. He also stressed the need for increased protection of UNAMA staff.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) condemned the assassination of the head of the Kandahar Department of Women’s Affairs in September 2006, saying that the world should adopt an approach in Afghanistan based on “moral clarity” and a commitment to openness, tolerance and social inclusion. In the mean time, President Karzai deserved encouragement and support for seeking to implement an action plan on peace, justice and reconciliation. Also to be commended were UNAMA, ISAF and the numerous non-governmental organizations who were extending such valuable support to the country.
He went on to say that the Afghan people must master their own destiny, and that only a strong central authority could effectively implement the objectives of the internationally-backed Afghanistan Compact, as well as those of the Afghan National Development Strategy and the drug control strategy. For that reason, the seriousness of the governance issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report could not be overstated.
Meanwhile, he said the “brave initiatives” of local communities in Afghanistan to contain the insurgency deserved support, especially in light of the destabilizing effects of the illegal narcotics and arms trade, coupled with the activities of terrorists and extremists. Ghana supported the regional initiatives being undertaken within the framework of the 2002 Kabul Declaration and the New Delhi Declaration of November 2006. The upcoming third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, to be held in Pakistan, was significant because it would give the two countries an opportunity to enhance cooperation on security, governance and development.
VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that his delegation shared the concerns of others at the surging violence in some of Afghanistan’s provinces. The Russian Federation was particularly concerned that insurgents had taken control of some areas, thus putting pressure on nascent rehabilitation efforts there. Overall, it was clear that much more needed to be done to assist Afghanistan in building up its army and other national security forces, and to help the country protect its territory, particularly to face the rising threat of the Taliban. He also stressed the importance of implementing the sanctions measures outlined in relevant Council resolutions. Relevant Council initiatives should also be implemented to counter the Afghan drug threat. To that end, he called on the international community to promote the relevant measures outlined by UNODC, as well as by the Shanghai Development Cooperation.
He said that it was clear that security measures alone would not address all the challenges facing Afghanistan. Indeed, wide-scale economic and political efforts needed to take place at the same time. It was also necessary for the international community to continue to promote the regional integration process. The United Nations Mission was playing an important role in the reconciliation and rehabilitation process, as well as in promoting wider implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. Only through joint international efforts, together with the efforts of the Afghan people themselves, would Afghanistan become a country that was free from the threat of violence, the Taliban and narcotics.
JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States) said the Afghan Government and the international community still faced many challenges, but progress was being made in key areas. The United States had always had a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. As a leading donor, it had provided over $14.2 billion to reconstruction and security assistance since 2001, and it was a leading troop contributor. A request for a further $11.8 billion had been made to the United States Congress.
Confronted with a ruthless enemy, Afghanistan faced a turning point, she noted. The insurgency would not be defeated by force of arms alone. The international community must step up efforts to assist Afghanistan and carry out a comprehensive security, political and economic strategy. The new United States funding would go to security, governance, infrastructure, counter-narcotics and rural development projects. She supported the national reconciliation framework and agreed that the Security Council’s 1267 sanctions list should be updated with new listings and de-listings. She stressed the importance of an enhanced Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship in all fields, including security.
She commended the work of the United Nations and thanked UNAMA for its efforts to expand throughout the country, encouraging further expansion if security permitted. The United Nations should continue to promote sustained international engagement in Afghanistan through its co-chairmanship of JCMB and by reaching out to key members of the international community. The Council and the international community needed to continue to work towards a secure, stable and more prosperous Afghanistan, based on the rule of law and human rights, so that the country would never again fall prey to extremists and terrorists.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said Afghanistan had made significant progress in achieving political, economic and social development, noting the successful conclusion of the Bonn process and the adoption of the Afghanistan Compact.
In spite of those achievements, problems remained, he said. Opium production in 2007 was expected to exceed global demand; security was worsening without signs of improvement; and the return of the Taliban posed a challenge to the Government’s authority. Priority must be placed on the deteriorating security situation, he said, noting that military strategies must be combined with plans for development and national reconciliation. He welcomed the European Union’s decision to establish a mission related to upholding the rule of law. Consolidating sustainable security, he emphasized, required attention to national reconciliation.
Calling on the international community to treat Afghanistan as a priority, he said the recent high-level meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board had been a commendable step. New initiatives to address the country’s security, poverty and human rights situations should be welcomed. Recalling economic cooperation conferences recently held in Kabul and New Delhi, he stressed the need for regional support.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said the Secretary-General’s latest report presented a mixed picture. On the one hand, it noted that President Karzai’s Government had made significant strides regarding political reforms, human rights promotion and basic social enhancements. On the other hand, the report had stressed that all those advances remained fragile and were threatened by, among others, the mounting insurgency and other violence and the ever-present threat posed by poppy cultivation. Moreover, the Government was not yet ready to exercise its control throughout the country and its military and other national law enforcement agents needed to be significantly enhanced. The Security Council needed to remain seized of all those important issues, he said.
With all this in mind, he said a comprehensive approach should be applied, one that went beyond merely addressing security concerns and dealt with the root causes of Afghanistan’s ongoing challenges. The international community must step up its efforts to ensure the full implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, he said, adding that it should also respect and provide more support to the Government’s own efforts to implement reforms.
When security permitted, UNAMA should expand the scope of its activities so that more Afghan people would know that they had not been forgotten, he added. The Mission should also do more to mobilize the international community to support rehabilitation and reconstruction in the country. It was only through united and unremitting efforts by the international community and the Afghan people themselves that Afghanistan could take further strides towards peace and reconstruction.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES (Peru) called on all stakeholders, including the Afghan people, to step up efforts to implement the Afghanistan Compact and work together to, among other things, improve security conditions, support human rights and curb the production of illicit crops, which were a major source of violence and instability in the country. The report of the Secretary-General pointed out the gains made thus far, but also highlighted the number of critical challenges facing the full implementation of those gains. There was general recognition that violence caused by extremists and terrorist groups was of the utmost concern.
So it was necessary to outline strategies to address the challenges posed by such groups, while at the same time protecting civilians and the fabric of society. He said that today’s briefings had revealed that behind the myriad challenges was the drug trade. Here, as in many areas of concern, it was necessary for the Afghan people and Government to lead the way, he said. Protecting citizens and their human rights must be at the heart of tackling that issue. The Afghan Government must adopt polices that were grounded in the protection and promotion of the civil, political, social and economic rights of all citizens. There was a particular need to ensure equal opportunity for women and to ensure that they participated actively and meaningfully in Afghan society, he added.
PASCAL GAYAMA ( Congo) said he condemned the use by the Taliban and other terrorists of innocent victims as human shields and as bargaining chips. Expressing regret for the loss of life, including civilians, United Nations staff and international and national forces, he said their sacrifices demonstrated the difficulty of stabilizing the country. The international community must more than ever express its resolve to contribute to building a democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
He said that, without giving up the military option, it would be timely to demonstrate more imagination and look at all ways to bring lasting peace, including through more dialogue among the national and international players. He was encouraged by the actions taken by JCMB and those undertaken by ISAF and the Afghan forces. The seizure of an important shipment of drugs by the Afghan police was a clear sign of the national resolve in that critical area. The eradication of drug production continued to be a major challenge. A climate of trust and cooperation should be restored in the region. In that regard, he welcomed the quarterly meetings between the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan on security. He also supported the extension of UNAMA’s mandate.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE ( Indonesia) said progress in Afghanistan had been visible in the economic and political spheres. However, optimism in the area of peace and stability seemed to be seriously disparaged by the increase in insurgent activity. The insurgency continued to pose challenges to the Government and presented a danger to civilians and aid providers. Measures relating to reconciliation, participatory decision-making and inclusive political processes were of critical importance to the achievement of sustainable peace. He attached great significance to national unity programmes, including at the village level.
Welcoming the positive developments in the economic sector, he underlined the significance of regional initiatives in the political and security fields. Close cooperation with Pakistan was of particular importance, considering the impact of cross-border elements in the security of both countries. Based on national experience, he pointed out that both countries could develop joint programmes along the border, such as a jointly administered economic zone or the development of traditional commerce involving local traders in the border areas. As for the increase in poppy production, one lesson learned from the success in the golden triangle area in South-East Asia was the crucial need for introducing sustainable alternative livelihood programmes.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that the challenges in Afghanistan included increased insurgent activities, escalating cultivation of opium poppy, slow progress in economic and social development, and widespread corruption. The security problem, which had deteriorated in the past few months, posed a serious threat to nation-building in Afghanistan. Despite counter-narcotics measures adopted by the Government, the report made it clear that opium poppy cultivation and the drug economy continued to grow. He was concerned about the threat it posed to the stability of the country and possible negative spillover effects. He encouraged the Government to improve its institutional capacity for service delivery and development in support of viable alternatives to poppy cultivation.
He commended progress made with regard to the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board as it provided the principal framework for facilitating cooperation between the Government and the international community. He also stressed the importance of regional cooperation and welcomed improved relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours. He was encouraged by the increase in trade with key economic partners and commended the financial and technical assistance for infrastructural development extended to Afghanistan. He commended such cooperation, especially with Pakistan, as it was critical to foster trust required to improve security in the border areas and to achieve peace and stability in the region.
In conclusion, he said that the best way to tackle the challenges was to continue what the Government, the international community and UNAMA were already doing in Afghanistan. His delegation supported the activities of UNAMA and stood ready to assist Afghanistan on its path to a stable and prosperous future.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said that, despite well-recognized gains, some of Afghanistan’s main obstacles included terrorism, narcotics, weak institutions and the slow pace of economic development. “As such, it would be safe to say that we have jointly underestimated the magnitude of the challenges facing Afghanistan,” he said, adding that it had become obvious that renewed commitment by the international community was required to help the country address the remaining obstacles and to consolidate the gains of the last few years.
The prevailing security situation remained at the forefront of those challenges, he said, noting that regrettably there had been a significant surge in terrorist-related activities over the past year, occurring mainly in the southern parts of the country. That violence had not only affected the daily lives of the Afghan people, but had also significantly impacted health and education, as well as development and reconstruction projects undertaken with the support of international partners. Particularly worrisome was the fact that the Taliban and other extremist elements had resorted to the “abhorrent practice” of suicide attacks –- a phenomenon relatively unknown in the country’s past history. He said that some 123 suicide bombings had been carried out last year. Such attacks remained a source of serious concern for the Government and the global community.
“Improving security in Afghanistan will require a comprehensive and multifaceted approach, one which will address both the internal and regional dimensions of the problem,” he said, stressing that Afghanistan’s national army and police lacked the number of personnel required to effectively combat a resurgent enemy force. Therefore, accelerating the recruitment and training of Afghan security forces would be crucial to achieve the intended goal of a 68,000-strong standing army and an 82,000-person police force by the end of 2008. “The success of our security institutions to combat effectively a revitalized and well-equipped enemy force will depend largely on the level of international assistance in terms of financial, logistical and technical support,” he added, welcoming the recent decision taken by the United States, NATO and other international partners to increase their level of assistance to Afghanistan’s security forces.
Highlighting the regional dimension of Afghanistan’s problems, he cited the presence of foreign sanctuaries, which trained, equipped, recruited and indoctrinated extremist fighters to carry out attacks within Afghanistan. To that end, it had become evident that, unless the external sources of insecurity were addressed in a comprehensive and resolute manner, all efforts to achieve a stable and prosperous Afghanistan would be in vain. The threat posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremists was not limited to Afghanistan alone and put at risk the stability of the wider region and beyond. “We are pleased to note that this fact has finally been acknowledged by the wider international community,” he added.
He went on to commend the crucial role being played by international partners in combating terrorism, but stressed at the same time the importance of regional cooperation in the matter. Such cooperation would be indispensable to achieving the shared goal of a prosperous Afghanistan, he said, welcoming Pakistan’s recent arrest of the Taliban’s former Defence Minister. He hoped such measures would continue and said that his Government would maintain high-level and constructive contacts with Pakistan. Among other things, efforts were now under way to convene a cross-border jirga of tribal leaders and influential figures, and the first preparatory meeting of the Jirga Commission had taken place just last week. The next meeting was set to take place in Kabul sometime next month.
Turning to social and economic development, he said the inextricable link between development and security necessitated a particular focus on accelerating the pace of implementing development and reconstruction projects throughout the country. That would, in turn, have a positive impact on creating employment opportunities, providing basic services and improving the daily lives of people. In that regard, conflict-afflicted areas should be accorded particular focus.
He also noted that, while his Government was sincerely appreciative of the support it had received from the international community over the past five years, Afghanistan had received far less assistance than other post-conflict countries. Therefore, he reiterated the need for increased and sustained assistance to meet the benchmarks of the Afghan National Development Strategy and the Afghanistan Compact. He added that, alleviating the drug threat, given its nexus with terrorist-related activities, remained a top Government priority, but would also require international assistance. The counter-narcotics strategy would only be successful if the Government was able to provide other modes of legal economic activity. Regional cooperation would be the key to overcoming that common threat, he said, underscoring the need for an equal effort on the part of transit and consuming countries.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said there were multiple challenges to the restoration of peace, security and development in Afghanistan, including terrorism, the Taliban, extremism, drugs, warlords and factional friction, inadequate security and governance, as well as a relatively small international presence. A strategy for success in Afghanistan must combine military containment with political reconciliation, administrative control and rapid socio-economic development. “It must build peace in Afghanistan in a bottom-up approach –- village by village, district by district -– offering incentives and disincentives to win the cooperation and support of the local population in the south and south-east.”
He said Pakistan’s frontier regions had been deeply affected by the three decades of war and conflict in Afghanistan. As part of its programme for modernization and rapid socio-economic development, it was in Pakistan’s vital interest to eliminate Al-Qaida terrorists, Taliban militancy and the “talibanization” of those frontier regions, which housed 1 per cent of the country’s total population. Peace in Afghanistan would enable Pakistan to realize its strategic objective of serving, together with Afghanistan, as the hub for trade and economic cooperation between the adjacent regions of South, West and Central Asia.
Despite media reports and “some unfortunate public allegations”, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan was close, cooperative and intense, he said. Bilateral trade, now estimated to be between $1 billion and $2 billion, was rising fast. Pakistan had committed $300 million for development in Afghanistan and 60,000 Pakistanis worked there. Pakistan was also actively participating in the joint efforts of the international coalition and the Afghan Government to promote security in Afghanistan and especially in the border regions.
Outlining some of the measures Pakistan was taking to contribute to the campaign for peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s frontier region, he said that the Pakistani army had captured over 700 Al-Qaida terrorists and had captured and handed over to Afghanistan 1,500 militants. However, most of the Taliban activity was within Afghanistan, as were its command structures and financing through drugs. Moreover, border control was a joint responsibility of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the international coalition forces, and Pakistan could not accept the entire responsibility for that.
As to the atrocious allegations about so-called “sanctuaries” and “safe havens” for the Taliban, he said Taliban militants mostly sought to merge into refugee camps close to the border. Pakistan had reached an agreement with the Afghan Government to relocate four of the large camps to secure sites inside Afghanistan. Pakistan had also initiated a programme to repatriate all remaining Afghan refugees within the next three years. The North Waziristan Agreement concluded with the tribal elders was essentially an exchange of peace for development and had brought relative calm to the area. Violations by some recalcitrant elements in North Waziristan had been adequately punished. There was also a need to rapidly develop the border zone on both sides. His country was working with the United States on the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in the tribal areas.
THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the upcoming renewal of UNAMA’s mandate. He said the Secretary-General’s report had presented a mixed picture of current trends. Progress in some areas appeared to contrast with an overall precarious security situation, widespread lack of good governance, popular alienation and a thriving narcotics industry.
The stabilization of Afghanistan was key to the stability of the whole region, he continued. His delegation encouraged the development of regional cooperation through political dialogue, increased economic links, and confidence-building measures between Afghanistan and all its neighbours, including Central Asian States. While calling on Afghanistan and Pakistan to cooperate closely to deal with insecurity in the border areas, he urged Pakistan to build on current efforts to prevent the use of its territory by the Taliban.
The European Union had made a commitment to long-term support for the people and Government of Afghanistan, he noted, adding that the core principles of that engagement were to promote Afghan leadership, responsibility and ownership, and to foster the development of a democratic, secure and sustainable Afghanistan. In the 2002-2006 period, the European Union, as the second-largest donor, had collectively contributed 3.7 billion euros in aid to Afghanistan, notwithstanding large contributions to ISAF and NATO from European Union members.
Recognizing the significant impact drug production and trafficking had on the stability and security of Afghanistan, the surrounding region and European Union members themselves, the European Council had reaffirmed its commitment to support the Afghan Government’s efforts to tackle drugs through the National Drug Control Strategy, including anti-corruption efforts. Moreover, the Union had reaffirmed its support for the Government’s efforts to promote and extend the rule of law through the development of the police, courts, prisons and wider justice system, recognizing the important role of counter-narcotics as part of that. In February, the European Council had decided to set up a European Security and Defence Policy Mission to Afghanistan in the field of policing, with linkages to the wider rule of law.
On freedom of speech, he voiced concern over the recent amendments to the draft media law under discussion in Parliament, as those appeared to enhance Government control of the media. He said that freedom of speech and free media were among the most impressive achievements of recent years in Afghanistan, and the draft media law, first enacted by presidential decree in 2005, had provided a sound basis for the protection of free and independent media regulation mechanisms. Therefore, he hoped the media law would be adopted on that basis.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said Afghanistan needed sustained and consistent support from the international community. Last week, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that New Zealand would extend its commitments in Afghanistan until September 2008. Those included the 120-member provincial reconstruction team (PRT) based in Bamyan province; 2 personnel to help train the Afghan National Army; up to 5 officers to serve with ISAF; and 3 police officers to help train the Afghan National Police. Also, up to two health-care personnel would work at the Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Airfield. New Zealand had also partnered with the Singapore Armed Forces to provide humanitarian assistance through its PRT. In addition to its military commitments in Bamyan, New Zealand was implementing a three-year $NZ 15 million assistance programme to support human rights, governance, education and sustainable rural livelihoods. New Zealand was committed to ensuring that its efforts were appropriately focused.
She noted that, according to the Secretary-General’s report, the successful completion of ongoing reforms, including of the Ministry of the Interior, was a prerequisite for achieving sustainable peace in Afghanistan. She fully endorsed those comments and encouraged the Afghan Government to act decisively to build public confidence in its security institutions and the rule of law. It was critical that the influence of central structures spread to all regions. She expressed grave concern over the threat posed by the insurgency. A sustained, holistic approach –- with the involvement of Afghanistan’s neighbours -- was required to address Afghanistan’s complex issues. She called on all parties to work to better coordinate humanitarian assistance and protection for the Afghans displaced by armed conflict in the south and those affected by the drought in many parts of the country.
ARJAN HAMBURGER ( Netherlands) said the Netherlands had contributed 2,000 personnel on the ground through ISAF and was spending more than 70 million euros annually on development cooperation in Afghanistan, mainly through the United Nations and the World Bank. He was encouraged by the Afghan Government’s determination to fight corruption and create a better functioning justice system. Governance was the key to improving the Government’s credibility, especially in the southern provinces. Reconciliation and transitional justice were essential for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations would be inconsistent with Afghanistan’s obligations under international law. Adequate implementation of the Transitional Justice Action Plan, launched by President Karzai in early December, was crucial.
Noting that ISAF comprised personnel from 37 countries, active in 27 provincial reconstruction teams, he encouraged more countries to contribute militarily and non-militarily to the Force, which provided stability and security so that international organizations and other civilian development actors could succeed. The Netherlands and Australia were deployed in the southern province of Uruzgan, where stability and security were taking root within the Afghan Development Zones. The Netherlands-Australia PRT was covering about 60 per cent of the population in the province. Key tribal leaders were involved in diplomacy efforts, and some 40,000 residents of Uruzgan were benefiting from development projects. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to expand UNAMA’s presence in more southern provinces.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said it was very important that the whole process –- internal, regional and international –- that contributed to promoting a constitutional democracy and to strengthening the consolidation of peace, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan moved forward with as few hindrances and with as much support from the international community as possible. That was essential not only for the betterment of the lives of the long-suffering Afghan people, but also for enhancing stability in the region, as well as for advancing the international community’s collective counter-terrorism efforts. The United Nations, and particularly the Security Council, played a crucial role in that effort and should continue to do so.
Afghanistan now stood at a crossroads and, while there had been many positive achievements, including the successful completion of the Bonn process and the launching of the Afghanistan Compact, the remaining challenges facing the country were enormous, particularly in the areas of security, counter-narcotics, the rule of law, good governance and development, among others. Touching briefly on a few of those issues, he said that Japan encouraged and supported the efforts by Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at improving security along and across the countries’ common borders. Japan was also committed to supporting, after the successful handling of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration initiatives, the next step in boosting security sector reform, namely disarming illegal armed groups.
Turning to other challenges, he said that narcotics-related problems were no less serious than the threat posed by the Taliban-led insurgency. Japan supported the view that an urgent and concerted effort was needed to improve implementation of the country’s National Drug Control Strategy. For its part, the Japanese Government had been assisting UNODC’s efforts and had contributed to the Counter Narcotics Trust Fund to boost projects aimed at promoting alternative livelihoods. Japan had also been assisting in other areas, including with road building projects.
To that end, outreach to populations in the provinces was critically important, particularly as the Secretary-General’s report had noted that popular alienation remained a key factor behind the revitalized insurgency and stemmed from, among others, inappropriate Government appointments and tribal nepotism. Japan hoped that the expanded presence of UNAMA would contribute to reconstruction and development in the provinces, and lead to greater support among the local populations for the consolidation of peace throughout the country.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS ( Belarus), speaking on behalf of the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) [ Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan], noted that 8 of the 12 benchmarks set for 2006 in the Afghanistan Compact had been achieved. Nonetheless, he remained concerned at the violence provoked by the Taliban and Al-Qaida, and stressed the importance of implementing Security Council sanctions. Drug trafficking also posed a serious threat to regional and global security. In order to stop such activity, his organization had implemented the “Channel-2006” operation, which had eliminated certain heroin smuggling channels, among other things.
Recognizing the importance of military and humanitarian aid, he said it was crucial to address economic and social problems, as new jobs and economic opportunities would bring down terrorist activity. The United Nations should maintain its lead role in Afghan affairs, including in the coordination of international reconstruction efforts within the Afghanistan Compact. In that area, members of his organization had partnered with Afghanistan to rebuild highways, bridges and to provide electricity.
It was essential to strengthen regional cooperation between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries on security issues and economic projects, he said. His organization had created a special working group on Afghanistan and had developed several proposals, especially in the area of transborder transport communications.
JOHN MCNEE (Canada), stating that his country was the third largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan, welcomed the current year’s focus on the provinces, as 90 per cent of Afghans lived outside the confines of Kabul. That meant that the Afghan Government and the international community, including UNAMA, must make greater efforts to extend their presence and programming into the provinces. Sound governance should be nurtured in the districts and the communities. There must be mechanisms in place to ensure the integrity of officials, and where leadership faltered, qualified and capable Afghans must be encouraged to come forward. He hoped that the Senior Appointments Panel -— both a short-term Compact benchmark and key element of the Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice –- would lead to better governance.
He said that focusing on the provinces also meant rolling out national-level programmes in the provinces. The international community, through its 25 provincial reconstruction teams, must work with the Afghan Government to ensure even, country-wide reconstruction and development. The National Solidarity Programme was an excellent example of programme implementation at the grass-roots level. He welcomed UNAMA’s intention to increase the number of its provincial offices. However, that expansion would require concomitant resources. With the support of the international community, UNAMA must ensure that its offices are adequately staffed and that its staff members had access to the required security to venture outside the wire and effectively undertake their outreach and coordination functions.
VIKRAM DORAISWAMI ( India) said the report’s use of the term “insurgents” did not begin to describe extremists and terrorists of the most vicious sort. One could not negotiate with those who choose the path of terror. Efforts to find negotiated peace in the more troubled provinces were not succeeding. Tolerating the spiral of violence was not an option, and a strong, unified international voice condemning international terrorism was the need of the day. A robust response to terror must be maintained, while simultaneously focusing on the most rapid possible expansion of capacity to deliver effective governance, development and the dividends of peace. Until Afghan security forces were fully empowered, the nexus between drug trafficking and terror could not be broken.
He said the situation in Afghanistan required that development followed in the wake of security. Firm action against drug lords was required, but having taken such action, the effort must be rapidly followed up by providing alternative sources of employment. In such circumstances, it was difficult to ensure a fully even-handed approach. Donors must let the Afghan people draw up their list of development priorities, which might differ from their own preferences. Patience was called for. There was also a need for closer and more effective coordination between international organizations and stakeholders in Afghanistan. Bilaterally, India’s commitments exceeded $750 million.
JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said the Afghan Government and people had come a long way, having achieved the milestones of the Bonn Agreement with the inauguration in 2005 of the Afghan National Assembly, a body which had now developed into a vibrant forum for debate and which provided an increasingly powerful counterweight to the executive branch. Led by President Karzai and benefiting from international and regional assistance, the Afghan people, despite the enormity of the task, had also made significant progress towards the rehabilitation of the country’s basic infrastructure. Economic indicators continued to suggest that there was cause for optimism, particularly continued low rates of inflation.
But despite those and other promising steps, daunting challenges remained, he said. Terrorism and insurgency-related violence, coupled with the pervasive drug economy, continued to pose serious threats to security, stability and development. Iran was concerned that terrorist acts and other violence were on the rise, particularly in the south and south-eastern parts of the country. Iran was also concerned with the rise in Taliban and Al-Qaida activities. The fact that, during the past year, terrorists and insurgents had been emboldened by their strategic successes rather than being disheartened by their tactical failures, combined with some developments on the ground, indicated that, in combating terrorism and insecurity in Afghanistan, any actions –- including contacts with those responsible for insecurity and mayhem –- that could be wrongly interpreted as rewarding terrorists and criminals would prove counter-productive.
He said that Iran condemned the continued terrorist acts committed in Afghanistan and would continue to support the Afghan Government’s efforts to ensure security and stability throughout the country. Iran believed that, in order to respond effectively to the recent surge in terrorist violence in certain parts of Afghanistan, the capabilities of the Afghan police and army should be enhanced. It was imperative that the international community spare no effort to empower Afghans to address their own security problems, by, among other things, speeding up efforts to train and equip Afghan police and military forces.
Undoubtedly, terrorism, insecurity and drug trafficking were mutually reinforcing, and terrorist groups were the major beneficiaries of the drug money, he said, stressing that it was therefore imperative and indispensable for members of the international community, especially those on the receiving end, to adjust their counter-narcotic strategies accordingly. He also called on the international community to enhance its support for the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy. Iran had fought a costly war against heavily armed drug traffickers in the past few decades and stood ready to continue that fight. At the same time, in order for Iran to sustain that fight against drug trafficking, international support, and especially the cooperation of neighbouring countries, was essential.
MONA JUUL ( Norway) said success in Afghanistan required the building of Afghan ownership through full implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. The United Nations should play a stronger role and UNAMA must be further strengthened and expanded. Although the security situation was better than it was last year, there were signs of continued security challenges ahead, raising concern for the protection of civilians and delivery of humanitarian and development assistance. International forces must continue to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties and international efforts must be organized in a way that strengthened the Afghan Government and Afghan popular support for the international presence.
She said progress in promoting the participation of women was crucial for sustainable development. The Afghan Government and the United Nations must redouble efforts to ensure full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. As there were signs that opium production might further increase, she stressed that one could learn from the fact that opium production had been reduced in areas where there had been strong leadership on the part of the governor and a good dialogue with traditional leaders. Peace and justice went hand in hand. Full implementation of the Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice, in accordance with the Afghanistan Compact and the expectations of the Afghan people, was therefore important.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) also agreed with Norway on the need to promote the participation of women. He said Afghanistan was once again at a critical junction. A comprehensive international approach with the Government of Afghanistan was needed, encompassing security, counter-narcotic measures, anti-corruption measures, strengthening of legal economic activities, enhancement of infrastructure and reliable international support in which UNAMA, ISAF, the European Union and others were key.
He said Iceland had two people at NATO headquarters in Kabul and held six positions at Kabul Airport. A transition to Afghan authorities of the Airport was being looked into. Iceland would follow closely the preparation for such a transition and was ready to commit more people to work within such a transition and even to manage it. For the past one and a half years, Iceland had also operated a Mobile Liaison and Observation Team of six people in the provincial reconstruction team in Chagcharan under Lithuanian control. A decision had been taken to discontinue that team and to look into assisting more civilian assignments instead.
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* The 5640th Meeting was closed.