CHALLENGES IN AFGHANISTAN -- RUTHLESS INSURGENCY, FRAGILE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS, MASSIVE ILLEGAL DRUG ECONOMY -- MUST BE CONFRONTED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
5851st Meeting (AM & PM)
CHALLENGES IN AFGHANISTAN -- RUTHLESS INSURGENCY, FRAGILE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS,
MASSIVE ILLEGAL DRUG ECONOMY -- MUST BE CONFRONTED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Head of Peacekeeping Says United Nations Mission Does Not Need
Additional Powers, but, in Face of Evolving Situation, Mandate Must Be Sharpened
Given the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan over the past two years -– an insurgency that had proven to be more resilient and more ruthless than anyone had imagined, still fragile Afghan governmental institutions susceptible to corrosive corruption and a massive illegal drug economy thriving in the vacuum of State authority and abetting the insurgency -- there was a need to confront those challenges and make some course corrections, the Security Council was told today.
Added to that mix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told the Council during an open debate on the situation, was a complex regional environment and national interests in Afghanistan sometimes pursued at the expense of an effort to support stability in a coordinated manner. The international community, while committed and generous, had too often been insufficiently united on key policy issues. The United Nations bore its own share of responsibility for deficiencies in international coordination.
Work was under way to correct that, although cooperation of international and Afghan partners was needed, he said. The Council now faced the important responsibility of renewing the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA did not need additional powers, but, in the face of the evolving situation, the mandate must be sharpened. He agreed with the Secretary-General’s proposed areas of focus for the Mission, which included coordination of international assistance, UNAMA’s relationship with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the upcoming elections and improved governance.
Reclaiming the spirit of Bonn was in the interest of all nations, the United States’ speaker asserted, referring to the initial series of agreements from December 2001 intended to recreate Afghanistan following the United States invasion of the country in response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. He urged the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Kai Eide of Norway, to engage in active diplomacy to create a regional environment conducive to Afghanistan’s stabilization. But, first and foremost among the priorities as discussions continued on UNAMA’S mandate, was empowering Mr. Eide to more effectively coordinate international support, given the dozens of donors, agencies and implementers, to ensure that the most was made of individual efforts.
He stressed that success against the insurgency required a “comprehensive game plan” to ensure that rooting out enemy activity was coordinated with efforts to establish good governance and economic development. Better coordination of international efforts would also ensure a shared commitment to Afghanistan’s development strategy and to the Afghanistan Compact, thereby increasing the capacity of the Afghan ministries to provide basic services and tackle corruption. Noting that UNAMA faced vacancy rates and staff retention issues, he urged the United Nations to recruit its best people; it was not just a matter of filling the slots, but of getting highly motivated and capable people with the right skills.
Italy’s delegate, whom speakers indicated was working on the draft text concerning UNAMA’s mandate, said the main message to be drawn from the Secretary-General’s report was that the international community should stay the course. The enemies of peace had shown that they were ready to exploit any sign of weakness and to fill all gaps that might be created. Mutual trust between Afghanistan and its partners was indispensable to counter the opposing forces; the international community must trust the good faith of the Afghan authorities and the Afghan authorities must trust the genuine and unbiased commitment of its partners.
Given the wide-ranging nature of UNAMA’s mandate, there was a need to identify priority actions for the Mission, and Italy was ready to work with Council members to translate the Secretary-General’s recommendations into consensual language, he said. UNAMA not only needed clear guidance from the international community, but also political support and the resources required to fulfil its challenging tasks. The resolution to be adopted by the Council needed to seriously address a number of horizontal issues on the Councils’ agenda -- including protection of civilians, children in armed conflict, women, peace and security -- as they were all dramatically relevant in the case of Afghanistan.
Describing the destinies of Afghanistan and Pakistan as interlinked, the latter nation’s representative said his country remained strongly committed to help Afghanistan achieve sustainable peace and development. Much success vis-à-vis Al-Qaida and the Taliban had been the result of Pakistan’s support and cooperation, including the exchange of intelligence through the Tripartite Commission. Pakistan’s deployment of more than 100,000 troops in the border regions was a crucial contribution in border control and counter-insurgency, and his country had lost more than 1,000 military personnel in related operations.
He said that safe and voluntary return of all remaining Afghan refugees, 2 million of which were still hosted by Pakistan, should also be accorded high priority. He welcomed the emphasis in the Secretary-General’s report on increased assistance for creating conditions conducive to refugee returns. However, he did not agree with the observation that the fact that more than 80 per cent of the refugees had been in exile for more than 20 years could be a factor inhibiting their return. All refugees should return to their homeland.
Afghanistan’s representative worried that increased terrorist attacks by the enemies of Afghanistan had led to some ill-judged and misguided perceptions about the situation in his country. Recent remarks of a lack of Government control or even failure in Afghanistan were “products of premature assumptions”, which had the potential to undermine public support for efforts to achieve lasting peace and security in the country. “We should stay the course with firm determination and prevent security nuances from weakening our resolve to achieve our shared goals,” he said.
He reminded the Council that Afghanistan and its international partners had made undeniable gains towards a strong, stable and democratic country. By all standards, the achievements reflected tremendous success. Today, a greater part of Afghanistan was secure from terrorism and violence, and that fight continued. Thanks to the support of its international partners, the country’s security forces had become stronger and more effective. The Afghan national army had reached 58,000 troops and assumed a greater role in the fight against terrorists seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and the region.
With the support of its international partners, Afghanistan had dismantled more than 120 terrorist bases of operations and apprehended 1,000 terrorists, including foreigners, he said. Among the captured were elite commanders of the Taliban and Al-Qaida’s rank and file, as well as the culprits of recent terrorist attacks. They included terrorists who had carried out the attack on the Serena Hotel on 14 January and the suicide bombings in Kandahar last month.
Despite the achievements, he acknowledged that significant challenges remained. Providing security was not only the main objective, but also the primary challenge. Terrorists had increased attacks against civilians, schools, religious figures, security forces and international partners. They had also broadened the scope of their activities in the region. New violent fronts had been opened. Those attacks, which had become “hit and run” tactics, should not be seen as a sign of the enemy’s strength, but rather of their frustration, resulting from the inability to engage in direct battles. His Government would spare no effort to improve security for its people. It maintained a comprehensive strategy that contained both military and political dimensions.
While the military campaign remained the centrepiece of efforts to defeat terrorists and consolidate security, he said, greater attention was being accorded to political outreach and national reconciliation. Strengthening governance and combating corruption and the narcotics trade also remained top priorities, for which new measures had been initiated or strengthened, and the counter-narcotics efforts had gained momentum following the increase in cultivation and production of opium in 2007. Despite those challenges, Afghanistan was continuing its reconstruction and social and economic development.
He welcomed UNAMA’s continued coordinating role to ensure timely and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, as well as its readiness to assist the Government to create conditions conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of fellow Afghans from abroad. He also expressed appreciation to the United Nations overall and the international community for efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and stability in Afghanistan. “Together, we have come a long way, but our mission has yet to be accomplished. With greater coordination and closer cooperation, we will successfully conclude the journey, which we jointly embarked upon six years ago,” he concluded.
Statements were also made by the following Council members: Panama, Belgium, China, United Kingdom, Burkina Faso, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Libya, South Africa, Indonesia, France, Croatia and the Russian Federation.
Also participating in the debate were representatives of Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Republic of Korea, Japan, Iceland, Canada, Turkey, India, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kyrgyzstan (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization) and Kazakhstan.
The meeting was called to order at 10:12 a.m. and suspended at 12:55 p.m. It resumed at 3:06 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/62/722-S/2008/159). In it, he says that insurgent and terrorist activity increased sharply in 2007 from that of the previous year, resulting in more than 8,000 conflict-related deaths, more than 1,500 of them civilians.
The report explains that Afghanistan remains roughly divided between the generally more stable west and north, where security problems are linked to factionalism and criminality, and the south and east characterized by an increasingly coordinated insurgency. Even within the south, conflict has been concentrated in a fairly small area: 70 per cent of security incidents occurred in 10 per cent -- or 40 -- of Afghanistan’s districts, home to 6 per cent of the country’s population. A worrying trend, however, was the gradual emergence of insurgent activity in the far north-west of the country, an area that had been calm, as well as encroachment by the insurgency into Logar and Wardak provinces, which border Kabul.
The tactics of the anti-Government elements changed noticeably in 2007, the report states further. The superiority of the Afghan and international security forces in conventional battles has forced opposing groups to adopt small-scale, asymmetric tactics aimed largely at the Afghan National Security Forces and, in some cases, civilians; improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks, assassinations and abductions. Although the insurgency has support in and draws strength from elements within the Afghan community, the support of foreign-based networks in providing leadership, planning, training, funding and equipment clearly remains crucial to its viability.
Of particular concern has been the increase in the number of attacks against local and international humanitarian workers, the report goes on the say. More than 40 convoys delivering food aid for the World Food Programme (WFP) were attacked and looted in 2007. In more than 130 attacks against humanitarian programmes, 40 humanitarian workers were killed and 89 abducted, of whom 7 were later killed by their captors.
The Secretary-General observes that, two years after the adoption of the Afghanistan Compact, the political transition continues to face serious challenges. The Taliban and related armed groups and the drug economy represent fundamental threats to still fragile political, economic and social institutions. Despite tactical successes by national and international military forces, the anti-Government elements are far from defeated.
In 2006, he recalls, the Compact launched a five-year partnership with the international community to improve the lives of the Afghan people. Since then, there have been major achievements and the scale of international support has grown. At the same time, terrorism and insurgency have intensified, inhibiting the peace process. State-building and international coordination have proved challenging. The Afghanistan National Development Strategy remains the foundation for intensifying efforts, though some prioritization may be required, under the Government’s leadership, to overcome obstacles to implementation.
To meet the security challenge and stabilize Afghanistan, a common approach is needed that integrates security, governance, rule of law, human rights and social and economic development, he says. The partnership between the Government, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the United Nations and the international community remains essential to this approach, which must also be aimed at implementing, under Government leadership, the shared vision of the Compact, with parliamentary, civil society and private sector support. As the Afghanistan National Development Strategy enters an implementation phase, a new focus on sequencing and delivery mechanisms will be required.
Continuing, he says that subnational governance is a key priority of the Government, and the international community appreciates the establishment of the Independent Directorate for Local Governance, which will have to respond effectively to high domestic and international expectations. Its success will depend on continued political will, as well as on support by donors. Attention should be focused particularly on the development of synergies at the district level between programmes addressing governance, police reform, rule of law, the disbandment of illegal armed groups and counter-narcotics challenges.
Preparations must begin immediately on voter registration and planning for the next elections, he states further. This requires decisions by the Afghan authorities on electoral dates and the adoption of electoral legislation. The international community will need to begin mobilizing funds to support these vital processes, especially that of voter registration, which must start in mid-2008 in order for elections to be held in 2009.
The International Police Coordination Board, now under the chairmanship of the Ministry of the Interior, is playing an increasing role in policy-setting and coordination, according to the report. It will oversee a review of the Ministry’s institutional development, as well as that of a policing vision that balances the needs of law enforcement and counter-insurgency. Such a vision cannot be achieved without the rule of law, and the Secretary-General welcomes the development of the national justice programme and the support it has attracted from donors.
The report goes on to note that one of the most positive outcomes of the seventh meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board was an agreed approach on counter-narcotics. Priority will now be placed on delivery of the agreed implementation plan, including the province-based approach, and the restructuring and reform of the Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund to enable speedier disbursements. The Government will need to muster the political will to meet the agreed eradication target of 50,000 hectares, take measures against public officials linked to the narcotics trade and convict high-level traffickers and large landowners engaging in poppy cultivation. Decisive action on the part of the Government in this respect is urgently needed. In addition, Member States should make concrete use of Security Council resolution 1735 (2006), which calls for the identification of drug traffickers in the context of its sanctions regime.
The centrality of a human-rights-based approach to stability and development should be reaffirmed, says the report. Technical, financial and political support by the Government and the international community are critical for the Justice Ministry to effectively fulfil its role as lead agency for coordinating and reporting on the successful integration of human rights within the Afghanistan National Development Strategy process.
The report goes on to say that allegations of torture and arbitrary detention were highlighted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights during her November 2007 visit. The resulting constructive dialogue and access to previously inaccessible detention facilities should be built upon, so as to ensure that all detentions and trials are conducted in a transparent manner and in compliance with international standards.
JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that the Secretary-General’s report spoke for itself. It described frankly the difficulties faced over the last year in particular. Through those difficulties, however, some important lessons had been learned, which must now be applied. In particular, there was an increasingly common diagnosis of the main obstacles. There was an insurgency that had proven to be more resilient than expected and more ruthless than anyone had ever imagined. Afghan governmental institutions remained fragile and without sufficient capacity, and had become susceptible to corrosive corruption. A massive illegal drug economy thrived in the vacuum of State authority, and had abetted the insurgency and undermined the State.
Continuing, he said that the regional environment was complex, and national interests were sometimes pursued at the expense of an effort to mutually support stability in Afghanistan in a coordinated manner. The international community, while both committed and generous, had also been, too often, insufficiently united on key policy issues. The United Nations bore its own share of responsibility for deficiencies in international coordination. Work was under way to correct that, although cooperation of international and Afghan partners was needed.
Given that common diagnosis, the Council now faced the important responsibility of renewing the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), he said. Despite important progress in the country, particularly in education, public health and a fast-growing economy, serious problems remained. Given the evolution of the situation over the past two years, there was a need to confront certain issues and make some course corrections. For that reason, the Secretary-General had included in his report a section on UNAMA’s mandate, which he hoped would guide the Council in its decisions on the Mission’s future. The current mandate was the product of negotiations with the Afghan Government and key partners that had taken place at the end of 2005. As indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, that mandate was still appropriate and sufficiently broad to fulfil the objectives. The Mission did not need additional powers. But, in the face of the evolving situation, the mandate must be sharpened. That was why the Secretary-General had proposed the six areas of focus set out in paragraph 64 of the report.
Drawing attention to a few of those areas of focus, he said that the first was coordination of international assistance. The Afghanistan Compact remained the expression of the international partnership with the Afghan Government. The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board constituted the primary coordination body to oversee that partnership, and the Afghan National Development Strategy would be the blueprint to implement the Compact’s goals. There were two keys, therefore, to ensuring improvements in the lives of all Afghans: first that the Afghanistan National Development Strategy was given as much support as possible; and second, that the Monitoring Board was able to play an effective role.
He said the second area was UNAMA’s relationship with ISAF. That relationship rested on two firm pillars: the common goals; and the complementary, but distinct mandates, both of which had their source in the Security Council. In the time since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had assumed leadership of ISAF, mechanisms had been created for coordination and the parties had learned to work with each other. He looked forward to the Bucharest meeting on Afghanistan in early April, when NATO would present its own comprehensive approach. The Secretary-General would attend that meeting, demonstrating the high priority ascribed to that relationship and to achieving success in Afghanistan.
The third issue was the upcoming elections, he said. The United Nations, as in the 2004 and 2005 elections, remained willing to support the next cycle with the understanding that, unlike the previous cycle, the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission would be clearly in the lead. Voter registration and the holding of elections would require significant international financial support, and work was under way with the Electoral Commission to complete plans for donors. The obstacles should not be underestimated, and neither should be the stakes. It had been learned from past peace operations that the second set of post-conflict elections were often more critical than the first, and that would likely be the case for Afghanistan. He encouraged the Afghan Government and legislative institutions to take the required decisions on the electoral date and essential electoral legislation without further delay.
He said the issue of political outreach remained central to all efforts. In order for United Nations outreach activities to be credible, they must be backed up by improved governance, especially at the local level. He was supporting the recently established Independent Directorate for Local Governance, the main vehicle for improving subnational governance by strengthening the ties between local and central government. UNAMA also supported the design of the national justice programme, which was focused on increasing Afghan capacity to deliver legal services, ensure public access to courts and legal aid, and improve public awareness of rights and processes of legal redress. That initiative addressed both the extension of the rule of law and local-level government, and he strongly urged Member States to ensure that it was adequately funded.
Regarding illegal narcotics, which was a key factor undermining both the country’s security and governance, he said he had been pleased that the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board had been able to agree upon an implementation plan for the counter-narcotics strategy. The focus should be on security sector reform and especially the development of the Afghan National Police. He remained hopeful that the reform initiatives that had begun, but that had been slow to take effect, would be accelerated under the International Policy Coordination Board, which had been tasked at the Monitoring Board’s Tokyo meeting with overseeing the reforms’ implementation.
He said that, looking at the future, “we must be pragmatic, but we must also be ambitious”. He was sure that Kai Eide, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, would have his own observations about the United Nations role in Afghanistan, as he was familiar with the country and the United Nations system. He looked forward to Mr. Eide’s keen judgments and suggestions and was pleased to leave UNAMA in such capable hands.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said the main message to be drawn from the report of the Secretary-General was that the international community needed to stay the course in Afghanistan. The enemies of peace had shown that they were ready to exploit any sign of weakness and to fill all gaps that might be created. Mutual trust between Afghanistan and its partners was indispensable to counter the opposing forces. The international community must trust the good faith of the Afghan authorities and the Afghan authorities must trust the genuine and unbiased commitment of its partners. Such a background of trust needed to be maintained, even when either side felt that mistakes had been made.
He argued that it was appropriate to organize a high-level, midterm review of the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact in order to refocus and reprioritize the efforts of the international community. In that regard, Italy was ready to offer its contribution to the preparation of the international conference that France had offered to host. Similar events had been instrumental in giving fresh impetus to initiatives on the ground, as proved by the effective follow-up to last year’s Rome conference on the rule of law. In that connection, Italy noted with satisfaction the good news contained in the report of the Secretary-General on the launch of the national justice programme.
Given the wide-ranging nature of the mandate of UNAMA, Italy agreed that there was a need to further build on the indications contained in Security Council resolution 1746 (2007) in order to identify a number of priority actions for the Mission, he continued. Italy was ready to work with the Security Council members to translate the recommendations of the Secretary-General into consensual language. UNAMA not only needed clear guidance from the international community, but also needed political support and the resources required to fulfil its challenging tasks. The resolution to be adopted by the Security Council needed to seriously address a number of horizontal issues on the Councils’ agenda -- including protection of civilians, children in armed conflict, women, peace and security -- as they were all dramatically relevant in the case of Afghanistan.
RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS (Panama) said the Secretary-General’s latest report was not very encouraging, but, nevertheless, reflected the challenges facing Afghanistan as it struggled to achieve peace after so many years of war. Further, recent troubles in the country made one wonder whether the challenges Afghanistan was facing were in some part due to the lack of coordination of the various international efforts under way there. The lack of coordination not only undermined the will of the Afghan people, but it also ran counter to the mandate of the United Nations. All that called for a more proactive role by UNAMA, even though the overall effort must be Afghan-led. Panama, therefore, supported extending the Mission’s mandate through next year, with expanded duties to work more closely with the Government and other actors, including NATO, to help ensure better coordination of the international effort.
JOHAN VERBEKE (Belgium), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said he supported a central role for the United Nations in Afghanistan. A little more than two years ago, Afghanistan and the international community had concluded a five-year Compact, the objectives of which were still topical. Challenges remained, but, on a positive note, the international community remained strongly engaged in Afghanistan. The parties each bore their share of responsibility. The central and local governments and people of Afghanistan had a primary role to play; the international community was only able to support and strengthen the elected regime. Within that partnership, the United Nations was prepared to meet the recent appeals to assume the central role in coordinating international assistance. In order to succeed, the necessary “means and space” must be provided. That cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community was even more vital, given the interconnectedness of the challenges the country faced.
Success in Afghanistan meant improving the daily lives of the Afghan people and establishing an institutional system that would allow for continued progress, he said. Without security, however, there would be no development, and without development, security could not be ensured. Unfortunately, the drug problem was illustrative of that. To consolidate those two pillars of the Compact -- security and development -- the third pillar, concerning rule of law and governance, was just as crucial. Much still needed to be done to bolster subnational governance, as corruption remained a major problem. Reform of the justice system was needed, as well as of police and administration. Progress on human rights also remained limited. In all of those areas, the United Nations could make a difference.
He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations, particularly with respect to the role of coordinating the efforts of the international community in improving local governance and strengthening cooperation with ISAF. Belgium was pleased with the Secretary-General’s plans to participate in the upcoming Bucharest event, to be held in the sidelines of the NATO meeting. Once again, 2008 would be an important year in the process launched in Bonn in 2001. The international conference to be hosted in Paris in June would be an opportunity to take stock of progress and redouble efforts between now and then to ensure further achievements.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said his delegation had noted with satisfaction that Afghanistan had made solid progress in the political and economic areas. The country had been witnessing stable growth during the past four years. It was also working to promote regional involvement in its reconstruction and reconciliation efforts, including the return of refugees. At the same time, the people of the country lived in deep poverty, and the Government was still struggling to deal with corruption and tackle the drug trade. China believed that security and stability in Afghanistan required joint efforts by Afghanistan, the United Nations and international forces. All parties must bring into play their full advantages and work in better synergy with each other.
He said the key to long-term peace was ensuring economic development and improving the livelihoods of the people of the country. The international community must, therefore, assist the Government with full implementation of the Afghan Compact and its National Development Strategy, so that all the people of the country would be able to share in the benefits of peace and development. China supported the extension of UNAMA’s mandate, especially so that the Mission could assist with the coordination of the various international efforts on the ground. UNAMA must, however, at all times, work within the bounds of its mandate. Indeed, it could assist the Afghan Government at its request, but the Mission could not act in the Government’s stead.
JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) said the United Nations was at the heart of the international effort in Afghanistan, and he welcomed the appointment of the new Special Representative and applauded the Secretary-General’s willingness to see UNAMA assume an even greater role in coordinating the international community’s overall effort. One of the remarkable things about Afghanistan was the number of countries and organizations involved, and another was the degree of common purpose among those countries and organizations. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recent report on the situation in the country, he said that, while great strides had been made since the fall of the Taliban, the international community must continue to support the country as it struggled to overcome the remaining challenges.
One of the international community’s main tasks, led by the United Nations, was to bring together the various strands of activity –- military, political, development and economic –- in a comprehensive approach towards supporting the Afghan Government. There was no military solution, he said, stressing that success hinged on marshalling resources in support of a common objective. To that end, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for closer civilian-military cooperation. NATO and the United Nations shared the same objective and it was important that they worked together to deliver them. The upcoming Bucharest summit provided an opportunity to look at all NATO’s activities in Afghanistan and the way in which those efforts could contribute to broader objectives.
The United Kingdom also looked forward to the expansion of UNAMA’s presence in Afghanistan, including in the south of the country. He went on to say that support for a comprehensive approach also meant supporting Afghan efforts to bring disaffected Afghans into society’s mainstream, provided they renounced violence and accepted the Constitution. UNAMA had an important role to play in supporting Afghan-led reconciliation activities, in whatever ways the Government considered appropriate. He stressed that the overall recovery process was Afghan-led, and would take time. At the same time, it was clear that, among other things, Afghan police and security forces were increasingly taking the lead in such operations. The United Kingdom also looked forward to an increasingly Afghan-led and proactive counter-narcotics effort, as well as the finalization and launch of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said that, despite the weakness of the political and socio-economic institutions, the trend was towards an improved political process and economy. The upcoming presidential elections would be a decisive test of democracy in Afghanistan, requiring that the executive and legislative powers manage to reach a swift consensus on the draft electoral law, as well as on other practical modalities. The regional environment should also help to contribute to normalizing the political situation. In the economic sphere, the diligent finalization of the National Development Strategy was a priority, which would allow the Government to take on the fight against poverty and the quest for development. The generous offer by the French authorities to host a conference in Paris for the support and financing of the Strategy should be welcomed.
He said the gains made by the Afghan authorities would be enhanced in a better security environment, but, as the Secretary-General’s report underscored, there had been a rise in terrorist activity, marked by suicide attacks and the use of explosive devices against civilians, humanitarian workers and convoys, among others. The drug scourge provided the main source of funding for terrorist groups and corruption. The Security Council must support the national counter-narcotics strategy, as the narcotics trade undermined development and stability. Meanwhile, the Afghan forces lacked the ability to respond sufficiently. They needed effective support, as that would help them maintain a balance between law and order and the fight against the insurgency. He favoured extending UNAMA’s mandate, so that it could continue to play a decisive role. The Government still had several challenges to confront, for which international assistance was needed, particularly to implement the Compact. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations aimed at achieving a definitive solution to the Afghanistan problem.
LE LOUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said his delegation was deeply concerned at some of the information included in the Secretary-General’s relevant report; particularly that, last year alone, there had been some 8,000 conflict-related fatalities in Afghanistan, of which some 1,500 had been civilian deaths. Condemning all effort to destabilize the long-suffering country, he said that, along with support for stabilization and reconstruction, the Afghan Government also needed support for measures to enhance security and promote reconciliation and a political process aimed at ensuring lasting regional peace and stabilization.
For all the trials they had faced over so many years, the people of Afghanistan deserved the international community’s continued support and assistance in their efforts to rebuild their nation. That effort hinged on success against the major enemies of peace and stability in the country: terrorism and drug trafficking. To that end, while Viet Nam agreed with long-term strategies to eradicate and interdict drugs and trafficking networks, it believed that it was also necessary to address Afghanistan’s pervasive poverty, which was at the heart of the situation. Parallel to enforcement measures, there should be action-oriented studies done to come up with innovative and alternative livelihoods for the Afghan people.
Finally, he said that, while Viet Nam supported extending UNAMA for another 12 months, the Mission should continue to work within its current mandate, especially in the context of Afghanistan’s complex security situation. Viet Nam did, however, support UNAMA’s willingness to play a role in supporting the upcoming electoral processes and relevant institutions. At the same time, such assistance must be given only in the event of an official request from the Afghan Government, in accordance with respect for the country’s national sovereignty.
JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said the deterioration of the security situation and the fight against the narcotics industry, as well as insufficient progress in implementing the Compact, called for a new discussion on the necessary international action and commitment. For more than six years, the United Nations had been working to ensure that Afghanistan would leave behind the “perverse logic of war”, form inclusive political institutions and, once and for all, get on the path of economic growth and social development. However, disturbing signs showed that the road ahead was clearly strewn with obstacles. The most recent disturbances concerned consolidation of legitimate democratic institutions and the growing insecurity. There had been 180 terrorist attacks in the country in 2007, and almost 30 such attacks so far this year. Those undermined efforts to achieve the physical and social reconstruction of the country. The cultivation, production and trafficking of opium also thwarted security and development.
He said that compliance with the objectives of the Afghanistan Compact was the primary responsibility of the Government, but it also required the unconditional support of the international community. That was why he agreed with the Secretary-General when he said that, in order to tackle the security and stability of Afghanistan, a common approach was needed that would incorporate security, governance, rule of law, human rights and economic and social development. Thus, Costa Rica placed particular importance on the role to be played by UNAMA in terms of assisting the Government in security sector reform, as the construction of a State largely depended on its security institutions. Further investment was needed in development activities, particularly in the provinces and districts. Only then would it be possible to meet the Compact’s noble objectives.
Noting that the third component of the Compact concerned governance, particularly human rights, he said that the reports received by the international community on executions of people who merely exercised their right to free expression were unacceptable. No sustainable security, no responsible Government, no full development could be built on the basis of abuse and intolerance. He agreed with previous speakers that UNAMA’s mandate was sufficiently thorough to help the Government comply with its obligations. He hoped to receive an effective commitment from the Government, in order to facilitate appropriate action.
GIADALLA A. ETTALHI (Libya) said the Secretary-General’s recent report painted a bleak picture of the current situation in Afghanistan and highlighted, among others, renewed activities of insurgents and the country’s lack of capacity to promote substantive development. It also cited links between security and development in that it highlighted the fact that poppy production was growing most rapidly in areas that were controlled by insurgents. Those facts made it clear that the solution for Afghanistan was not military, but required comprehensive efforts that involved dialogue and efforts to reconcile the Government with all groups within the country. Development efforts should accompany that push.
Maintaining peace required promoting development, as well. Indeed, success was not just fighting terrorists, but also addressing the root causes of extremist behaviour. That meant building schools and providing alternative livelihoods for the Afghan people. Libya also stressed that legal, legitimate work must be provided for all Afghans. He went on to welcome the Government’s efforts to address corruption and to set up the National Development Strategy, which was a vital factor towards ensuring the success of the international efforts under way in the country. Libya supported the call to extend UNAMA and further assist with the coordination of international efforts on the ground.
DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said the serious challenges facing Afghanistan should not be underestimated. Among others, those included the high level of insurgent and terrorist activities, the alarming increase in opium cultivation, widespread corruption and slow social and economic development. He believed the process that had begun with the Bonn Agreement and continued under the Afghanistan Compact was largely on track and should be further improved. South Africa was pleased that, in his report, the Secretary-General acknowledged the continuing engagement of the international community in Afghanistan. His Government supported a common approach that would integrate security, governance, rule of law, human rights and the social and economic development of the country. He also called for full respect for human rights.
Continuing, he noted that paragraph 19 of the Secretary-General’s report clearly illustrated the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, especially in recent months. He deplored any attempts to destabilize the country, in particular terrorist attacks on innocent civilians and children. While the problem of narcotics remained, he was pleased that counter-narcotics efforts had gained significant momentum since the last report. He applauded the Government of Afghanistan, supported by international partners, in particular the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), for reaching agreement on priority actions in that regard. He encouraged them to fully implement the national drug control strategy and strengthen enforcement activities. He further encouraged the Government of Afghanistan to improve its institutional capacity for service delivery and development in support of viable alternatives to poppy cultivation.
South Africa reaffirmed its support for the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact and National Development Strategy, under the ownership of the Afghan people, he said. He also commended the central role played by the Monitoring Board in facilitating the implementation of the Afghan Compact. Stressing the importance of regional cooperation, he welcomed improved relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours, in particular Pakistan. He commended the resolve both countries had expressed to combat extremism and terrorism. South Africa supported the central and impartial role of UNAMA, as well as the need to strengthen the Mission’s coordination capacity. He called upon UNAMA to support the Government of Afghanistan in its preparations for the elections next year. He commended the Italian delegation for its lead work on the issue of Afghanistan, and for preparing the draft resolution on the mandate of UNAMA.
ZALMAY KHALIZAD ( United States) said he concurred with the central judgment of the Secretary-General’s report, which presented a balanced account of both the progress and remaining challenges. The success of Afghanistan was a vital interest of the international community. Success in that country would contribute not only to the lives of 30 million people who had suffered terribly as a result of 25 years of occupation and war, but would also be a keystone in efforts to defeat terrorism, weaken extremism, create regional stability in Central and South Asia, advance the transformation of the broader Middle East and reduce the threat of narcotics from Afghanistan.
Looking ahead, he said that Afghan leaders, regional powers and the international community all had important responsibilities in Afghanistan’s success, but he would focus on the needed actions by the United Nations. The Organization should be proud of the role it had played in Afghanistan, starting with the Bonn process. Mr. Eide’s appointment opened a new chapter of United Nations engagement in the country. His role would be vital in advancing the partnership with the Afghan Government, which was the foundation of all meaningful progress. The task was not to do the work for the Afghans, but to enable the country to stand on its own feet, as soon as possible.
As discussions continued about renewing UNAMA’s mandate, the focus should be on setting the right priorities, first and foremost empowering Ambassador Eide to more effectively coordinate and integrate international support, which was composed of dozens of donors, agencies and implementers, he said. The sheer number of countries involved, both on the military and civilian side, was enormous. The inevitable challenge was ensuring that sufficient coordination existed for getting the most out of individual efforts. Mr. Eide would need to ensure that civilian assistance supported efforts to stabilize the country. While integrating NATO-ISAF military efforts would be dealt with in Bucharest, success against the insurgency required a “comprehensive game plan” to ensure that rooting out enemy activity was coordinated with efforts to establish good governance and economic development.
He urged Mr. Eide to also better coordinate international efforts to ensure a shared commitment to Afghanistan’s Development Strategy and the Compact. Execution of the latter had been uneven, and Mr. Eide should catalyse improved results where needed, in order to increase the capacity of the Afghan ministries to provide basic services and tackle corruption. He should also bolster economic support for the country. There was an inadequate understanding of achievements and challenges there. The upcoming Paris donors’ conference would be an important opportunity to rally such support, and Mr. Eide should seek to promote reconciliation and accountability in close coordination with the Afghan Government, based on acceptance of the Afghan Constitution.
Mr. Eide should also engage in active diplomacy to create a regional environment conducive to the stabilization of Afghanistan, he said. “Reclaiming the spirit of Bonn” was in the interest of all nations, especially in the region, and it should be a key priority. Regrettably, UNAMA faced vacancy rates and staff retention issues. The United Nations must recruit its best people; it was not just a matter of filling the slots, but of getting highly motivated and capable people with the right skills. In addition to its many thousands of troops, the United States would send an additional 3,000 plus Marines to strengthen security in the south of the country, and another 1,000 troops to train Afghan security forces. It was providing $2.9 billion in 2008 in total assistance, including $1 billion for health, education, infrastructure and local reconstruction. In addition, Congress had been asked for $2.6 billion in 2008 as a supplement funding request, and the United States was undertaking a number of new initiatives, including the establishment of a public-private partnership involving schools.
MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) noted that, in the past few years, Afghanistan had made notable achievements in various sectors and democracy had steadily been taking root, while economic development was progressing. Indonesia was, however, concerned over the increasing activities of the insurgency that was affecting those achievements in a harmful way. Most perturbing was the increase of the concerted insurgency in the south and east of the country and attacks against local and humanitarian workers. Those violent attacks not only undermined the current efforts by the Government to achieve peace and stability in the country, but also prevented access by the Government and aid organizations to many districts.
Welcoming the commitment of the Afghan Government to address the security challenge as a priority, he said the military approach could not fully address the root causes of the current security challenges. Indonesia, therefore, underlined the importance of political dialogue and reconciliation involving all factions in the country within the framework of the Afghan Constitution. It also saw the merit of a common approach, as proposed by the Secretary-General, which integrated security, governance, rule of law, human rights and social and economic development.
Addressing the drug economy was also an urgent matter, as it was particularly linked to sustaining the insurgency, he added. In that regard, Indonesia welcomed the fact that the counter-narcotics regime had gained momentum, and that the prioritized implementation plan for the national drug control strategy of the Government had been endorsed.
Continuing, he said that UNAMA remained critical to Afghanistan. As the political elements of the Bonn process had been formally completed, the Mission’s role would continue to be needed in assisting the country to execute various activities in other pillars of the Bonn Agreement. Indonesia concurred with the assessment of the Secretary-General on the importance of enhanced coordination, political outreach, support for subnational governance, humanitarian coordination, electoral assistance and strengthened cooperation with ISAF as points of emphasis for UNAMA’s programme of work in the months ahead. It also supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for the extension of UNAMA for a further 12 months.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France) said that, six years after the fall of the Taliban, the international community found itself at a crucial moment; while the military situation had somewhat stabilized, Afghanistan still found itself unable to effectively deal with an enemy that would not hesitate to use the most heinous, terrorist means to destabilize the country. Afghanistan was also still struggling to address the drug trade and seriously needed the help of the international community in that effort. The international community must demonstrate to the Afghan people that it would not be deterred in the face of terrorist actors, armed groups and drug traffickers, and would stand by Afghanistan and its Government.
He went on to highlight the Paris meeting the French Government had organized for June. That meeting would aim to publicize the situation in Afghanistan and emphasize what had been accomplished there after six years of common global effort. The participants would also look to establish a blueprint for Afghanistan in the years to come and provide an opportunity for the international community to build that blueprint around a more focused effort. Finally, he stressed that France supported the extension of UNAMA along the lines that had been set out in the recent report of the Secretary-General.
NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said that the international community must stand united in support of the Afghan Government and people to confront the challenges and threats. Genuine security remained the fundamental prerequisite for achieving stability and development. Regarding security, the main role belonged to the military and police, and the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces to guarantee security was of the utmost importance. Thus, enhancing their capacity should be the first and foremost task. It was important to underline, however, that security could not be provided by military means alone. Good governance and the rule of law, as well as economic reconstruction and social development, all played an important role in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. The Government’s efforts to deliver services to its citizens must be supported, as that was a “truly decisive” element, which, over time, would build confidence and trust in the Government.
He said that the strong support of the international community for the Government and respect for the Afghanistan Compact was of particular importance. That important agreement should be fully implemented and become the “main promoter” of the Government’s policies at the provincial and local level. Croatia welcomed the announcement of preparations for an international donors’ conference to review progress on the Compact’s implementation and to discuss the way ahead. Afghan ownership was crucial for the ultimate success of all peace efforts. Coordinated and effective implementation of the National Development Strategy would lead to substantive improvements in the daily life of most Afghans. The rule of law and improvements in the judicial sector were also vital, and Croatia supported all activities pursuant to the outcomes of the 2007 Rome conference. Owing to the fact that the majority of cases still went through traditional settlement mechanisms, however, serious consideration should be given to including human rights principles in those mechanisms.
Croatia agreed with the Secretary-General that civilian-military cooperation was indispensable in overcoming the existing challenges, he said. Towards that goal, he stressed the importance of the provincial reconstruction teams. As a practical form of civilian-military partnership, those relatively small teams deployed in the Afghan provinces were innovative forms of crisis management units, designed to achieve synergy in joint activities of the two components. As such, they should be fully supported in their activities, and the concept should be further developed, based on lessons learned since their inception. In that regard, UNAMA could assume a greater coordinating role for international assistance programmes.
The promotion of Afghan-led reconciliation programmes, under the Government’s vigilant control, was particularly important in pacifying the security situation, he added. Such a dialogue should take place exclusively within the framework of the Afghan Constitution and with full respect for the sanctions regime set up by the Security Council, particularly by resolution 1267 (1999). He also put high hopes on effective implementation of the national drug control strategy, particularly at the local level, to achieve a sustained and significant reduction in the production and trafficking of narcotics.
Council President VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), speaking in his national capacity, said he would be direct: his Government was seriously concerned with the current situation in Afghanistan, especially with ongoing terrorist activity that threatened to undermine the fragile foundations of Afghan statehood. Of further concern were reports that terrorists were controlling entire regions of the country and had set up separate governments in those areas. The international community must redouble its efforts to ensure stability in Afghanistan and waste no time in helping the Government to turn the situation around.
He said the Russian Federation agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that advancing the process of reconciliation must follow the path laid out by Security Council resolutions and counter-terrorism regimes. Specifically, in order for reconciliation process to hold and prosper, that effort should not include “those sullied by war crimes”, as putting such persons in places of power in new Government structures would only destabilize the situation further. Moreover, without cutting off financial sources, chiefly drugs and drug trafficking, cooling the ardour of terrorist subversion would be difficult.
With that in mind, he said, the Russian Federation agreed that efforts to destroy drug crops should also include efforts to locate and destroy underground laboratories, and to intercept drugs in transit. The Russian Federation was working with the international community to establish anti-drug and anti-crime belts around the Afghan State. More regional actors must be brought onto those efforts. That would help not only to enhance the country’s capacity to combat the drug trade, but would also enhance coordination and engagement with its neighbours. His delegation agreed that the mandate of UNAMA was sufficient to help Afghanistan achieve the aims of the Compact. It also agreed with a 12-month extension and welcomed the recent appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The Russian Federation would continue to undertake efforts -- humanitarian and otherwise -- to help stabilize Afghanistan.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said that increased terrorist attacks by the enemies of Afghanistan had led to some ill-judged and misguided perceptions about the situation in his country. Recent remarks of lack of Government control or even failure in Afghanistan were “products of premature assumptions”, which had the potential to undermine public support for efforts to achieve lasting peace and security in the country. “We should stay the course with firm determination and prevent security nuances from weakening our resolve to achieve our shared goals,” he said.
He reminded the Council that Afghanistan and its international partners had made undeniable gains towards a strong, stable and democratic country. By all standards, the achievements made thus far reflected tremendous success. Today, a greater part of Afghanistan was secure from terrorism and violence. The fight against terrorists and extremists continued. Thanks to the support of its international partners, the country’s security forces had become stronger and more effective. The Afghan National Army had reached 58,000 troops and assumed a greater role in the fight against the terrorists seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and the region. With the support of its international partners, it had dismantled more than 120 terrorist bases of operations and apprehended 1,000 terrorists, including foreigners. Among the captured were elite commanders of the Taliban and Al-Qaida’s rank and file, as well as the culprits of recent terrorist attacks. They included terrorists who had carried out the attack on the Serena Hotel on 14 January and the suicide bombings in Kandahar last month.
Despite the achievements, significant challenges remained, he acknowledged. Providing security was not only the main objective, but also the primary challenge. Terrorists had increased attacks against civilians, schools, religious figures, security forces and international partners. They had also broadened the scope of their activities in the region. New violent fronts had been opened. Those attacks, which had become “hit and run” tactics, should not be seen as a sign of the enemy’s strength, but rather of their frustration, resulting from the inability to engage in direct battles. As stated in the Secretary-General’s report, “The superiority of Afghan and international forces in conventional battles has forced opposing groups to adopt small-scale asymmetric tactics largely aimed at Afghan National Security Forces and, in some cases, civilians: improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks, assassinations, and abductions”.
He said his Government would spare no effort to improve security for its people. In that regard, it continued to maintain a comprehensive strategy, which contained both military and political dimensions. While the military campaign remained the centrepiece of efforts to defeat terrorists and consolidate security, greater attention was being accorded to political outreach and national reconciliation. He reiterated the call to individuals with past grievances to reject violence, abide by the Constitution and join fellow compatriots in rebuilding their country. In that connection, he welcomed UNAMA’s readiness to extend its good offices to support reconciliation efforts, at the request of the Afghan Government.
The interconnected challenges facing Afghanistan required mutually reinforcing efforts to consolidate gains in the areas of security, governance, development and counter-narcotics, he stressed. Strengthening governance and combating corruption and the narcotics trade remained top priorities, for which new measures had been initiated or strengthened. To combat corruption, for instance, an inter-institutional commission had been created, headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to address corruption in the public sector and, among other things, draft the national anti-corruption strategy. The challenges of fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law required time and resources. He welcomed UNAMA’s new emphasis in support of such efforts. In addition, the counter-narcotics efforts had gained momentum. Following the increase in cultivation and production of opium in 2007, the Government had taken a series of additional measures to expedite implementation of the national drug control strategy, and, at the recent meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board in Tokyo, consensus had been reached with international partners on where immediate action should be taken.
Despite those and other challenges, he said, his country was continuing its reconstruction and social and economic development. Today, more than 85 per cent of the population was covered with a basic package of health services. Progress in the education sector had enabled nearly 6 million children access to education. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita had approximately doubled. Five million Afghans had returned home, and more than 1,471 kilometres of roads had been built and 737 kilometres remained under construction. The Constitution had enabled Afghan citizens to enjoy unprecedented human rights and, in accordance with the national action plan for women, Afghan women continued to assume a greater role in the country’s social, political and economic life. Nevertheless, the Government acknowledged the challenges in various sectors and remained committed to addressing them resolutely.
He said the people of Afghanistan still lived under difficult humanitarian conditions. The situation had been exacerbated with the onset of the harshest winter conditions in more than 30 years, which had caused more than 900 fatalities, while hundreds more suffered from severe frostbite. The severe weather also devastated livestock, which was the main source of livelihood for vulnerable families in remote parts of the country. He appealed for the urgent delivery of additional humanitarian assistance. The recent winter catastrophe illustrated the need for greater coordination of international humanitarian assistance. In that connection, he welcomed UNAMA’s continued coordinating role to ensure timely and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, as well as its readiness to assist the Government to create conditions conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of fellow Afghans from abroad. The United Nations remained vital for implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, he said.
He expressed his appreciation to the Organization and the international community in its efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and stability in Afghanistan. “Together, we have come a long way, but our mission has yet to be accomplished. With greater coordination and closer cooperation, we will successfully conclude the journey, which we jointly embarked upon six years ago,” he concluded.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, supported the recommendations on the future activities of UNAMA, especially the strengthening of its central role in coordinating the overall international effort in Afghanistan, in close cooperation with the European Union and ISAF. She reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to long-term support for the people and Government of Afghanistan and the core principles of promoting Afghan leadership, good governance, responsibility and ownership, and fostering development of a democratic, secure and sustainable Afghan State with respect for human rights and the rule of law. She supported the initiative by the Monitoring Board in Tokyo on 5 to 6 February to arrange an international conference in Paris in June to review progress in implementing the Afghanistan Compact, reaffirm the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan and discuss the way forward.
She called on the Afghan Government to make further progress on human rights and good governance, including by establishing an independent senior appointment mechanism, as well as implementing a national anti-corruption strategy and approving a media law consistent with freedom of expression. She was committed to working with the Afghan Government to strengthen its human rights institutions and mechanisms. She recalled the Union’s urgent appeal to halt any future executions and re-establish a de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as well as to enhance implementation of the transitional justice action plan.
She underscored the Union’s continued engagement in Afghanistan, including through the bilateral cooperation programmes of European Union member States and the European Union’s assistance strategy, which comprised a substantial multi-year commitment until 2013 and focused on governance and the rule of law, particularly in the judiciary and law enforcement, as well as rural development and health. She looked forward to the launch and implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. She also reaffirmed the Union’s support for the Afghan elections and its commitment to ensure free and fair elections in 2009-2010.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said his delegation could not stress enough that the international community had “real and enduring interests” in Afghanistan’s stability. That country remained the frontline in global efforts to defeat terrorism -- a threat affecting all countries that supported democracy, secularism and moderation. No member of the international community could afford to see Afghanistan again succumb to the forces of extremism and ideological fundamentalism. International success in Afghanistan was clearly a measure of resolve in global efforts on terrorism and was certainly viewed that way by Al-Qaida and other extremist groups.
He went on to say that it was essential to build on past hard-won efforts and to boost the Afghan Government’s capacity to address the challenges it would face in the immediate and long term. The Secretary-General was correct to note that, while there was certainly a need for more resources, there was also a need for a more coordinated and integrated international approach. That included coordination of all military and non-military efforts, across all provinces and regions. All that meant more commitments without caveats and a greater focus on deploying resources to where stabilization challenges were the most acute. The coordination effort must touch United Nations, ISAF and NATO activities.
He said the new Special Representative would have the task of communicating to the Afghan people the United Nations strong commitment to their well-being and the well-being of their country. The envoy must also play a key leadership role in directing, with the Government, United Nations efforts in the country, especially to ensure effective coordination of humanitarian and development activities and their extension to all parts of the country.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said that, despite progress in the past year on the political front and in terms of the counter-insurgency operations, the overall situation in Afghanistan remained of concern. The security situation, especially in the south and east, seriously hampered development and limited the reach of the Afghan Government. Opium production was undermining Afghanistan’s future. Greater efforts were needed to develop alternative, sustainable livelihoods for Afghans. Security, good governance, development and political reconciliation were linked and should be the four key areas of focus of the Afghan Government. The relative weight given to each was important.
Since 2001, New Zealand had contributed military personnel to Afghanistan, she said, and had provided a provincial reconstruction team in Bamyan Province. Further, New Zealand personnel also supported the headquarters of ISAF and UNAMA, as well as police training and mentoring in Bamyan. Her country also contributed to other priority areas of the Afghanistan Compact, such as the rural livelihood programmes, education and health services and capacity development of provincial governments and non-governmental and civil society organizations. She also supported the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission through a core contribution. All programming sought to empower women, which was key to achieving peace and security. Finally, she supported the readiness of the Secretary-General to have the United Nations play a more central role in coordinating international aid and to help promote political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
ÍÑIGO DE PALACIO ESPAÑA ( Spain) said his delegation supported all international efforts to ensure that Afghanistan achieved a sustainable political system that would be capable of guaranteeing the safety and stability of the country. Spain believed that the United Nations must also continue to play a central role in assisting the Government’s efforts to ensure security. To that end, Spain agreed with the call to expand the work of UNAMA to include assisting the Government’s counter-narcotics efforts.
Spain would join the European Union in its call on Afghanistan to restore the de facto moratorium on the death penalty and the suspension of future executions in the country. Further, the international community must step up its efforts to help the Afghan Government expand its authority to all areas of the country, which would be helpful in strengthening local governance and in the fight against corruption. Spain hoped that the upcoming Paris conference would not be “just another meeting”, but would aim to take vital steps in strengthening global cooperation and coordination of the Afghan Compact. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend UNAMA’s mandate for 12 months, but stressed that the Council would have time later to consider future changes to the Mission’s mandate. Such changes would require the input from the newly appointed Special Representative.
KIM HYUN CHONG ( Republic of Korea) said that, while much had been accomplished, many challenges remained, and it would be presumptuous to believe that work in Afghanistan was nearing completion. He felt that 2008 was a critical year for achieving comprehensive peace and security in Afghanistan. The deteriorating security situation, compounded by a resurgence of the Taliban and other extremist groups, as well as an increase in terror attacks and criminal drug trafficking, not only hampered the reconstruction, but also the implementation of the country’s National Development Strategy. The gravity of the situation was underlined by cases of abduction and the murder of civilians, including the Taliban’s 2007 kidnapping of 23 citizens of the Republic of Korea. He also strongly condemned the recent spate of terror attacks, including those in Kandahar last month and Kabul in January. The overall lack of security was also hindering the return of refugees to their homeland. Only 5,000 Afghan refugees had returned home in 2007. That could be compared with the 5,000 refugees returning per day during the peak of returns in 2004.
Re-establishing lasting security required a multidimensional strategy that coordinated military, police, political and economic and social activities, he continued. Essential to success were the efforts of UNAMA and ISAF, working in close coordination with the Government of Afghanistan and the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board. Another important factor would be enhanced coordination between the central and provincial governments. Poppy cultivation had reached yet another record high in 2007 -- up more than a third from 2006. Until the Afghan people could find other sources of income, many would continue to engage in that criminal business, which also bred corruption. The international community and the Afghan Government should work together to deal with that serious problem. Afghanistan should continue to implement the national drug-control strategy, and his country stood ready to join international support for that strategy, evidenced by its contribution of $200,000 to the Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund last year.
Among the encouraging developments, he mentioned the construction of nearly 300 new schools and training of 48,000 teachers in preparation for the upcoming school year. However, challenges remained in regard to gender disparity and the number of students who completed primary school. It was also imperative to strengthen the institutional framework of the democratic transition. Efforts should be made to ensure that such institutions as the Anti-Corruption Commission served their originally intended purpose. An integrated and coherent strategy to fight corruption was urgently needed.
To deal with ongoing challenges, active efforts by the Afghan Government, in a spirit of Afghan ownership, must go hand in hand with increased assistance from the international community, he added. Many countries, including his own, had announced new financial assistance for Afghanistan at the London conference. Building upon its contribution of some $60 million in grant aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2005, the Republic of Korea had set aside $20 million for the subsequent three-year period for projects focusing on human resources development, agricultural and rural development and public administration efficiency. In addition, reconstruction and medical units from his country had been deployed in February 2002.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that this year marked the halfway point in the implementation process of the Afghan Compact. As Chair of the “Group of Eight”, Japan had hosted the Joint Coordinating and Monitoring Board meeting last month to review progress to date and to discuss the way forward. With the finalization of the Afghan National Development Strategy now in sight, the nation-building of the country was expected to shift from reconstruction to development. Japan was fully committed to supporting the Afghan Government throughout that process, even as it was aware of the challenges ahead.
He said that most worrying was the security situation. Suicide bombings had been on the rise and, while insurgents were still active in the south and east, other areas, including Kabul, had become more insecure. To create the stability required for economic development, international forces needed to remain committed to the daunting task of eradicating terrorism in the country. Success also hinged on strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Security Forces. Japan also attached importance, in that regard, to the disbandment of armed groups and was pleased to note that 161 such groups had been disbanded to date. Registration of firearms was progressing, as well, and the fact that a division specifically focused on the disbandment of armed groups had been established in the Ministry of the Interior was also a promising step.
He said that addressing the challenges in Afghanistan required a comprehensive and coordinated approach. The United Nations had an important role to play in such coordination, and Japan looked forward to working closely with the newly appointed Special Representative. Japan believed that, at this critical juncture, UNAMA’s mandate should be extended in as smooth a manner as possible, and supported the recommendation of a 12-month extension.
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said there were improvements, gains and new initiatives in several areas in Afghanistan; those needed to be acknowledged and consolidated. There were deficiencies and gaps in several other areas; those should be identified and addressed. In most cases, what was needed was better implementation, enhanced coordination and fulfilment of reciprocal commitments by Afghanistan and its international partners. The key to success lay in pursuing a comprehensive approach, with emphasis on building Afghan capacity to assume greater control and ownership of security, governance and development issues.
He said that the security situation in parts of Afghanistan was a common concern. Attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers were especially deplorable. The factors contributing to insecurity and instability were diverse, complex and often interrelated. Those also varied from region to region. There was a need, therefore, to follow approaches that were responsive to the challenges in each region. Increasing ISAF’s troop strength would help in the short term. However, for sustainable solutions, it was essential to focus more on building the national capacity in the security sector, together with parallel endeavours for political reconciliation, reconstruction and development.
A more coherent and feasible counter-narcotics policy was required, which was more responsive to the underlying economic, social and political aspects linked with the increased poppy cultivation in some areas, he said. Clearly, innovative solutions and more resources should be devoted to the effort to deny that important source of funding to insurgents and other anti-Government elements. Extension of State authority and improved governance, especially at the subnational and local levels, were also fundamental in restoring the population’s confidence in the Government’s ability to respond to its basic needs. The efforts by the Afghan Government in that regard merited full support. At the same time, security and governance issues could not be divorced from development. The agreements reached, and other policies and measures being considered to promote economic cooperation, would benefit Afghanistan and all countries of the region.
He said that safe and voluntary return of all remaining Afghan refugees, 2 million of which were still hosted by Pakistan, should also be accorded high priority. He welcomed the emphasis in the Secretary-General’s report on increased assistance for creating conditions conducive to refugee returns. He did not agree, however, with the Secretary-General’s observation that the fact that more than 80 per cent of the refugees had been in exile for more than 20 years could be a factor inhibiting their return. All refugees should return to their homeland.
Appreciating the central and impartial role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan, he said that UNAMA’s efforts should be focused on its core mandate. Its existing mandate should be retained. The priority areas identified by the Secretary-General should be carefully considered to ensure that they were totally consistent with the Mission’s current mandate and took into account the views of the host Government and others concerned. Given the realities on the ground, it was essential to avoid placing responsibilities on the United Nations that it might not be in a position to discharge, and which could affect its neutrality and credibility.
He said his country remained strongly committed to help Afghanistan achieve sustainable peace and development. Their destinies were interlinked. Pakistan sought to strengthen close friendly relations with Afghanistan, based on reciprocity and mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan wanted peace and greater prosperity for both peoples. Its cooperation with Afghanistan was multifaceted and characterized by dialogue and regular exchange of visits at the highest levels. Much success vis-à-vis Al-Qaida and the Taliban had been the result of Pakistan’s support and cooperation, including the exchange of intelligence through the Tripartite Commission. Pakistan’s deployment of more than 100,000 troops in the border regions was a crucial contribution in border control and counter-insurgency, and his country had lost more than 1,000 military personnel in related operations. Pakistan was also trying to foster participation and reconciliation through the Peace Jirga, whose next meeting would be held in Pakistan.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) said that UNAMA’s role in coordination and support of Afghan authorities must be strengthened, with a view to reinforcing Afghan leadership and enhancing international cohesion. That included coordination with ISAF, which played a key role, under a Security Council mandate, in establishing a secure environment for reconstruction and development. The provisions of the Afghanistan Compact and national strategies, such as the national development strategy, should be the foundation of international engagement. To enable the Mission and the new Special Representative to lead coordination of international efforts, the Council and Member States must give them the necessary political backing and authority. Also essential was that expectations were matched by resources; the United Nations should exert its leading role towards more fully accomplishing all aspects of UNAMA’s mandate.
He welcomed the Secretary-General’s focus on subnational governance and called for a further increase in the United Nations presence at the provincial level. He would welcome an update on efforts to fill vacant posts in UNAMA to strengthen geographical coverage. Increased coverage would help the United Nations better focus on the capacity-building of Afghan authorities at all levels. Humanitarian challenges remained extensive and he was concerned that large parts of the country remained inaccessible to assistance, owing to insecurity. He looked forward to adoption of UNAMA’s renewed mandate. The human rights situation in Afghanistan was precarious at best, and human rights abuses were widespread. He encouraged the Government to demonstrate clearly its commitment to protecting the rights of all Afghans and to show leadership in championing core human rights issues, such as freedom of speech and the rule of law.
A common approach was needed that integrated security, governance, the rule of law, human rights and social and economic development, he said. An integrated approach should not only focus on the immediate security challenges, but combine the political, development and security efforts, so that they could better mutually support each other. An integrated approach should also be based on a gender perspective and acknowledge the need for efforts to strengthen the participation of Afghan women in all those areas and in society at large. Efforts to establish security, including by training the Afghan National Security Forces, were essential. In recognition of the link between security and development, the efforts of the United Nations, the European Union and NATO should be as coherent and coordinated as possible. The role of UNAMA was key to creating that unified approach.
JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said success in Afghanistan would require a degree of coherence and cooperation that only the United Nations could bring about. To do that, UNAMA must be empowered to coordinate and represent the international actors who were party to the Afghanistan Compact. It needed to work closely with ISAF to build security and ensure that a strengthened international military commitment was actively enabling the efforts of a robust, resilient and united civilian presence. It must also continue to work closely with all levels of the Afghan Government to be certain that international engagement was facilitating the progressive assumption of responsibility by Afghans for security, governance and development across Afghanistan.
An enhanced role for the United Nations in Afghanistan would require strengthened UNAMA offices across the country, as well as the establishment of a permanent United Nations presence in areas where its leadership and coordination roles were needed, he said. Setting priorities was key. UNAMA should focus its cooperation with the Afghan Government on several issues that would rise in prominence over the coming months, namely elections, subnational governance and reconciliation. Progress on those fronts was imperative.
Those overarching goals should steer the work of the United Nations, he stated. They must not, however, distract from the reality that the people of Afghanistan confronted daily. Afghans needed access to jobs that would feed their families, must feel safe on their streets and must be confident when seeking justice from their authorities. That meant a stronger focus on economic development, so that the youth could regain a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It also meant training to build a police force that offered freedom from harassment and theft, as well as renewed vigour in the fight against corruption, so that authority could no longer be separated from merit and integrity. Each of those issues required sustained and serious engagement with the Afghan Government.
Canada was committed to helping Afghanistan build a stable and democratic future, he stated. It was that determination that motivated the country’s call for a stronger and more prominent United Nations role in Afghanistan.
BAKI İLKIN ( Turkey) said it was important to remember that the international community was not failing in Afghanistan. While the international effort to put the country on the path to stability was “not yet where we would like it to be, that does not mean that we are losing”. No one should have expected a fast and easy recovery for a country that had been devastated by nearly three decades of war. What was important was that the international community remain committed and determined to address every challenge that arose. Such a show of determination was not only important for the Afghan people, but for those who wanted to take the country back to the “dark days”. Some factions were hoping that, by maintaining a foothold in Afghanistan, they would wear down the international community’s commitment and the effort to rebuild the country would cease.
“Allowing this to happen would be a disaster,” he said, stressing that failure in Afghanistan would be seen as a “failure of everything we stand for”. With that in mind, international actors and donors should not get swept up in the events of the day, but should be cognizant of general trends. Because, no matter how modest, it was those positive trends, in areas ranging from education to health care, that held the keys to a bright future for Afghanistan. At the same time, the international community must not be complacent, because the remaining challenges were tremendous.
Looking ahead, Turkey supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a more coordinated international approach that integrated security, governance, rule of law, human rights and socio-economic development. That, he continued, required a strong partnership between the Afghan Government, the United Nations, NATO and the rest of the international community, with the Afghan Government in the lead. The overall global effort must support implementation of the Afghan National Development Strategy and the Afghan Compact. Indeed, Afghanistan did not need any new strategies or expanded mandates to address its current challenges. “We all know what needs to be done and we should now be able to carry on with robust and effective implementation,” he said, expressing the hope that the Council resolution to extend UNAMA’s mandate for the next 12 months would reflect the Secretary-General’s recommendations regarding enhanced coordination and political outreach.
NIRIPAN SEN ( India) said the international community’s central objective in Afghanistan was to help the country complete its re-emergence from decades of war, civil strife and privation. The world had set the goal of helping Afghanistan become a democratic country, rooted in its unique culture, at peace with itself and secure in its neighbourhood. All that needed to be “Afghanized” at a pace and in a manner that was acceptable to the Afghan people and their Government. The international community should neither press for unrealistic targets, nor should it transfer responsibilities to Afghan shoulders before they were ready to accept them. Stressing that the process should be Afghan-led, he echoed the Secretary-General’s suggestion that international assistance should be demand-driven, rather than supply-driven.
That did not mean that international partners should not have input in drawing up a list of priorities, he said. But, at the end of the day, Afghan interlocutors should have the final say on where scarce resources –- manpower as well as money –- were allocated. The international community’s collective energies should be directed towards what was clearly the Afghan people’s first priority: security. To that end, the United Nations must work more closely with relevant Afghan institutions and pay more attention to building the capacity in the Afghan national army and police force, which both required help in such areas as training and the provision of equipment. The international community must also bolster its efforts in that regard, inside and outside Afghanistan, through, among other things, ensuring that the Taliban and other terrorist groups and their patrons were deprived of shelter, financing and ideological support.
He also noted that the counter-narcotics efforts were precisely at the intersection of efforts to help the Government establish its authority and fight against terrorism and organized crime, and address the challenges of poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The Secretary-General’s report urged the Government to muster the political will and take measures against large landowners and poppy cultivators. At the same time, international partners must upgrade Afghan capacity to take more effective action against cross-border smuggling and transport, as well as work in a more coordinated fashion with Afghan and international agencies to stem the demand for narcotics. Similarly, efforts to bring the Afghan people closer to their Government required far more coordination among international partners, as well as between those partners and the Afghan Government.
PIET DE KLERK ( Netherlands) praised the great efforts the Government of Afghanistan had made to bring stability and development to its people. This month, the Government would be putting the final touches to the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. All international actors needed to bring their aid efforts, to the greatest extent possible, into the framework of that Afghan-led Strategy. Increasingly, Afghans would need to supply the “sheet music for the many voices of the international choir”. The Afghan authorities would increasingly have to provide public services themselves and the army would have to provide security on its own, while the police maintained public order. The Afghans would also have to seriously fight corruption and the drug trade, both of which were undermining the State. The Netherlands also looked forward to progress on transitional justice.
With regard to the situation in southern Afghanistan, he continued, the Netherlands believed that the Government needed to secure an enduring political settlement. That would require an effective stabilization programme that supported outreach efforts to reconcile Afghan communities and disenfranchised groups and to bring them into the political process. To support that process, the Afghan army and ISAF would need to maintain a sufficient military pressure on the insurgency.
He added that, as long as Afghan institutions needed international support to deal with development and governance, the United Nations should take the lead role in coordinating international efforts. That meant that the international community should be prepared to give the United Nations the authority to direct international efforts. The goals should be to have strong multilateral engagement, led by the United Nations.
He noted that the provincial reconstruction teams –- provincial military bases used as a platform for aid efforts due to lack of an alternative –- had been intended as a temporary solution. Thus, one of the teams’ main duties should be to make themselves redundant as quickly as possible, so that UNAMA and the United Nations funds and programmes, as well as the Afghan local governments, could take over their role.
AHMED AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said that his country, which had stood by the Afghan people since the beginning of the crisis and had made generous contributions towards emergency humanitarian relief programmes and economic recovery initiatives, was deeply concerned by the increasing threat of violence that was hampering political and development efforts on the ground. Such violence had also prevented affected populations in some 36 Afghan provinces from receiving humanitarian aid and supplies, and had a direct impact on the lives of civilians, as well as United Nations and other relief workers. With all that in mind, he stressed the importance of, among other things, re-evaluating the national security structures and judicial systems towards implementing a comprehensive strategy aimed at reforming, training and developing the capacities of those sectors, including the Afghan National Security Forces.
He called for strengthening the role of the United Nations in leading the international effort on the ground in Afghanistan and in coordinating humanitarian assistance and relevant donor activities, in accordance with the needs of the people, especially the most vulnerable. The United Nations role must also be strengthened in the areas of reconstruction, provision of technical and financial support to the election process and addressing the serious problem of landmine removal. He also called for strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Government to improve its performance, particularly regarding national reconciliation and in extending its central authority over all the country’s territories.
MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI ( Iran) said that, two years after the establishment of the Afghanistan Compact, the country was witnessing both major accomplishments and experiencing daunting challenges. Even as the Government worked to finalize and launch the country’s National Development Strategy and progress continued in several sectors, including health services and school enrolment, threats such as terrorism and insecurity driven by criminal and terrorist groups, as well as the drug trade, continued to be causes for alarm. The Secretary-General’s report had noted the sharp increase in terrorist activity over the past year, as well as increased incidents of attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers.
Iran believed that addressing insecurity in Afghanistan required, among other things, ensuring the country had ownership in all relevant initiatives involving security, he said. Certainly, strengthening the independence and integrity of the Afghan National Security Forces and increasing home security in the country were key to realizing such long-awaited ownership. Further, capacity-building and reconstruction of infrastructure, including through utilization of regional potential, could also contribute to improving the overall situation in the country. One of the most troubling challenges for Afghanistan, the region and beyond was the cultivation and production of, and trafficking in, narcotics.
While acknowledging the Afghan Government’s credible efforts to deal with the drug trade, he agreed with the Secretary-General’s assessment that tangible results, nevertheless, remained elusive. As a neighbouring country that had endured heavy loss of life in its costly, decades-long war on drug trafficking, Iran remained resolute and would insist on the need for more concrete action on the part of both Afghanistan and the international community. Iran still hosted millions of Afghan refugees and had a high stake and vital interest in that country’s overall stability and development. Iran, therefore, supported efforts to improve the economic situation in that country.
Iran, for its part, had made sincere and concrete efforts towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan and, despite the “illegitimate sanctions” imposed on Iran, it would continue to provide development assistance to Afghanistan to the extent possible. He said that Iran had tried to make the millions of Afghan refugees and illegal migrants feel at home when they faced hardships. Now that the situation in Afghanistan was different, Iran earnestly hoped that the conditions would pave the way for the reparation of Afghan refugees in “a more timely and promising manner”. Concluding, he stressed the importance of the United Nations continuing its impartial and central role in Afghanistan. UNAMA’s activities should be aimed at reinforcing the Government’s leadership and ownership over the country’s affairs.
NURBEK JEENBAEV ( Kyrgyzstan), speaking on behalf of the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said the situation in Afghanistan was disturbing, especially the level of violence and the continued activity of terrorist groups and drug gangs. The international community must do more to isolate extremist leaders and UNAMA must support Government efforts to ensure security and stability, within its mandate. Curbing the activities of such extremists would do much to increase the hopes of the Afghan people. He stressed that the international community must also establish a comprehensive system of anti-crime and anti-drug trafficking belts around Afghanistan, as well as address the demand for drug products, including in Europe.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization could assist the United Nations and Afghan authorities in its efforts to tackle the drug trade, he said. It could also help with efforts to address other security measures. Along with the drug trade, the international community must also help build the Afghan Government’s capacity to promote national and regional reconciliation. Assistance programmes to Afghanistan must, therefore, include regional partners. The United Nations must continue to play the central coordinating role in all international efforts under way in Afghanistan.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said the security situation in Afghanistan was of high importance to all countries in the Central Asian region. Indeed, the international community and Afghanistan still had enormous tasks ahead to strengthen the authority of the Government and to rehabilitate the economy. It was clear that a comprehensive approach was required that integrated security, governance, rule of law, human rights and socio-economic development. The international community should also be concerned with the increasing poppy cultivation in the country. The flow of heroin went through all the States of Central Asia and the Russian Federation. Neighbouring countries were pooling their efforts to combat drug trafficking.
To that end, those countries had established a Central Asian drug-control centre that had begun ramping up its efforts to tackle the drug trade, as well as to promote the establishment of anti-drug trafficking belts throughout the region, she said. Efforts to reform the security sector in Afghanistan and to combat the drug trade, should also be accompanied by efforts to improve the socio-economic situation. Her Government had devoted some $3 million towards efforts to build roads and provide training to newly established institutions, and would continue to support the Afghan people as they moved towards peace and development.
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