19 March 2009
Security Council
SC/9619

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6094th Meeting (PM)


Secretary-General’s special representative calls for greater international backing


for afghan police in struggle against corruption, insurgency


Delegates in Security Council Urge Transparency in Forthcoming Elections


Describing 2009 as a crucial year for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in that country, told the Security Council today that the international community must support efforts to bolster the Afghan National Police, promote agricultural productivity and support the private sector in order finally to combat corruption and crime, the funding of insurgency and food insecurity, among other long-standing and woefully neglected problems.


Briefing the Council on the implications of the situation in Afghanistan for international peace and security, he said that, while the Afghan Government was more competent then ever, and despite improved cooperation among security ministries and institutions, the country’s security situation remained dire and intense fighting was expected in the coming weeks.  The Government was making it a top priority to address those issues, including through comprehensive police reform.  However, the international community must do its part by providing police training and equipment, and supporting governors determined to stamp out illegal cultivation and trafficking.  Already, prospects for 2009 boded well, with poppy production expected to drop significantly nationwide, particularly in the south.


He cautioned, however, that achieving those goals would take time, but they would contribute to political stability and economic growth, which would be critical for any international exit strategy.  There was a need for better coordination among donors, many of whom were too focused on specific projects in certain provinces, when what was really needed was a shared nationwide perspective in order to ensure long-term and wide-reaching development.  Due to poor coordination and reporting of resources, between $500 million and $1 billion was unaccounted for and large parts of the Afghan National Development Strategy remained under-funded.


He called on the Afghan authorities also to do their utmost to ensure that presidential and provincial council elections scheduled for 20 August were conducted fairly and transparently, noting that the concerns of opposition parties about potential foul play were real and well-founded.  As international observers, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) must play their part fully in the electoral process, alongside domestic observers.  But the political process as a whole must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.


Pakistan’s representative concurred, saying that Afghanistan’s multifaceted challenges required a truly comprehensive, substantial and integrated response, fully led by the Afghan people with sustained and long-term support from the international community.  Meeting those challenges was vitally important for peace and stability in the region and beyond.  Together with Afghanistan, Pakistan faced the brunt of the terrorist and extremist threat and was concerned about the financing and arming of militants, as well as recent incursions into its territory.


Iran’s representative also expressed concern about efforts to reach out to some members of the Taliban, warning that incorporating terrorist elements into Afghanistan’s political structure contravened international agreements and would not help resolve the current situation.  In the past two years, terrorist activities perpetrated mainly by Al-Qaida and the Taliban had inflicted great losses in Afghanistan, and categorizing extremists as “good” or “bad” was not helpful.  Any efforts to bring about reconciliation should be purely Afghan-led and under the full control and ownership of the Government.


Addressing those concerns, Afghanistan’s representative said the Afghan people were fully invested in a legitimate, inclusive democratic process and were driven to keep the dark days before 2001 securely behind them.  They were eager to work with the international community to root out terrorist groups.  In fact, the Taliban were a product of violence, cross-border madrassa and foreign indoctrination that had disrupted stable Afghan society, and a mere 4 per cent of Afghans wished to see their return to power.  The world had a moral and practical obligation to prevent their return through global action.


Afghanistan’s biggest accomplishments ‑‑ its Constitution, elections, improvement in the Afghan National Army, infrastructure, education and health ‑‑ had received the strongest international attention, he said.  However, in areas that had received less attention ‑‑ the Afghan National Police, governance, corruption and judiciary reform ‑‑ the country had not achieved all that it should have, and the international community must stay on course.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Uganda, Russian Federation, Japan, Austria, Turkey, Burkina Faso, Viet Nam, China, United States, France, Mexico, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Croatia, Libya, Canada, Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, India and Australia.


The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 7:10 p.m.


Background


Council members had before them the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/63/751-S/2009/135), which reviews the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since his previous report, dated 23 September 2008 (document A/63/372-S/2009/617).  The Secretary-General notes that the 2009 budget adopted by the General Assembly increases the Mission’s capacity to implement its mandate and recommends a further 12-month extension.


According to the report, the fact that the upcoming elections will be tightly contested is actually a sign of progress and that voter registration was concluded successfully and without major incidents.  Despite the fragile security situation, the judicious deployment of more international troops can increase the number of trainers for the Afghan security forces, help secure the electoral environment and enhance the Government’s strength so that it can confidently conduct a dialogue to end violence and bring opponents into the political reconciliation process.  Support for the electoral process is particularly relevant in the coming months, and UNAMA’s 2009 budget provides for technical support, donor coordination and a political electoral unit to promote a climate conducive to free and fair elections.


At stake over the next six months are the re-legitimization of the Government’s authority through credible elections and continuation of the constitutional order emerging from the Bonn process, the report states.  The Independent Electoral Commission has set presidential and provincial council elections for 20 August 2009, three months after President Hamid Karzai’s term ends on 22 May, generating concern among some Members of Parliament that a vacuum of executive authority will be created in the interim.  With the rule of law still insufficiently institutionalized and respect for international humanitarian law, human rights and accounting for past abuses continuing to be treated as a secondary matter, the Afghan Government, security forces and population will face a critical test in 2009.


The report says 2008 ended as the most violent year in Afghanistan since 2001, marked by greater attempts by insurgents to destabilize previously stable areas and use more sophisticated asymmetrical attacks.  However, key areas of progress in the past six months, the result of concerted efforts by the Government and the international community, provide a narrow window of opportunity that must not be overlooked.  The new Minister of Interior has begun an active reform of his Ministry and the police ranks, and security ministers are now cooperating with each other more effectively, leading to the successful uncovering of terrorist networks and plans prior to their execution.  That progress must be built upon, particularly through more police mentoring teams.


Afghanistan ranked among the most governmentally corrupt countries in Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2008, the report says, noting, however, that in 2009, poppy seed production could drop for a second consecutive year, falling 20 to 30 per cent.  The Good Performers Initiative for Governors is a promising way to reduce poppy production and needs much more funding.  The determination of the new Minister for Agriculture to increase agricultural production is also laudable.  With new Ministers for Agriculture, Commerce and Finance, the Government’s economic team will work more effectively and coherently to enable more effective implementation of Afghan strategies, as well as economic growth.


According to the report, the Mission will continue to act in an impartial manner, leading the international community’s efforts to ensure a fair, transparent and credible electoral process.  Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, is pursuing a new integrated approach to implement the strategy to prioritize, rationalize and “Afghanize”, with priority placed on agriculture, energy, infrastructure, aid effectiveness, capacity-building and the national budget as a programming mechanism to secure Afghan ownership of the process.


The report also highlights key political developments, including the first visit by President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan.  In a joint communiqué, the Afghani and Pakistani Foreign Ministers called for a “new visionary chapter” in their relations and pledged, with international support, “to counter and completely eliminate the menaces of militancy, extremism and terrorism from the region”.  The renewed relationship allowed the resumption of the Peace Jirga process, to which Pakistan named 25 members to the Jirgagai, the joint Afghan-Pakistani subcommittee responsible for driving the process.  The Jirgagai met on 27 and 28 October, recognized militancy and terrorism as common threats requiring a coordinated response and emphasized the need for dialogue with opposition groups in both countries.


Briefing


KAI EIDE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said that following the changes in the last six months, the Afghan Government was better and more competent than ever, and the level of provincial governance was higher.  Cooperation inside the Government, particularly in the security ministries and institutions, had improved, resulting in an enhanced ability to uncover terrorist networks and prevent attacks.  Despite spectacular terrorist attacks in Kabul, the overall number of attacks had decreased, due not least to that improved coordination.  The economic ministries were also working in a more coherent way following leadership changes at Finance, Agriculture and Commerce, which had enabled the Government to better address the Council’s long-standing concerns.


He said comprehensive reform was under way to strengthen and clean up the police force, and it should result in a more efficient fight against the insurgency, greater respect for the rule of law and an enhanced ability to fight corruption.  A significant number of police officers had been removed and faced prosecution.  A national agricultural strategy would be launched in April aimed at increasing agricultural production, developing marketing capabilities and enhancing rural employment.  The new team at the Ministry of Commerce was addressing challenges in private-sector development.


The 2009 prognosis for poppy cultivation indicated the potential for a very significant decrease in production nationwide, an increase in the number of poppy-free provinces and serious reductions in poppy production in the south, he said.  To turn such potential successes into reality, the international community must provide trainers, mentors and equipment for the police; adjust and strengthen agricultural assistance to respond in a flexible manner to new priorities and programmes; and support governors determined to make their provinces poppy-free and farmers ready to switch from poppy to legal crops.


He said success in those areas would enable the international community to address seriously ‑‑ for the first time ‑‑ its long-standing and deepest concerns:  fighting corruption and crime; reducing the flow of financial resources to the insurgency; and improving food security.  Progress in each area would contribute to political stability and economic growth, critical components in any international exit strategy.  While the security situation had deteriorated over the last several months, with security incidents in January 75 per cent higher than a year earlier, the number of incidents in Kabul had dropped, partly due to the improved performance of Afghan security forces, though intense fighting was expected to begin in a few weeks.


The election process had taken centre stage in Kabul and in the media, he said.  With the election set for 20 August, the main political challenge now was to resolve the dispute over what would happen between 22 May, when the current presidential term ended, and the beginning of the next presidential term.  Afghan politicians must reach a political consensus to ensure the continued legitimacy and strength of national institutions until the next presidential inauguration.  Despite the presence of 70,000 international troops operating alongside Afghan forces, the opposition had real and well-founded concerns about the transparency and fairness of the election process.  The Government must demonstrate that it would do its utmost to ensure fair and transparent elections.


He urged those invited to send international observer missions ‑‑ the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ‑‑ to play their parts fully alongside domestic observation efforts.  The United Nations and the Independent Electoral Commission would set up an Election Complaints Commission.  In terms of civilian casualties and military behaviour, which did not adequately respect Afghan cultural sensitivities, the number of casualties had risen 40 per cent in 2008, with the insurgency accounting for most of them.  The commander of the international forces was addressing the problem strongly in his instructions to the troops, by improving coordination with Afghan security forces and respecting local cultural sensitivities.


Describing inadequate donor coordination as a major concern and priority of the United Nations mandate, he said that, while political coordination had improved, the situation was more complex and less encouraging in terms of donor coordination.  “First we must ‑‑ as much as possible ‑‑ move away from the use of contractors that are so often overpaid and under-qualified, whose aim is to finish projects quickly before they move on to the next.”  The short-term costs of such development policies were high and their long-term impact low.  There was also a need to guard against the persistence of “donor-generated fragmentation of Afghanistan”, whereby an increasing number of donors were taking an increasingly province-based perspective when a shared nationwide perspective was needed.


When possible, the international military should channel development resources through civilian institutions ‑‑ preferably Afghan ones ‑‑ rather than doing the development work themselves, he said.  It was recommended that all provincial reconstruction teams channel development resources through often under-funded but successful mechanisms such as the National Solidarity Programme.  That would make projects less expensive and more sustainable, while enhancing the authorities in the eyes of the public.  The use of between $500 million and $1 billion had never been reported to the Government and consequently, the Afghan authorities and the international community did not know how much had been spent across the country or for what purpose.  That lack of coordination and transparency meant that large parts of the National Development Strategy would go under-funded.


A new comprehensive and easily accessible database in the Ministries of Economy and Finance would soon be set up with the assistance of the World Bank, he said, urging all donors to make full use of it.  The United Nations would also establish a peer review mechanism to bring donors in certain priority areas together to ensure they were complementing efforts rather than duplicating them.  A massive effort was required to ensure that capacity-building was an integral part of every development project and that there was a more strategic approach to education and the building of security and judicial institutions.  Success would depend on the formulation of a national vision and national programmes, as well as on qualified people, technical assets, financial resources, Afghan ownership, and training and mentorship.


There was very limited capacity to educate boys and girls beyond secondary school, he said, stressing that unless that was corrected soon, Afghanistan would not be able to make use of its intellectual resources and the potential for economic growth would be significantly limited.  However, the readiness of donors to provide primary education was encouraging and now was the time for strategy and policy reviews in that regard.  Priorities had already been set in Paris and elsewhere; the main problem was the limited readiness to implement them, the lack of flexibility to respond to changes, and the absence of a strategic, nationwide perspective.


Disturbed by recent reports of violence against women and brutal rape cases, he said the Mission spoke out consistently against the marginalization of women, the prevailing atmosphere of impunity, and the lack of access to the court system and adequate health facilities.  Afghanistan was today the only country in the world where the average life expectancy for women was lower than that for men.  Women must have education and be able to take part in society.  That was a human right and a matter of making full use of the entire Afghan population to build the country.  “ Afghanistan cannot afford to keep half of its population marginalized.”


Turning to the humanitarian situation, he expressed deep concern about the lack of free expression and the prospect of starvation in many parts of the country.  In mid-April, it would be possible to better assess the situation and prospects for the future.  The improved relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were encouraging, and the potential for regional cooperation was impressive, ranging from huge infrastructure projects bringing the wider region together, to smaller-scale cooperation in agriculture.  As a follow-up to the 2008 Paris meeting, experts had met in Brussels two days ago to identify priority projects in preparation for regional economic cooperation conferences in Islamabad.


All neighbouring countries could play a significant role in economic cooperation and capacity-building, he said, emphasizing that military means alone could not bring about an end to the conflict.  A political process would ultimately be needed.  “However, we should not believe that such a process of reconciliation can be a shortcut to peace or a replacement for other efforts to build Afghanistan.  Furthermore, a peace process will never succeed if the Government and the international community do not have confidence in themselves.  We must address reconciliation in a way that projects strength and conviction and not weakness and doubt.”  Hopefully, the upcoming Hague conference would provide new energy and a shared readiness to use resources in a flexible, coordinated way.


Statements


RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) said the report reflected serious challenges in Afghanistan, as well as some progress.  As for the upcoming elections, he encouraged a smooth and transparent electoral process, which would be a cornerstone for stability.  All efforts must be made to ensure that calm and stability prevailed.  Reconciliation should be seen as part of an inclusive political process beyond elections.  The security situation had continued to deteriorate.  More efforts must be made to protect the civilian population from attacks.  The Government should also find a way of involving regional stakeholders in a comprehensive regional security strategy.  He welcomed the joint declaration on bilateral cooperation signed in January with Pakistan.


He said the rule of law should be sufficiently institutionalized and urged the Government to effectively address those issues that were undermining the legitimacy of Afghan law enforcement and judicial institutions.  To that end, the Government would require increased support from the international community in institution-building.  The drug eradication campaign had yielded some positive results, but any long-term solution should include addressing alternative sources of income for those who were driven by poverty to indulge in the drug trade.  Socio-economic challenges required a holistic approach.  Durable peace and stability in Afghanistan would be achieved faster after tangible results were made in governance, rule of law, respect for human rights and economic recovery and development.  He supported the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he was concerned that the security situation continued to deteriorate, with an increase in terrorist activities that undermined Afghan statehood.  Terrorists practically controlled a whole set of Afghan regions, where they had installed parallel government institutions.  It was important that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Government jointly reverse that negative situation.  In support of ISAF’s activities, the Russian Federation provided transit through its territory of non-military supplies to Afghanistan.  He was concerned by the continuing cases of casualties among the civilian population, as a result of activities by international forces.


He said this year would be decisive for Afghanistan, because of the presidential elections.  Those were of special importance, to make the democratic changes sustainable.  The electoral process could also promote national reconciliation.  The process, however, must be implemented in strict compliance with Council resolution 1267 (1999) and the Taliban sanctions regime.  Despite recent successes in the fight against drugs, there was a need to step up those efforts.  The Russian Federation signed an agreement with Afghanistan on cooperation in the fight against narcotic crimes.  There was also a need to use regional organizations in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.  He then went on to describe the Russian Federation’s assistance to Afghanistan.


YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said, looking at the situation in Afghanistan, the international community tended to see a glass half empty.  But steady progress had been made, however, such as improvement in civil-military coordination, continued decrease in poppy production and renewed momentum for reform of the police and the Interior Ministry.  Efforts must be doubled to improve the security situation and strengthen the national security capacity.  The international community and the Afghan Government must coordinate closely, with a strong emphasis on ownership of the process by the Government and people of Afghanistan.  Japan had appointed a special representative for assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He hoped the forthcoming International Conference on Afghanistan on 31 March would provide an opportunity to share strategies and agree on a future course.


He said this year’s most important political event was the presidential election.  The registration process had been conducted smoothly, but the electoral process must be fair, smooth and credible, with the widest possible participation. Afghanistan’s stability and prosperity hinged upon the stability of its neighbours, including Pakistan.  Japan would host a meeting of the friends of democratic Pakistan group and Pakistan donors’ conference in Tokyo in mid-April.  The international community should spare no efforts in supporting the region as a whole, politically as well as financially.  He then went on to describe Japan’s assistance to Afghanistan, including electoral support and police reform, as well as capacity-building.


THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) voiced support for a mandate extension and noted that, for the first time, the Afghan authorities were primarily responsible for the country’s elections.  Austria welcomed the completion of the voter registration process and ongoing reforms in governance, particularly in the Ministry of Interior and the Afghan National Police, which could have a positive effect on respect for the rule of law, the fight against corruption and counter-narcotics efforts, among other things.  Austria was considering donating financial resources for the police force and demining activities.


The drop in opium cultivation was positive, he said, calling for the consolidation of efforts in that regard by the Afghan authorities and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  It was essential to step up the fight against illegal poppy processing and to ensure sustainable alternative livelihoods for farmers.  The regional dimension of drug production and trafficking must be tackled and Austria supported the UNODC’s Rainbow Strategy in that regard.  All neighbouring countries must be included in that process.


Welcoming the renewed relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, he encouraged UNAMA to provide regional cooperation in line with its mandate.  Austria was concerned about the deteriorating security situation, particularly its impact on civilians.  The situation of civilians was exacerbated by attacks on non-governmental organizations and humanitarian workers.  Ending attacks on girls and schools, as well as preventing suicide bombings, must be made a priority.  UNAMA’s human rights unit offered valuable assistance to civilians.  Women’s rights must be a priority.


BAKİ İLKİN ( Turkey) expressed agreement with the Secretary-General’s observations and recommendations, saying that Afghanistan was still passing through a difficult period.  But, given a broad consensus within the international community on the way forward, it was time to rise to the occasion.  Since peace and stability could not be secured without winning the Afghan people’s hearts and minds, four priority areas deserved particular attention:  economic development with a visible impact on people’s living conditions; a strong Afghan military and police to take the lead on, and establish ownership over, national security; an inclusive process of national reconciliation; and a “modern” education and justice system to fight extremism.  Also, action must be taken to ensure the August presidential elections were well executed and did not create new fault lines.  Turkey supported UNAMA’s efforts to that end.  Finally, the international community should encourage and help Afghanistan and Pakistan in their joint endeavours, since regional cooperation was a “must” to accomplish various goals in Afghanistan.


For its part, Turkey would continue to support the International Security Assistance Force, while providing sizeable reconstruction assistance through its provincial reconstruction team in Wardak, he said.  Turkey had pledged $200 million in development assistance to Afghanistan in 2008, directed at visible projects such as the creation of a new university, building a modern training and research hospital, and paving roads in Kabul.  It would contribute €1.5 million to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, and would continue training programmes for the Afghan National Police.  It would also contribute $5 million to the elections.  The Turkey-Pakistan-Afghanistan Trilateral Process, which held its second summit in December 2008, established a joint working group to work on “various cooperation projects”.  A third summit would be hosted soon.


MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said it was clear that the security, political and economic situation remained alarming despite efforts by the international community.  The brazenness of the insurgents was a challenge that had to be met at a time when presidential and provincial elections were due to be held.  The question was how credible elections could be held when fear and security concerns threatened to exclude a part of the population that had not yet been registered.  Burkina Faso supported Government efforts to establish a dialogue with moderate insurgents who were ready to renounce violence and adopt the rule of law.


Describing corruption as a tumour at the centre of political and economic governance, he underscored the importance of eradicating it.  Modest progress had been recorded in reducing poppy cultivation and encouraging prospects in agriculture, and the international community should increase assistance for infrastructure, agriculture and energy.  The humanitarian situation remained alarming and international efforts must be stepped up to alleviate the food crisis.  Persistent violations of human rights were also a matter of concern, particularly regarding women.  Burkina Faso welcomed the new vision adopted with Pakistan regarding extremism and terrorism, and supported a mandate extension for UNAMA, which had a crucial role to play in achieving peace and stability.


BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said he remained deeply concerned about the continuing deterioration of peace and security, stressing that there could be no purely military solution to those challenges and calling for a comprehensive and integrated approach.   It was essential to ensure effective implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, the National Drugs Control Strategy, and especially the National Development Strategy.  Improving social welfare, including health care and education services, should also be among the Government’s priorities.  In that regard, it was important to provide Afghanistan with the necessary assistance to enhance its capacity.


He said reconciliation and a cessation of violence must be part of an inclusive political process with a broad consensus among all key Afghan stakeholders.  Viet Nam welcomed the upcoming special conferences on Afghanistan, to be held in The Hague, and had taken note of the recently strengthened regional cooperation in support of the country’s economic, political and security improvement, particularly the Peace Jirga process.  UNAMA should continue to intensify its cooperation with the Government and relevant organizations and stakeholders so as to fulfil its mandate.  Viet Nam endorsed a 12-month mandate extension and hoped that, with renewed regional and international support, the coming elections would be conducted in a free, fair and secure environment, thus paving the way for the restoration of peace and security that Afghanistan so deserved.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China), noting that the security situation had continued its downward slide and exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, said the United Nations had increased its attention and input.  In Paris last June, the international community had reasserted its commitment to Afghanistan, but despite present and future difficulties, there was no reason to lose confidence.  The elections on 20 August would be a major event in the country’s political life, and China hoped it would lead to greater social cohesion and improve the Government’s effectiveness and functioning.


Underscoring the importance of ensuring a secure environment for the elections, he expressed hope that international troops could provide it and that international support would help the Government enhance capacity-building.  However, military means alone could not reverse the situation and it was necessary to encourage various ethnic groups to achieve reconciliation through dialogue.  When carrying out military actions, the parties concerned should take care to reduce casualties.


In the northern and western parts of Afghanistan, where the situation was relatively stable, the focus was on development, whereas in the south and east, it was on security, he said, noting that both were important.  Only through crop substitution could poppy production be reduced further, and China urged support for that effort.  During the conference in The Hague on 31 March, participants would discuss the future development of Afghanistan and hopefully reach agreement on stabilizing the security situation.  Member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Council would also organize a meeting in Moscow.  China supported a continuing leading role for the United Nations in coordinating international assistance to Afghanistan and the extension of UNAMA’s mandate for one year.


ROSEMARY DI CARLO ( United States) expressed support for UNAMA’s leadership and coordination of international aid efforts in Afghanistan, as well as the General Assembly’s decision to increase the Mission’s 2009 budget.  However, the international community must do more together.  The United States urged a stepping up of the funding process for UNAMA and encouraged the hiring of highly qualified staff.  It strongly supported the one-year renewal of UNAMA’s mandate and agreed that the Taliban insurgency could not be solved by military means alone.


Encouraged by the formation of a working group to implement an integrated approach, she said the upcoming elections were a key strategic event in Afghanistan.  The United States supported efforts by the Independent Election Commission and others to address challenges in voting, as well as the decision to hold the elections on 20 August.  Afghan leaders should find a solution to the constitutional framework in order to ensure the legitimacy of the elections.  It was also necessary to move urgently to ensure they elections were properly funded.  $220 million had been contributed and the United States urged donors to make good on their commitments as soon as possible.


There must be substantial progress in bolstering good governance, fighting corruption, strengthening local government and creating economic opportunity, she said, expressing particular concern about the harm caused to women and children by discriminatory practices.  The United States was encouraged by the steps taken by the Afghan Action Plan for Women, but more must be done.  Having trained 3,000 teachers in the past year, the United States was training more than 20,000 women to assist in the election process.  Encouraged by the UNODC report indicating that poppy production could drop by as much as 30 per cent in 2009, the United States was nevertheless concerned about the deteriorating security conditions in the south, where the insurgency dominated and 98 per cent of the poppy crop was grown.  Regarding civilian casualties, efforts must be taken to compensate the victims and their families.  The goal was to avoid casualties and had made significant efforts in that regard.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said that efforts to achieve cohesiveness in assistance and policies had begun to bear fruit.  The Moscow and The Hague conferences were part of a trend within the international community in its commitment to Afghanistan.  Progress in achieving effectiveness and coordination in aid had been insufficient.  As transparency was of the essence, there was a need to ensure that the United Nations and the authorities of Afghanistan were able to have a clear picture of the overall donorship.  The upcoming elections were a major step in the process of Afghans taking ownership of the political process.  All stakeholders in Afghanistan must ensure free and fair elections and ensure stability.  The United Nations had an important role to play, in that regard.


He said progress had been achieved in various fields.  The Afghan National Army had been strengthened, but the police force remained the weak link.  The new Minister of Interior had started a reform process that should be supported by the international community.  There were also encouraging developments in the field of counter-narcotics, but the authorities must act more firmly to guarantee journalists and representatives of civil society safe conditions.  Although civilian casualties were mainly the result of activities by terrorists, State and international forces must continue to avoid civilian casualties.


He said that France, whose priority was stability in the region, had strengthened its military, civilian and political commitments.  A special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan had been appointed.  Afghanistan, neighbouring States and others had been invited by France for a ministerial meeting.  He further welcomed the proposal to hold Council meetings every three months and called for support to UNAMA.


CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the coming elections were both a major challenge and an opportunity to achieve peace and a political solution to the 8-year-old conflict.  He called on the United Nations system and UNAMA to work with the Independent Electoral Commission, political parties and civil society to encourage successful elections.  Ensuring the security of the population, in that regard, was one of the main challenges.  The security situation was deteriorating and the number of civilian casualties had increased.  He hoped that greater cooperation between the forces of Afghanistan and the international forces would lead to a decrease in civilian victims.  The security of humanitarian workers and the most vulnerable sectors also called for priority attention.  All measures should be taken to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups.


He recognized efforts by Afghanistan and the international community to remove mines and explosives, which were a serious threat to the civilian population.  He also commended the efforts to reform the police and to decrease corruption.  The fight against drugs was another priority area for stability in Afghanistan and a regional focus on the problem was of critical importance.  UNAMA had to play a role in coordinating efforts to promote peace and stability.  The opening of an Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs unit was timely, and he hoped the human rights protection ability would be strengthened.  A comprehensive approach was necessary for institutional capacity-building and socio-economic development.  The international conferences in Moscow and The Hague were a clear demonstration of the firm commitment the international community had towards Afghanistan.


JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said challenges remained to build sustainable peace in Afghanistan.  The international community must strengthen and sustain its commitment to Afghanistan.  The situation called for a comprehensive focus and a national vision.  It required promotion of good governance, the rule of law, and socio-economic development.  The Afghan people and Government must claim ownership of the process to achieve those aims.  More international efforts were needed to improve procedures and security conditions.  The 20 August elections would be a key step to strengthening democracy, and the international community must accompany and support that process.  He welcomed the creation of a political electoral unit in UNAMA to ensure free, impartial and fully participatory elections.  He also lauded the forecast for reduced poppy production in 2009.


He expressed concern over the number of civilian casualties and attacks on schools and humanitarian personnel, as well as the use of children as human shields.  There were still attempts by armed groups to recruit children.  He called on all parties to take steps to reduce civilian casualties to a minimum and expressed hope that the draft resolution being negotiated by the Council would reflect that concern.  In terms of human rights, he trusted that greater efforts would be made to protect women and ensure fairer gender policies.  He agreed with the Secretary-General that leadership was needed to achieve the objectives.


JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) noted progress in the administration of operations, military and civilian cooperation and counter-narcotic efforts.  Every year, it was said that the current year was crucial for Afghanistan.  That was particularly true this year.  Not only would there be presidential elections, but there were other issues on the cusp.  Successful and credible elections were vital to Afghanistan’s future, and he welcomed the agreement to hold elections on 20 August.  It was necessary to avoid a situation of continued uncertainty.  He pointed to a possible difficult situation in the summer in the south.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General had set up bodies and mechanisms for the electoral process, he noted, lauding the success with which the voter registration process had been carried out.


He pointed to the crucial role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the smooth handling of the election process, for which the United Kingdom had provided funds.  Others should follow suit.  It was vital that in 2009 international assistance became greater than the sum of its parts.  He welcomed the work of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board and the decision to focus on five sectors.  On civilian casualties, it was important to continue to discuss the issue frankly and transparently.  He called for strengthened efforts to ensure that they did not occur, and that where they did occur, for improved investigation and reporting mechanisms.  The insurgency did not care about civilians and used them as human shields.  Despite challenges, there were grounds for optimism.  Poppy production would likely drop sharply, and increased resources had been made available to UNAMA.  The increased 2009 budget meant that the gap was closed.  It also meant higher expectations for UNAMA.


NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said he was concerned about the deterioration of the security situation and the reliance by terrorists on asymmetric attacks that were responsible for most civilian casualties.  The upcoming elections would be a test, offering an opportunity to stabilize the democratic process.  Because Afghanistan’s stability was linked to that of the wider region, Croatia was heartened by the level of regional cooperation on energy and water and hoped the upcoming regional conference would strengthen it.


He said there was no military solution and a political one would require a comprehensive and integrated approach.  In the area of aid coordination and effectiveness, UNAMA deserved praise for its follow-up to the benchmarks provided by the Council.  Croatia called for a mechanism to provide joint audits on agreed criteria to measure aid effectiveness.  It was important to fight corruption and Croatia welcomed progress in the fight against drugs, illustrated by an expected decrease in poppy cultivation, but human rights and the rule of law remained a challenge, particularly the entrenched impunity for violence against women and girls.  Croatia also welcomed the General Assembly’s decision to double UNAMA’s budget and supported the mandate extension.


Council President ABDURRAHMAN MOHAMED SHALGHAM ( Libya), speaking in his national capacity, said events in Afghanistan were largely the responsibility of the international community, which had neglected the country after the end of the cold war.  Regrettably, the Council had taken no action during the country’s civil wars in the 1990s.  The present situation was growing increasingly grim owing to the lack of security and the fact that aid efforts had fallen short of the Afghan people’s expectations.  The situation could not be dealt with through military means alone, and a political process, based on comprehensive national reconciliation, was required.  It should be accompanied by economic development, which would offer a dignified life to all Afghans and not force them to resort to illegal means to generate income, such as drug trafficking.


He said the international community must help Afghanistan build a democratic and prosperous State, noting that combating extremism was not a goal in itself.  Contrary to statements by the Afghan authorities and the United Nations, the killing of civilians remained a source of great concern.  Afghan and international forces were responsible for 39 per cent of those casualties, which inflamed citizens and served the interests of the Government’s opponents.  Deeply concerned about a possible food crisis resulting from drought, Libya hoped the National Development Strategy would be implemented soon and that donors would fulfil their commitments undertaken at the Paris Conference.  It welcomed bilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan and supported a mandate extension for UNAMA.


ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said preparations for the coming presidential and provincial elections provided the chance to strengthen legitimacy and national unity.  The continuing and troubling insecurity in parts of the country threatened those objectives, but also set a clear goal for the coming months.  Many recent strategic reviews and recommendations, including the upcoming conference in The Hague, would help Afghanistan proceed in a constructive, unified and coordinated way.


Afghanistan continued to make progress and its people were fully invested in a legitimate, inclusive democratic process, he said.  They wished to ensure that their country’s future would be a continuation of the peaceful modernization that had begun in the early twentieth century and were eager to work with the international community to eliminate the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.  The Taliban were a product of violence, cross-border madrassa and foreign indoctrination that had disrupted stable Afghan society.  A mere 4 per cent of Afghans wished to see their return to power.


The international community should be encouraged by the reminder that Afghans had supported the United States-led intervention of 2001, he said, adding that they were driven to keep those dark days securely behind them.  The world had a moral and practical obligation to prevent a return of the Taliban and Al-Qaida.  Terrorism knew no borders.  Global action was the answer to global threat.  Afghanistan’s biggest accomplishments ‑‑ its Constitution, elections, improvement in the Afghan National Army, infrastructure, education and health ‑‑ had received the strongest international attention.  But in areas that had received less attention ‑‑ the Afghan National Police, governance, corruption and judiciary reform ‑‑ the country had not achieved all that it should have achieved.


It was important to stay on course as important work remained, he said.  It should focus on the priority of creating a self-sustaining, functioning State that served the Afghan people, he said, describing that as the strongest bulwark against terrorism.  A comprehensive strategy was needed to strengthen democracy and Afghan ownership must continue to be the lynchpin of international efforts.  Economic development should continue to be implemented through the framework of the National Development Strategy and the Paris priorities.  Aid and expertise must be made available promptly and delivered effectively and transparently.  It was essential to continue to build the National Army and Police so that Afghans could play a stronger role in the fight against terror.


Reconciliation could take place only under the leadership of the Afghan Government, he said, adding that the Government recognized the importance of a political solution.  It had negotiated with elements of the Taliban who were willing to reconcile, but any talks must be held with full respect for the Constitution of Afghanistan and must be conducted from a position of strength.  Afghans appreciated the new regional focus on the challenges facing their country, which protected the sovereignty of the State.  It welcomed the new trilateral process involving the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan that had started recently in Washington, D.C.  Afghanistan fully approved of the extension of UNAMA’s mandate in support.


JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said his Government’s latest report to Parliament contained a frank assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, providing details on how Canada had restructured its military and civilian efforts to facilitate the progressive transfer of authority to Afghanistan.  Key activities included helping improve the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces, continuing to improve farm life through better irrigation, and building and rehabilitating schools.  It was also facilitating an Afghan-Pakistani dialogue on border security, while working with the United Nations to help Afghans prepare for the 2009 elections.


He welcomed Mr. Eide’s pledge to strengthen the United Nations presence in Afghanistan, which in Canada’s view meant opening new regional and provincial offices, where necessary.  Canada looked forward to working with the United Nations Mission to plan security, development and governance initiatives in key districts, along with the International Security Assistance Force, the Government of Afghanistan and others.  He had observed some progress in the Mission’s efforts to streamline coordination structures in Kabul and to create an aid effectiveness unit.  The effective delivery of humanitarian assistance was important in ensuring the United Nations credibility, and Canada welcomed the deployment of additional humanitarian officers to Kabul.  Hopefully, that would be followed by reinforcement in the provinces, where a humanitarian presence was most needed.  It was also important to ensure full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Afghanistan, in light of the increasing violence.


He urged the international community to help ensure that the upcoming elections were credible in the eyes of the Afghan people.  He also urged all regional partners to collaborate on economic and security matters, and tackle the lack of legitimate economic opportunities as a way of countering the narcotics problem.  In light of the challenges facing Pakistan, mutual effort by neighbouring countries was even more essential to regional stability.  Canada would welcome United Nations leadership on regional coordination issues.  International efforts were helping the Afghan Government to take the lead in the country’s reconstruction.  Afghan people must be able to trust their institutions and Government.  To help foster and build that hope, the international community’s efforts must be swift, efficient, far-reaching and accountable.


PETR KAISER ( Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said 2009 would be crucial for Afghanistan and for the engagement of the international community.  The security situation remained challenging, with insurgents increasingly employing asymmetric tactics and targeting civilians, Government institutions, international aid providers and non-governmental organizations.  However, some important progress had been made.  The European Union supported Government efforts to reach out across the political spectrum to bring disaffected Afghans into society’s mainstream.  There had also been progress in strengthening the Afghan National Army and National Police.


He called on the international community to put more effort into ensuring better and more effective coordination of development and reconstruction activities throughout Afghanistan.  It was also crucially important to strengthen Government institutions and actively combat corruption.  The European Union encouraged the Government to accelerate implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy, including through programmes to provide alternative livelihoods.  As the second largest financial contributor to the country’s reconstruction, the European Union had launched a police mission (EUPOL AFGHANISTAN) aimed at contributing to the establishment of sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements under Afghan ownership.


The fight against corruption, impunity and human rights violations, especially violence against women, were central to good governance, he emphasized, adding that the European Union looked to the Afghan authorities to uphold the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and by international law.  It also encouraged UNAMA to pursue its monitoring mandate, in particular regarding the human rights situation of women.  It welcomed the strengthened presence of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which would further improve humanitarian coordination.  On freedom of expression, the European Union called upon the Government to pass the media law approved by the lower house of Parliament.  It strongly supported the development of a coordinated regional approach and enhanced cooperation with neighbouring States against terrorism, drug trafficking and other threats.


MORTEN WETLAND ( Norway) said the next six months would test Afghan democracy.  Although some said the country was not ready for democracy, the more than 4 million Afghans who had recently registered to vote, in addition to the nearly 12 million already registered, thought differently.  Freedom of expression, of media and of assembly must be guaranteed to ensure free and fair elections.  The situation of women had taken a worrying turn, with a young girl having had acid thrown in her face while on her way to school.  The most senior policewoman in Kandahar had been killed.  Although women’s rights were enshrined in the Constitution, it took political leadership to protect those rights.  Afghanistan’s men must change their mindset.  Poor countries remained poor when they repressed women.


He said he had recently searched for the website of the Afghan National Development Strategy and had found that it was under construction.  That seemed also to be the case for the whole National Development Strategy nearly a year after the Paris Conference.  Both donors and the Afghan Government still needed to work harder to fulfil the pledges made in Paris.  The Government must fulfil its pledge to fight corruption and narcotics.  Because the coordinating role of UNAMA was central to efforts in Afghanistan, and the Mission would play a crucial role in supporting the elections, Norway welcomed an extension of its mandate.


MARTIN NEY ( Germany) said his country was an important contributor to civilian reconstruction and development, as well as a major troop contributor to ISAF operations.  Germany had donated $10 million to the UNDP-Elect programme in 2008 and would provide another $12 million in 2009.  With security remaining a critical concern, particularly for the election process, Germany would increase the number of its troops on the ground in order to help safeguard the holding of a free and fair ballot.


Strongly condemning recent attacks on political candidates in Afghanistan, he pointed out that his country had stepped up efforts in police training by providing additional trainers and mentoring teams in the wider build-up of security forces.  It had recently begun implementing the Focused District Development Programme in Mazar-e-Sharif and would extend that programme to other districts during the course of the year.  Germany encouraged the Government to fight corruption and narcotics trafficking with even greater dedication.  Germany would continue supporting reconstruction and development, and would contribute $220 million overall in 2009.  Germany supported the increased UNAMA budget for 2009 and the extension of the Mission’s mandate.


PIET DE KLERK ( Netherlands) supported the position of the European Union and expressed appreciation for the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan.  He was particularly pleased that it had established a presence in Uruzgan province, where the Netherlands, together with partners, was providing significant assistance.  He hoped that the Mission’s presence in Uruzgan would contribute to the development of stronger civilian structures in the south and build the capacity of the Afghan authorities in the area. They, and the international community, with the United Nations playing a central role, were in place to make progress towards the common objectives of security and development, increasingly under Afghan ownership and leadership.  He was also mindful of the continuing challenges of security, economic development, governance, the rule of law and the humanitarian situation.


Regional difficulties needed to be addressed, he said, welcoming in that respect the initiative of the Pakistani and Japanese Governments for the conference on Pakistan to be held in Tokyo next month.  He also informed the Council about a forthcoming international conference on Afghanistan in the regional context, which his country would host in The Hague on 31 March.  President Karzai and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would address the Conference, after which Special Representative Eide, Afghan Foreign Minister Ranging Dadfar Spanta and Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen would co-chair the ministerial discussions.  He hoped the event would reaffirm the international community’s solid and long-term commitment to shaping a better future for Afghanistan and its people.  The Conference was a timely opportunity to look comprehensively at the current situation and give a new impetus to common efforts.


GIAN LORENZO CORNADO ( Italy) reaffirmed his country’s support for the leading role of the United Nations in ensuring effectiveness, transparency and Afghan ownership, while also expressing support for the recommended extension of UNAMA’s mandate.  The upcoming challenge for Afghanistan was to hold free and fair elections, which were essential to winning back the hearts of the population and ensuring confidence in a new Government.  The many challenges facing Afghanistan required renewed international engagement and a comprehensive approach.


Concerned that security had deteriorated owing to attempts by insurgents to destabilize new areas, he said their increasingly sophisticated and asymmetric attacks had raised the loss of civilian life.  Afghan and international military forces continued to use all means possible to reduce civilian casualties, and it was necessary to step up assistance and strengthen the national military and police forces.  Military efforts must be accompanied by civilian assistance and Italy was committed to improving governance at the central and local levels.  The full implementation of a national justice programme remained crucially important.  The situation in Afghanistan was also of regional concern and Italy welcomed efforts to foster trust between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.


NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said the Secretary-General’s report painted “a bleak picture” of the situation in Afghanistan, yet it also held out hope.  The United Nations had made progress in ensuring greater coordination of aid and assistance programmes, and the Independent Election Commission was organizing elections, which he hoped would be free, fair and transparent.  While such positive developments provided an opportunity to consolidate progress, there was a need to address misgivings over the collective purpose.  “Let us be clear:  the world cannot afford to abandon Afghanistan again,” he said, adding that, despite the strains, the Mission remained vital to the Afghan people and security in the region.


Doubts over the approach to the Taliban and Al-Qaida had weakened the collective will and invigorated the foe, he said, calling for States to work together to deny terrorists safe havens, financing and political substance, “whether within Afghanistan or across its borders”.  The application of force must be harmonized with the larger political objective.  Further, there was a need for clarity on ideas discussed in the public domain, including on reconciliation, which must be undertaken with a unity of purpose, as a lack of consensus among international parties over key questions risked opening divisions among all.


He said his country fully endorsed the idea that coordination be based on genuine Afghan leadership and recognition that there was no purely military solution.  He strongly supported efforts to build Afghan capacity.  In that context, he welcomed continuation of the useful role provided to the Mission through resolution 1806 (2008), as a logical corollary of the Afghan national development strategy.  He also urged greater resources for the Mission and a stronger commitment to alleviating Afghanistan’s humanitarian challenge.  India was working to mitigate the humanitarian impact, but continued to face political difficulties in overland transport.


Stabilization of Afghanistan was integrally connected with India’s security, he said, and while outraged by attacks on its people, India could not be deterred.  His Government’s commitment to Afghanistan had crossed $1.2 billion.  Assistance spanned the gamut, from such infrastructure projects as the Zaranj-Delaram highway, to local projects that would provide a “peace dividend” in the shortest possible time.  In addition, he called for greater efforts to embed Afghan stabilization into regional processes, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.  Efforts were needed to expand ‑‑ rather than hinder ‑‑ trade, transit and transport ties.  “Challenges in Afghanistan need to be seen in their totality,” he said, emphasizing the importance of setting realistic and achievable goals.


ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI (Australia), welcoming the August date for elections announced by the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission, said that such timing provided an opportunity for logistical preparations to be carried out.  Committed to supporting the elections, Australia had announced $3 million to help the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) establish an independent Electoral Complaints Commission, building on the $5 million in assistance it had previously provided.  His Government recognized the enormous challenges ahead, and ongoing attacks confirmed a resilient Taliban-led insurgency.  As such, improving security was critical for reconstruction efforts and, ultimately, Afghan Government forces would need to take the lead responsibility, in that regard.


Australia deeply regretted the civilian casualties that had arisen from the actions of international forces, he said, and recognized that military efforts alone would not achieve lasting progress.  His Government had pledged $250 million in development and reconstruction assistance to build Afghan capacity.  Political reconciliation and settlement would be critical to a lasting solution in Afghanistan.  For its part, Australian development assistance aimed to improve governance.  On the humanitarian front, Australia was providing food assistance through the World Food Programme (WFP).  The Government supported efforts to expand UNAMA, and welcomed the establishment of the provincial office in Uruzgan.


He said Australia looked forward to participating in the International Conference on Afghanistan at The Hague on 31 March, as it would be an opportunity to examine how to make collective efforts more effective.  Strongly supporting the extension of the Mission’s mandate, he urged that the operation was properly resourced.  Continued progress in Afghanistan depended on expanded engagement by the United Nations, in concert with the Afghan Government and people.


ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) expressed concern that, despite all the efforts made, Afghanistan’s security situation had deteriorated in the last two years and terrorist activities perpetrated mainly by Al-Qaida and the Taliban had inflicted great losses.  However, despite 2008 having ended as the most violent since 2001, and efforts by extremists and terrorists to destabilize previously stable areas having worsened, Iran was confident that Afghanistan would maintain its commendable efforts to seriously address threats and continue its journey towards peace, stability and development.  As a neighbour, Iran had a vital interest in that regard.


He warned that incorporating terrorist elements into Afghanistan’s political structure contravened international agreements and would not help to resolve the current situation.  Categorizing extremists as “good” or “bad” was not helpful and any efforts to bring about reconciliation should be purely Afghan-led and under the full control and ownership of the Government.  Only those groups that recognized, respected and adhered to the Afghan Constitution could be considered.


Commending Government efforts to fight poppy cultivation, drug production and trafficking, he said the extent of those efforts and those of the international community, particularly countries with a military presence in Afghanistan, fell short of what was needed.  Iran had fought a costly and deadly war against drug traffickers from Afghanistan and would remain unwavering in that fight.  Others must join the fight and pay more attention to the threat.  Iran called for more eradication efforts coupled with alternative-livelihood programmes, increased incentives for good governance in the relevant provinces, the destruction of laboratories, and more serious prosecution of drug traffickers.


The coming elections were of paramount importance to the political scene in Afghanistan, he said, expressing hope that the State-building process would continue to move forward.  Iran had excellent bilateral relations with Afghanistan and was actively engaged in that country’s reconstruction process.  It had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build basic infrastructure ‑‑ including roads, railways, bridges and telecommunications facilities ‑‑ as well as building capacity and educational services.  Iran had shouldered the heavy burden of hosting 3 million Afghan refugees in the past three decades.


ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said the situation in Afghanistan was of vital importance for peace and stability in the region and beyond.  Over the last three decades, Pakistan had suffered the most direct and grave fallout from the instability and conflict in Afghanistan.  The refugee influx into Pakistan remained of amazing proportions, for instance.  The challenges facing Afghanistan were multifaceted, closely interlinked and daunting in scope.  They required a truly comprehensive, substantial and integrated response, fully owned and led by the Afghan people with sustained and long-term support from the international community.


The increased violence was rooted in the complex interplay of the Taliban, Al-Qaida, warlordism, factional rivalry, illegally armed and criminal groups and the illicit drug trade, he said.  Together with Afghanistan, Pakistan faced the brunt of the terrorist and extremist threat.  In 2008 alone, 2,000 Pakistanis had lost their lives in terrorism-related incidents, but that had not diminished its commitment to curb and reverse the menace.  The Government of Pakistan had established around 1,000 check posts and deployed more than 120,000 troops on the difficult Afghan border to control and interdict illegal movement.  Pakistan was concerned about the financing and arming of militants, as well as recent incursions into its territory.  An additional security risk was posed by the millions of Afghan refugees remaining in Pakistan.


Afghanistan could best cope with its challenges without intervention or interference, which should not mean disengagement and abandonment, he said.  A comprehensive, coordinated and balanced approach was needed.  For durable stability, people must assume ownership.  A massive investment in reconstruction, development and social welfare was required, with the participation of all segments of Afghan society.  The drug problem must be dealt with, including through the provision of alternate livelihoods.  An inclusive process based on dialogue and broad national reconciliation could catalyse the consolidation of gains from international efforts.  Any strategy should accord priority to, and allocate resources for, the repatriation of the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.  A “pull factor” was needed to encourage voluntary return.


Describing the key importance of regional cooperation for sustainable peace and development, he said his country would host the third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan in May.  It would focus, among other things, on mining, health, trade, energy and infrastructure, while also addressing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.  Bilateral cooperation had witnessed a reinvigorated Jirga process and the signing of an historic Joint Declaration on Future Directions of Bilateral Cooperation.  Pakistan had pledged $320 million for reconstruction and development as it would be the primary beneficiary of peace and stability in Afghanistan.


Mr. EIDE, responding to delegates’ statements, addressed their concerns about civilian casualties, stressing the importance of working to end them.  There would be more propaganda from the insurgency, as well as misinformation given to the military.  In terms of winning hearts and minds, only the Afghan people themselves could do that.  Regarding UNAMA, the gap between the resources needed and the authorized mandate was being closed and countries should expect more from the United Nations.  However, the Organization had only the power of persuasion in that regard.


Turning to the matter of political will, he said donor countries had national strategies that they were not willing to adjust.  That was the main problem facing the United Nations.  The Organization had opened new offices in Afghanistan and planned to open more.  Some delegates had said it should move faster to set up offices in the south, but most contributing countries did not wish to send troops there.  As for strengthening the humanitarian dimension, it was deplorable that the humanitarian aspect of the Organization’s overall activity had gone so slowly.  Concerning the upcoming conferences and regional perspectives, it was to be hoped that there would be a breakthrough in regional cooperation and that, starting with the conference in Moscow next week, momentum could be built and attention would not be spread out among too many projects.


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For information media • not an official record