|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6255th Meeting (AM)
Secretary-General Tells Security Council Afghanistan at ‘Critical Juncture’,
Appeals for Unified Political Effort on Key Priorities in Coming Months
Outgoing Special Representative Says Civilian Aspects of Transition Strategy –
Building Institutions, Economy - Must Be as Important as Military, or ‘We Will Fail’
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council today that Afghanistan had reached a “critical juncture” after a challenging year of difficult elections, a deteriorating security situation and doubts about the strategies of the Government and the international community.
Opening the Council’s debate, and prior to a briefing by outgoing Special Representative Kai Eide, the Secretary-General said that last year’s election had been problematic, to say the least, but the result had ultimately been accepted. Further, the inaugural address of President Karzai had been encouraging, as it addressed the real needs of the Afghan people: security; good governance; corruption; national unity; and the need to expand cooperation with the country’s neighbours to combat drug trafficking. He had also made an explicit commitment to measurable achievements, allowing for the start of a gradual transfer of responsibilities from international actors to Afghan institutions, particularly in security.
That was particularly important given the further deterioration of security, he said. While the violence was driven by an insurgency, it had also been exploited by criminal groups and there had been increased civilian casualties and greater risks for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). That insecurity remained the single biggest impediment to progress. The vulnerability of civilians was a serious issue, with great implications for the standing of the Government and its partners in steering the country towards stability and peace.
All the key players ‑‑ Afghan and international ‑‑ had drawn important lessons from controversial experiences and missed opportunities, he said. He appealed to both the Government and the international community to make the best possible use of the next few months, including through the upcoming conference in London. The sharpened strategies of the international community demonstrated a clear understanding that continued pursuit of the same policies would not lead to success, but for them to be successful the new Government must fulfil its far-reaching pledges.
He also welcomed the new approach by United States President Barack Obama, which sought an optimal balance between military and civilian efforts and that would strengthen cooperation with the United Nations. “It is clear that there is a need for broader and more effective civilian efforts, which will require much better international coordination,” he said. He also welcomed a search for new structures to accomplish that and added that the United Nations remained fully committed to playing its role in that coordination, despite attacks that had cost the lives of its personnel. At the same time, he affirmed his commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all staff.
In his last briefing to the 15-member body, Mr. Eide said that, since the United Nations undertook to engage in the post-Taliban Afghanistan nine years ago, it had achieved much in the areas of education, health, and institution-building. However, he was today worried about negative trends; growing impatience among the donor community and troop-contributing countries; increasing frustration among the Afghan public; and difficulties in putting the insurgency on the defensive. Unless those negative trends were reversed soon, there was a great risk that the situation would become unmanageable.
He said that the upcoming international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London was an opportunity to set the assistance agenda straight, not only in the area of security, but also in the critical area of institution-building to allow Afghans to build their own State, which had been supported previously through words and not in deeds, resulting in parallel structures. In that light, he offered an outline for a political strategy that prioritized a systematic approach to civilian institution-building. “If we do not take these civilian components of the transition strategy as seriously as the military component, then we will fail,” he said.
Also taking the floor before Council members began their discussion, the representative of Afghanistan assured the Council that the newly formed Government shared the same ultimate goal as the international community: to prepare and empower Afghans to take charge of their own destinies.
In the next five years, he said, the central goal of the Government would be preparing for the transition to full Afghan rule by strengthening sovereignty and national ownership. He called upon the international community to ensure that every action taken in the country was in support of those efforts. Following President Karzai’s outlining of commitments and formation of a new Government, the next priority would be to forge a compact between the international community and Afghanistan that clearly defined the strategies and responsibilities of each.
He objected to suggestions to postpone upcoming elections in order to redress flaws that had marred last years’ polls because ignoring the constitutional requirements would damage the integrity of the process, and he stressed that a true partnership between the international community and Afghanistan required realism ‑‑ about timing, resources and abilities, and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities.
In the discussion that followed, most speakers agreed that international efforts must be refocused to prioritize Afghan institution-building in the security sector, as well as in such areas of service delivery and local governance. The representative of the United States, noting the commitment of an additional 30,000 troops to the country, stressed that the troop increase must be matched by a stronger civilian effort, integrated with more responsible Government institutions and a clear strategy to turn over responsibilities to the Afghans.
Most also agreed that UNAMA should be pivotal in better coordinating international efforts, and that the Mission should receive the resources it needed for that purpose. Many speakers supported, in addition, UNAMA’s plans to extend its presence to more parts of the country, but France’s representative, for one, called for a re-examination of such deployment in light of the security situation.
Pakistan’s representative, in addition, while recognizing the need for international assistance in many areas for Afghanistan, recalled the lessons of history as a warning to those who would try to control the country’s internal affairs. Reiterating his cautions about the perils of external involvement, he recalled that, prior to the first Afghan war, the British envoy William McNaughton “signalled the Governor of Calcutta, ‘all is well’. He was murdered the next day”.
Also today, as this was the first public meeting of 2010, continuing Council Members welcomed new members Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria, all of whom took the floor for the first time today.
Also speaking were the representatives of Turkey, Austria, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Uganda, Japan, Mexico, China, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Norway.
The Acting Head of the delegation of the European Union to the United Nations also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and closed at 1:35 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document S/2009/674), which reviews the country situation and the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since 22 September, focusing particularly on the elections, political developments and what it calls the deteriorating security situation.
In his report, the Secretary-General says the controversial 2009 elections had absorbed tremendous political energy. Together with the deteriorating security situation, the protracted electoral process had contributed to a gloomy atmosphere. “If the negative trends are not corrected, there is a risk that the deteriorating overall situation will become irreversible,” he says. “We cannot afford this.” To reverse the trends, a better coordinated international effort, within the framework of a strategy of transition, was urgently needed.
“We are now at a critical juncture,” the Secretary-General says in the report. “The situation cannot continue as is, if we are to succeed in Afghanistan. Unity of effort and greater attention to key priorities are now a sine qua non. There is a need for a change of mindset in the international community, as well as in the Government of Afghanistan. Without that change, the prospects of success will diminish further.”
He notes that the Afghan Government and its international partners will be meeting in London on 28 January for a high-level meeting to discuss the country’s agenda in the wake of the recent elections.
He calls on the Government and world community to make the best possible use of the coming months to focus on agreed priorities, with a reinforced international coordination structure under a United Nations umbrella that will meet the principal needs of delivering services to the Afghan people and developing an economy that can gradually carry more responsibility for the people’s well-being.
To further enhance the coordination of civilian efforts, he says the viability of a dedicated civilian structure is being explored in consultation with the Government of Afghanistan and international stakeholders. If established, such a structure should be co-chaired by an Afghan minister and the Special Representative, with the participation of the International Security Assistance Force, the European Union, the World Bank and the major donors.
He cites insufficient resources as one cause of the current lack of such coordination but singles out a lack of political readiness in donor countries to adapt their thinking to meet these needs. If the international community were to continue along a course of substituting local capacity, rather than of capacity-building, the result would be entrenchment and ultimately failure, he warns.
He rejects the argument that the election, marred by fraud in the first round and by the withdrawal of President Hamid Karzai’s main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, in the second, was so flawed that it had condemned the state-building process to failure.
“This is incorrect. Rather, it is the weaknesses in the state-building process so far, including the ongoing culture of impunity, the still inadequate security forces, corruption and the insufficient pace of institution-building that undermined the electoral process,” he writes.
“Despite the flaws, however, this is not a reason to abandon what has been achieved and what must now be built upon,” he says, warning that the flaws and weaknesses must be corrected before the United Nations can engage in a similar supporting role for future elections. Parliamentary, district and mayoral polls are due this year, beginning in May.
Turning to the security situation, the report cites an average of 1,244 incidents per month in the third quarter of 2009, a 65 per cent increase over 2008, with armed clashes, improvised explosive devices and stand-off attacks constituting the majority.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan recorded 784 conflict-related civilian casualties between August and October, up 12 per cent from the same period in 2008, with anti-Government elements responsible for 78 per cent of the total, of whom 54 per cent were victims of suicide and improvised explosive device attacks.
He notes the insurgents’ intimidation and threats against civilians to discourage them from participating in the elections, targeting community leaders and clerics in particular, as well as slightly increased attacks against the aid community, a nearly daily occurrence. On average, nine people were assassinated per week in the third quarter, one of whom on average was a community leader.
“The continuing high rate of direct intimidation of national staff working for the aid community, including the United Nations, continued to pose obstacles to programme delivery,” he writes. Following the 28 October attack by the Taliban on a guest house in Kabul where United Nations staff resided, killing five and wounding five more, some 340 United Nations international personnel have temporarily been relocated outside of Afghanistan.
But he reiterates that the Organization will “not be deterred”. More than 6,000 United Nations national and international personnel remain on the ground and they had the support of the Afghan people.
Statement by Secretary-General
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said last year was another extremely challenging period for Afghanistan. Difficult elections, deteriorating security, doubts about the current strategies of both the Government and international community ‑‑ all combined to produce further violence and uncertainty. There could be no doubt that the country would remain a priority for 2010, with the aims of strengthening the Government and coordinating all programmes under the United Nations umbrella.
He said last year’s electoral process was problematic, to say the least, though the results were ultimately accepted. Preparations for this year’s parliamentary elections were expected to start soon and the United Nations stood ready to offer support, technical assistance and institution-building. More generally, he hoped that the tremendous political energy released during the recent elections would now be directed towards a meaningful, realistic and renewed compact between the Afghan Government and its people.
He said that President Hamid Karzai’s inaugural speech was encouraging, as the priorities he set out reflected the real issues facing Afghan society: security; good governance; corruption; national unity; and the need to expand cooperation with the country’s neighbours to combat drug trafficking. He also made an explicit commitment to measurable achievements, allowing for the start of a gradual transfer of responsibilities from international actors to Afghan institutions, particularly in security. That was particularly important given the further deterioration of security. While the violence was driven by an insurgency, it had also been exploited by criminal groups and there had been increased civilian casualties and greater risks for UNAMA. That insecurity remained the single biggest impediment to progress. The vulnerability of civilians was a serious issue, with great implications for the standing of the Government and its partners in steering the country towards stability and peace. He urged all parties to do their utmost to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law.
“Afghanistan is at a critical juncture,” he said. All the key players ‑‑ Afghan and international ‑‑ had drawn important lessons from controversial experiences and missed opportunities. He appealed to both the Government and the international community to make the best possible use of the next few months. The sharpened strategies of the international community demonstrated a clear understanding that continued pursuit of the same policies would not lead to success, but for them to be successful the new Government must fulfil its far-reaching pledges.
In addition, the forthcoming international conference in London offered an important opportunity for fresh impetus, both to international efforts and the new Government in Kabul. While external assistance could help, Afghan ownership of those efforts through strong commitment and good government was crucial. He appreciated the initiative taken by the Untied Kingdom, France and Germany in convening the meeting.
He also welcomed the new approach by United States President Barack Obama that sought an optimal balance between military and civilian efforts and that would strengthen cooperation with the United Nations. “It is clear that there is a need for broader and more effective civilian efforts, which will require much better international coordination.” He also welcomed a search for new structures to accomplish that.
However, he cautioned, the main obstacle was not lack of structures or even resources, but rather “the main problem is a question of political will”. Better coordination based on strong political willingness of donor countries and strong local effort was key. Strategies were needed that would create sustainable institutions to deliver services to the Afghan people and to develop the Afghan economy.
Despite the uncertainties, the United Nations remained fully committed to supporting the men and women of Afghanistan to find the path of stability and peace. It was also committed to ensuring the safety and security of local and international staff on an increasingly dangerous mission. “Their courage, dedication and, often, outright heroism are an inspiration to us all,” he said. He paid tribute to those who had paid for this service with their lives. He ended by praising the “intrepid spirit, strong determination and selfless dedication” of outgoing Special Representative Kai Eide.
Briefing by Special Representative
KAI EIDE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that, since the United Nations undertook to engage in the post-Taliban Afghanistan nine years ago, it had achieved much in the areas of education, health, and institution-building. However, he was today worried about negative trends. He was worried about growing impatience among the donor community and troop-contributing countries, increasing frustration among the Afghan public, and difficulties in putting the insurgency on the defensive. Unless those negative trends were reversed soon, there was a great risk that the situation would become unmanageable.
He said the London conference, three weeks from now, and the Kabul conference later, was a time where the agenda must be put right, and where the international community must return to the political priorities set in The Hague and in Paris. Valuable time had been lost in the last six months, and much energy had been diverted during the time of the elections. The London conference would be focused mainly on security issues. On 20 January, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board would decide on an increase and reform of the police force, which the London conference should endorse. It should also signal an acceleration of the training and mentoring of the Afghan Army and the transfer of authority from international to Afghan forces. That would be the first step in the transition strategy.
He said the Afghan people should be allowed to take charge of their own future through a transition strategy that should include systematic build-up of civilian institutions. Doing so would better enable the delivery of services and to further the economic development necessary to pay for those services when international aid is reduced. The transition strategy’s civilian aspects must be taken as seriously as its military component, or risk failure. As the international community had long held for years, the strategy must be politically, not militarily driven. And yet, the political strategy had too often been shaped as an appendix to military thinking.
The rhetoric, for years, had also been that “Afghanization” must be accelerated, he said. But, parallel structures had not been reduced; according to a recent donor review, 80 per cent of aid was provided through bilateral projects that by-passed the Government. Of the less than 10 per cent that was given to the Government, only a quarter was earmarked for a specific activity in the budget. Those figures did not demonstrate a mindset where Afghans were allowed to take the lead. It was critical to achieve support in London for a politically driven strategy where building Afghan capacity was central. The military surge must not be allowed to undermine civilian objectives. In addition, the politically driven strategy must not lead to pressure for quick results, which could divert resources from a long-term approach to civilian institution-building and economic development. It must not lead the military to expand its engagement in civilian areas, because it would result in a situation where the international community became more entrenched.
He offered an outline for a political strategy, which he said should consist of a systematic approach to civilian institution-building. Anti-corruption policies were important, as were training, education, and the creation of infrastructure and incentives. Soon, the civil service in Kabul and 32 provinces would have the capacity to train 16,000 officials. At present, 1,700 young people were being trained as future administrators, showing that the institutions existed, though fragile. Such people needed an incentive to work for the Government. In the provinces, civil servants earned $70 per month and had no dedicated office. Their operational budget stood at $15 per month on average. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement an institution-building programme, but it was the best investment the international community could make.
He said the country lacked good delivery services. The main challenge was to develop the tools to improve that delivery and to expand the Government’s reach, instead of relying on parallel international structures that would one day be withdrawn. There was also a need to correct the serious imbalances in human resources development: the number of young people in primary and secondary schools stood at 7 million, but there was only room for 60,000 at university, and 20,000 in vocational schools. The agriculture sector was seriously under-funded, even as 80 per cent of the population was dependent on that sector, and despite it being identified as a key sector at The Hague and in Paris. Infrastructure development was similarly neglected, despite the presence of rich mineral resources, which, if exploited, could employ up to hundreds of thousands of people. Indeed, Afghanistan’s iron ore deposits were one of the largest in Asia, and the United Nations and the Government had identified a transportation network and energy supplies as top priorities for starting mining projects that could provide economic growth.
He said a peace and reconciliation process must be launched, and must become an integral part of the political agenda, based on the Constitution and Afghan-owned. If insurgents were to join the peace process, it would enhance the prospect of troop withdrawal. But, by joining that process, they must distance themselves from the past and be willing to embrace the future. As he had always said, he was ready to meet anybody anywhere, if it would serve the cause of peace, and he believed that that should be the proper role of the United Nations, too, if asked by the Afghan Government.
He said the London conference, while endorsing decisions pertaining to the security sector, should provide a road map between London and Kabul with the partnership of the Government, so that fundable projects were ready for donors to sign in Kabul. Within Afghanistan, it was important for a strong, reform-oriented Government to be put in place without delay. Parliament had rejected 17 candidates last week, prolonging a situation where the country was without a functioning Government. While it was a setback, it demonstrated, at the same time, that the Parliament was far from being a rubber-stamping body. Soon, the President would present new candidates, and it was his strong hope that Parliament would consider them quickly.
As for coordination mechanisms, which needed to be improved, he said there had been some progress over the last year. He believed the international community had spoken much more with one voice. Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board reforms initiated in 2008 had yielded an effective coordination mechanism. Together with the Government, the international community had identified key priorities, and had developed critical initiatives in agriculture and capacity-building. The next challenge was to align donor resources behind those priorities. There were some signs that that was happening, but stronger coordination instruments were still needed. With the Minister of Finance, he had come up with proposals that were believed to be an important step forward, based on a continued United Nations coordination umbrella. It would integrate key donors into UNAMA’s coordination structure, so that the Mission could influence donor planning processes at an earlier stage. Those efforts must be accompanied by greater efforts within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to bring Provincial Reconstruction Teams in line with Government plans, and to transfer civilian projects carried out within military structures over to civilian structures.
He had repeatedly emphasized the importance of concentrating resources not only in the south and east, but also in the centre and north, which had not happened. One element mentioned by a number of Afghan politicians to explain why the insurgency had spread was the neglect of certain provinces. There was a high price to pay for that neglect. In addition, with hundreds of donors and non-governmental organizations present in the country, there was a limit to how far the United Nations, or indeed anyone, could coordinate their efforts successfully. He urged attention to that question.
Elections for the next Parliament had been announced on 22 May, he said, in line with the Constitution’s provisions. The election commission could not be criticized for adhering to the Constitution; but there were technical reasons that would make it challenging to keep to that timeline. Security was a concern, and as the presidential elections had demonstrated, there was a need to reform electoral institutions. There was a provision in the electoral law that gave the electoral commission the right to postpone elections on the basis of security, financial or technical considerations, in a way that would still respect the Afghan legal framework.
He noted that the President had pronounced his intention to “Afghanize” the election process, which he would support as long as it resulted in elections that were fair and impartial, as viewed by the Afghan public. But the widespread fraud of the last elections was not the only problem: there was a perception among the public of international interference, which had undoubtedly occurred before and after election day. Both must be eliminated.
He said the approach taken with regard to the presidential elections had been explained in the Secretary-General’s report. In addition to that, he stressed the fragility of the political situation in the aftermath of the first round. Significant economic resources had left the country in anticipation of political instability. Visa applications had risen dramatically. The possibility of serious instability and violence had been avoided by careful handling of the process “up to the last minute”. The international community had stood together under United Nations leadership, and Afghan political actors behaved responsibly and with respect for the Constitution. Those achievements were important and must not be underestimated.
One fundamental aspect to the international approach to Afghanistan, he said, was the tendency to shape strategy, make decisions and operate on the ground in a way that Afghans perceived as disrespectful and sometimes arrogant. They sometimes felt their country was being treated as a no-man’s land and not a sovereign State. That perceived attitude contributed to tension between the Government and the international community, fuelled suspicion of foreign interference and bred a sense of humiliation. It must be brought to an end.
In addition, civilian casualties, house searches and detention policies were all sources of recruitment for the insurgency. He was pleased to see the efforts of General McChrystal to engender greater respect, but the military surge would make that challenge more complex. The international presence, both military and civilian, must work harder to better understand Afghan society. Among the ordinary Afghans, a majority of whom wanted that presence to continue, still resented what they saw as disrespect for their religion, culture and values. Success would depend on consulting and listening more, and demonstrating greater understanding. “We must learn the pulse of Afghan society, which is very different from ours.”
He said UNAMA had been through a difficult time, and the staff had gone through a traumatic attack. Every effort was being taken to ensure staff safety, and he was grateful to the Secretary-General and Member States for their support. But, recruitment remained a problem: in March 2008, the vacancy rate stood at 30 per cent. He was able to reduce to it 12 per cent. But now, it had risen to 25 per cent, with 50 staff having left in the last six months due to security concerns and fatigue, and only 5 staff hired in the same period. New posts provided by the 2010 budget would push the vacancy rate even higher. In addition, the new recruitment system put in place in July had not worked, and did not offer the kind of staff that UNAMA needed. All vacancy announcements had been closed, which meant that those recently interested would not be able to apply. Such systemic flaws in United Nations recruitment did not only affect UNAMA, but all peacekeeping operations and special political missions, and threatened their effectiveness.
He believed that the political agenda he had thus set out could work in reversing the current negative trends, but it would require discipline and constant effort to give Afghan people more responsibility, and a commitment of long-term partnership with them.
ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) thanked UNAMA, Kai Eide and the United Nations for the substantial and invaluable aid that had been extended to his people, particularly in the context of the attacks of 28 October 2009. He assured the Council that the newly formed Government shared the same ultimate goal as the international community: to prepare and empower Afghans to take charge of their own destinies. In the next five years, he said, the central goal of the Government would be preparing for the transition to full Afghan rule by strengthening sovereignty and national ownership. He called upon the international community to ensure that every action taken in the country was in support of those efforts.
After Parliament’s rejection of some Ministerial nominees, he said the President was eager to avoid any delay in moving ahead by preparing to introduce new candidates, having instructed Parliament to finalize their votes of confidence before they recessed for the winter. The next priority would be to forge a compact between the international community and Afghanistan that clearly defined the strategies and responsibilities of each.
In three years’ time, he said, the Afghan National Security Forces would assume responsibility for security and defence in conflict areas in the South and East of Afghanistan. In five years, with the necessary assistance from the international community, they planned to assume full responsibility for security and defence across the entire country, with international forces transitioning to a role focused on “training and enabling local forces”.
In order to achieve reconciliation, the Government was committed to the integration of former combatants into all levels of Afghanistan’s civilian and military structures, he said, adding that the cooperation of the international community was required in that effort as well. In that context, he asked the Council to conduct a review of the Consolidated List under resolution 1267 (1999), with a view to removing from it elements of the Taliban willing to renounce violence and join the peace process, upon request by the Afghan Government.
He said the upcoming London conference would be an opportunity to coordinate the development and capacity-building programmes necessary for peace with the international community. Reinforced coordination of donor aid and civilian and military efforts were vital. He supported the central coordinating role of UNAMA as mandated, and urged further discussion on the shape any additional mechanisms might take. Any focus on coordination must strengthen Afghan institutions and encourage Afghan national ownership, he stressed.
He objected to suggestions to postpone upcoming elections, because ignoring the constitutional requirements would damage the integrity of the process. “Rule of law must be maintained”, he said, “even as that law evolves to reflect lessons learned.” Finally, he said a true partnership between the international community and Afghanistan required realism ‑‑ about timing, resources and abilities, and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities.
FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) believed in a comprehensive approach that covered the issues of security, governance, rule of law, human rights and social and economic development. It should not be limited only to military means. Four additional areas deserving attention were economic development, a strong Afghan military and police, inclusive national reconciliation, and a modern education and justice system to combat extremism ‑‑ amounting to a “political and economic action plan”. UNAMA needed strengthening, and its new role should be jointly designed with the Afghan Administration. With the United Nations being targeted deliberately by terrorists, he called for support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to create a strong United Nations presence.
He said regional ownership was key to Afghanistan’s success, and that Turkey had initiated a Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral summit process, with the fourth summit to take place on 24 January. Turkey would also host a regional summit with the participation of Afghanistan’s neighbours and some observers, so that those attending the London conference could bring some regional input. It would host, as well, a fourth regional economic cooperation conference on Afghanistan in 2010.
He said the new Administration should embrace the whole nation after the presidential election. It should focus on national unity and reconstruction and reach out to all ethnic groups. All who competed against President Karzai should offer their support to the new Administration. It was preferable that parliamentary elections be held in 2010, as foreseen in the Afghan Constitution. If there was a need to improve some procedures, they could and should be realized; however, it would be hard to explain the postponement of elections. They might be delayed for some time, but not too long a time. Elections should be seen not as an obstacle, but as a tool to encourage different groups towards reconciliation and national unity.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) welcomed the pivotal role played by UNAMA and the United Nations in general in Afghanistan, and the commitment of the Organization to continue its operations, despite its losses. He said that the recent electoral process revealed weaknesses, but its resolution showed that advances were being made, as did recent legislative activity. He was concerned, however, over political obstacles, the deteriorating security situation and the growing trade in opium. He welcomed efforts to protect civilians and create an integrated approach to security, because military operations would not be enough and root causes must be addressed.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union thanked UNAMA for its work, deploring what he called the “brutal attacks” on its personnel, as well as the current critical security situation. He said that the flaws of the recent presidential election were also of grave concern, and welcomed UNAMA’s efforts to strengthen independent Afghan institutions, such as the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), which, from his country’s experience, was quintessential for democracy. He strongly encouraged the Government and the international community to work to remedy the remaining weaknesses in the electoral process.
He supported closer collaboration between civilian and military efforts in building peace and security, endorsing the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a civilian coordination structure that embraced all stakeholders, as well as improved security-sector reform initiatives. For such reforms to reap their greatest harvest, he said, an Afghan-led national reconciliation was important. He expressed particular empathy for the problems faced by displaced persons and returning refugees, adding that the solution to their displacement was an integral part of long-term stability. Finally, recognizing positive developments, he applauded the draft law on the elimination of sexual violence, and high turnout for the provincial council elections. He pledged his country’s continued support for such advances.
CHRISTIAN EBNER (Austria), aligning himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that Afghanistan’s emergence from the electoral crisis was a tribute to both the stakeholders in the country, as well as the efforts of the international community. Now, attention needed to be focused on building a better future for the Afghan people. At the same time, lessons from the election, and the recommendations of experts needed to be applied, particularly those of the European Election Observation Mission. In order to tackle the many challenges, all stakeholders in the country must work together in a constructive spirit.
He welcomed the priorities set out by President Karzai, adding that now a clear agenda and strategies for institution-building must be developed and endorsed by the international community at the London conference, with a time-bound framework for the achievement of the Government’s priorities. Improvements on the ground were crucial, and they must be seen to be delivered increasingly by Afghan authorities and institutions. For that reason, capacity-building was critical. In order to enhance international coordination, he supported the planned expansion and strengthening of UNAMA.
In regard to security, he said that human rights law must be observed by all parties at all times and violators must be held to account. In that context, he supported the new approach of ISAF that placed the protection of the Afghan population as the highest priority and included closer cooperation with Afghan national security forces. He agreed that the United Nations must not be deterred by acts of violence in carrying its important mission forward, while the security of staff must be enhanced. Finally, he stressed that the mandate of UNAMA would have to be refocused, in light of the results of the London and Kabul conferences, as well as further guidance by the Council towards the goal of a gradual transfer of responsibility to Afghan authorities.
ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) stressed UNAMA’s importance, and assured the Council of his country’s eagerness to cooperate in its work. The security situation in Afghanistan was worrisome and had ramifications for international peace. He fully supported the Afghan Government’s efforts in the area of security and in its fight against terrorism, as well as its work of strengthening democracy and governance.
He said any initiative that favoured peace gave comfort. The new strategy being proposed sought to reconcile military intervention and aid, and was likely to prove decisive in stabilizing the country. A military approach on its own would not suffice; development activities, such as building schools, nurturing the agriculture sector and empowering women, were also important. He welcomed the Afghan Parliament’s decision to endorse a law to criminalize sexual violence, which deserved encouragement and support.
Action by the international community was also welcome, he said, particularly the United Nations’ commitment, through UNAMA, on reconstruction, even in the face of threats. He paid tribute to the Organization’s personnel and other humanitarian agents for their heroism, and urged the international community to support Afghan efforts “to take hold of their destiny” and “to write their story by their own hand”. The London conference would offer an opportunity for the international community to evaluate the country’s economic, social and political situation, which remained grave. Their renewed effort was important in restoring stability.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) noted that the electoral process had resulted in an important achievement, and had fully met the requirements of Afghan law. He trusted that the new Government would be formed within the bounds of Constitutional procedure. However, security had deteriorated in a regrettable manner, despite international and Afghan efforts to salvage the situation. That was particularly true of the northern provinces. It was bewildering to him that the report of the Secretary-General had made no direct references to the source of those threats: the Taliban and Al-Qaida. He urged all parties to dispense with euphemisms. Any next steps should not be detrimental to, or contradict, the provisions of Security Council resolutions, including those that established its sanctions regime. The possibility of reaching agreement with the Taliban or other extremist groups should not be considered. Dialogue should be undertaken with those who had laid down their weapons and had broken ties with Al-Qaida and other terrorist structures.
He added that the global drug threat required decisive action, and that the international community should move to a new level of international action in that sphere. For several years, troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had cooperated with the Afghan Government, as did countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), in an anti-drug push. At the moment, more action was needed to curb the trade in precursors, which was entering the country from Europe and was used to produce heroin.
He said the London conference in which the Russian Foreign Minister planned to participate, would give impetus to the gradual handing of security responsibilities to Afghan forces. States from the surrounding region should also play a positive role, in addition to regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the CSTO. For its part, Russia would continue to provide assistance; at the moment, it was involved in supporting the delivery of education in Afghanistan, including through the rebuilding of Kabul’s Polytechnic University. Recently, his country had also contributed a large shipment of heavy vehicles to Afghanistan.
ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) said that the international community must now act urgently to support the bold goals of the Afghan Government and to defeat violent extremism there. Noting that the United States was directing another 30,000 troops to the country, she stressed that the troop increase must be matched by a civilian effort, integrated with more responsible Government institutions. For that reason, the United States civilian presence would be tripled this month, to enhance the capacity of institutions to function effectively and build economic growth and help to quickly create jobs, particularly in the agricultural sector.
She stressed the importance of reconciliation efforts, as well as the United Nations role in Afghanistan, while underlining the importance of better coordination between donors and the Government. Her country stood ready to support such efforts, as well as more effective command of ISAF. She noted with satisfaction the opening of regional and provincial offices throughout the country in 2010, despite the attacks against the Organization, and she looked forward to working with UNAMA on many initiatives. In regard to the elections, she pledged a commitment to working with partners to improve the process before the next round was held. She supported the President’s priorities as outlined in his inaugural speech, saying that action and results must now be seen.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that a stable, sovereign, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan would be a long-term task, but the international community was determined to see it through. The London conference would be crucial to delivering international support to assist the achievement of President Karzai’s recently announced priorities, and would focus on security, development and governance, the regional framework and the international architecture.
He said that there had to be greater donor willingness to coordinate with the Government, a greater emphasis on protection of civilians and stepped up enhancement of Afghan security forces, within a coherent national security sector strategy. It was also crucial to tackle corruption, and he welcomed UNAMA’s efforts in that area. The recent elections were not easy, he admitted, but he looked forward to the formation of a strong Government under President Karzai. Finally, he paid tribute to the work of Mr. Eide and UNAMA, and called on the international community to overcome resource obstacles to the Mission’s important work.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) observed that a large majority of deaths had been caused by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and the main responsibility for loss of life should be laid at their feet. But, that was no consolation for civilians who died at the hands of pro-Government forces. While fully recognizing steps taken by the Government, the International Security Assistance Force and the Coalition, there was a need to better distinguish combatants and non-combatants, and to eliminate risks to civilians. Protecting civilians was key to strengthening the legitimacy and effectiveness of the international military presence. She paid tribute to the United Nations guards whose heroism had helped save innocent lives, and said Brazil supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to improve the safety of United Nations staff and local personnel.
She said the prolonged controversy about the last August polls, and electoral irregularities, had undermined the legitimacy of the electoral process. It was readily misused as propaganda for extremists. While it pondered such setbacks, the international community should welcome President Karzai’s commitments in his inauguration speech to enhance efforts towards national unity and reconciliation. Support should also be lent to his commitment to increase the responsibility of Afghan forces, promote economic development and administrative reform, and to take firm measures to fight corruption. In addition, since the appointment of a competent and inclusive Cabinet was key in fulfilling those commitments, Brazil encouraged the Afghan Government and the Wolesi Jirga to continue working on the formation of a new Government. It supported, as well, President Karzai’s initiative to promote national reconciliation through talks with the armed opposition.
She called for further dialogue and cooperation between the Government and UNAMA on electoral reform. Progress in the area of women’s rights must be matched with stronger institutions. There should also be a long term solution for the security situation in Afghanistan that would enable the withdrawal of the international military presence. Moreover, because the conflict could not be solved purely on the military front, refocusing on development would seem to be the correct approach, and Brazil would support a stronger role for UNAMA in that regard. In line with the push for national ownership, donor countries must be ready to shift their focus from capacity-substitution to capacity-building. The London conference was an opportunity to advance in that direction.
RUHUKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) commended UNAMA for its role in leading international efforts towards greater security, stability and development. Similarly, all Afghans must work towards national unity, reconciliation and to nurture democratic governance, peacebuilding and prosperity. He welcomed the conclusion of the electoral process, in spite of various flaws and difficulties. Political actors must ensure that the approval of the cabinet was finalized without delay. Parliament must train its focus on economic recovery, reconstruction, services delivery and improving people’s livelihoods. The efforts of development partners must be more coordinated and streamlined, in support of national efforts.
He noted with concern that the security situation had worsened, which had resulted in more loss of life. It was regrettable and must be brought to an end. He was encouraged by the Afghan Government’s efforts, and those of its allies, to improve security. It must build the capacity of its security institutions, especially the police and Army, to take responsibility for the country’s long-term stability. He commended the Afghan Government for passing counter-terrorism laws and other security-related laws, and for drafting laws eliminating violence against women, whose endorsement by the Afghan Parliament was encouraged.
He expressed concern over the targeting of United Nations staff for attacks, and called for enhanced measures to ensure their safety. He commended Mr. Eide for his leadership, and thanked UNAMA staff for carrying out their mandate under difficult circumstances.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France), associating himself with the statement to be made by the representative of the European Union, stressed the importance of the London conference in developing a framework for the full ownership of reform and other initiatives by the Afghans. It was crucial for the international community to coordinate its efforts to that end. He welcomed UNAMA’s role in that context, and also supported the recommendation for a civilian coordinating structure.
In regard to upcoming elections, noting that the timing had been decided upon by the Government, he said that Afghan authorities must be assisted to ensure that crucial reforms were made beforehand. The fraud of the last round of elections must not be repeated, he emphasized. He also called for increased protection of United Nations personnel and a re-examination of United Nations deployment, in light of the security situation.
YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said 2009 was the most challenging year in Afghanistan since 2001, with much time and energy spent handling the complicated electoral process. Also, the guest house attack in October had been a shocking reminder of the treacherous situation under which men and women worked to implement tasks mandated by the Council. It was critical to reverse last year’s negative trend. Although the situation surrounding the formation of the new cabinet was of concern, Japan held the expectation that the new administration would start working on a reform agenda, and that it would unite the people of Afghanistan through nation-building.
In addition, Japan highly welcomed the new United States strategy announced on 1 December, he added. Japan itself had also announced a new assistance package of about $5 billion over a five-year period. That package included enhancements for the Afghan police force, and assistance for reintegration of former insurgents and to further sustainable development. He said he hoped the assistance package would provide impetus for further international assistance, and stressed, as well, that it was time to honour the “many pledges” that had been made so far. The Afghan Government was likewise expected to show strong commitment, and the commitment shown in President Karzai’s inaugural address was to be welcomed. The London conference would be an opportune occasion to reaffirm all commitments.
Reintegration of former insurgents was one of the most important agenda items of the new Afghan Administration, he continued. Political outreach towards former insurgents should be encouraged, especially those who had forsaken violence and had committed to live peacefully within the framework of the Constitution. He stressed that reintegration should be led by the Afghan Government, and it was hoped that the London conference would add momentum to those efforts. Donor coordination, which he said was “far from satisfactory”, must be taken in partnership with the Afghan Government, with the ultimate goal of “Afghanization”. UNAMA’s coordination structures must be examined, with expedited recruitment of experienced staff. Also, more needed to be done to strengthen the quality and number of troops sent by troop-contributing countries and of those provided by Afghan security forces. Japan looked forward to hearing the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his next report on UNAMA.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) expressed concern over the intractable security challenges in Afghanistan as described in the Secretary-General’s report. She voiced appreciation for the Afghan people’s commitment to democratic governance in the midst of those challenges, and also for UNAMA and the Special Representative for their role in successfully resolving the political crisis following the elections. The new Afghan Government deserved support, as it worked to strengthen its capacity to deliver basic services, maintain domestic peace and security, facilitate an inclusive dialogue and national reconciliation and to fortify relationships with neighbours.
She welcomed the London conference of 28 January and the subsequent Kabul conference, which he hoped would help galvanize support for the country. It was the international community’s task to ensure that progress was monitored. Existing security mechanisms must be consolidated in order to reverse the deteriorating security situation, which included the proposed use of local security agents under the Community Defense Initiative. It also involved security sector reform. Those measures must be underpinned by national reconciliation and good governance, as the Secretary-General had said. There must be sustained cooperation, as well, between the local security forces and their international counterparts. In addition, he urged greater protection for United Nations personnel and aid workers, and for Afghan civilians.
She welcomed the proposal for electoral reforms in Afghanistan, saying the electoral complaints commission and the independent electoral commission should be reformed. She urged the country’s political actors to understand and defend the electoral process, and to approach the political system with a sense of compromise and reconciliation. Her Government supported the need to reinforce the coordination structure under a United Nations umbrella. It was hoped that full implementation of UNAMA’s 2010 budget would help strengthen that Mission. Efforts by Afghanistan’s neighbours were also appreciated in helping tackle the challenges confronting the country.
GUILLERMO PUENTE (Mexico), noting the many persistent and new challenges in Afghanistan, said that it was clear that there was a need for better coordination of assistance to Government efforts, and a structure for such coordination should be further discussed, with clear roles for all partners. In the light of the recent flawed elections, he agreed that the Government must follow up on the commitments made by President Karzai, particularly in the area of fighting corruption. In that way, he hoped that confidence and unity in the Government would grow.
In regard to the worrying security situation, he reiterated that military initiatives to deal with instability should be balanced with efforts in human rights, rule of law and development. He also called for enhanced security for United Nations personnel, while continuing UNAMA’s crucial role. He pledged his country’s support to initiatives by the Afghan Government to foster reconciliation, and called on the international community to strengthen national sovereignty and its ability to take on the responsibilities of a modern State.
Council President ZHANG YESUI (China), speaking in his national capacity, supported the priorities of the Afghan Government in its efforts to improve security and promote development and called on the international community to step up its activities in support of those efforts. He hoped the upcoming international conferences would provide results in those areas.
JOHN MCNEE (Canada) offered condolences in regard to all those killed or injured in the context of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. He noted the problems associated with the election and security, but pointed also to successes that had been achieved to date, and the important positive commitments of the Government. At the same time, he said, immediate action must be taken to address corruption at all levels and to continue to reform the justice system, along with progress on security, national institutions, basic services and economic development. He pledged assistance to the Afghan Government to improve future electoral processes, while stressing the need for Government leadership in that area. He encouraged also a quick resolution of the obstacles to cabinet formation.
He expressed hope that the upcoming conferences in London and Kabul would develop a realistic and effective framework for cooperation to achieve the shared goals of donors and the Afghan people. Consistency must be assured in international efforts and the United Nations role in that context must be strengthened, through the strengthening of UNAMA. A senior coordinator of civilian efforts could also be valuable, he maintained, adding that, however, the governing of Afghanistan must be left in the hands of a capable Afghan Government. Finally, he paid tribute to the work of Mr. Eide.
JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) agreed that a more focused and better coordinated international effort was key. Last year, New Zealand reviewed its participation in Afghanistan, and had reconfirmed its commitment to the Provincial Reconstruction Team that had led work in Bamyan Province since 2003. It had also redeployed its special forces to Afghanistan during the period President Obama of the United States had identified as “critical” to defeating the insurgency. It had welcomed President Obama’s 1 December statement, which had emphasized a coherent and credible path forward, while welcoming his focus on increased short-term military capacity to improve stability and security, and enhance the Afghan Army and police. There could be no realistic way forward without a commitment to shift responsibility to local forces and civilian capacities. For its part, New Zealand was stepping up its capacity-building of Bamyan police and increasing its official development assistance to prepare the path for “civilianisation” of its Provincial Reconstruction Team.
He said New Zealand was establishing an embassy and would appoint an ambassador in Kabul to coordinate its efforts with those of its partners and with the Afghans themselves. The aim of such help was to leave behind a country capable of managing its own security, as well as humanitarian assistance which New Zealand and other nations had signalled their readiness to provide. That commitment was made in expectation of a meaningful effort and response from President Karzai and his Administration.
He said doubts about the probity of the results of the elections, lack of progress around institution-building, and concerns as to the true depth of the Administration’s anti-corruption commitment had sorely tested the capacity of contributing nations to maintain or enhance their contributions. President Karzai was strongly encouraged to address those issues. Those who placed their military in harm’s way were entitled to see better progress on corruption and governance, and New Zealand looked to the Karzai Administration to meet is obligations. Ordinary Afghans also needed to know that the Administration was working for them, not least in stamping out corruption. Welcoming the United Kingdom for its lead in coordinating the conference later in the month, he said New Zealand would attend at the ministerial level.
DAVID WINDSOR ( Australia) stressed the importance of unity of effort, as reflected in the renewed commitment articulated by President Obama and ISAF. In view of the difficult security situation, Australia had boosted its contribution to the task of strengthening Afghan security capacity. Its troops had been serving alongside the Dutch in the Oruzgan Province, and its police had expanded its efforts to train and advise Afghan police, including in Oruzgan. On the civilian side, it was working to build the capacity of Afghan authorities to deliver more effective governance and basic services.
He said timely finalization of a credible and competent new cabinet would be an important initial step towards ensuring that the new Afghan Government realized demonstrable progress on key priorities. Those included improving governance, including at local levels, addressing corruption, delivering basic services, progressing reintegration and reconciliation efforts and strengthening the Afghan Army and police. Lessons needed to be learned from problems associated with the presidential election, so that they were rectified before the next parliamentary elections.
“We all need to lift our game,” he said. Increased efforts on the civilian side needed to be well targeted and better coordinated. The United Nations had an indispensable role to play in that regard, while other players ‑‑ including the ISAF ‑‑ also had an important contribution to make to improved civilian coordination. International coordination mechanisms needed to ensure that coordination actually happened. The Council should examine flexible arrangements, such as providing secondees or liaison officers, if it would help UNAMA. Australia had been pleased to support an enhanced package for UNAMA through the Fifth Committee, whose security needs must be met in order for it to play its role. He looked forward to the London conference and the subsequent Kabul meeting.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said that his country had vital stakes in the viability of Afghanistan, since in the history of human conflict, no neighbour of another country had suffered more than Pakistan from the consequences of conflict and human tragedy in Afghanistan. “In their progress we see our progress and in their woes we see our woes,” he said. Praising the Secretary-General’s latest report in many areas, he said the insurgency needed to be eliminated as a priority, without seeking to externalize the problem. In addition, political reform must address the root causes of the insurgency, and he recalled previous cautions to outside involvement in Afghanistan.
He extended his Government’s full support to President Karzai’s agenda as articulated in his inaugural speech. He also supported the continuing role of UNAMA, including its plans to open provincial offices. He said his country was committed to further strengthening friendly bilateral ties with Afghanistan, in the spirit of the Joint Declaration signed in 2009, noting that Pakistan’s assistance package for Afghanistan was the biggest cooperation programme Pakistan had with any country and included elaborate human resource development programmes. Afghanistan was also Pakistan’s third largest trading partner. He described security and intelligence cooperation with Afghanistan. He looked forward to the upcoming conference on international cooperation on Afghanistan, while repeating his cautions over international involvement in the country.
He supported the voluntary and dignified return of over 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and stressed the need for sustained efforts at creating the necessary “pull-factors” in Afghanistan, including reintegration programmes within the development strategy, which required international support.
In general, he said, the milestone of a decade of international engagement with Afghanistan that was nearing completion called for a genuine reappraisal. There was no doubt that sustained, pragmatic and prudent engagement was still required, but non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of the country, however, must be the cardinal element. Reiterating his cautions about the perils of external involvement, he recalled that, prior to the first Afghan war, the British envoy William McNaughton “signalled the Governor of Calcutta, ‘all is well’. He was murdered the next day”.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that a joint political strategy was the only way forward to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, aiming for a responsible transfer of authority to the Afghan Government. Enhanced international coordination should produce focused priorities and more accountability by both the international community and Afghan authorities. UNAMA played a key role in coordinating civilian and political efforts, and that role must be strengthened.
She said that the new UNAMA mandate should cover the relationship between UNAMA and ISAF, and ensure that overall civilian coordination lay with the United Nations Mission, for which she welcomed new resources and called for full staffing without delay. She commended Mission personnel for their courage and dedication.
As the recent elections showed clearly, serious flaws in Afghan institutions needed be corrected before parliamentary elections this year could be supported, she said. In addition, the new Government had to demonstrate a genuine interest in fulfilling crucial commitments to the Afghan people and the international community, in such areas a combating corruption and the culture of impunity, improving local governance and the rule of law, protecting human rights and women’s rights, improving the security situation and building its capacity to deliver basic services to the Afghan people. She looked forward to the London conference as a way to develop a framework for assisting the Government to meet those demanding commitments.
PETER SCHWAIGER, Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed the conclusion of the presidential electoral process and underlined the European Union’s readiness to support President Karzai and the future Afghan Government in carrying out the commitments outlined in his speech. Those included in the areas of peace and reconciliation, security, good governance, economic development and regional cooperation, which would require close coordination of international efforts under UNAMA’s lead. The European Union took note of the election commission’s announcement that parliamentary elections would take place on 22 May. At the same time, it underlined the need for urgent electoral reform, including a review of the appointment mechanism of election commissioners. A report of the European Union Observation Mission had made those recommendations, in a report of its findings and those of other observation groups.
Turning to the security situation in Afghanistan, he said the European Union agreed with the Secretary-General that the new Government must show resolve to implement political reforms ‑‑ improved governance and an Afghan-led political process to re-establish peace ‑‑ that would address the root causes of the insurgency. Building the capacity of the Afghan Army and police was at the core of the European Union’s engagement. It was also taking steps to strengthen and achieve a more coherent approach to European Union action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, through its plan of action for the region.
He voiced support for UNAMA in its role as the coordinator of international efforts, and also recognized the responsibility of Member States to provide the Mission with the necessary resources. The European Union agreed with the Secretary-General on the need for a better focused civilian effort under a United Nations umbrella, within the framework of a transition strategy. It stood ready to explore various initiatives, such as establishing a reinforced and dedicated civilian coordination structure, which needed careful analysis.
He said the European Union looked forward to the London and Kabul conferences, in which the United Nations will have a prominent role. The international community should use those occasions to agree on new goals, benchmarks and timelines towards the shared goal of a peaceful and secure Afghanistan. They would also represent an important step towards the formulation and subsequent implementation of a transition strategy. While the primary responsibility for the country’s development lay with the Afghan Government and people, the European Union would continue to play an active role in that endeavour, in close cooperation with UNAMA.
* *** *For information media • not an official record