28 January 2010
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12722
AFG/351

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

National Ownership, Capacity Crucial in Turning International Commitments


into Reality, Secretary-General Tells London Conference on Afghanistan


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening remarks to the London Conference on Afghanistan, today, 28 January:


I am honoured to address this Conference alongside President [Hamid] Karzai and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  We are all aware of the great commitment of the United Kingdom to Afghanistan.  I wish to reiterate my appreciation for this timely and inclusive event.


We are here to reaffirm and build on the international community’s long-term commitment to assist the Government and the people of Afghanistan.  I thank President Karzai, who is here to affirm Afghanistan’s commitment to its partnership with the international community.


This is an extremely challenging time for Afghanistan and for international engagement in the quest for peace, security and development in the country.  Today’sevent is a chance to look forward, to explore how to build on achievements so far.  It is an opportunity to redefine the relationship between Afghanistan and the international community and its partners; a relationship based on strengthened Afghan leadership and an increased support role for the international community; a relationship where international efforts align with the Afghan Government’s priorities.


We face a long and complex process of recovery and institution-building.  It must be inclusive, encompassing the full range of Afghan stakeholders.  It must strengthen governance and meet the basic needs of the Afghan people.  It must respect the human rights and meet the basic needs of the Afghan people.  And it must foster an environment conducive to justice and accountability, an environment where corruption cannot thrive.


We must see corruption for what it is:  an assault on the integrity of the State and people’s well-being.  Afghans have suffered for far too long from a culture of impunity and the lack of rule of law.  If we are to achieve a stable and secure Afghanistan, these ills must be remedied, starting with improving the electoral process ahead of this year’s parliamentary elections.


Let me turn now to how the international community can better respond to Afghans’ needs.  The new military resources being deployed in Afghanistan are necessary for security and, in particular, to train the Afghan security forces so they can take on this essential responsibility.


The single biggest impediment to progress remains insecurity.  No one is exempt from violence, but civilians suffer most.  Last year, three times as many civilian deaths were attributed to anti-Government elements as to those caused by pro-Government forces.  Nonetheless, we must stress that all armed actors, without exception, must protect -- and not harm -- the civilian population.  I urge all the parties to uphold human rights and international humanitarian law.


Moreover, we must recognize that, while security is a major element in the transition strategy, it must not be the main and only focus.  We need a coherent political strategy -- not as an add-on to the military strategy, but which guides it as part of a balanced civilian and military approach, with peace and reconciliation as an integral component.


In his inaugural speech last November, President Karzai outlined the Government’s priorities for reform.  They reflect the key issues facing Afghan society today:  security; good governance; corruption; national unity; and the need to expand regional cooperation to tackle drug-trafficking and other cross-border threats to stability.  The new Afghan Government’s performance in pursuing these objectives should be measurable and accountable to the Afghan people.


The Afghan people also need to hear -- loud and clear -- the international community’s long-term commitment to the Afghan Government’s reform agenda.  Our re-shaped relationship must be built on a gradual but steady transfer of responsibilities and authority from international stakeholders to Afghan institutions.  Afghan ownership and national capacity need to stand at the centre of our activities and objectives.  To accomplish this, the Afghan Government and people must take the lead in determining how to translate commitments into reality.


The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board took encouraging steps in this direction at its meeting last week in Kabul.  Important initiatives were discussed on economic development, aid, reintegration, and expanding the Afghan National Security Forces.  These and other steps can lead the way forward and contribute to the success of the follow-up international event in Kabul in spring.


Despite the increasingly complex security environment, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), together with other United Nations partners, remains committed -- for as long as necessary -- to the Afghan people’s pursuit of peace and prosperity.


UNAMA is mandated to coordinate international civilian efforts, under the leadership of my Special Representative for Afghanistan.  The past year has increased our awareness of the need to reinforce this coordination and strengthen links with Afghan actors.  Let me stress that coordination is a shared responsibility.  Donors, too, must be ready to collaborate to meet the principal requirements of building sustainable institutions.  Their efforts must be aligned with and guided by Afghan priorities.


There are no easy solutions or quick fixes.  Yet, the resources and will being demonstrated here at this Conference are a good sign.  The United Nations, for its part, will continue to stand with the Afghan people in building peace.


To all United Nations staff on the ground, let me extend my profound gratitude and regard.  Last year we lost eight staff to hostile acts, and many more were injured.  Yet not once have my brave colleagues wavered in their commitment to supporting the Afghan people.


As we look ahead to 2010, I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that I am appointing Mr. Staffan de Mistura to succeed Mr. Kai Eide as my Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation here for Mr. Eide, for his work.  He has provided outstanding leadership over the past two years, during a particularly critical period. 


None of my Special Representatives has an easy job, but Kai came to Afghanistan at a crucial moment and persevered through extremely trying times.  He helped shape the international agenda in Afghanistan and made the voice of the United Nations indispensable.  We are all extremely grateful to you.


Mr. de Mistura will take up his duties on 1 March.  He brings to the job great skill and a wealth of experience.  I trust you will give him your full support as we work together towards our common objectives -- peace, stability and prosperity for the people of Afghanistan.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record