|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General, at NATO Summit on Afghanistan, Stresses Flexibility in Moving
Ahead with Transition, Saying ‘We Must be Guided by Realities, Not Schedules’
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Summit Meeting on Afghanistan, in Lisbon, 20 November:
Since our last Summit two years ago in Bucharest, much has changed in Afghanistan and in NATO's engagement there. We are here to build on the important achievements of previous conferences in London and in Kabul. We are here to push forward with our efforts to help the sovereign people of Afghanistan realize their aspirations for stability, reconciliation, governance, human rights and harmonious relations with their neighbours.
Many of your countries have held elections in which the challenges and frustrations we face in Afghanistan have figured prominently. Many Afghans and many of your soldiers and personnel confront daily danger and have made tremendous sacrifices while trying to promote peace in the country.
Afghanistan's electoral cycle of the past three years has absorbed an enormous amount of political energy among Afghans and the international community alike. We must now focus on these reforms with diligence and unity, and overcome the public tensions and disagreements. Despite difficulties, we are here in common cause.
Recent months have seen a welcome increase in civilian-military coordination. The leaders of ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force assembled here, are about to endorse a declaration that sets out priorities for the next year and stresses a real transition to Afghan leadership and responsibility. I welcome the Lisbon Declaration and the NATO-Afghanistan Partnership Agreement.
We are all united in wanting to help Afghanistan to become a self-sustaining State capable of ensuring the fundamental rights of its people and enabling them to fulfil their basic needs. This is our goal. It is President [Hamid] Karzai's goal. It is the goal of the people of Afghanistan.
With effectively used resources, political will and mutual cooperation, we can succeed in helping Afghanistan to build back better. The Afghan Government and the international community, including the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA), have defined a clear path for transition. Our shared goal is to achieve significant results by 2014.
A number of basic principles guide and underpin this effort. First, the transition is a joint process between the Government of Afghanistan and ISAF. But the stakeholders are far broader, and encompass the Afghan people, the country's neighbours, and the wider region. The transition also has implications for global security.
Second, our approach is based on attaining security conditions — province-by-province — for development work to be effective. Third, we aim to build capacity and support Afghan institutions, especially security institutions. This will require long-term commitment and partnership.
We have a strategy, as well as mechanisms to implement it. But events can undermine even the best-laid plans. In Herat, one of the most stable provinces in Afghanistan, and one considered for early transition, the United Nations compound was recently attacked by insurgents. This incident reminds us of the need to be flexible as we move ahead with the transition. We must be guided by realities, not schedules.
The United Nations supports the Afghan Government's search for peace through a political solution. We all recognize that there can be no purely military solution. This process must be Afghan-led and it must respect the constitution and the rights of all Afghans. Civil, political and human rights are not political luxuries that can be traded for stability or “saved for later”; they are crucial for stability and an inherent part of an inclusive approach to peace.
The search for a political solution has only entered its initial stage. The process will be long and uncertain, with progress and setbacks. In accordance with our mandate, my Special Representative has offered, and the High Peace Council has accepted, United Nations support for such efforts.
I would like to express my appreciation to the people and Government of Afghanistan and their international partners for supporting the role of the United Nations and the work of my Special Representative. The United Nations remains committed to playing its part in achieving our collective goals of security and well-being for all Afghanistan's people.
* *** *For information media • not an official record