NEWSMAKER: Balance critical to ensuring success of Afghan transition – UN official

Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan

28 March 2011 – Finding a balance between respecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty and maintaining a continued United Nations presence will be essential to ensuring the success of the transition to full Afghan ownership of efforts to better governance, security and social and economic development, the top UN official to the country says.

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told the UN News Centre that the world body has a vital role to play during the transition, which kicks off in July when local security forces are placed in charge of Helmand province’s Lashkar Gah district.

“This transition will be gradual,” he said. “There is time for it to go well, since it will not be finished until 2014. So, transition to what? Transition to Afghan forces, able to manage security and stability, but also transition to economic security.”

Mr. de Mistura said there was “a great chance” that Afghan security forces will be able to do the job once they are handed responsibility for various districts and provinces across the country.

“The only important thing is to give them motivation and tools, training and materials that they need to succeed.”

Last week the Security Council unanimously agreed to extend the mandate of UNAMA for another year, through 23 March 2012, so it can continue to assist the Afghan Government.

Mr. de Mistura stressed the need for the UN to have a balancing role.

“Afghans also know they need a foreign presence in order to not go back to the bad experience of the past. The challenge is finding the balance between respect for their sovereignty and a presence to help them – apart from the military one – and to show them they are not abandoned.

“This is the formula that we maintained successfully until now. And the secret of this formula is to show that we really respect their sovereignty, and that the final goal is to leave the country and let them take charge of their future.”

He noted several promising signals for Afghanistan’s future, such as the election of a member of an ethnic minority to serve as the President of the national Parliament, and the open campaigning for legislative seats by many women.


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