DESPITE SIGNIFICANT GAINS, AFGHANISTAN REMAINS FRAGILE, CONTINUES TO REQUIRE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD

5 December 2003
GA/10215

DESPITE SIGNIFICANT GAINS, AFGHANISTAN REMAINS FRAGILE, CONTINUES TO REQUIRE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD

05/12/2003
Press ReleaseGA/10215

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

69th Meeting (AM & PM)

DESPITE SIGNIFICANT GAINS, AFGHANISTAN REMAINS FRAGILE, CONTINUES TO REQUIRE

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD

The General Assembly today called on all Afghan groups to respect the authority of and support the Transitional Administration, and called on donors to respect their commitments made at the Tokyo International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, as it discussed the situation in that country and adopted, without a vote, a related resolution

In taking that action, the Assembly, two years to the day after the adoption of the Bonn Agreement, which established a road map for the reconstruction of the war-torn country, also stressed that the fragile situation in Afghanistan posed a continuing risk to peace and stability in the region.  Further, it called on the international community to support the efforts of the Transitional Administration, including in its formulation of a strategy for long-term development and implementation of a comprehensive national drug control strategy.

In addition, the Assembly strongly condemned the recent deliberate attacks and all other acts of violence and intimidation directed against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated staff.

In the discussion preceding the text’s adoption, delegations stressed that despite significant social and political progress in Afghanistan –- chiefly, the return of more than 2 million refugees and advancements in the protection of women’s and girls’ rights –- redressing the country’s fragile security situation remained a major challenge given the threats posed by remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and illicit drug traffickers.

Afghanistan’s representative himself noted that, in spite of the positive achievements of the past two years, his country still faced many challenges.  However, insecurity in various parts of the country arose from the international terrorist network, not from ethnic division with the country.  That insecurity was the deliberate policy of religiously motivated extremist groups, which challenged the President and launched attacks against the International Security Assistance Force and the international assistance community. 

The threat posed by the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, he added, must be eliminated with the help of Afghanistan’s partners and the meaningful and resolute cooperation of the Pakistani Government. 

Introducing the resolution, Germany’s representative said that the international community was at a critical juncture in the socio-economic and political reconstruction of the country.  The four fundamental areas that required immediate attention included the need to promote unity and reconciliation; to ensure countrywide security; to provide the necessary financial resources to increase the pace of reconstruction; and to eliminate illicit poppy cultivation.

For its part, Germany had decided to expand its presence to the Herat region in the west and to the region around Kunduz in the north of the country, given the Security Council’s decision to expand the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul.

The representative of Pakistan affirmed that the deteriorating security situation threatened the stability of not just certain portions of Afghanistan, but most of the territory.  Among the factors contributing to lingering insecurity were the arbitrary control exercised by local commanders and warlords, the ongoing activities of the Taliban and other extremists, and the illicit drug trafficking and trade.  Welcoming the expansion of the Assistance Force’s mandate outside Kabul, he warned that it was also time for the international community to work seriously to address the security threats that remained inside Kabul.

Iran’s representative agreed that remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were responsible for much of the insecurity in Afghanistan, and noted the alarm felt by both Afghanistan and his own country over the spread of opium poppy cultivation to new areas of Afghanistan.  As those remnants were among the major beneficiaries of drug money, there was an absolute need for the international community to assist the Afghan Government in implementation of its National Drug Control Strategy. 

At the top of the meeting, the Assembly took action on a series of resolutions related to strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.  In addition to the resolution on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, resolutions related to emergency humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia and Malawi.

The Assembly also decided to defer its consideration of the consequences of the Iraqi occupation of and aggression against Kuwait until its fifty-ninth session.

Also addressing the meeting were the representatives of South Africa, Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” countries and China), Ethiopia, Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, India, Turkey, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Japan, Russian Federation, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Tajikistan and Nepal.

The Assembly will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 8 December, to resume its tenth emergency special session, as well as to take up the reports of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

Background

The General Assembly met today to consider draft resolutions on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance to individual countries and regions.  It was also expected to consider the situation in Afghanistan.

A text on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/58/L.34) would have the Assembly call on all States to adopt and to continue to implement necessary legislative and other appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and request the international community to continue to assist developing countries in this regard.

Also, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in collaboration with relevant organizations and partners, to finalize the establishment of, and update periodically, the Directory of Advanced Technologies for Disaster Response as a new part of the Central Register of Disaster Management Capacities.  It would further request the Secretary-General to improve the assessment of needs and responses and to enhance the availability of data regarding funding in response to natural disasters.

The text on emergency humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia (document A/58/L.22) would have the Assembly call on the international community to respond in a timely manner to the joint 2004 appeal of the United Nations and the Ethiopian Government for emergency assistance covering food and non-food needs.  It would also call on the international community to respond to the urgent needs programme interventions of 2004 aimed at addressing the underlying causes of food aid dependency, and issues of recovery, asset protection and the sustainable development of affected areas.  Further, it would call on development partners to integrate relief efforts with recovery and long-term development and to address structural causes of drought in Ethiopia.

The text on emergency assistance to Malawi (document A/58/L.35) would have the Assembly request the international community to continue to assist Malawi as the need arises.  The Assembly would also urge the international community to continue to support Malawi’s efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty and malnutrition to increase its capacity to cope during natural disasters.

The Assembly also had before it a two-part draft resolution on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan and the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/58/L.32).  It would have the Assembly call on all Afghan groups to respect the authority of and support the Transitional Administration, as well as urge donors to fulfil promptly the funding commitments made at the Tokyo International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan and invite them to provide additional resources beyond those pledged thus far.

The Assembly would, among others, stress that the fragile situation in that country poses a continuing risk to peace and stability in the region, and call on the international community to support the efforts of the Transitional Administration to coordinate assistance and formulate a strategy for long-term development.  It would also call on the signatories of the Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations to respect their commitments and call on the members of the Tripartite Commission to redouble their efforts to support peace and security in the southern and south-eastern border areas of Afghanistan.

Moreover, the Assembly would call for international assistance to the vast number of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons to facilitate their safe and orderly return and sustainable reintegration.  It would also call on the international community to assist the Transitional Administration in the implementation of its comprehensive national drug control strategy.

In addition, the world body would stress that the responsibility for the solution of the humanitarian crisis lies above all with the Afghan people.  Strongly condemning the recent deliberate attacks and all other acts of violence and intimidation directed against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated staff, it would urge the Transitional Administration and local authorities to ensure the safety, security and free movement of all United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as well as their safe and unimpeded access to all affected populations.

The Assembly would also strongly condemn continuing discrimination against women and girls, as well as against persons belonging to ethnic and religious groups, including minorities, and call on all Afghan groups to respect fully the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all.  Furthermore, it would urgently appeal to all States, the United Nations system and international and non-governmental organizations to continue to provide all possible and necessary humanitarian, financial, technical and material assistance to the Afghan population.

Introduction of Drafts

Introducing the text on emergency assistance of Ethiopia (document A/58/L.22), ANDRIES OOSTHUIZEN (South Africa) said that among the major elements of the text was the call for the international community to work towards helping Ethiopia break the cycle of food dependency within the next three to five years.

Turing to a new text before the Assembly this year on emergency assistance to Malawi (document A/58/L.35), Mr. OOSTHUIZEN said the Assembly’s attention had been drawn to the issue because of the crisis caused by consecutive years of drought and floods.  The grave situation in the country had been exacerbated by the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and lingering health issues such as malnutrition.  He hoped the resolution would go a long way to helping alleviate the situation in that county and urged the Assembly to adopt the draft by consensus.

LOTFI BOUCHAARA (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the text on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field ofnatural disasters, from relief to development (document A/58/L.34).  He said that the broad international consensus on the draft and the issue in general was well worth mentioning.  The wider international community had become increasingly aware of the need to ensure country- and regional-level early warning systems, as well as the need to ensure that United Nations agencies and programmes were intimately involved in helping countries during the recovery period.  In that regard, the text reiterated the need to strengthen international cooperation to assist at all levels of a natural disaster.  “Our ultimate objective is to save lives”, he said, urging the Assembly to adopt the text by consensus.

Action on Drafts

After those introductory statements, the Assembly adopted all three texts without a vote.

Following the action, LULIT ZEWDIE (Ethiopia) said that the consensus adoption of the text on emergency assistance to her country was a reaffirmation by the international community to combat the myriad and devastating effects of natural disasters together.  It was her sincere hope that all global actors and donors would work with the Ethiopian Government as it implemented policies and plans in an attempt to finally break the country’s food dependency.

Statements on Situation in Afghanistan

Before the Assembly began its debate on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, the Secretariat informed members that the report that had been scheduled to guide the day’s discussion (document A/58/616) had been delayed, chiefly because the Security Council mission to Afghanistan had returned to New York on 7 November with information that was critical to the compiling of the Secretary-General’s report.  The document was scheduled to be distributed during the meeting.

Introducing the draft resolution on Afghanistan (document A/58/L.32), GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) noted that the discussion on the matter coincided with the second anniversary of the Bonn Agreement, which had paved the way for a new start for Afghanistan.  In the last two years, with the support of the international community, the people of the country had made significant progress in implementing the Agreement and recovering from the devastation caused by more than two decades of war.  The achievements after the adoption of last year’s resolution included the development of a comprehensive national budget; publication of a draft constitution; beginning of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; and the first steps in the formation of a national army and police.

Having led a recent Security Council mission to Afghanistan, he believed that the international community was at a critical juncture in the socio-economic and political reconstruction of the country, he said.  The four fundamental areas requiring immediate attention included the need to promote unity and reconciliation; ensure countrywide security; provide the necessary financial resources to increase the pace of reconstruction; and eliminate illicit poppy cultivation.

All of those areas were interlinked and none could be neglected, he said.  They required commitment and action by the Afghan Government and enhanced support by the international community and neighbouring States.  The draft before the Assembly renewed that message, he said.  The large number of co-sponsors –- more than 130 –- was yet another sign that despite crises in other regions of the world, Afghanistan continued to top the international community’s list of priorities.

For many years now, Germany had felt a special commitment to Afghanistan, he continued, having initiated many projects in the spheres of education and human rights.  It had played a leading role in setting up the Afghan police force and had recently extended its civil and military engagement in Afghanistan.

In the context of the Security Council’s decision to expand the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul, Germany decided to expand its presence to the Herat region in the west and to the region around Kunduz in the north of the country.  It had also expanded its civilian presence beyond Kabul and its surrounding areas.

In conclusion, he appealed to Member States to fulfil their commitments made in Tokyo in 2002 and reiterated in Dubai in September.  Furthermore, the international community should seriously consider the possibility of a follow-up conference to the Bonn process and of a donor conference, as suggested by President Karzai.  The United Nations was and would remain the key body to aid and support Afghans in rebuilding their society and economy.

RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan) recalled that two years ago today, Afghan political groups had succeeded in establishing a political road map in Bonn, Germany.  Despite enormous challenges, the Afghan Government had been able to meet the benchmarks set by the agreement, due to the commitment of political actors.  The Transitional Authority –- the most representative government in the country’s recent history –- would continue to govern until the holding of national elections in 2004.

Among the success evinced in the past two years, he cited the return of large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, the successful implementation of the back to school programme, efforts to restore the human rights of women, the introduction of a new currency and the development of the national budget, as well as the introduction of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  The most important accomplishment had been the release of the draft constitution, which had generated lively debate among different sections of Afghan society.

However, in spite of those positive achievements, he admitted Afghanistan still faced many challenges, including an unsatisfactory pace of reconstruction and rehabilitation, which had been accompanied by increased frustration among Afghans over the lack of a peace dividend with tangible benefits.  Moreover, poverty and deprivation had pushed many to cultivate poppies.  The cultivation, production and trafficking of illicit drugs thus necessitated a multidimensional and comprehensive plan.  The economic development of Afghanistan would positively impact poppy cultivation in the country, in which regard sustained international assistance was urged.

Afghanistan also faced the challenge of lack of security, he added, in which respect the report of the Security Council, which covered different aspects of political, economic and social life in the country and underlined the problem of cross-border infiltration of terrorists from neighbouring countries, was welcomed.  And while incidents of insecurity and clashes between local leaders and commanders had occurred in parts of the country, the Government had recently taken strong measures to prevent the occurrence of such incidents and those leaders had reaffirmed their allegiance to the Government.

In reality, insecurity in the east, south-east and south of Afghanistan arose from the international terrorist network –- not from ethnic division with the country –- he affirmed.  That insecurity was the deliberate policy of religiously motivated extremist groups that challenged the President and launched attacks against the ISAF and the international assistance community.  There was no connection between the burning of girls’ schools or the killing of aid workers and the “so-called ethnic claims falsely portrayed by some poorly informed analysts”.  The threat posed by the remnants of Taliban/Al Qaeda groups must be eliminated with the help of Afghanistan’s partners and the meaningful and resolute cooperation of the Pakistani Government.  It was also hoped that the dispatching of Provincial Reconstruction Teams –- begun in Kunduz –- would be extended to other urban centres of the country.

ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, took note of the significant progress made in many areas in recent months, welcoming, in particular, the strides made in the reconstruction process, the return of a large number of refugees and recent publication of the draft constitution.  The Union expected to see a democratic and fair completion of the Constitutional Loya Jirga and hoped that it would approve a constitution in step with international standards and based on the primacy of international law, democratic principles and respect for human rights, including gender equality and social justice.

Turning to the challenges ahead, he said that the recent mission of the Security Council had confirmed that the lack of security in many areas of the country, caused by terrorism, factional fighting and drugs trafficking, was still a major concern.  It was affecting the political and reconstruction processes, especially in the south and south-east of the country.  He welcomed the recent resolution authorizing the ISAF to operate outside the area of Kabul and encouraged further efforts by Member States to establish Provincial Reconstruction Teams or contribute to them.  Also important was security sector reform, including reconstitution of the new Afghan army and police and justice reform.

He went on to reaffirm the readiness of the European Union to assist in the implementation of the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy with the aim of eliminating illicit poppy cultivation, including through crop substitution and alternative livelihood and development programmes.  The Union would also support the fight against illicit drug trafficking.  Reiterating the need for free and fair elections to be held next year, he said that the Union and its member States had pledged considerable assistance to Afghanistan in preparing for the elections.  It was necessary to recognize that the situation of insecurity in certain areas constituted an additional obstacle in implementing the time frame provided for in the Bonn Agreement.  Given the risks of a prolonged delay, he underlined the importance of holding credible general elections as soon as possible.

In conclusion, he stressed the importance of coordination of donor resources by the Transitional Administration in conjunction with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).  The Union had responded with large-scale assistance to Afghanistan’s humanitarian and reconstruction needs and remained strongly committed to providing the necessary humanitarian assistance.  The assistance of the international community should contribute to further enhancing the authority of the Transitional Administration and the ownership of the Afghan people in consolidating peace and rebuilding the country.  He also called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to fully implement the Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations of 22 December 2002.

SYED SAFWAN ULLAH (Pakistan) said Afghanistan had reached a crucial stage in the implementation of the Bonn Agreement.  The constitutional process was under way, as were preparations for elections next year.  But while there had been further progress in the political process, reconstruction and rehabilitation, comprehensive advancement in Afghanistan could not be achieved in the absence of security.  Indeed, it was the deteriorating security situation that threatened the stability of not just the southern and south-eastern portions of the country, but throughout most of the territory.

The lack of security had put major hurdles along Afghanistan’s path to recovery and development, and above all, it could eventually undermine or derail the Bonn processes altogether.  The Security Council’s recent mission to the country had produced a comprehensive analysis of the worsening situation.  According to that 15-nation body, among the factors contributing to lingering insecurity were the arbitrary control exercised by local commanders and warlords, the ongoing activities of the Taliban and other extremists, and illicit drug trafficking and trade.

Some of the Council’s key recommendations to overcome those problems included the withdrawal of factional forces from Kabul, in accordance with the provision in the Bonn Agreement; and reform of the country’s security sector, including its national army, police, as well as its Ministry of Defence and intelligence services.  The Council also recommended initiating a process of national reconciliation directed at all Afghans willing to help rebuild the country, irrespective of past events, to strengthen the central Government and basic State institutions.  “These are the essential prerequisites for reversing the alarming security situation in Afghanistan”, he said.

He welcomed the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decision to expand the presence of the ISAF outside Kabul.  But while that was indeed a step in the right direction, NATO’s deployments should not be piecemeal –- its contingents must massively and rapidly expand throughout the country.  That would be essential for providing broad security and to assist in extending the central Government’s authority and ensuring fair and verifiable disarmament of all the country’s warring factions.  He went on to stress the need to address the illicit drug trade and to take concerted action against extremist terrorist sects.

For the fist time in its history, Pakistan had deployed troops -– in this case some 70,000 –- along its border with Afghanistan, and had formed an elite rapid reaction force.  He stressed that it was time for the international community to stop playing the blame game and work to seriously address the security threats that remained inside Kabul.  Serious decisions must be taken, starting with the demilitarization of that main city.  There could be no successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme for all the armed factions as long as it was perceived that the capital remained under the control of warlords working to defy and undermine the Bonn Agreement.

JOHAN LØVALD (Norway), saying Afghanistan was at a critical juncture, pointed out that the international community had a common responsibility to ensure the situation there was not overshadowed by other conflicts.  Long-term commitment from the international community was vital for peace and development in the country and the region.  A stable situation was also essential for the successful holding of fair elections.  The fragile security situation now prevailing in Afghanistan underscored the need for a multi-ethnic national army, a police force under civilian control and a functioning justice system.

He welcomed the Security Council’s decision to expand the mandate of the ISAF.  In that regard, he urged the Afghan Transitional Authority to complete the reform of the Defence Ministry, which was essential to the success of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  Also, factional leaders should come under the control of the central Government.  While Afghan ownership was essential, the international community should provide substantial, long-term support to the security sector reforms.  The increasing attacks on humanitarian workers and United Nations staff, the majority of whom were Afghans, were unacceptable.  It was a sign of serious problems when United Nations and humanitarian personnel became targets in conflicts.

The United Nations role must have a key role in preparing for next year’s elections, he said.  It was vitally important that the forthcoming Constitutional Loya Jirga and the elections added legitimacy to the political process and contributed to unifying various factions of Afghan society.  Further, a lasting peace in Afghanistan could not be achieved without the cooperation of its neighbours.  Thus, he encouraged all signatories of the Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations of December 2002 to fully implement that Declaration and promote regional stability.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said it was heartening to see Afghan children –- boys and girls –- return to school, to see more than 2 million refugees return and to see Afghan women emboldened to participate actively in the transitional process and the crafting of the new constitution.  Moreover, he welcomed Afghanistan’s decision to become party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and an Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the creation of a national human rights commission and a judicial reform commission, and the formation of the new Afghan national army.

Yet, as in all post-conflict societies, the hard-earned peace and stability in Afghanistan remained fragile, he said.  Thus, the relentless jockeying for power, factional fighting and “drug crimes” must be brought to an end if national reconciliation and unity were to evolve.  Furthermore, the safety of United Nations and associated personnel must be ensured, as they were of paramount importance to humanitarian aid, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and de-mining activities.

For its part, Bangladesh had endeavoured to stand beside the Afghan people as a member of the region and as a friend, he concluded.  In January 2002, $1 million worth of emergency assistance had been dispatched to that country, and knowledge gained from Bangladesh’s success with relation to microcredit, non-formal primary education and the empowerment of women had been shared.  Moreover, Bangladeshi non-governmental organizations and civil society had been transmitting values including gender mainstreaming, food for education of the girl child, economic empowerment of women, and health and immunization of the mother and child to Afghans.

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) expressed concern over the security situation in many parts of Afghanistan, saying that the remnants of the former regime had apparently regrouped and begun to cause problems for the interim Government, the population and the international community.  The fact that several warlords continued to hold sway in most parts of the country and that the interim Government was only able to project its authority within Kabul and its vicinity also required attention.  Assistance from the international community remained crucial, and he fully supported the recommendation to deploy the ISAF beyond Kabul.  The bold action taken by Germany to deploy its troops to Kunduz was commendable and should be duplicated elsewhere by other ISAF participants.

It was encouraging that, in spite of the uncertain security situation, progress had been achieved in some fields in Afghanistan over the past year, he continued.  In particular, the year 2003 had proven to be significant for the country’s efforts to reinstate democracy.  The publication of the draft constitution on 9 November had been a strong manifestation of the will of the Afghan people to effect change and build strong and credible democratic institutions.  Preparations were under way for nation-wide elections next year, although the prevailing security situation could prevent some sections of the population, particularly those of the Pashtun region, from registering as voters.  As the security situation could also affect the conduct of the elections, it was imperative for the international community to sustain its presence in and assistance to Afghanistan.

He hoped that the future elected Government of Afghanistan would have the capability to implement its national policies to serve the interests of the country’s multi-ethnic communities.  In addition, priority attention should be given to the vulnerable sectors of the population, including women and children.  The drug problem remained a major concern, he added.

He supported the call to donor countries to make funds available for the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, noting with satisfaction the outcome of the Tokyo conference last February.  In its capacity as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Malaysia reiterated its unflinching commitment to the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in Afghanistan, as reflected in the Final Document of the XIII NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur last February.

AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that the development of Afghanistan was of importance to the rebuilding of the country, as was respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  While he welcomed the progress in several areas highlighted within the report on Afghanistan, he remained worried by the challenges that could befall the political and peace processes in that country if the root causes of the problems were not adequately addressed.  Moreover, the objectives pursued by the international community would not be achieved in an environment lacking security.

Paying tribute to the efforts expended by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Lakhdar Brahimi and the other members of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people reach safety and stability, he called on the United Nations to increase its role in the country.  Future areas of focus should include ensuring that the peace process in that country was the property of the Afghan people alone.  Also, the right of all to participate in public and political life should be respected.  The international community must provide the largest possible amount of financial and material support to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.  Finally, the formation of the Afghan national army and judicial system should be accelerated and all those involved in the illicit drug trade must be confronted.

VIJAY NAMBIAR (India) said the development of national institutions, introduction of economic and fiscal systems, commencement of economic programmes and reconstruction activities were all indicators that progress had been achieved in Afghanistan during the past two years.  Credit for that success must go to President Karzai, his Government and the Afghan people.  Unfortunately, the strong will of the people to propel themselves and their country out of the dark ages of Taliban rule and into the twenty-first century was being obstructed by the same repressive forces that had held them back for so many years.

The threats posed by reorganizing Taliban forces or sympathizers, particularly in the south and south-eastern parts of the country, had been highlighted by the recent Security Council mission to Afghanistan, he continued.  That body had recommended, among other things, that all the country’s neighbours fully implement the 2002 Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations.  He also said that terrorism and the systematic campaign to target international organizations, aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were a direct challenge to the efforts of the Afghan Government to assert control over the entire country.  They also undermined efforts to rehabilitate the segments of the population that had been so vulnerable in the past.

He added that there was a critical need to address the issue of drugs in Afghanistan.  It was particularly alarming that a very small region of the country had the capacity to produce almost three quarters of the heroin sold in Europe and virtually all the heroin sold in Russia.  With all that in mind, he said it was clear that the continued support and assistance of the international community was needed at such a critical stage in Afghanistan’s development.  For its part, India had continued to contribute to the country’s economic development, thus far committing up to $270 million towards reconstruction.  All of India’s efforts stressed Afghan ownership, and India believed that stability in Afghanistan depended not only on outside assistance but on maintaining good relations with its neighbours.  No country should attempt to claim special rights over the people and territory of Afghanistan.

ALTAY CENGIZER (Turkey) said that his country was among the co-sponsors of the draft before the Assembly, which honestly reflected both the successes achieved and the setbacks encountered in the implementation of the Bonn Agreement.  The text as a whole relayed a strong message of solidarity with the Afghan people and reaffirmed, at the same time, the determination and commitment of the international community to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people.

Continuing, he condemned terrorism in all its forms and said that recent acts of violence along with the existing tensions in the country demonstrated the need to enhance the conditions of security and stability in Afghanistan.  In doing so, it was necessary to heed the cardinal principle of “the indivisibility of security”, handling security issues in Afghanistan from a comprehensive perspective.  In that vein, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had to move ahead cautiously and avoid creating privileged exemptions and intolerable imbalances during its implementation.

Welcoming the assumption of the command and coordination of the ISAF by NATO, he added that the expansion of the authority of the Force throughout the country responded to the rational needs of security.  The main principle of the Bonn process, he recalled, was to safeguard equal opportunity for all entities, so that they could be represented in government structures.  The beleaguered history of Afghanistan proved that no single group should attempt to prevail over the others.  Hence, equitable distribution of rights and privileges, along with responsibilities, was of paramount importance for achieving a harmonious transition to stability.  He called on all groups in the country to pursue policies that fit with the general agenda of the country and not solely their own ends.  It was evident that the firm commitment of the international community to Afghanistan and its people should continue.

VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said that just some days before Afghanistan convened its Constitutional Loya Jirga, the Assembly’s debate was crucial.  And while the finalization of a constitution was at the core of restoring the country’s statehood, and while the work of the past two years undertaken by the Transitional Authority had been impressive, everyone knew that Afghanistan still faced acute security problems.  Indeed, as lawlessness increased in some parts of Afghanistan, he was deeply concerned with the possibility that the country might relapse into a “warlord culture”.

He would hope that measures taken by the central Government would start to yield positive results in that regard.  He also stressed the importance of regional security and the need for Afghanistan’s neighbours to adhere to the principles of the respect for sovereignty and non-interference, as well as to the provisions of the 2002 Kabul Declaration.  At the current stage, it was also evident that Afghanistan needed both the cooperation and support of the wider international community.  To that end, he welcomed the relevant resolutions on the matter adopted by the Security Council, as well as that body’s recent agreement on the expansion of ISAF’s mandate.

He said that peace and stability in Afghanistan depended to a large extent on the sustained engagement of the international community in providing funding for humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the country.  At the same time, fighting against the illicit drug trade in and around Afghanistan was another important task deserving the utmost attention and cooperation.  He shared the concerns of others that increased opium cultivation in Afghanistan not only threatened peace and stability in the region, but provided traffickers and terrorists with a major source of income.  It was regrettable then that a planned anti-narcotics and alternative crop production strategy had faltered earlier this year.  Therefore, he was convinced that greater international assistance was needed to develop Afghanistan’s law enforcement capacity and to provide alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers.

JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said despite progress made in many areas, remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were responsible for much of the insecurity in the country.  Subversive activities were being carried out to deprive parts of the population, notably in majority Pashtun areas, from their rights to fully partake in the political process.  Remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda should not be allowed to disrupt and delay implementation of the Bonn Agreement.

He said it was alarming for Afghans and many countries, including his own, that opium poppy cultivation had spread to new areas of Afghanistan.  As the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were among the major beneficiaries of drug money, there was an absolute need for the international community to assist the Afghan Government in implementation of its National Drug Control Strategy.  As the fight against drugs trafficking was more effective along border areas, the international community should support neighbouring States in curbing the flow of illicit drugs.  His country suffered enormously from drugs coming from Afghanistan and needed international support in its resolute fight against drug trafficking.

Another cause of concern was factional discord, he continued.  There was an absolute need for further expansion of Government authority across the country.  Strengthening of the new national army, national police and border police and the controlling of national revenue by Kabul were of great importance.  Neighbouring countries could play an important role in assisting the central Government to fulfil its tasks.  In that regard, Iran was committed to the Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations of 22 December 2002 and would do its utmost to control its common border with Afghanistan.  He noted that Afghan provinces adjacent to Iranian territory were among the calmest, and stressed that Afghans needed moral, political, economic and security support from the international community.

YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said that the Bonn Agreement, signed two years ago today, had provided Afghanistan with an excellent chance to make progress and that the international community should continue to support the rebuilding of that country.  As Afghanistan moved forward, the convening of the Constitutional Loya Jirga constituted the next important step for national reconciliation and the establishment of democratic institutions.  However, he shared the Secretary-General’s concern over security in the region and noted that, in order to make the peace process irreversible, it would be necessary to ensure the security situation, including through suppressing the activities of terrorists and drug traffickers.

Thus, welcoming the broadened mandate of the ISAF, he said that the full support of the ISAF was required to implement the peace process and extend central authority over all provinces.  Furthermore, the United Nations should retain a central role in all efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.  His own country had provided support for Afghanistan and would continue to work to rebuild the social and economic infrastructure.  It was also good to see that the Afghan situation remained high on the Security Council’s agenda.

Drug trafficking remained a serious concern, he said, and his own country had repeatedly reiterated the need to establish joint programmes with Afghanistan to combat the production and distribution of drugs.  The United Nations should also play more attention to combating drug trafficking in Afghanistan.  Moreover, the international community should keep under continuous review efforts to eradicate terrorist elements in Afghanistan.  The Afghan situation could only be resolved through the joint efforts of all concerned.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that Japan was determined that Afghanistan should not become politically destabilized and should never revert to being a breeding ground for terrorism.  That was why Japan continued its active involvement in efforts to support that country’s reconstruction, in concert with the international community.  To that end, Japan pledged to provide $500 million in assistance at the Tokyo Conference held in January 2002.  That assistance would be made available by June 2004.  More than 90 per cent, or approximately

$468 million, of the pledged amount had already been implemented or allocated for specific projects, and the pace of allocation was accelerating.  Additionally, Japan decided last month to make an additional pledge of $20 million through its trust funds in the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, all in an effort to respond to Afghanistan’s urgent needs.

He said restoration of domestic security was indispensable to the advancement of the political process and the smooth implementation of international assistance.  From that perspective, the recent trends in the overall security situation, which included the Taliban reunification movement, a shift in terrorist tactics to focusing on “soft targets”, and expansion of opium production were of grave concern and needed the serious consideration of the international community.  He welcomed the Council’s adoption of resolution 1510 to allow the ISAF to deploy in the provinces and assume additional duties.

Also, Japan was taking the lead, in tandem with the United Nations, in supporting the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration for ex-combatants, and welcomed the start of the pilot phase of that programme.  That programme should be implemented in a fair and equitable manner for it to benefit the Afghan people as whole and not only specific groups.  It was essential that the political process, improvement of domestic security, and humanitarian and reconstruction assistance be advanced in a balanced manner, he added.  Noting that all those three elements were interlinked, he said the current security situation risked delaying and even placing in jeopardy the ongoing political and reconstruction processes.  The United Nations was now under criticism from various quarters, but it was extremely important for the Organization to rigorously follow through on a task once embarked upon, in order to maintain its authority.

SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that, as two years was a relatively short period of time, the significant advances in reconstruction and socio-economic rehabilitation seen in Afghanistan were even more impressive.  However, the country was currently going through an important stage, which would determine whether those reforms became irreversible.  The Constitutional Loya Jirga would constitute a milestone in the political life of the country.  The Afghan people should take advantage of the chance to ensure the unity of their State on the basis of respect for the interests of all nationalities and compliance with fundamental legal norms and human freedoms.

Increased extremist activity, including that of remnants of the Taliban regime, posed a serious threat to the stability and advancement of the peace process, he added.  Those enemies of the Afghan nation and international community were trying to impede reforms and plunge the country back into the chaos of war.  Moreover, it was necessary to be cautious regarding the reform of the armed forces, as well as the whole range of security issues in Afghanistan.  Seeking balanced ethnic representation was necessary.  However, the backbone of those forces should be those who had proved their commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The ISAF remained a key factor to ensuring security in Afghanistan, he continued.  To stabilize the situation throughout the country, the ISAF should expand its presence beyond Kabul, firstly into the southern and south-eastern areas.  Furthermore, the threat of narcotics meant that active work was needed both inside Afghanistan and along its borders to establish reliable security belts serving as a barrier to drug trafficking.  Much remained to be done to rebuild and rehabilitate the country, in which context the contributions announced at donor conferences should be allocated and delivered to the Afghan people.  Russia stood ready to do its part.

SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand) said that further sustainable progress on all fronts in Afghanistan would depend to a great extent on the improvement of the security situation and the continued support of the international community in rebuilding the country.  Therefore, the Assembly had gathered today to renew its political commitment to an Afghanistan that was at peace with itself and its neighbours, and where the peoples could enjoy the fruits of democracy, stability and prosperity.  In that connection, he expressed gratitude to the Special Representative and the staff of UNAMA for their tireless efforts in helping the Afghan Transitional Administration to rebuild the country.

The restoration of security, expansion of Government authority and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration needed to be accomplished urgently, he said.  The expansion of the mandate of the ISAF to areas beyond Kabul should help address some of the security concerns.  It was equally important to address the economic and social needs of the Afghan people through the restoration of their livelihoods, rebuilding the economic infrastructure and addressing drug-related challenges.  With that in mind, during the Tokyo Conference, Thailand had pledged to assist Afghanistan in such areas as infrastructure rebuilding, demining and alternative development programmes, including crop substitution.

He went on to describe his country’s assistance to Afghanistan, mentioning, in particular, the visit of a high-level Afghan delegation to Thailand this year and efforts of Thai military engineers and demining experts dispatched to Afghanistan.  Thailand was also arranging human resources development programmes in response to the needs of the Afghan people in such areas as agriculture, rural development and vocational training.  And to provide a framework for those cooperation activities, Thailand was working towards normalizing relations with Afghanistan.  It was seeking to build a mutually beneficial partnership with Afghanistan and was exploring possible areas of cooperation, including in the field of aviation, development of new markets and restoration of Buddhist religious sites.

KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) said that on this, the second anniversary of the Bonn Agreement, the international community could take great satisfaction that several of the goals toward normalization of life in Afghanistan had been met.  The most visible progress could be seen in areas such as the reopening of schools, construction of roads and other infrastructure, and the launching of a new currency.  He welcomed developments in the political sector, namely, the issuance of a draft constitution and ongoing preparations for the general elections to be held next year.

And while such developments provided hope that a multi-ethnic, broad-based, and democratic society was within the reach for the long-suffering Afghan people, the country’s myriad complexities posed major challenges to the security situation, good governance and overall reconstruction.  Indeed, the recent Security Council mission had highlighted that terrorism, factionalism and the illicit drug trade were major sources of instability in Afghanistan.

And in that light, he deeply regretted senseless acts of violence against United Nations staff and the recent bombing of the world body’s offices in Kandahar.  The sporadic terrorist attacks were a searing reminder to the international community that, until only two years ago, Afghanistan had been a haven for terrorists.  He urged all States to remain vigilant against terrorist actors, as well as the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  He stressed that the sustained assistance of the international community was needed to ensure the goals of improving security and comprehensive rehabilitation.  At the same time, he believed that the Afghan people had a wealth of talent, initiative and drive to develop their own country.

HOMIDJON NAZAROV (Tajikistan) said his delegation considered today’s debate and the resolution under discussion as an important signal to the Afghan people that their plight remained high on the international agenda.  The debate was also important in light of the upcoming convening of the Constitutional Loya Jirga.  He stressed, however, that amid lingering insecurity -- exacerbated by the remnants of the Taliban regime, other extremist factions and drug traffickers -- it was not difficult to imagine the dangers that could arise if international efforts in Afghanistan failed.  Those criminal elements would then have the ability to attract to their ranks those Afghans that had been disappointed that efforts to rehabilitate their country had been abandoned.

He went on to say that today, as never before, the Afghan people needed not just moral and political support, but enhanced assistance for their daily survival.  For its part, Tajikistan was deeply involved in the humanitarian aspects of the international efforts under way in Afghanistan.  He added that Tajikistan would continue to serve and even find more ways in which its territory could be used as a humanitarian corridor into that country.  He was convinced that the efforts of Afghan President Karzai and the ongoing assistance of the international community would eventually lead to the eradication of the drug trade.  But today, the problem of drug trafficking there was a major challenge.  It should be clear that the Afghan drug trade was an international problem and must be addressed in a coherent and comprehensive manner.  On wider reform issues, he added that States should consider convening an international conference on the overall implementation of the Bonn process.

MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that Afghanistan had come a long way in two years since the tragic 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.  The Taliban was on the run and in hiding, and the Karzai Government was holding.  A new constitution had been drafted in preparation for elections in 2004.  Nepal congratulated President Karzai and the Afghan people for their successes, but warned that formidable challenges remained.  Amid evidence that the Taliban might be regrouping and sluggish widespread reform, the international community had failed to open its wallet wide enough to help transform Afghanistan’s institutions and infrastructure in order to transform the country into a vibrant, modern society.  Further, the prevailing insecurity strengthened the resolve of recidivist forces that saw chaos working to their advantage.

For its part, Nepal had time and again reiterated the need for expanded security and enhanced resources to ensure durable peace in Afghanistan.  If the newly expanded ISAF could handle the task, then so much the better, but if not, the United Nations must move to establish a peacekeeping force in the country.  If Afghanistan failed economically, it would remain a breeding ground for terrorism and a major hub for opium production, both of which could seriously affect peace and security throughout the world.  Providing alternative crop production initiatives and programmes for the country’s farmers was critical, he stressed.  Nepal supported the thrust and tenor of the draft resolution before the Assembly as a step in the right direction.

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For information media. Not an official record.