GENERAL ASSEMBLY UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION CALLING FOR RECOGNITION OF URGENT NEED TO TACKLE CHALLENGES STILL FACING AFGHANISTAN

8 December 2004
GA/10316

GENERAL ASSEMBLY UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION CALLING FOR RECOGNITION OF URGENT NEED TO TACKLE CHALLENGES STILL FACING AFGHANISTAN

8/12/2004
Press ReleaseGA/10316

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

Plenary

69th Meeting (PM)

General Assembly unanimously adopts resolution calling for recognition

 

of urgent need to tackle challenges still facing afghanistan

Hailing New Constitution, Presidential Election, Delegates

Underscore Need to Combat Insecurity, Terrorism, Illicit Drug Trade

Applauding as “historic milestones” the Afghan people’s adoption last January of a pluralistic and democratic constitution, their first-ever direct election of a head of State in October, and the substantive process achieved in the empowerment of women in politics, the General Assembly this afternoon adopted a resolution calling for recognition of the urgent need to tackle the remaining challenges facing the country.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted, as orally amended by the Assembly Secretariat, a resolution on “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, as well as emergency assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction in the war-torn country”.

The resolution, called on the Assembly to recognize the urgent need to tackle the lack of security in certain areas, terrorist threats, comprehensive nationwide disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Afghan militias, timely preparations for parliamentary and local elections scheduled for spring 2005, the reconstruction of institutions, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the fight against the narcotics trade.

Strongly condemning all acts of violence and intimidation directed against humanitarian workers, the resolution urged the Afghan Government and local authorities to take all possible steps to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of all the United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as well as their safe and unimpeded access to all affected populations.  The international community was also called upon to support the Government in the area of security.

Noting that yesterday, 7 December, had been a historic day for the Afghan people, Afghanistan’s representative said that Hamid Karzai had been sworn in as the country’s first democratically elected President -- an outstanding and memorable occasion that was welcomed and cherished by millions countrywide.  “We are confident that under the leadership of President Karzai, and with the strong and increasing support of the international community, Afghans can look forward to reconstruction and development in all aspects of life”, he added.

Afghanistan had successfully implemented two major components of the historic December 2001 Bonn Agreement (signed at Petersburg, Germany), he said –- the adoption on 4 January this year of a new Afghan Constitution, and the presidential election held on 9 October.  The final part of the Agreement –- parliamentary and local elections –- would be held in April 2005.  The Afghan people had participated with fervour and enthusiasm in both processes despite intimidation by Al-Qaida/Taliban, showing that the great majority wished to live in peace and security after decades of conflict.

Pointing out that Afghanistan was a country in transition, Germany’s representative, who introduced the text, said the Bonn process envisaged an integrated package of relief, recovery and reconstruction measures aimed at transforming direct assistance into support for the Government’s own development plans.  The international community must remain committed to the country and all Member States must implement pledges they had made in Berlin and Tokyo to contribute to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund and the Law and Order Trust Fund, which were still inadequately funded.

The most serious threat to Afghanistan emanated from the nexus between the warlords and factional militias and drug traffickers, Pakistan’s representative said.  Robust measures and resolute action were required, including the comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all militias as well as the demilitarization of Kabul.  It was also necessary to ensure a robust presence by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) [led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)] and to accelerate the creation of professional and ethnically integrated Afghan army, police, security and intelligence services and institutions.  State authority must be extended across the country and a national reconciliation policy implemented.

Pakistan had been working closely with the United States and Afghan authorities to strengthen security along its border with Afghanistan through the Trilateral Commission, he said, adding that his country had captured more than 600 Al-Qaida and Taliban terrorist elements and lost over 200 soldiers and policemen in the operations.  It was essential that Pakistan’s substantial security presence be matched by a commensurate security presence on the Afghan side of the border.

Iran’s delegate noted that the approval of the new Constitution and the holding of a successful presidential election not only shaped the country’s political landscape, but also diminished the temptation to undermine the will to establish a free and democratic society.  Hopefully, the two positive developments would be followed by timely, free and fair parliamentary and local elections, as well as the establishment of a broad–based, representative and multiethnic Government.  Accomplishment of the latter would be difficult and burdensome and the international community should make every effort to help the Afghan Government to achieve those goals.

India’s representative pointed out that while the Secretary-General’s report provided a useful overview of the past year’s key political and humanitarian developments in Afghanistan, a firmer message from the United Nations would have been appropriate and necessary for the international community to ensure stability in the country.  The report highlighted the deterioration of security in the south and south-east to the point where large areas were effectively out of bounds to the assistance community and government officials were frequent targets of attack.  The process of peace and stabilization was still quite fragile, and terrorism continued to be the primary sources of insecurity.  The fact that the report made almost no mention of terrorism and the threat it posed to Afghanistan and its security, conveyed the impression that it was no longer an issue of concern for Afghanistan, the United Nations or the international community.

In other action this afternoon, the Assembly confirmed, on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), appointments to fill vacancies in six subsidiary bodies -- the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); Committee on Contributions; Investment Committee; United Nations Administrative Tribunal; United Nations Staff Pension Committee; and the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).  (For names of appointees, see “Background”)

Also this afternoon, Assembly President, Jean Ping (Gabon), extended, on behalf of the body’s members, deepest sympathy to the Government and people of the Philippines for the tragic loss of life and extensive material damage resulting from the recent typhoon.  He called on the international community to show its solidarity by responding promptly and generously to any request for help.

Also making statements today were the representatives of the Philippines, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), China, Tajikistan, Malaysia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Japan, Iceland, Norway, Canada, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

The representative of the Inter-Parliamentarian Union also addressed the Assembly.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday 10 December to commemorate the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004).

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, as well as emergency assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction in the war-torn country.  It was also expected to consider a draft resolution on Afghanistan.

Continuing its mandated duty to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs, the Assembly was scheduled to act on the recommendations of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) by appointing members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Committee on Contributions, the Investment Committee, the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, the United Nations Staff Pension Committee, and the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC).

Secretary-General’s Report on Afghanistan

On the eve of the inauguration of Afghanistan's first democratically elected President, the Secretary-General says that despite key political gains, the country faces broad security threats as coalition and other international troops reduce their ranks.  A new report to both the Assembly and the Security Council (document S/2004/925) cites extremist or terrorist attacks, factional clashes among militia forces and criminal violence often linked to narco-trafficking.

“Without substantial progress in addressing the sources of insecurity, reconstruction efforts and the establishment of viable state institutions will continue to falter, and the economy may well be subsumed by the illicit-drugs industry”, the Secretary-General warns.  “The deployment now of additional international forces, with robust and uniform rules of engagement, can provide the critical space in which progress can be made in the mutually reinforcing areas of security-sector reform, anti-narcotics activities, reconstruction, expansion of government authority and imposition of the rule of law.”

At the same time, the report notes that for the first time, Afghans have “a directly elected President endowed with a strong popular mandate”.  It recaps the political transition that brought the war-torn country to that decisive moment, including the critical importance of the overall electoral process –- the registration of 10.5 million voters and the holding of presidential elections on 9 October.  Despite significant challenges to these processes and some shortcomings in their implementation, the conduct of both exceeded expectations.

The report concludes that the general success of the electoral process showed the determination of the Afghan people to have a democratic Government.  However, the agenda facing the newly elected Government is significant.  Continued and further support by the international community will be necessary to fulfil the letter and spirit of the Bonn Agreement.

After a tense year fraught with risks, during which many issues, including social indicators and human rights, remained insufficiently addressed, it is a cause for hope and optimism that Afghans have embraced with such enthusiasm the transition to civilian, democratic rule, the report says.  The large number of Afghans who have registered and voted, who continue to attend school and who have returned from exile are as many rewards for the international community’s investment in the Bonn process and an encouragement to remain fully engaged.

The year ahead will present many challenges to Afghanistan’s political and economic recovery, the report also says.  For the first time, however, Afghanistan will face these challenges with a directly elected President endowed with a strong popular mandate.  And while the United Nations remains committed to assisting the new Government as it continues to address the vital tasks required to fulfil the letter and spirit of the Bonn Agreement, President Hamid Karzai has an opportunity now to select an effective Cabinet that is able to extend government authority throughout the country and deliver basic services.  A competent and diverse administration will be critical for advancing national reconciliation.

Meanwhile, considerable challenges remain before the holding of the parliamentary elections scheduled for spring 2005, the report emphasizes.  These include progress in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, counter-narcotics activities and security-sector reform.  Continued engagement by the international community, in particular the provision of sufficient security, is critical.  Rehabilitation of the education system, refugee repatriation and relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts by the United Nations, with an emphasis on supporting the Government’s development plan, continued during the reporting period.

The report also states that the gradual handing over of functions to the Afghan Government -- for example, in the electoral field and in demining -- “is a positive indicator of developments” over the past three years since the Bonn Agreement set up the transitional phase now in place.  Although many issues, including social indicators and human rights, remain insufficiently addressed, “it is a cause for hope and optimism that Afghans have embraced with such enthusiasm the transition to civilian, democratic rule.”

Draft Resolution

The relevant two-part text (document A/59/L.44) would have the Assembly applaud as “historic milestones” the Afghan people’s adoption of pluralistic and democratic constitution last January, as well as the first direct election of a head of State in the country’s history this past October and the substantive process achieved in the empowerment of women in Afghan politics.

It would, however, have the world body recognize the urgent need to tackle the remaining challenges in Afghanistan, including the lack of security in certain areas, terrorist threats, the comprehensive nationwide disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Afghan militias, the timely preparations of the parliamentary and local elections scheduled for spring 2005, the reconstruction of institutions, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the fight against narcotics.

By the first part of the draft, on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, the Assembly would recognize the need for continued strong international commitment to humanitarian assistance and for programmes under the ownership of the Government, and express its deep concern over attacks against Afghan civilians, United Nations staff, national and international humanitarian personnel and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Expressing deep concern about the continued increase in cultivation, production and trafficking of narcotic drugs, which is undermining Afghanistan’s stability and security as well as its political and economic reconstruction with “dangerous repercussions in the region and far beyond”, the Assembly would recognize that the country’s social and economic development, specifically the development of gainful livelihoods in the formal productive sector, is an important condition of the comprehensive Afghan national drug control strategy and depends to a large extent on enhanced international cooperation with the Afghan Government.

Further by part one of the text, the Assembly would call on the Afghan Government, with the assistance of the international community, including through the Operation Enduring Freedom coalition forces and ISAF, to continue to address the threat to Afghanistan posed by Al-Qaida operatives, the Taliban and other extremist groups, factional violence among militia forces and criminal violence, in particular violence involving the drug trade.

The draft also would have the Assembly express its support in the ongoing fight against illicit trafficking in drugs and precursors within Afghanistan and in neighbouring States and countries along trafficking routes.  Another provision would have the Assembly call for continued international assistance to the vast number of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons to facilitate their safe and orderly return and sustainable reintegration into society so as to contribute to the stability of their country.

By part two of the draft, on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan, the Assembly would welcome the guarantee of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Afghans in the new Constitution as a significant step towards an improved situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  But at the same time, it would also have the Assembly note reports about incidents of violations of human rights and violent or discriminatory practices in parts of the country, as well as the lack of security in some areas that had caused some organizations to cease or curtail humanitarian and development work.

The text would therefore have the Assembly strongly condemn all acts of violence and intimidation directed against humanitarian workers and urge the Afghan Government and local authorities to take all possible steps to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of all United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as well as their safe and unimpeded access to all affected populations. The international community would also be called upon to support the Government in the area of security.

Another provision of the text would have the Assembly emphasize again the necessity of investigating allegations of current and past human rights violations, including violations committed against persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, as well as against women and girls, of facilitating the provision of efficient and effective remedies to the victims and of bringing the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international law.

Reports of the Fifth Committee

The Assembly had before it Fifth Committee reports containing its recommendations on elections to fill vacancies on and make appointments to six of its subsidiary bodies.

In its report on the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (document A/59/582), the Committee recommended the appointment to three-year terms of office beginning on 1 January 2005 of:  Rajat Saha (India); Sun Minqin (China); Jun Yamazaki (Japan); Ronald Elkhuizen (Netherlands); Jerry Kramer (Canada); and Jorge Flores Callejas (Honduras).

Regarding the report on the Committee on Contributions (document A/59/583), the Committee recommended that the Assembly appoint for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2005:  Paul Ekorong a Dong (Cameroon); Hassan Mohammed Hassan (Nigeria); Bernardo Greiver del Hoyo (Uruguay); Eduardo Iglesias (Argentina); David Dutton (Australia); and Eduardo Manuel da Fonseca Fernandes Ramos (Portugal).

For the same body, following the resignation of Sergei I. Mareyev (Russian Federation), the Committee recommended the appointment of Vyacheslav A. Logutov (Russian Federation) to fill Mr. Mareyev’s unexpired term of office, beginning on 1 January 2005 and ending on 31 December 2005.

In its report on the Investment Committee (document A/59/584), the Committee recommended that the Assembly confirm William J. McDonough (United States), Helene Ploix (France) and Jurgen Reimnitz (Germany) for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2005.  It also recommended that the Assembly confirm the transformation of the appointment of Khaya Ngqula (South Africa) from that of an ad hoc member to that of a regular member for a term to start in December 2004 and expire on 31 December 2006.

As for the report on the United Nations Administrative Tribunal (document A/59/585), the Committee recommended that the Assembly appoint the following persons for four year terms, beginning on 1 January 2005:  Goh Joon Seng (Singapore), Spyridon Flogaitis (Greece) and Brigitte Stern (France).

According to the report on the United Nations Staff Pension Committee (document A/59/586), the Committee recommended the appointment of the following for four-year terms, beginning on 1 January 2005:  Kenshiro Akimoto (Japan); Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry (Pakistan); Valeria Maria Gonzalez Posse (Argentina); Andrei V. Kovalenko (Russian Federation); Gerhard Kuntzle (Germany); Lovemore Mazemo (Zimbabwe); Philip Richard Okanda Owade (Kenya); and Thomas Repasch (United States).

And finally, in the report on the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) (document A/59/587), the Committee recommended that the Assembly appoint, for four-year terms beginning on 1 January 2005:  Fatih Bouayad-Agha (Algeria); Shamsher Chowdhury (Bangladesh); Vladimir Titov (Russian Federation); Xiaochu Wang (China); and El Hassane Zahid (Morocco).

Typhoon in the Philippines

JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the General Assembly, extended on behalf of that body’s members, deepest sympathy to the Government and people of the Philippines for the tragic loss of life and extensive material damage that had resulted from the recent typhoon.  It was to be hoped that the international community would show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to any request for help.

LAURO L. BAJA JR. (Philippines) thanked the Assembly on behalf of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Filipino people for the expressions of sympathy and solidarity as the country slowly emerged from the death and destruction of property and livelihood that had occurred in the past weeks.

The country was indebted to those who had responded to the urgent appeal for assistance -- United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and various Member States had responded rapidly to extend emergency assistance, he said.  Of particular note was the gesture by the United States to send an entire Marine Air Group comprising of more than 500 troops and more than a dozen medium- and heavy-lift helicopters as well as transport planes to assist in the ongoing relief efforts and in airlifting the sick and injured from areas that had been isolated by the disaster.

Much needed to be done in the coming days and weeks to help those affected to cope with the after-effects of the calamity, he said.  The President had reiterated an appeal for more assistance.  “We need help in preventing the spread of diseases and in restoring power, communications and water services to the affected population.  We [will] need all the help we [can] get in reconstruction and post disaster rehabilitation of the affected areas”, he concluded.

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), introducing the draft resolution and aligning himself with the European Union, recalled that three years ago, the Afghan people had seized the opportunity to end two decades of civil war.  Deciding to lead their country towards democracy, the rule of law and the promotion of human rights, they had concluded the Bonn Agreement.  Most recently, the international community had witnessed the first direct election of a head of State in Afghan history.  However, four major challenges lay ahead:  the timely organization of parliamentary, provincial and district elections in April 2005; the continuation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; the fight against the cultivation, production and trafficking of narcotic drugs; and the lack of security caused by factional violence, drug trafficking, banditry and terrorism.

Those challenges were interconnected, with security at the core, he said.  A secure environment was essential for free and fair election and for reconstruction and economic development.  Factional violence, criminal activities and terrorism were sponsored by drug-related revenues and unless that source was shut down and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process completed, security would remain seriously threatened.  It was therefore, of the utmost importance that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process be completed throughout the country and the counter-narcotic strategy be pursued decisively by the Afghan Government with the substantive assistance of the international community.

Pointing out that Afghanistan was a country in transition, he said the Bonn Process envisaged an integrated package of relief, recovery and reconstruction measures with the aim to transform direct assistance into support for the Government’s own development plans.  The international community must remain committed to Afghanistan.  Germany, therefore, appealed to all Member States to implement their pledges made in Berlin and Tokyo and to contribute to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund and the Law and Order Trust Fund, which were still not adequately funded.  Whereas bilateral assistance was also necessary, the United Nations was and would remain the key body to aid and support Afghanistan in rebuilding its society, its economy and its country.

RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan) said that yesterday, 7 December, had been a historic day for the Afghan people.  Hamid Karzai, had been sworn in as the first democratically elected President of his country, an outstanding and memorable occasion that was welcomed and cherished by millions all over Afghanistan.  The presence of large numbers of foreign dignitaries at that event was evidence of the crucial interest of the international community in the consolidation of democracy, peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.  “We are confident that under the leadership of President Karzai and with the strong and increasing support of the international community”, Afghans could look forward to reconstruction and development in all aspects of life.

He said he could report with great satisfaction that his country had been able to successfully implement two major components of the historic December 2001 Bonn Agreement (Petersburg, Germany) –- the adoption on 4 January this year of a new Afghan Constitution and the Presidential election held on 9 October.  The final and last part of the Agreement –- the Parliamentary and local elections –- would be held as agreed in spring 2005. The people of Afghanistan, including women, had participated with plenty of fervour and enthusiasm in both the constitutional process and the presidential election, despite the campaign of intimidation by Al-Qaida/Taliban, showed that the great majority of the people wished to live in peace and security after decades of conflict.

Highlighting the significant changes and transformations during the current year, he cited the empowerment of women, the successful rebuilding of the Afghan national army and police (both of whom had been impressively involved in providing security for the presidential election), the restoration of the judicial system and the ongoing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  But despite those achievements, Afghanistan was a war-stricken country that still faced a great number of challenges.  The eradication of opium was a major one.  The links between criminal organizations, terrorists and drug trafficking had brought about a situation that required strong regional and international cooperation.  In May last year Afghanistan had adopted a National Drug Control Strategy, and while the United Kingdom was providing major assistance in that field, in accordance with the principle of shared responsibility, the [wider] international community must also assist Afghanistan in implementing its plan of action.  The fight against the demand for heroin in the west called for more effective action.

Afghanistan’s reconstruction required long-term commitment, he said, adding that the reconstruction and development was crucially important for securing peace and cooperation in the region and in the world.  Moreover, the six-year drought that had affected more than half the country’s provinces, resulting in reduced crop yields during the 2004 harvest and rising grain costs added further suffering to the war-stricken people.  “We are making an urgent appeal to the international community to provide to the Afghan Government the necessary humanitarian and financial assistance”.

ARJAN HAMBURGER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that with the holding of the first-ever successful direct elections, Afghanistan had taken another important step on the way to democracy. Many factors had contributed to the success of the ballot, including the hard work of a variety of individuals and organizations.  The European Union looked forward to the upcoming local and parliamentary elections and stood ready to assist the Afghan Government, as well as the United Nations, to make that ballot equally successful.

Notwithstanding the obvious progress, many challenges remained, he continued.  The security situation had deteriorated in many areas over the past year.  Broad security threats caused by drug trafficking, factional fighting, banditry and terrorism not only hampered ongoing reconstruction efforts, but they also hindered full implementation of the Bonn Process.  The reports before the Assembly emphasized that in order to ensure successful parliamentary elections this spring, more progress was needed in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, anti-drug activities and security sector reform.  In that regard the European Unionwelcomed the Security Council’s recent decision to extend the mandate of the ISAF.

He went on to express his delegation’s concern that the cultivation of and trafficking in narcotics posed an increasing threat to Afghanistan’s national security, social development and governmental effectiveness.  Opium cultivation had increased by some 64 per cent, and production by 17 per cent over the past year.  Afghanistan produced 87 per cent of the world’s opium supply, a great portion of which entered the European Union.  The money generated by the drug trade financed growing and destabilizing criminal economy within the country.  The European Union would, therefore, urge the wider international community and the Afghan Government to tackle those serious problems.  Afghanistan’s National Drug Control Strategy and the Afghan Implementation Plan must be vigorously implemented.

Alongside the need for more progress in disarmament efforts, he said the European Union remained concerned about continuing reports of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  It had taken note of the report by the United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan, and had welcomed in that regard the commitment of the Afghan Government to implement the human rights provisions of the new Afghan Constitution and to implement and report on ratified human rights treaties.  In addition, the Union stressed the importance of protecting and promoting women’s rights.  It also stressed the importance Afghanistan’s neighbours played in maintaining lasting peace there and in the wider region.

YERZHAN KAZYKANOV (Kazakhstan) said that the peace process had been advanced considerably since the signing of the Bonn Agreement in 2001, yet Afghanistan was still confronted by serious problems; how those were resolved would determine, to a great extent, whether the reforms became irreversible or not.  Ensuring the country’s unity based on respect for the interests of all ethnicities and the observance of basic legal standards and freedoms was one of the most pressing tasks.  Unfortunately, the overall situation was still characterized by persistent security problems, with the Taliban and other extremist elements still challenging the country’s stability.  During the parliamentary elections, those elements might undertake to “squeeze themselves into the governing structures”.  Such attempts should be resolutely blocked, in a way that did not prejudice the overall reconciliation process.

Noting that ISAF’s presence was crucial for security to take root, he said the Force should enlarge its presence substantially, particularly in the southern and south-eastern regions, a task for which the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) participating States actively assisting the international and coalition forces could present their infrastructure for organizing logistic, supplies and military transit.  Kazakhstan attached great importance to consistent compliance with the Kabul Declaration on Good Neighbourly Relations.

Also welcome had been international efforts towards the creation of the Afghan national army and police forces, he said.  However, a very cautious approach should be taken to the reform of the armed forces and the entire Afghan security sector, which required well-balanced ethnic representation.  Much work also remained to be done in remedying the illegal production and trafficking of drugs.  A key strategy would be to strengthen existing anti-drug “security belts”.

WANG GUANGYA (China) said Afghanistan had made notable progress in realizing national reconciliation and promoting reconstruction.  However, while the country was only a step away from completing the political process provided for in the Bonn Agreement, President Karzai still had many challenges ahead of him. Politically, he must unite different ethnic factions, set up a highly efficient, clean, professional and broadly representative government, and ensure the holding of parliamentary and local elections on schedule.  Economically, he must heal the wounds of war, lay down a solid foundation for sustainable development, enhance self-sufficiency and continue to improve living conditions for his people.  As for security, he needed to strengthen the authority of the central Government, eradicate the remnant forces of terrorism, rein in factional infighting, and speed up disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

In addition, he said, it was necessary to tackle Afghanistan’s narcotics problem at its roots and carry out the 10-year anti-drug programme to meet the target of eradicating illicit drugs in the country by 2012.  The United Nations should continue to play a leading role in Afghanistan, providing the help required and making concerted efforts to advance peace and reconstruction.

RASHID K. ALIMOV (Tajikistan) welcomed the recent and ongoing successes in neighbouring Afghanistan, particularly the successful holding of its first-ever presidential elections.  Millions of voters -- who had gone to the polls despite the danger of being attacked –- had firmly said “yes” to the Bonn process, as well as to the new authorities with whom they associated continuing efforts to consolidate Afghan society and to pull the country out of its grave socio-economic circumstances.  Equally important was that it had been those same voters who had said “no” to civil war and international terrorism.  Tajikistan hoped that all that had been accomplished would help create a solid foundation towards the establishment of peace, the achievement of stability and the creation of true national accord.

The entire international community had witnessed the difficult, intense and often-dangerous road that Afghanistan had taken to achieve the successes it had thus far achieved, he said. That struggle should strengthen global resolve to help the country maintain and expand on its gains. Indeed, the international community must remain actively involved as the country pressed on to address outstanding challenges: those who opposed President Karzai and his Government continued to nurture plans to undermine the Afghan peace process, to return the country to political chaos and reverse the rule of law. In that context, it was important to strengthen and broaden ISAF.

Finally, he said that increased production of narcotics had become a major obstacle to the success of the Bonn process and the future of the AfghanState.  It was understood that the dismantling of Afghanistan’s “opium economy” would require enhanced efforts on the part the countries that served as “buffer zones” for drug trafficking and those where heroin consumption had become a serious problem.  As a transition country, Tajikistan would enhance its active participation in bilateral and multilateral discussions and in initiatives aimed at effectively addressing the matter.

RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia) said the presidential elections and the adoption of the Constitution were two crucial and necessary milestones in the process of building a strong and democratic State.  The Government of Afghanistan, with the help of the international community, must continue to confront the remaining challenges, including security, preparations for parliamentary elections in April 2005, the reconstruction of institutions, the fight against narcotics, and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Afghan militias.  Also, the international community must form a strong partnership with the Government in efforts to decrease substantively the drug trade in the near future, in strengthening the rule of law, and in supporting the local economy through provision income-generating opportunities and the establishment of larger infrastructure and industrial projects.

Calling upon the Afghan Government to intensify its efforts towards disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating the warlords and their followers, he said that failure in that area could risk unravelling the fragile peace.  In its capacity as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Malaysia reiterated an unflinching commitment towards Afghanistan.  The NAM had expressed its resolve to contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation during the country’s national-building process and was confident that a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan would be established with the sustained and collaborative efforts of the United Nations, the international community, the people of Afghanistan and their neighbours.

SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan), congratulating Afghanistan on its successful ballot and welcoming yesterday’s inauguration of President Karzai, warned, however, of the enormous remaining challenges in the run-up to the parliamentary and local elections set for this coming spring.  Indeed, the overall preparations for that process were still in the preliminary stages and must be accelerated. Orderly and successful parliamentary elections would build on the momentum generated by the earlier presidential ballot, so perhaps there was a need to increase international assistance to that end.

On security issues, he said it had been remarkable that there had been no major disturbance during the elections.  Japan appreciated highly the contributions of the ISAF and especially the role played by Afghanistan’s own security forces.  Still, the ongoing attacks throughout the country should remind everyone that overall security was extremely precarious and must be substantially improved.  Progress achieved to date in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts –- for which Japan and the United Nations had taken the lead -– had contributed to the prospect of orderly elections.

But that would not be enough to address broad security concerns, which would entail further efforts to establish a national army and police force, he said.  Japan was seriously concerned about drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan and stressed that effective counter-narcotics measures were critical to promoting effective unification and nation-building.  Community-based development assistance must be made available, particularly in the provinces.

HALMAR W. HANNESON (Iceland) said the presidential election of 9 October marked a milestone and that the high participation of women -– 40 per cent of the voters –- was remarkable.  Contrary to what had been feared, the election process had been conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner.  However, immense challenges still lay ahead.  Attacks in recent months, as well as the abduction of international staff, exemplified the dire security situation, which had a negative impact on reconstruction efforts.  Opium cultivation had grown by 64 per cent in 2004, and the country produced nearly 90 per cent of the world’s crop.  The international community must address all aspects of the illicit trade.

Emphasizing his country’s deep commitment to establishing security in Afghanistan, he said that on 1 June an Icelandic contingent of the ISAF had taken on a leading role in running KabulInternationalAirport.  During the past five months, considerable progress had been made.  The airport’s infrastructure had been improved and reforms had been implemented in running the facility.  That was one of the key elements in the successful operation of the ISAF and in reconstruction efforts.  Iceland was considering contributing to one of the provincial reconstruction teams in the northern part of the country.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said 2004 marked a new era in the history of Afghanistan, which had witnessed two major and unprecedented developments:  the approval of a new Constitution in January and the holding of a successful presidential election in October.  Those two historic events not only shaped the country’s political landscape, but also diminished the temptation to undermine the will of the Afghan nation to establish a free and democratic society.  Iran hoped that the two positive and decisive developments would be followed by timely, free and fair parliamentary and local elections, as well as the establishment of a broad–based, representative and multiethnic Government.  The accomplishment of that huge task would be undeniably difficult and burdensome and the international community should, therefore, make every effort to help the Afghan Government to remove the hurdles in its way if it was to achieve those goals.

The Secretary-General’s report referred to the progress made as well as the reforms planned in the socio-economic field and cited major steps taken by the Afghan Government, he noted.  Yet, despite those commendable efforts major challenges still lay ahead.  Terrorist and extremist threats -- posed mainly by remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaida -- drug trafficking, criminal activities as well as factional violence were still among the main challenges to stability and security.  The continued increase in the cultivation, production and trafficking of narcotic drugs was alarming, despite sincere efforts by the Afghan Government, and endangered security, political and socio-economic developments, as well as regional stability.  Undoubtedly, insecurity and drug trafficking in Afghanistan were mutually reinforcing and each contributed to terrorism and other forms of transnational crimes.  Across the globe, the lines between international organized crime and global terrorism had become blurred while the links between them had grown in the past decade.  That had made it imperative and indispensable for the international community to begin revamping its strategy for the war against those menaces.  Iran had fought a costly war against heavily armed drug traffickers in the past two decades, and stood ready to continue that fight.

The Afghan reconstruction process was a priority which should effectively get underway in all fields, he said.  The international community, led by the United Nations, should redouble its efforts to provide international assistance for the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.  Iran, for its part, had played an active role in the reconstruction of that country and had tried to fulfil the promises it had made at the January 2002 Tokyo Donor’s Conference.  Iran had also extended full cooperation to the United Nations, other international organizations as well as to the Afghan Government to facilitate out-of-country participation by Afghan refugees in the October presidential elections.  Those refugees had been able to cast their votes in some 1,000 polling stations in 250 locations in seven major Iranian cities.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that while the Bonn Process was on track, security remained the most serious challenge to peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.  The most serious threat emanated from the nexus between the warlords and factional militias and drug traffickers.  Robust measures and resolute action were therefore required, including comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all militias and the demilitarization of Kabul.  It was also necessary to ensure a robust presence by the ISAF and to accelerate the creation of a professional and an ethnically integrated Afghan army, police, security and intelligence services and institutions.  State authority must be extended across the country and a national reconciliation policy was also necessary.

He said his country had been working closely with the United States and Afghan authorities to strengthen security along its border with Afghanistan through the Trilateral Commission.  Pakistan had captured more than 600 Al-Qaida and Taliban terrorist elements, losing over 200 soldiers and policemen in the operations.  It was essential that Pakistan’s substantial security presence be matched by a commensurate security presence on the Afghan side of the border.  Over the past two decades, Pakistan had hosted millions of Afghan refugees without much appreciable assistance from the international community.  Although many refugees had returned home, the repatriation process had slowed due to insecurity in Afghanistan as well as the absence of economic opportunity.  It was expected that Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran –- 20 to 30 per cent of the Afghan population –- would be able to vote in the parliamentary elections.

The level of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan remained inadequate, he said, adding that the economic vacuum was being filled by the production of and trafficking in narcotics.  Apart from combating illicit drugs and providing alternative livelihood, efforts would also be required to reduce demand for Afghan drugs in destination countries.  Pakistan had pledged $100 million towards Afghanistan’s reconstruction and bilateral trade between the two countries now stood at over $1 billion.  Pakistan was exploring, with the Afghan Government, possibilities of private-sector cooperation and investment opportunities.  Pakistan strongly supported implementation of the gas pipeline project between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.  There was no doubt that a strong, stable and prosperous Afghanistan was in the vital interest of Pakistan.

JOHAN L. LOVALD (Norway) said that until Afghan security institutions were sufficiently strengthened, international security forces would be needed.  Extending security to the provinces was essential and the provincial reconstruction Teams had an important role to play in that regard.  Norway remained committed to maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan through its contribution to the ISAF in Kabul and its participation in a provincial reconstruction teams in northern Afghanistan.  Combating the expanding drug economy was also a major challenge and there was a need for a multi-dimensional and coherent approach that promoted alternative livelihoods, law enforcement and information activities.

He said that attacks on the United Nations and civilian aid workers were unacceptable and a concerted effort was needed to reverse that trend.  The United Nations and non-governmental organizations had raised concerns about the mixing of military and civilian roles, and that underscored the need to strengthen civil-military coordination.  More remained to be done in the area of human rights.  Women must be allowed to participate in all aspects of the reconstruction and peace-building processes.  The Constitution must be reflected in legislation and judicial practice, and with due regard to a role for Islam that was acceptable to all Afghans.  The return of some 3 million refugees and internally displaced persons was a major achievement, but also a burden to local economies.  Together with the serious drought problems, it had left many Afghans dependent on humanitarian assistance.  Reconstruction and socio-economic development were, therefore, key challenges.

NIRUPAN SEN (India) said the presidential election in Afghanistan –- one of the last yet most critical milestones of the Bonn Process –- was a landmark event in that country’s history.  Over 8 million Afghan citizens had exercised their franchise and in doing so, defied the threat of terrorism and firmly committed themselves to democracy.  They had also rejected the repeated attempts of retrogressive elements to restore the ideology of obscurantism, hatred and violence.  Now the next task in the political process was the formation of a new Government and the holding of parliamentary, provincial and local elections.  India had no doubt that the new government would be representative of the country’s ethnic and geo-cultural diversity.  Efforts at national reconciliation and unity were essential if Afghanistan was to succeed in its nation-building endeavour and India looked forward to parliamentary, provincial and local elections that would be free from manipulation and fraud.

While the Secretary-General’s report provided a useful overview of the key political and humanitarian developments in the last year, he said, a firmer message from the United Nations would have been appropriate and necessary for the international community to ensure stability in Afghanistan.  The report highlighted that security in the south and south-east had deteriorated to the point where large areas were effectively out of bounds to the assistance community and government officials were frequent targets of attack.  The current situation was even more serious.  The process of peace and stabilization in Afghanistan was still quite fragile, and while no serious violent incidents had taken place on election day, the upsurge in militant violence in the run-up to the polls, and in the period since, had revealed that terrorism, perpetuated by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Hizb-e-Islami elements, continued to be the primary sources of insecurity.  Their activities had undermined reconstruction efforts and threatened regional and international peace as well as security.  The fact that the report made almost no mention of terrorism and the threat it posed to Afghanistan and its security, conveyed the impression that that was no longer an issue of concern for Afghanistan, the United Nations or the international community”.  Moreover, the Organization was seen to be abdicating its primary responsibility of playing a central and impartial role in promoting peace and stability in the country as the Assembly resolution mandated it to do.

In view of its historic ties of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan and its people, India had made a substantial contribution to the Afghan reconstruction effort, he said.  Its commitment over the period 2002 to 2008 added up to $400 million, including one million tons of assistance in wheat aid.  Afghanistan’s transition from a retrogressive fundamentalism to democracy and development had been impressive, yet the international community could not allow itself to forget that the challenges to its future and stability continued to remain insidious and deep-rooted.  It was not so long since the Taliban and Al-Qaida had been defeated, though not vanquished, and those forces of terrorism and extremism continued to pose the greatest threat to Afghanistan’s very existence”.  The international community would do well not only to recognize the nature of that threat, but to confront it head-on.

ALLAN ROCK (Canada) expressed relief that the United Nations staff recently taken hostage had finally been released.  Canada’s thoughts were with them as they recovered from that ordeal and it strongly condemned the abhorrent and cowardly act of hostage-taking, which threatened to undo the gains achieved in Afghanistan to date.  Canada hoped the perpetrators would be brought to justice, thus sending an important signal that such acts would not be tolerated.  That was particularly important because some 59 non-governmental organizations and election workers had been killed in 2004.  There must be no impunity for those who perpetrated those acts, and all efforts must be made to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian and relief workers to affected populations.

Recognizing Afghanistan’s still fragile state, Canada had been heartened by the remarkable progress that had been made over the past year, both in the adoption of a constitution and in the holding of presidential elections, he said.  Indeed, the fact that elections had taken place in a virtually violence-free atmosphere was a testament to how far the country had come in such a short time. With the help of the international community, Afghanistan had embarked on the path towards becoming a stable, democratic and self-sustaining State.  But much remained to be done in building the government’s capacity at all levels and extending it throughout the country.  To that end, Canada’s “whole-of-government” approach, focusing on defence, diplomacy and development, had produced real results.

He said the challenge now was to consolidate and build on the progress achieved and to overcome obstacles that required priority attention from the international community, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, counter-narcotics and related threats posed by uncooperative militia leaders, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights and the building of sound governance institutions.  Profits from the Afghan drug trade and control over customs revenues had bolstered the power of some militia leaders and made them less likely to comply with disarmament, demobilization and reintegration initiatives.  Success in combating the drug trade would be in the interests of the international community, as well as Afghanistan.  And while security remained a real and immediate concern, no one should overlook other equally important issues, such as women’s rights and gender equality, building a sound legal framework, with access to justice for all Afghans, and the development of viable livelihoods.

ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) said the coordinated efforts and sustained will of the international community had helped Afghanistan to take several important steps towards the attainment of a peaceful, stable and self-sustaining State, chiefly the elaboration of a Constitution and the first-ever democratic election of a President.  Nevertheless, hostage-taking and continued attacks by terrorist groups had proved that efforts to achieve widespread peace and stability -– so crucial to the country’s overall reconstruction and rehabilitation needed even more international attention and support.  Among other things, the international community must step up efforts towards the full disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of all ex-combatants in the country.

Also troubling was the ominous upward trend in opium production and cultivation, he continued.  That dangerous trend threatened to turn back the hard-fought gains that Afghanistan had made thus far and should be a central concern regional among states as well as the wider international community.  With that in mind, Uzbekistan called for greater global assistance to enhance Afghanistan’s ability to counteract that threat, as well as for support for the establishment in Central Asia of a regional centre to monitor the illegal drug trade.  Uzbekistan considered Afghanistan’s success central to the overall region and had established a mechanism for the coordinated transfer of goods to the country, which amounted to some 2.5 million tons.

BAKI ILKIN (Turkey), speaking as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, on Afghanistan said the text objectively reflected both the successes achieved and the challenges encountered in the implementation of the Bonn Agreement.  The text as a whole would relay a strong message of solidarity with the Afghan people and, at the same time, reaffirm the determination and commitment of the international community to remain seized of developments.  The adoption of the Constitution on 4 January 2004 and the presidential elections on 9 October were important milestones in the Bonn process and reaffirmed the commitment of the Afghan people to reconciliation, peace and stability.  It was hoped and expected that the new political structure would indeed reflect the multiethnic nature of the country and be able to reach out to all communities.   The security issues in Afghanistan should be guided by the fundamental principle of the “indivisibility of security”, and thus handled in a comprehensive manner.

Expressing the hope that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme would gain momentum, he said the decision taken by General Dostum to initiate the disarmament and demobilization of the fifty-third Division was a concrete step in the right direction, which should encourage other leaders to follow that path.  Equally important was that security vacuums were not created following the completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.  As of February 2005, Turkey would be assuming, for the second time, the leadership of the ISAF, with the aim of consolidating peace, tranquillity, law and order in Afghanistan.  Turkey was also carrying out its own reconstruction projects in the country, including through the rehabilitation of hospitals.  Combating drug production and illicit trafficking was another top priority for Afghanistan, requiring the implementation of a comprehensive and long-term strategy, coupled with the creation of alternative livelihoods.

ANDA FILIP, Permanent Observer for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that strong representative institutions, especially parliaments functioning in an accountable and transparent manner, were the cornerstone of democracy and good governance.  The IPU had carried out, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a month-long needs assessment mission to Kabul in October and November to assist the Afghan authorities in identifying the needs of the future National Assembly.  It had identified major areas where action was needed as a matter of urgency.  Legislative texts, including provisional rules of procedure for both Houses, had to be prepared; parliamentary staff and members of the Assembly must be trained; and the infrastructure for the National Assembly must be adapted to the country’s cultural and religious specificities as well as and to the special needs people with disabilities.  Information and communication technologies would also be crucial.

She stressed that special efforts must be made to address such fundamental issues as bilingualism, the full participation of women in parliament and the relations between the National Assembly and the public, including the most vulnerable groups.  The new parliament would have a major role in ensuring that past tensions did not come to the fore again.  In that way, it could contribute to the establishment of conditions that were conducive to lasting development and peace.  The IPU was committed to working with its Afghan and international partners in furthering those objectives.  The programme of action proposed by the IPU/UNDP mission provided a framework for such cooperation, thereby ensuring greater coherence in the actions undertaken by the international community to foster democratic institutions in Afghanistan in the coming months.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Assembly adopted then, without a vote, the resolution contained in document A/59/L.44 as orally amended, on “the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security” (Part A), and “emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan” (Part B).

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For information media. Not an official record.