HIGH-LEVEL OFFICIALS BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL AS IT CONSIDERS CHALLENGES FACING AFGHANISTAN, HOPES RAISED BY PARIS CONFERENCE

9 July 2008
SC/9392

HIGH-LEVEL OFFICIALS BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL AS IT CONSIDERS CHALLENGES FACING AFGHANISTAN, HOPES RAISED BY PARIS CONFERENCE

9 July 2008
Security Council
SC/9392
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5930th Meeting (PM)

HIGH-LEVEL OFFICIALS BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL AS IT CONSIDERS CHALLENGES

FACING AFGHANISTAN, HOPES RAISED BY PARIS CONFERENCE

Foreign Ministers Stress Kabul-Islamabad Cooperation against Terrorism, Extremism

High-level United Nations officials and 26 country representatives, including the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan, addressed the security and humanitarian challenges of the situation in Afghanistan, as well as the hopes raised by the recent “Paris Conference” in support of that country, during a meeting of the Security Council this afternoon.

Briefing the Council, Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said that, having raised more than $20 billion in support of joint efforts in Afghanistan, thereby creating the basis for a strengthened partnership among the players, last month’s Paris Conference had created a new momentum.  But it would not be possible to implement the Paris Declaration unless resources were aligned behind it.  The Declaration also included a strong commitment to deliver aid more effectively, but improved delivery of international assistance must be matched by determination on the Afghan side to improve the quality of its administration, show greater accountability and combat corruption.

Regarding the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), he said its work over the next 18 months would be guided by the political calendar, which included forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, the commitments undertaken in Paris and the evolving situation on the ground.  While the tasks facing the Mission -- including coordination of assistance efforts between the international community and the Afghan Government in implementing the priorities identified at the Paris Conference -- could be addressed within the mandate specified in resolution 1806 (2008), UNAMA would only be able to play its role if significant additional human and financial resources were provided quickly.

The Council also heard from John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who briefed on his recent visit to Afghanistan, saying it was clear that the country’s humanitarian needs were serious and growing.  Food insecurity had been exacerbated by drought and the rise in global food prices, the plight of millions of returnees from neighbouring countries, the increasing pressure on civilians, including casualties and recruitment of children by anti-Government forces, and concern about the blurred lines between military and humanitarian activities.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would work with all partners, notably the Government, to put a new humanitarian action plan in place.

He said the Government’s capacity must be built up in the areas of disaster risk reduction and disaster management, and in managing internally displaced persons and returnees.  More must also be done to improve the protection of civilians.  Insurgent groups should not be allowed to believe they could kill civilians with impunity, and the United Nations, international forces and the Government must all work together to reduce the conflict’s impact on civilians.

Referring to a recent spike in terrorist activities in Afghanistan, the country’s Foreign Minister, Rangin Dâdfar Spantâ, said the national security forces, alongside their allies from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the international coalition against terrorism, were fighting an enemy that was transnational in composition and international in focus, based outside the country’s borders.  With international terrorist networks constituting a common threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, a joint, integrated approach by both Governments was needed to eliminate their bases.  Cognizant of its duty to ensure security, the Government of Afghanistan wished to take on more responsibilities with support from the international community.  Equal focus was needed on the related issues of narcotics, corruption and poverty.

Describing the Paris Conference as a landmark success, he stressed the need for his Government to complete its programming and design an adequate implementation framework.  The international community should provide predictable, transparent and accountable assistance, and channel development assistance in a more coordinated way through the national budget.  Afghanistan valued the coordinating role of UNAMA, particularly in improving aid effectiveness and adjustments to coordination mechanisms.  The country also sought international support in preparing the ground for free, fair and secure presidential and parliamentary elections in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, stressed that peace and stability in Afghanistan were in his own country’s vital interest as the two nations faced the common threat of extremism and terrorism.  “Peace and stability are essential to enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to serve as the hub and corridor for trade and economic cooperation between the dynamic regions of South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Gulf.”  Apart from the Afghan people, the people of Pakistan had suffered the most from the decades of conflict in Afghanistan.  Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism and extremism was well known.  The country had lost more soldiers than any other in that effort.

He said his country’s new holistic strategy sought to restore peace in its frontier regions, halt and reverse extremism and eliminate terrorism and violence through political dialogue and socio-economic measures, while retaining the option to use force.  “Reconciliation and reconstruction are the only sustainable solution to insurgent violence and instability.”  However, acts of terrorism or cross-border attacks in Afghanistan would not be tolerated.  More effective cooperation and matching military measures could ensure greater success in containing terrorism and insurgency on both sides of the border.  Measures needed to overcome suspicion and distrust included declarations by both countries of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as enhanced economic cooperation.

Others making statements were representatives of Italy, France (on behalf of the European Union), Libya, Belgium, United States, South Africa, China, Panama, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Croatia, Viet Nam, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Turkey, Iran, Netherlands and Norway.

The meeting started at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 6:35 p.m.

Background

As the Security Council took up the situation in Afghanistan this afternoon, members had before them the Special report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1806 (2008) on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which outlines the Mission’s priorities in fulfilling its mandate and assisting in the implementation of the “Afghan National Development Strategy” adopted at the 2008 Paris Conference in Support of Afghanistan.

According to the report (document S/2008/434), the 12 June Conference, which resulted in pledges of some $20 billion, was more than a pledging event.  The Paris Declaration identified key elements essential for the future security and prosperity of the Afghan people and underlined the expanded role of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and UNAMA to lead international efforts and coordinate between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community.  The 2007 Afghanistan Compact would remain the basis for the common effort between the international community and the Government.

The report states that the Secretary-General fully endorses the recommendation of Kai Eide, his Special Representative, that the priorities identified by the Paris Conference be sufficiently covered by the mandate of UNAMA, and that, in order for the Mission to fulfil its mandate and achieve those priorities, much greater substantive, administrative and security resources will need to be expeditiously mobilized.  The level of insurgent and terrorist activity has increased, particularly in the south and east of the country, and the highest number of security incidents since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 was recorded in May.  The evolving security situation will require a considerable increase in security-related Mission resources.

The report further outlines UNAMA’s priorities in fulfilling its mandate in the areas of elections; the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and implementing its economic priorities; governance and institution-building; aid effectiveness and increased accountability; humanitarian action; regional cooperation; protection of human rights; and reducing production and trafficking of narcotics.  UNAMA will also reinforce its outreach efforts by expanding its presence throughout the country, and the Secretary-General recommends the opening of six new provincial offices over the next 12 months.

In order to ensure the Mission’s ability to deliver support in priority areas, it will be necessary to strengthen its capacity with some significant staffing increases and possible structural changes, according to the report.  Regarding overall coordination and the establishment of new field offices, emphasis will have to be placed on the recruitment of additional qualified personnel.  UNAMA will, in addition, need greater resources for staff security and welfare.  A significant increase in administrative personnel will be required to meet the demands of an expanded Mission working under difficult circumstances.

The Secretary-General concludes that the extent to which UNAMA can fulfil its mandate will ultimately depend upon the degree to which international partners and the Government support the enhanced the Mission’s coordinating role and live up to the commitments made at the Paris Conference.  Together with its Afghan and international partners, UNAMA will improve coordination mechanisms in a way that respects Afghan ownership and facilitates a more robust and delivery-oriented coordination process.

Briefings

KAI EIDE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said UNAMA’s work over the next 18 months would be guided by the political calendar, the commitments undertaken in Paris and the evolving situation on the ground.  In connection with the political calendar, today in Kabul, the Independent Electoral Commission had announced its decision on how to move forward.  That decision would allow the international community to proceed with a voter registration process, which must be conducted in a way that would allow all Afghans equally to take part in the elections, while taking into account the security difficulties.  The decision provided a sound basis for the international community to give the financial support required.  UNAMA stood ready to support Afghan authorities throughout the election process, as requested by President Hamid Karzai.

Turning to the commitments undertaken in Paris, he said the Conference had been a success as a pledging event, having raised more than $20 billion in support of joint efforts in Afghanistan.  It had also been a success in political terms, having created the basis for a strengthened partnership between the players.  The Government of Afghanistan had presented its Afghan National Development Strategy, which would be the common road map under Afghan leadership for the next five years, and the international community had pledged to align its resources behind that Strategy.

The launching of the Strategy had come at a critical juncture, when a clearer sense of direction and greater energy needed to be injected into the process, he said.  While the achievements of the past seven years had been substantive, there were questions every day relating to precisely the kind of commitments undertaken in the Paris Declaration: “Do we have a plan which can unite us all in our work?  Does the international community spend its resources well enough?  Is the Afghan Government sufficiently committed to addressing corruption and malpractices?”  If the international community did not live up to the commitments undertaken in Paris, it would jeopardize the support upon which it depended, from both the Afghan people and the public in donor countries.

The Paris Declaration had created a new momentum, but unless resources were aligned behind that document, it would be unimplementable, he said.  “We must demonstrate an ability to adapt to changing circumstances.  This is not the time to navigate by autopilot.”  The challenge for the United Nations would be to help the Government implement its Strategy, and to ensure that the donor community responded adequately.  An important part of that implementation would be to ensure that its priorities were respected.  Two pillars that would be decisive for the success of all other efforts included a massive institution-building effort and expansion of key sectors of the economy.  The Paris Declaration also included a strong commitment to deliver aid more effectively.  Donor countries had demonstrated that there was now a greater readiness to ensure that more resources were spent inside Afghanistan, that it was channelled through Afghan budgets and that more attention was devoted to promoting Afghan procurement and capacity-building.  It was also important to emphasize the need to ensure that the benefits of development reached all provinces equitably.

Improvements in the delivery of international assistance must be matched by determination on the Afghan side to improve the quality of its administration, show greater accountability and combat corruption, he continued.  It was encouraging that President Karzai was now holding regular meetings with his closest ministers to formulate the Government’s response to the Paris commitments, including those relating to corruption and accountability.

Turning to UNAMA’s task of improving the coordination of common efforts, he said the most daunting challenge would be to coordinate development activities.  It was important that the Paris Declaration had stated clearly that coordination must include all development assistance, whether it was delivered through development agencies, non-governmental organizations or provincial reconstruction teams.  Together with its Afghan partners, the Mission was now setting up the structures required to improve joint coordination efforts.

On the situation on the ground, he said there could be no doubt that the international community had underestimated the humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan.  As late as January 2008, a joint food appeal had been launched by the Afghan Government and the World Food Programme (WFP).  Today, yet another joint appeal for $404 million had been launched in Kabul.  Those humanitarian challenges revealed a clear lack of capacity to address the needs of the most vulnerable people.  “We must urgently strengthen our capacity to forecast, assess, coordinate and respond to humanitarian crises.  And we should be imaginative in order to mobilize such resources quickly.”

As for security, the attack outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul three days ago had demonstrated the ability of terrorists to carry out extremely deadly operations in the heart of the capital.  There would be a need for a strong international security presence for the foreseeable future, and there must be better cooperation and understanding between its military and civilian components.  UNAMA would engage in further discussions with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in order to enhance civil-military cooperation.  The Mission would expand its presence in such a way as to ensure the integrity and understanding of its independent mandate and to strengthen respect for humanitarian principles.  A rising number of civilian casualties was a matter of grave concern, and every effort must be made to reduce them to a minimum.

The solution to the conflict in Afghanistan would not be a purely military one, he continued.  It would fundamentally have to be a political solution.  There was a need for a broadly based Afghan political dialogue that could reinforce national unity, add momentum to the nation-building exercise and promote prospects for peace.  That dialogue would have to be determined by the Afghans themselves, and conducted with respect for the Constitution and relevant Security Council resolutions.  The political dimension of achieving stability now needed greater prominence, and there was a need to strengthen regional cooperation and dialogue on such issues as drugs, refugees and security.  There was also great potential in other sectors, such as cooperation on energy, infrastructure and trade.

He agreed with the Secretary-General’s conclusion that the tasks facing UNAMA could be addressed within the mandate specified in resolution 1806 (2008).  What the Mission needed were resources; more and better qualified personnel and financial resources to carry out its work on the ground.  The Mission was slowly reducing the number of vacancies, which was encouraging, but it must go significantly beyond the current personnel ceiling to meet the challenges of the Paris Conference.  UNAMA would only be able to play its role if significant additional resources were provided quickly.

JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed on his visit to Afghanistan at the end of June, saying it was clear that humanitarian needs were serious and growing.  Food insecurity, fuelled by drought and compounded by the rise in global food prices, was hurting Afghans badly.  Wheat prices had risen by 58 per cent in 2007 and by another 30 to 50 per cent in the first four months of 2008.  As 42 per cent of its citizens lived below the poverty line, Afghanistan was particularly vulnerable to rising prices.  An initial appeal for $81 million from January was almost fully funded and a second joint appeal for more than $400 million had just been launched.

He said the plight of millions of returnees from neighbouring countries remained a major concern.  Since 2002, 4.8 million people -– one sixth of the population -– had returned, but the country’s capacity to absorb those returnees was very limited.  There were still 2.3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and another 950,000 in Iran.  Lack of land and jobs, as well as insecurity prevented many returnees from resettling in their original communities.  An estimated 150,000 others had been internally displaced and many of them were in areas that were inaccessible due to fighting.

The conflict was placing increasing pressure on civilians, he said.  During the first five months of 2008, a total of 698 civilian deaths had been reported by UNAMA, the majority of them in the south.  Some 422 of those had been attributed to anti-Government elements and 255 to national and international forces.  Another 21 deaths could not be attributed.  The latest reports of civilian casualties caused by air and missile strikes last weekend could only add to the concern.  The Secretary-General’s special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict had highlighted the terrible consequences of the fighting for children, too often among the casualties, and now being recruited into anti-Government fighting forces.  Attacks on 228 schools in 2007 had resulted in 75 deaths.  In 2008, a further 83 schools had already been attacked.

Noting that Afghanistan was highly prone to natural floods, earthquakes and droughts, he said a major natural disaster could have disproportionately catastrophic effects.  The winter had also been exceptionally harsh.  Faced with the increasing humanitarian needs, the humanitarian community was finding it progressively harder to respond because of insecurity and lack of access.  The Department of Safety and Security had tracked more security incidents in May than at any time since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001.  As of late June, there had been 137 serious attacks on humanitarian organizations, 7 humanitarian workers had been killed and 88 abducted.  Such attacks only hurt the poorest of the Afghan people and they were unacceptable, whatever the political or military objectives of those concerned.

All humanitarian actors in Afghanistan had expressed great concern about the blurred lines between military and humanitarian activities, he said.  Many provincial reconstruction teams were doing very valuable work, but they should provide relief only as a last resort, in cases where insecurity prevented civilian humanitarian actors from doing so.  Where possible, donors should channel their humanitarian funds through mandated United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, rather than through provincial reconstruction teams.

Much more remained to be done in improving the humanitarian response, he said.  Humanitarian actors needed support to increase their capacity significantly.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would work with all partners, notably the Government, to put in place a new humanitarian action plan to that end.  The Government’s own capacity must also be built further, particularly in the area of disaster risk reduction and disaster management, and in managing internally displaced persons and returnees.  More must also be done to improve the protection of civilians.  It might seem that little could be done about the actions of anti-Government elements that showed little or no regard for civilians and contempt for international humanitarian law and the principles of distinction and proportionality, but any influence that could be brought to bear would help.

Stressing that insurgent groups should not be allowed to believe they could kill civilians with impunity, he said the United Nations, international forces and the Government must work together to reduce the conflict’s impact on civilians, who also needed to know where to go for redress in the event of accidental civilian casualties and other problems resulting from the actions of pro-Government military forces.  In addition, there was a need to find ways to distinguish better between military and political activities on the one hand and humanitarian action on the other.  Opportunities must be fund to expand the humanitarian space, increase access and reduce the likelihood of attacks on humanitarian actors.  The situation in Afghanistan required a closely coordinated approach and close partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community.  Humanitarian efforts must find their proper place in that approach.

Statements

RANGIN DÂDFAR SPANTÂ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said he had witnessed the “bloodiest scene” precisely 10 minutes after Monday’s attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, and was still overwhelmed by the brutal and cold-blooded act of terrorism.  Afghanistan condemned the heinous act in the strongest terms possible and sympathized with those who had lost their lives, while sharing the grief of the victims’ families.  The country had witnessed a spike in terrorist acts in recent months, including the assassination attempt on President Karzai, the Kandahar jail-break and a drastic increase in the loss of international forces.

He said that those behind the Taliban and Al-Qaida had enhanced their support, increased the pace and scope of terrorist activities and shifted their focus to Afghanistan as a part of their psychological war to sabotage the peace process in the country and affect regional and global public opinion.  One of the contributing factors was the de facto truce in the tribal areas beyond the border.  The terrorists were sustained by a complex set of networks and infrastructure, and therefore could not be defeated by military operations inside Afghanistan alone.  Terrorism could not be defeated unless its root causes were addressed.  Success would be achieved only by a coherent, integrated, regional and global approach.  The Afghan security forces, alongside their allies from ISAF and the international coalition against terrorism were bearing the brunt of that effort.  They were fighting an enemy that was transnational in composition and international in focus, based outside the country’s borders.

Welcoming the results of the elections in Pakistan, he said his country supported the democratic process and welcomed the expansion of friendly relations with the civilian Government of Pakistan.  It was clear that international terrorist networks constituted a common threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that a joint, integrated approach by both Governments was needed to eliminate their bases.  Cognizant of its duty to ensure security, the Government of Afghanistan wanted to take more responsibilities with support from the international community.  The goal was to do that gradually, but that required an acceleration of the training and equipping of the national army and security forces.  Equal focus was needed on the related issues of narcotics, corruption and poverty.

Last Sunday, the Cabinet had agreed on the mandates and responsibilities of the anti-corruption monitoring commission, he recalled.  Afghanistan intended to establish a special police force, courts and new attorney offices specifically designed for the fight against corruption.  Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics strategy took into account all security, international, social and economic aspects of the problem.  Last year, considerable steps had been taken in the fight against narcotics and poppy cultivation, and production had been reduced in 23 out of 34 provinces.  The number of poppy-free provinces had risen to 16.  In Helmand Province, where high poppy cultivation was still evident, the nexus between narcotics and terrorism was evident.

Describing the Paris Conference as a landmark success, he said the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and the $20 billion pledged for its implementation had provided the opportunity to endorse a common road map aimed at achieving the objectives of the Afghanistan Compact and the Millennium Development Goals.  The Government needed to ensure the successful implementation of the Strategy by completing its programming and designing an adequate implementation framework.  The international community should provide predictable, transparent and accountable assistance and channel development assistance in a more coordinated way through the national budget.  Afghanistan valued the coordinating role of UNAMA, particularly in improving aid effectiveness and adjustments to coordination mechanisms.

For the first time in contemporary history, Afghan citizens had chosen their own model of governance and development, he continued.  The country was preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and the participation of all Afghans was essential to the consolidation of democracy and to enable the people to shape their own future.  Afghanistan sought the support and cooperation of the international community to prepare the ground for free, fair and secure elections.

MAKHDOOM SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said his country’s new democratic Government had inherited imposing political, economic and security challenges, which were being addressed.  Pakistan had condemned the terrorist attack against the Indian Embassy in Kabul and deeply regretted the loss of life and damage caused by that unacceptable suicide bombing.  Pakistan supported the central coordinating role of UNAMA in accordance with its mandate, which was specific and limited to Afghanistan.  Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan would continue to be conducted between the democratically elected Governments of the two countries.

He said the gains made since the Bonn Agreement must be consolidated and the challenges addressed effectively, in particular the intensifying threat posed by terrorist violence and militant insurgency.  The continuing insecurity and violence in several parts of Afghanistan could be attributed to a complex interplay of several factors, including the Taliban, Al-Qaida, lingering warlordism, factional rivalries and criminal activity.  Peace and stability in Afghanistan were in Pakistan’s vital interest as the two countries faced the common threat of extremism and terrorism.  “Peace and stability are essential to enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to serve as the hub and corridor for trade and economic cooperation between the dynamic regions of South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Gulf.  Apart from the Afghan people, the people of Pakistan had suffered the most from the decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism and extremism was well known, he said.  The country had lost more soldiers than any other in that effort, but it would remain determined to defeat and eliminate terrorism and its root causes.  An end to conflict in Afghanistan would help to restore normality.  Several measures had been taken to prevent cross-border infiltration.  However, the security environment had deteriorated sharply as a result of Pakistan’s role in the counter-terrorism campaign.  In 2007, Al-Qaida- and Taliban-linked groups had turned on Pakistan.  Pakistan had suffered more suicide bombings than Afghanistan, resulting in 2,000 civilian casualties, and the terrorist onslaught continued.  There was popular disenchantment with the terrorists and extremists, including in the frontier region.

He said his country’s new holistic strategy sought to restore peace in the frontier regions, halt and reverse extremism and eliminate terrorism and violence through political dialogue and socio-economic measures, while retaining the option to use force.  Political reconciliation and economic reconstruction and development were priority options to win over the frontier tribes and the moderates, and to isolate the terrorists and violent extremists.  Pacification would require a painstaking, region-by-region effort to win the trust and support of local people and their leaders.  Negotiations were ongoing with tribal leaders and other influential people, but not with terrorists.  “Reconciliation and reconstruction are the only sustainable solutions to insurgent violence and instability.”  Acts of terrorism or cross-border attacks in Afghanistan would not be tolerated.

More effective cooperation and matching military measures could ensure greater success in containing terrorism and insurgency on both sides of the border, he said.  Pakistan would continue its active cooperation within the Tripartite Commission, but its partners could also contribute to enhancing operational cooperation by, among other things, expanding military deployments and check posts on the Afghan side to match Pakistan’s 100,000 military personnel and 1,200 check posts.  Real-time intelligence-sharing, caution in the use of artillery and aerial attacks and the supply of counter-insurgency equipment requested by Pakistan was also necessary, as were more effective checks of the 40,000 daily legal crossings and the relocation of Afghan refugee camps close to the border from the Pakistani side to controlled sites inside Afghanistan.

More needed to be done to overcome suspicion and distrust, he stressed.  Initial steps could include declaring mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, avoidance of provocative statements and the revival and reinvigoration of the Jirga process.  The Ankara Process as well as Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan tripartite cooperation should be supported.  The economic relationship with Afghanistan was already intimate and intense, with trade amounting to around $1 billion, and the potential far greater.  Pakistan had committed $300 million to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and pledged $20 million for the resettlement of refugees.  Despite shortages in Pakistan, 50,000 tons of wheat would be exported to Afghanistan at subsidized rates.

He said economic cooperation could be enhanced by jointly establishing reconstruction opportunity zones along the border; implementing Pakistan’s plans to import electricity from Central Asia; and implementing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.  “ Afghanistan and Pakistan can succeed in achieving their objective of peace, stability and prosperity through mutual cooperation.  They can succeed only if they enjoy the unconditional support of the international community.”  A cooperative strategy for success must combine military containment with political reconciliation, administrative control and rapid socio-economic development.  The military option should be used, but as a last, not first, resort.  Dialogue and reconciliation together with the calibrated use of force, were the best means to promote peace.

ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy), expressing full support for the European Union position, said he was pleased that the new leadership of UNAMA was living up to the high expectations of the international community.  The report before the Council showed a difficult situation on the ground, with terrorist activities and the continued use of civilians as human shields being among the issues of utmost concern.  It was important for all players to avoid collateral damages.

The Paris Conference had demonstrated new positive momentum in the spirit of strengthened partnership, he continued.  The generous pledges made had been matched by renewed commitment by the Afghan Government to promote good governance and fight corruption.  But the Paris Conference had been more than a pledging event.  It had helped to analyse in depth the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, without compromising that document.  The Paris Declaration contained a number of key elements that coincided with the priorities of resolution 1806 (2008).  Now it was time to translate best intentions into tangible actions.

The key areas of UNAMA’s mandate included coordination and strengthened cooperation with ISAF, humanitarian assistance, promotion of human rights and electoral assistance, among other things, he said.  Now, the Mission should be provided with substantial financial resources.  The Council could not afford to assign it such an ambitious mandate without providing adequate resources for its implementation.  Italy proposed to express the Council’s support clearly through a presidential statement, the draft of which would be discussed soon with a view to early adoption.

JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled the key political messages announced at the Paris Conference, particularly the need to strengthen democracy through competent, transparent and representative Afghan institutions.  To that end, it was important to prepare for the 2009 and 2010 elections.  Of equal importance were the international community’s support for the Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy and the leadership provided by the Afghanistan Compact.

The international community’s emphasis on improving aid effectiveness for the benefit of ordinary Afghans was an essential aspect of the $20 billion pledged to finance the Strategy, he said.  The Paris Declaration also prioritized strengthening the national Government’s presence in the provinces, fighting corruption and safeguarding freedom of expression, human rights and gender equality.  France also underlined the Afghan commitments made in Paris to fighting drugs.

Afghanistan was a priority for France and the European Union, he said, noting the troop commitments, reconstruction financing and the European police mission, EUPOL.  The Paris Conference had fostered a sense of shared responsibility on the part of the international community and the Afghan authorities to strengthen the efficiency and quality of aid.  While more coherent and coordinated assistance must be provided by the international community, the Government of Afghanistan had pledged to expand reforms to increase accountability and transparency.  The European Union stressed the need to strengthen security and condemned in strongest terms attacks against humanitarian personnel and convoys.

ATTIA OMAR MUBARAK ( Libya) welcomed the launch of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, which required the promotion of trust between the citizens and Government of Afghanistan and the international community.  Libya underlined the importance of respecting the human rights of Afghan civilians and urged ISAF and other forces also to respect those rights.  The continued deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan due to increasing insurgency activities was of great concern, as was the increase in civilian casualties.  Libya underlined the importance of national reconciliation in that regard.

He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report on the importance of free and fair elections, but emphasized that the success of the forthcoming elections did not depend only upon procedural aspects, but also on the participation of all Afghans.  National reconciliation in that regard was, once again, of great importance.  Security must be brought to the provinces so they could be wrested from the hands of the warlords.  Libya urged donor States to fulfil their pledges made in Paris and expressed support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations to provide the necessary resources so that UNAMA could fulfil its mandate.

OLIVIER BELLE ( Belgium), aligning himself with the European Union, concurred with the report’s conclusion that more resources were necessary to meet UNAMA’s strengthened mandate and achieve defined priorities.  Belgium welcomed the announcement that the United Nations would open six new provincial offices.  A greater United Nations presence was indeed vital, but in order to be completely effective, appropriate resources should be made available, including human resources.  The request for extra personnel for elections, implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and the building of national institutions must be fully supported.

The humanitarian action plan being developed should allow the United Nations to do a better job of meeting humanitarian needs, he stressed, expressing concern about the growing number of civilian casualties.  Regional cooperation had a key role to play in the process of stabilization and reconstruction, as the fates of Pakistan and Afghanistan were tightly linked.  Both countries should spare no effort in cooperating closely in the economic field.  At the Paris Conference, Afghanistan and the international community had confirmed their intention to implement the Afghanistan Compact and the National Development Strategy, with the collective aim of improving the life of Afghan men and women.  There had also been a call for the United Nations to play an increasingly important role in coordination.  UNAMA should be given the space and means to do that.

ZALMAY KHALIZAD (United States) said the Final Declaration of the three Paris Conference Co-Chairs -- the Secretary-General, the President of France and the President of Afghanistan -- had affirmed strong support for the expanded role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNAMA to lead the coordination of international efforts, as well as coordination between the Afghan Government and the international community.  The latter needed to present a common front against extremists and terrorists, in both words and deeds.

He said he was deeply troubled by increasing violence in Afghanistan, noting that May 2008 had recorded the highest number of security incidents since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.  Attacks were becoming increasingly complex and coordinated.  Greater security was vital, but the international community must support not only increased security efforts, but also a broad, coordinated and comprehensive approach that would include infrastructure improvement, foreign investment and the creation of new businesses.  Progress was critical in all those areas in order ultimately to stabilize Afghanistan.

He said the implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy would require a strengthened partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, with the Special Representative and UNAMA playing a crucial role.  The launch of the Strategy in Paris meant that some 80 international stakeholders were now engaged in an Afghan-led effort to implement a road map for activities in the areas of security, governance, rule of law, human rights and economic and social development.  The Government of Afghanistan had made important commitments in that regard, including in the fight against corruption, the extension of its reach throughout the country and in increasing its capacity to serve the people.  It must deliver on those commitments.

Regarding the donor community’s responsibilities, he said UNAMA would play an important role in ensuring that the Paris commitments were met.  The United States was steadfast in acknowledging and following up on its commitments and responsibilities in Afghanistan.  The international community should not risk Afghan disillusionment with international partners.  In Paris, they had committed not only to provide greater resources, but also to make them more transparent, accountable and effective.  It was important to ensure that the benefits reached all Afghan provinces equally.  UNAMA must be provided with greater resources.  The United States concurred with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that UNAMA expand its presence in Afghanistan and supported the Special Representative’s drive to improve effectiveness through structural changes and staff increases.

He said his country supported fully all efforts by the Special Representative to strengthen the Mission’s coordination role.  The United States also agreed fully that elections were a key priority and urged the Special Representative to work closely with the Afghan Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to relieve pressing voter-registration issues and the passage of a new election law.  Afghanistan’s neighbours had an important role to play, and resolution 1806 (2008) highlighted UNAMA’s role in supporting regional cooperation.  A stable Afghanistan could be a bridge to creating a single economic zone comprising Central, South and South-West Asia.  The country should not be used as a geopolitical battleground and its neighbours should not arm insurgents or allow them to operate from their territory.

DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) welcomed the successful outcome of the Paris Conference, which had enhanced the partnership between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community.  South Africa hoped the pledges made would be translated into actual commitments, thus making a difference for the Afghan people.  It also supported the central role of UNAMA in leading the coordination of international efforts and coordinating between the Afghan Government and international community.  South Africa also reaffirmed its support for the Afghanistan Compact and concurred with the Secretary-General’s assessment that the implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy would require strong support from the international community.

He expressed support for a common approach that would integrate security, governance, human rights and the development of Afghanistan.  The partnership continued to strengthen, but the threat to security posed by insurgent and terrorist activities was a major challenge.  South Africa was concerned about recent terrorist attacks and attempts to destabilize Afghanistan.  Regional cooperation was important as the means to improve the security situation in Afghanistan and the region.  South Africa supported the Special Representative’s fruitful visits to Iran and Pakistan.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) noted that the Afghan Government was still confronted with daunting challenges, such as the deteriorating security situation, and expressed shock over the bombing of the Indian Embassy, while condemning terrorist activities in all their forms.  China called on all religious groups and all factions to put the interest of Afghanistan above all.  ISAF had played an important role in increasing stability, but it was a matter of concern that some ISAF operations had caused civilian casualties.  More resources should be provided for strengthening Afghan military and police forces.

He said the key to achieving long-term stability lay in improving development, and called upon the international community to enhance its efforts to help Afghanistan implement its National Development Strategy.  Human resources were of key importance, and the Afghan Government should, therefore, invest in a team of capable civil servants.  The international community should train people in all fields and strengthen capacity-building in the country.

ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) said it had been made blatantly clear by the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy that the gravest problem facing Afghanistan was the lack of security.  Panama had always emphasized the role that countries in the region must play in conflict resolution and therefore welcomed efforts by Pakistan, India and others that had acknowledged that a stable Afghanistan was in the interest of the entire region.  More effective regional action should not be seen as a race for influence, but as an effort for the benefit of all.

He said that, while it was the responsibility of Afghan leaders to guide national reconstruction in a responsible manner, rampant corruption and impunity continued to undermine popular support.  There was a need for the international community to maintain its firm commitment to Afghanistan, and Panama welcomed improvements made by UNAMA and ISAF.  The problems that the international community faced must be addressed in a comprehensive and balanced manner, without sacrificing human rights.  UNAMA must have the necessary resources to enhance its capacity in coordinating and rebuilding a country as complicated as Afghanistan.

SAÚL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica) said the international community and the United Nations faced a highly complicated situation in Afghanistan.  The search for peace and stability, protection of human rights and social and economic development were still the main priorities there.  Insecurity engendered more violence, which prevented investment and the development of democratic institutions, which in turn led to human rights violations.  The serious problem of poppy cultivation and drug trafficking also required serious attention, as drugs provided half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP).  The gravity of the situation was better understood if one took into account that insurgent groups received most of their income from drug-related activities.  Almost 300,000 young people joined the economically active population each year, but, lacking the tools and skills to take charge of their own destinies, they were easy prey for extremists.

It was possible to end that vicious cycle through the adoption of an integral focus, whereby the fight against insurgency would be an essential factor, but which would also include the generation of jobs and economic opportunities.  The Afghanistan National Development Strategy provided a good road map to that end, as long as progress was made simultaneously on various fronts.  The Afghan people must also increasingly play a part in shaping their own destiny.  The upsurge in violence was clearly linked with preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections.  The elections must be accompanied by actions to improve people’s day-to-day lives.  UNAMA had a very important role to play and it must be strengthened.  To achieve all those goals in a sustainable manner, the pledges made in Paris must not be empty promises.  The $20 billion pledged must be disbursed in accordance with Afghanistan’s needs.  Those responsible, primarily the Afghan Government, must act effectively and transparently.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said that Afghanistan, having achieved notable progress in various sectors, had been regarded since the 2001 Bonn Agreement as an exemplary State rising from conflict.  Yet its accomplishments were being corroded by serious challenges to its security and stability.  As the activities of militants grew stronger, fears that the country was sliding back into conflict increased.  Recent bombings in Kabul reflected the urgency of addressing security challenges.

While military action remained critical in those efforts, he said, the situation in Afghanistan must be dealt with through a comprehensive strategy incorporating security, governance and rule of law, and socio-economic development efforts.  The Afghanistan National Development Strategy served as a road map for comprehensive action over the next five years.  An Afghan-led reconciliation process would also be needed if sustainable peace was to be achieved.  It would require all parties involved to renounce violence and respect justice, quality, freedom, tolerance and the principle of consultation.  The drug economy and its links to the insurgency would also have to be addressed.

He said other urgent needs included increasing the funding for humanitarian assistance and the mobilization of resources by the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies.  The protection of humanitarian actors and their work was also critical.  Regional cooperation would help strengthen Afghanistan’s engagement in regional dynamics and raise its capacity to address transnational issues, while bilateral partnerships would help address security challenges and humanitarian problems.  Under current circumstances, the role and contribution of UNAMA had become more crucial than ever.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) noted that the situation was far from hopeless, particularly in light of the Paris Conference, where some $20 billion had been pledged, including funds to support the upcoming elections.  However, remaining challenges included the security situation.  The Paris Declaration underscored the importance of the elections and called on UNAMA to provide support for a free and fair ballot.  Burkina Faso was encouraged by the Government’s plan to hold a dialogue with civil society and marginalized groups, and underscored the essential role that neighbouring countries should play in helping the Government implement its stabilization policy.

He welcomed the intention of the Afghan Government to focus on agriculture, support growth in the private sector and create an environment to attract investments.  Such a programme could succeed only if supported by the international community.  Burkina Faso called on the international community to respond to the Afghan people’s humanitarian needs.

VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his delegation was studying the Secretary-General’s recommendations on strengthening UNAMA and broadening its presence, and expected the Secretariat to present detailed financial implications and justifications to the Council.  The Russian Federation was concerned about the deterioration in the security situation, which was caused by the terrorist activities of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremists.  In that connection, there was a need to continue the fight against insurgents and to avoid weakening the Security Council sanctions regime against persons and organizations connected with Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

It was no secrete that the acts of terrorists were fuelled by the drug trade, he continued.  It was important to mobilize collective efforts to create new “anti-drug security belts”, which would allow the international community to “deoxidize” the drug dealers.  To deprive the drug business and terrorism of their financial base, it was also important to create “financial security belts”.  The Russian Federation had put forward that initiative last August at the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  It was also important to make full use of regional organizations, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  One of the most efficient anti-drug operations was the programme of the Collective Security Treaty Organization known as “Channel”.  Within its framework, some 28 tons of drugs and precursors had been confiscated in 2007 alone.  It enjoyed the support of the Russian Federation, China, United States and Iran, while Afghanistan had joined the operation last year.

He called for practical cooperation between the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in confronting terrorist activities and drug trafficking while addressing the growing losses among civilians.  This year, some 700 civilians had died during armed confrontations, including 255 as a result of military operations by ISAF, mainly due to faulty air strikes.  The Russian Federation emphasized the need to stop the damages to the civilian population.  Besides the humanitarian aspect, such incidents were used by the Taliban and other extremists seeking to destabilize the country.  The Russian Federation welcomed the recent visit by the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict to Afghanistan and shared her concern over the death of children and the use of under-age combatants.  It was important to ensure the rights of children jailed for links with armed groups.

It was obvious that the Government could not effectively handle its priorities without international support, he said.  In that context, the outcome of the Paris Conference was very important.  The Russian Federation had taken an active part in that forum and its contribution to the stabilization of Afghanistan included permission for the transit of non-military ISAF cargo through its territory and participation in reconstruction programmes.  The President of the Russian Federation had recently given instructions to expedite the delivery of some 15 metric tons of wheat as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.  Russia also intended to invest $4 million in 2008-2009 to the multilateral trust fund for Afghanistan.

JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom) expressed shock at the recent attacks in Afghanistan.  As terrorist attacks so tragically illustrated, insecurity affected the situation in Afghanistan and the wider region.  Responsibility for addressing the situation fell on the international community, the Government of Afghanistan and the countries of the region.  In particular, the Government should improve accountability and fight corruption.  The United Kingdom wished to see early progress in improving the lives of the Afghan people.

Strong leadership was essential and the United Kingdom fully endorsed the call to support a strengthened UNAMA, he said.  The international community had agreed in Paris to do all it could to support the Mission, and it must now back those words with actions.  The United Kingdom supported proposals to secure increased staff, structural changes and an expanded UNAMA presence.  Better delivery was needed across the board, and the Mission would only be able to deliver if it was properly resourced.

He said he supported the main priorities identified in the Secretary-General’s report, including those on security, corruption and regional cooperation.  The United Kingdom also welcomed the focus on elections.  It endorsed the report’s priority on reducing the production and trafficking of drugs.  It was essential to mainstream counter-narcotics initiatives throughout the Government’s activities with the support of the international community.  The United Kingdom would continue to play it part, in partnership with the Government, neighbouring countries and the international community.

NEVEN JURICA (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, extended condolences to the Governments of Afghanistan and India and to the families of victims of the attack on the Indian Embassy.  Croatia supported the Strategy outlined at the Paris Conference, as well as the observation that priorities identified there were covered by the UNAMA mandate under Council resolution 1806 (2008).  Human and financial resources should be mobilized to enable the Mission to fulfil its mandate.

Since the Afghan Compact, progress had been in a number of areas, he said.  However, the increasing number of insurgent attacks and the resulting civilian casualties were a matter of concern.  Threats posed to security by criminal activities, including drug trafficking, must be addressed, including by strengthened international cooperation.  Much more must also be done in the areas of rule of law, law enforcement, supporting the private sector and the consolidation of democracy.

The international community should provide the necessary resources to implement the National Development Strategy, he said.  That support should be guided and coordinated by UNAMA, which would need new resources, as well as a new organizational structure.  Recognizing the essential role that neighbouring countries played in supporting Afghanistan in its efforts to establish stability, Croatia welcomed the opening of six new provincial United Nations offices, as such outreach activities were of critical importance.

Council President LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), speaking in his national capacity, said his country shared concerns about the increased levels of insurgency and terrorist activity, as well as the widespread drug trafficking and food insecurity.  Viet Nam supported the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, and welcomed the outcome of the Paris Conference.  UNAMA would continue to play a key role in helping Afghanistan ensure security, reconstruction and the building of institutions and capacity.  Hopefully, the Secretary-General’s recommendations to enhance personnel and resources for UNAMA would contribute to helping the Afghan people achieve their broader goals of reducing poverty and solving social problems, thereby addressing the root causes of violence and conflict.

Despite its limited resources, Viet Nam had consistently supported the reconstruction process in Afghanistan, he said.  It had made a modest contribution at the Paris Conference and would work with the Afghan Government and international donors on short-term programmes to train Government officials in post-war reconstructions in such areas as poverty reduction, agricultural and rural development, education and community health care, and construction of infrastructure, particularly rural infrastructure.

JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said the efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community must be more focused, decisive and coherent.  This week’s horrific attack in Kabul was a reminder that the work in Afghanistan was far from done and that the coming year would be a critical one.  Canada shared the positive assessment of the Paris Conference and remained firmly committed to working closely with the Afghan Government and people, the United Nations, ISAF, NATO and the wider international community to establish a peaceful and stable future in Afghanistan.

Welcoming the successful launching of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, he said international resources must be aligned with the priorities identified and agreed to in that document.  Canada was doing its part to ensure that alignment.  In Paris, it had announced an additional $600 million for national development and reconstruction, bringing Canada’s overall pledged assistance to $1.9 billion covering the period from 2001 to 2011.  In addition, the Canadian Government had sharpened the focus of its efforts in order to be even more effective in Afghanistan, specifically in Kandahar Province.

He said his country had recently announced six priorities upon which its training, assistance and diplomacy would focus.  They included support for the Afghan national security forces; building national capacity; continued humanitarian assistance; support for Afghan-led reconciliation efforts; building key national institutions; and border security.  Canada shared the Secretary-General’s concern about the devastating impact of corruption, as well as his assessment that free, fair and secure elections would represent crucial steps in the consolidation of democracy for all Afghans.

ROBERT HILL (Australia), noting the enduring threat to security in Afghanistan and condemning the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, said the current consideration of UNAMA came at a time of renewed attention, while raising expectations about long-term international development support for Afghanistan.  The Paris Conference had delivered good outcomes that would contribute to a more comprehensive development approach and complement the political–military plan agreed to during April’s NATO summit.  It had clearly underlined the importance of Afghan leadership and ownership of efforts to address the country’s key challenges: security; lack of institutional capacity; corruption; and narcotics.  It had also critically reaffirmed a central role for UNAMA and the United Nations.

Nevertheless, the challenges were enormous, he said.  To meet them, civilian efforts were best focused on sectors that could help drive longer-term economic and social development, thereby helping to combat the insurgency.  Democratic processes should also be strengthened, particularly through credible elections.  While United Nations initiatives to build institutional capacity, improve public administration and local governance through training and reduce economic dependence on narcotics were commendable, sustained development activity would be impossible without basic security.  ISAF and the Afghan Government, thus, had an important responsibility to help establish conditions that supported United Nations and civilian development programmes.  For its part, Australia’s commitment would include $250 million over the next three years and a substantial increase in the number of Australian Federal Police deployed in Afghanistan.  Still, it was clear that collective efforts required significant resources and better integration.

ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) welcomed the outcome of the Paris Conference, especially its emphasis on the expanded role of the Special Representative and UNAMA in leading the coordination of international efforts and coordinating the policies and activities of the Afghan Government and the international community.  New Zealand supported all recommendations for strengthening the Mission as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report.  It welcomed the identification of such priorities as governance, protection of human rights, improvement of civil-military coordination, good offices to support the implementation of Afghan-led reconciliation programmes and outreach efforts by expanding UNAMA’s presence throughout the country.

Condemning the suicide bombing in the vicinity of the Interior Ministry and the Indian Embassy, she expressed concern about the evolving security situation in the country, agreeing with the Secretary-General that much greater resources should be devoted to security if UNAMA was to fulfil its mandate and achieve the Paris priorities.  New Zealand urged the international community to fulfil its commitments made at the Paris Conference.

NURIPAM SEN (India), expressing condolences for the victims of the Monday attack, said that not only had scores of innocent Afghan lives been lost, but his own delegation had also lost four colleagues.  While mourning their loss, India could best honour them by redoubling its commitment to working with Afghanistan to secure stability and development in that country and the whole region.  India welcomed the outcome of the Paris Conference and the proposed presidential statement in its support, and shared the sense of a need for the international community to provide not just the resources, but also the much needed political space for UNAMA to exercise its mandate.

As a regional partner and a country with strong historical and cultural links with Afghanistan, India saw merit in the approach adopted by the Special Representative, he said.  Streamlining collective efforts through UNAMA in support of the newly adopted Afghanistan National Development Strategy, and through the national budget, would underscore that international assistance was in line with priorities set by Afghanistan.  It was crucial that such coordination be effected in a coherent and focused manner.  The international community should avoid the temptation of trying to resolve all of Afghanistan’s problems at once, just as it should avoid the pitfalls of setting unrealistic benchmarks.  Without an Afghan-led process of discussing and finalizing the prioritization of tasks, collective efforts ran the risk of losing legitimacy.

On the security situation, he underscored the importance of collectively combating terrorism, extremism and crime.  There must be a much closer alignment between the consistent application of force wherever terrorist groups were present and the political objectives of the efforts in Afghanistan, in which UNAMA must play an important role.  Results could not be achieved without adequate attention to both security and development.  The common denominator was capacity-building.  Thus far, the efforts in that vital aspect had been episodic and inadequate.

The report identified some of the key areas in which such capacity-building efforts were vital, in particular strengthening the national police and public administration, he said.  To achieve those and other core objectives, the international community had collectively agreed to empower the United Nations, through UNAMA, to facilitate great coherence.  That could not be achieved unless the Mission was enabled to do its job through the provision of the material and human resources to execute its mandate.  As one of Afghanistan’s largest development partners, India remained willing to support UNAMA in improving donor cohesion, in support of Afghan-defined priorities.

YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that, since the adoption of resolution 1806 (2008) the strong commitment to Afghanistan had been confirmed at the Bucharest Meeting, the Paris Conference and at the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit.  A statement by G-8 Foreign Ministers presented the comprehensive strategy of their countries to helping Afghanistan achieve stability and reconstruction.  The G-8 leaders had renewed their commitment to supporting UNAMA and the Special Representative in their joint role as overall coordinator of the international community’s efforts.  Japan supported the observations in the Secretary-General’s report, given the importance of UNAMA discharging its duties more effectively.

He said the international community and the Afghan Government must make greater efforts to improve the security situation.  Japan continued its efforts to assist the maritime component of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean.  Security-sector reform should remain central, and Japan would expand its training programme for Afghan police officers.  At the Paris Conference, Japan had made an additional pledge of $550 million, bringing its total pledge to $2 billion.  Cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours was essential to create stable conditions for the country and the region as a whole.  The next important step towards a stable and democratic Afghanistan would be the successful holding of the 2009 and 2010 elections.  Japan was committed to supporting the work of the Government and the United Nations in that major step.

BAKI İLKIN ( Turkey) said the Paris Conference had marked the renewal of the international community’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan, while firmly underscoring the priority areas there.  There was no quick fix to the mostly structural problems stemming from the devastation of the past.  For the Afghan people to continue reaping the benefits of recent achievements there must be a stronger United Nations presence in the country and closer partnership between the Afghan Government, the United Nations, NATO and the rest of the international community under Afghan ownership.  It was also important to make the Afghan people see positive developments.  Implementation of the National Development Strategy would pave the way for attaining the goals set out by the Afghanistan Compact.  The international community must be ever more active, resourceful and forthcoming in support of the Government.  UNAMA had an important coordinating role to play.

Agreeing with the Secretary-General’s recommendations, he emphasized the need to enhance the Mission’s capabilities, pointing out that the recent upheaval of terrorist activity had again shown that, unless checked, subversive operations had the potential to derail all the achievements made in Afghanistan.  The national security forces should be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, but the complexity of that threat required a holistic and coordinated regional approach.  At the Paris Conference, Turkey had allocated another $100 million for Afghanistan’s economic development and reconstruction, to be disbursed over the next three years.  That doubled its total commitment to $200 million.  Turkey had recently earmarked $5 million for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said that Afghanistan, despite all the daunting challenges it faced, had achieved remarkable accomplishments.  Progress continued in such sectors as health services, investment in natural resources, capacity-building, infrastructures, education and gross domestic product.  However, the country still faced threats and challenges, particularly those posed by terrorist acts.  Iran unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism perpetrated in Afghanistan, including the most recent one against the Indian Embassy.  More serious consideration should be given to full national ownership by Afghans of their country’s security.  The independence and integrity of the Afghan national security forces should be strengthened.

The menace of production and trafficking of narcotics required more concerted efforts on the part of both Afghanistan and the international community, he said.  Measures to counter the illegal production and trafficking of narcotics should be integrated into the wider efforts related to security, governance, rule of law, economic and social development, and rural development.  Iran continued to fight drug trafficking originating from Afghanistan almost single-handedly.  Afghanistan’s stability and prosperity were vital to Iran’s own security and development.  Iran had, therefore, helped the Afghan people and Government to rebuild their country by contributing to the construction of several infrastructural projects.  It had also hosted millions of Afghan refugees and illegal immigrants for decades, and was working with the Afghan Government for their timely and dignified return.

FRANK MAJOOR (Netherlands), aligning himself with the European Union, said that, with support of the international community, the Afghan Government would have to take the lead in tackling some of the most urgent issues.  Governance at the provincial and local levels must be a high priority.  Substantial progress was needed to end the culture of impunity and corruption.  Given the key importance of reconciliation, the Afghan Government should reach out to those groups and communities that disagreed with the extremist ideology of the Taliban.  The Government should also make every effort to ensure that the upcoming elections would be a success.  Afghan leadership was also urgently needed in tackling narcotics.  The Netherlands had almost tripled its commitment at the London Conference in 2006 and over the period 2009-2011, it would contribute €775 million in combined military assistance and development cooperation.

He said good relations and strengthened cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan were essential in tackling insurgency in the border region.  The Netherlands urged the Government of Pakistan to use an integrated approach.  Besides military means, socio-economic development and reconciliation were needed for all those who did not support terrorism and extremism.  The Netherlands welcomed plans to open a UNAMA office in Uruzgan, which would be a catalyst for a more prominent civilian footprint of the international community in the area.  Agreeing with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that UNAMA be provided with the necessary means and staff, he said: “We should not let bureaucratic obstacles delay this.”

MONA JUUL ( Norway) said the Paris Conference had demonstrated that the international community was united in its long-term commitment to the Afghan people.  The event had also made clear that more must be done to ensure that the benefits of development reached all Afghans.  The Government and the international community must increase their joint efforts, based on national priorities and in close coordination with UNAMA.  Norway was committed to doing its part.

The 6 July meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board in Kabul had outlined the priority areas in the years to come, based on the National Development Strategy, she said, adding that her country fully supported those priorities.  The Government of Afghanistan, international donors and the United Nations should increase their efforts to meet urgent humanitarian needs caused by the combined forces of conflict, drought and soaring food and energy prices.  The Paris Conference had also reaffirmed support for a strengthened UNAMA to lead and coordinate international efforts.  Those expressions of support should be accompanied by concrete action.

In that connection, there was a need to use resources in a more effective manner, guided by UNAMA and the Special Representative, she said.  It was also important to ensure better coordination within the United Nations system and to strengthen operative programmes in Afghanistan.  It was necessary to ensure that the Mission was provided with the necessary resources to implement its mandate.  Norway endorsed the recommendation to expand UNAMA’s presence in the field and supported the call for increased resources towards that end.  In addition, the upcoming elections would be critical in stabilizing the fragile Afghan democracy.  Norway was determined to support all aspects of the electoral process.  Ensuring the participation of women was particularly important.  Norway had pledged a total of $3 million in 2008 to support voter registration.

Expressing her country’s commitment to the development of Afghanistan, she also said that the Government must demonstrate good governance and adequate service delivery to the people.  Norway expected the Government to dismantle the system of corruption, and welcomed in that regard the anti-corruption law recently passed by the Parliament.  Norway also expected the Government to commit itself fully to the protection and promotion of human rights.

Concluding Remarks

Mr. EIDE said in closing that he was struck to see how much in agreement the Council was with regard to the priorities in Afghanistan and how united it was in support for the Afghan Government and its National Development Strategy.  The support provided for UNAMA was more than encouraging.  Much depended on the willingness of the countries concerned to be coordinated, and today there was a greater readiness in that regard.  The Mission would do its best.  Overall, it was important to remember that “we do this under the leadership of the Afghan Government, at the service of the Afghan people”.

Mr. HOLMES said it was understandable that most delegations had focused on the major political and security challenges in Afghanistan, but he was grateful to those who had spoken about the humanitarian challenges, and appreciated that support.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.