|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6031st Meeting (AM)
AFGHANISTAN FACES DIFFICULT SECURITY SITUATION, BUT NOT SECURITY CRISIS;
POINTS OF PROGRESS INVITE ‘CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Italy’s Representative Briefs on 21-28 November Mission to Country
Afghanistan was at a critical juncture and faced a difficult security situation, but not a security crisis, and several important points of progress invited a sense of cautious optimism for the future, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing on the Council’s mission to Afghanistan from 21 to 28 November, Mr. Terzi said that, despite the illusion it created of being omnipresent, the insurgency was concentrated in specific regions and did not offer any alternative model of Government to the current one.
Still, Afghanistan faced daunting and multifaceted challenges, he said. To address those, it was important to avoid any inclination to frustration -- or worse, inconclusive discussions between Afghanistan and its friends within the international community. Joint efforts should instead be redoubled, in a spirit of partnership. Further, Afghan interlocutors urged United Nations Member States to empower the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to tap its full potential, by providing it with the financial and human resources to meet its enhanced mandate.
While in country, the mission had met with, among others, Afghan President Hamid Karzi and a number of members of the Government; officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Independent Human Rights Commission, and the Electoral Commission; members of the diplomatic community; civil society organizations; national and international non-governmental organizations; and senior staff of UNAMA.
Mr. Terzi described a number of areas in which progress had been made, including the improvement of relations with Pakistan; recent cabinet appointments which seem to have brought increased energy in areas such as the fight against corruption; a 19 per cent reduction in opium cultivation, according to the United United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); the commitment to improve subnational governance, including with the launch of the Afghanistan Social Outreach Programme; and the registration of nearly 2 million Afghans in the first phase of the voter registration project. He stressed that those gains must be built upon, especially in the year to come.
Focusing on the security sector, he stressed that its “Afghanization” as well as the operational improvement of the Afghan Security Forces, were crucial components of the ongoing stabilization process. Due to the increased capacity of the Afghan National Army, ISAF-only operations were now the exception. An increase in the number of mentors and trainers to further police sector reform had been called for, particularly at the district level, with an enhanced contribution particularly expected from the European Union police mission (EUPOL). The new Minister of the Interior had also acknowledged that the Government needed to change the public perception of the police and improve accountability.
He said the conflict’s impact on civilians was of particular concern and had been discussed in-depth during the visit. Currently, the vast majority of civilian casualties were caused by the insurgents, who deliberately targeted them. The close attention paid by ISAF in avoiding civilian casualties, and by taking steps to reduce casualties and provide redress when they occurred, was reassuring.
Underlining the necessity of free, fair and inclusive elections in 2009 to renew the legitimacy of the Afghan authorities and win back the people’s full confidence, he said the Independent Election Commission appeared fully committed to achieving that goal. President Karzai had also stressed the importance of elections being held throughout the country.
The Council’s mission had noted an increasing consensus among Afghan interlocutors that any dialogue with anti-Government elements should be conducted from a position of strength on the part of the Afghan authorities, he said. Further, the renunciation of violence and respect for the Constitution should constitute “red lines” in any negotiation and would be a complement to the fight against terrorism, not an alternative. While many called for discussions to end the violence, none of the interlocutors wanted to see the Taliban return to power.
He said the mission had welcomed the significant improvement in Afghanistan’s relationships with its neighbours, as well as the cooperation on specific issues, such as improved border control concerning refugees and counter-narcotics. It was hoped that the current regional developments would not affect these positive developments. In fact, the Afghan interlocutors had welcomed planned international initiatives to foster regional cooperation.
On development and humanitarian assistance, the mission had been informed of perceived inefficiencies in the delivery of aid, he said. More transparency and better coordination, in accordance with the Paris Declaration, was expected of the international community. While measures were being adopted to ensure food security during the winter season, there was concern that funding for food aid would only last through March. Donors were encouraged to channel contributions through the Government or the World Food Programme (WFP).
In light of recent trends towards intimidation of human rights defenders and recent reversals in impunity and freedom of expression, he said the mission had encouraged Afghan authorities to reinvigorate their efforts to uphold human rights, particularly of women and children.
When the Council convened to hear Mr. Terzi’s briefing, it had before it a letter dated 14 November 2008 from the President of the Security Council to the Secretary-General (document S/2008/708), by which he transmitted the terms of reference for the Council’s Afghanistan mission.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 10:25 a.m.
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