27 March 2009


27 March 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Special Conference on Afghanistan convened under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in Moscow today, 27 March:

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today to take part in this very important meeting on Afghanistan under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on combating terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and organized crime.

Today’s meeting demonstrates the increased international attention to Afghanistan, to its immediate and long-term future, for its stability and development, and demonstrates the commitment of the international community to assist the Government and people of Afghanistan.

I want to thank President [Dmitry] Medvedev, Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov and our Russian hosts for holding this meeting which is designed to increase cooperation between members of SCO and the Government of Afghanistan on these critical issues.

Delegates here today include representatives from Russia, the Central Asian countries, Iran, Pakistan, China, India and many regional organizations who have given the peacemaking and anti-terrorism missions good support.  The contributions of Afghanistan’s neighbours and other SCO members are indispensable to the stabilization of the country and the international effort in Afghanistan.

I want to assure that the United Nations is committed to help you find solutions.  Through its comprehensive mandate, UNAMA [the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] is involved in assisting Afghanistan in political, developmental and humanitarian areas, as well as coordinating with the international military presence.  The UN is helping establish an environment conducive to ensuring the credibility of the upcoming elections, which of course is vital for Afghanistan’s stability.

We all know that terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and organized crime thrive in an atmosphere of lawlessness and corruption and provide serious impediments to progress for the Afghan people.  They bring violence into people’s daily lives.  They undermine justice and human rights.  They are a grave threat to public health, to governance and a democratic future.  These interconnected ills are sapping public confidence in the institutions that so many people have worked so hard to reinforce.  They are obstacles to development.

Too many investors, domestic and foreign alike, are being scared away.  Too many farmers who could be growing crops are instead feeding the opium trade, lured by the greater profits to be made and the simple need to provide for their families.  Too many people have been reduced to living in fear and despair.

But it is not only the Afghan people who shoulder these burdens.  The problems of terrorism and criminality transcend borders.  The criminal and malignant forces behind these evils make use of our modern communication technologies.  They draw sustenance from their ability to move to where enforcement is weakest.  In doing so, they bring harm to us all.

We all have an interest in countering these threats with sustained and robust action.   Afghanistan cannot face these challenges alone.  But, these problems harm not only the Afghan people.  They pose a major danger to the region and the world at large.  And all of us must be involved in helping to solve them.  Most of the drugs produced in Afghanistan are smuggled to foreign markets.  Along with the flow of drugs out of Afghanistan, weapons and chemicals flow in, and foreign banks launder the proceeds of these crimes.

We therefore have a shared responsibility to deal with this problem.  We must reduce demand at home, reduce supply in Afghanistan and tighten security along trafficking routes.  Cooperation must be our watchword as we respond.  I see many positive signs that a spirit of collaboration and common purpose is already taking hold.

Counter-narcotics activities are growing in number and scope.  A regional intelligence-sharing centre for Central Asia has been established in Almaty.  Efforts are under way to prevent the diversion of chemicals from legitimate trade to the manufacture of illegal drugs.  And earlier this month, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan undertook their first joint counter-narcotics operation, an important political and operational step towards building confidence and good relations.

We project a further decrease in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan this year, as we have already seen in 2008, and an increase in the number of poppy-free provinces.  We must enable farmers to move away from poppy cultivation permanently.  We must reward local officials who are determined to reduce opium production.  To do this, Afghanistan needs peace and security.

The security situation in the country is at a delicate juncture.  Although conditions have deteriorated in recent months, we are seeing indications of new thinking and new commitment from Afghanistan’s international partners.  These are reasons for cautious optimism.  Four days from now, at the International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague, we have an opportunity to set a clear and unified course for supporting Afghanistan’s efforts towards peace and development.  A judicious deployment of additional international troops, with the primary goal of improving security for the Afghan people, will help to secure the electoral environment.

More troops will also mean more trainers for the national security forces.  Strengthening those forces is a top priority.  So is reform of the police, the Interior Ministry, and other Afghan security institutions and portfolios.  This will help us achieve our common goal of stability in Afghanistan and in the wider region.

It is important that our interventions to combat the destructive forces of crime, drugs and terrorism are planned and implemented with the Afghan people, under Afghan Government leadership.  It is also important that they are implemented coherently at the national, regional and international levels.  I therefore welcome the presence today of the Afghan Foreign Minister, Mr. [Rangin Dâdfar] Spantâ, and I also welcome the efforts by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in taking a regional approach to counter-terrorism.

Your support for the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was adopted by consensus by all 192 Member States in 2006 and reaffirmed in 2008, is important.   This Strategy includes legal and operational measures that States can take to prevent and combat terrorism.  It asserts the fundamental importance of ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law in the fight against terrorism.  And it calls for addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force is holding a regional meeting on conflict prevention and resolution soon in Central Asia.  I encourage your participation.

This Conference is an important contribution to the fight against the destructive forces of terrorism, crime and drugs.  I look forward to working with you to ensure strong follow-up to the decisions taken here.  Thank you very much, and I count on your leadership and commitment.

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