|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6394th Meeting (AM)
Top United Nations Official in Afghanistan, Briefing Security Council, Hails
Polls, Other Key Events as ‘Stepping Stones’ towards Sovereign Authority
Need to Address Election Complaints Stressed,
As Delegates Welcome Bid to Reconcile with Insurgents Renouncing Terrorism
A number of key events in Afghanistan, including the Consultative Peace Jirga, the 20 July international Kabul Conference and the holding of parliamentary elections on 18 September, were stepping stones towards the full exercise of that country’s sovereign authority, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan told the Security Council today.
Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the Kabul Conference had reinforced the Government’s commitment to assume greater control of its own future. The Conference had added a series of joint commitments to the “Kabul Process”, including the development of a framework, timelines and benchmarks for national priority programmes, progress towards Afghans taking over the lead on security from international forces, improvements in governance and tackling corruption.
In a country still in conflict, and amid deteriorating security, the fact that elections had taken place at all was an accomplishment in itself, he said, adding that the period leading up to the elections had been characterized by a lively campaign by some 2,500 candidates, including nearly 400 women. Despite security incidents in which 32 civilians had been killed, an estimated 4.3 million people had cast their ballots, including 1.6 million women. Hopefully, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission would be able to operate in a fully independent manner, free of interference, in dealing with the 3,613 complaints received so far.
Once the final election results were announced on 30 October, all partners would hopefully return their attention to the Kabul Process and, in parallel, refocus on a political solution, he said, emphasizing that no military solution was possible. The solution could only be a political and Afghan one, supplemented by a broader regional solution. A consolidated peace and reintegration programme was required, as was a reconciliation process based on mutual respect. President Hamid Karzai’s recent announcement of appointments to the new High Peace Council was only a beginning, he said.
Zalmai Rassoul, Afghanistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the elections represented a major victory for democracy, with millions of Afghans from all segments of society, including an unprecedented number of young candidates and voters, having braved intimidation and threats to cast their votes. Afghanistan would pursue a comprehensive strategy to implement the outcome of the London and Kabul Conferences, while working towards gradual leadership in all affairs of State, he pledged. That included security, development and governance, with the aim of gradually assuming responsibility and self-reliance in ensuring social and economic opportunities for all Afghans, and in enforcing the rule of law throughout the country. The Government was also fully committed to ridding Afghan society of corruption, “effectively and resolutely”, he said.
Afghanistan would meet the 2011 deadline for taking the lead in combat operations as well as the 2014 target date for independently meeting security obligations, he said. Warning that there would be no peace unless military efforts were complemented by “a robust and comprehensive outreach initiative”, he said President Karzai had launched a “reintegration and reconciliation initiative” to ensure an honourable place in society for members of the armed opposition who were willing to surrender their arms, renounce violence, accept the Constitution, return to normal life and embrace international human rights. The High Peace Council had recently been established to oversee that initiative, and would meet regularly, he added.
The Foreign Minister went on to state that addressing terrorism, extremism and the production of narcotic drugs would not be possible without meaningful cooperation at the regional level. The Government remained concerned about the continuing presence in the region of safe havens for terrorists, and affirmed its full commitment to a sincere and effective dialogue with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries.
Other speakers at today’s meeting hailed the convening of the 20 July Kabul Conference as a milestone along Afghanistan’s path towards assuming responsibility for its own security and development. The Conference had launched an ambitious process with clear benchmarks and milestones, to which the international community should align its assistance. National ownership was paramount, they stressed.
They also welcomed the 18 September Afghan-led legislative elections, held despite a deteriorating security situation and amid insurgent violence aimed at disrupting the process. The Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission must now deal with complaints received in a timely and transparent manner so that the election results could be announced on 30 October. However, speakers also emphasized the need for long-term election reform.
Peace, stability and development would not be possible without a reconciliation and reintegration process, several delegates said, welcoming the creation of the High Peace Council as an important step. The process must be inclusive, transparent and truly national, with broad representation of religious, ethnic and civil society groups, including women. Any viable reconciliation process must be Afghan led and reach out to those who renounced terrorism, cut their ties with Al-Qaida and declared their respect for the Constitution. Regional cooperation was vital to the long-term peace, stability and recovery of Afghanistan.
The representative of the United States said her country’s goal in Afghanistan remained the disruption and dismantling of Al-Qaida and the prevention of its return. The United States was working with Afghan security forces so that Afghans could assume greater responsibility for security, and would ensure that the transition was conditions-based and irreversible as it helped Afghanistan meet its goal of taking the lead on security by 2014.
Noting an increase in incursions from Afghanistan into other countries, such as Tajikistan, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the Afghan security forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) must bolster their actions against instability in northern Afghanistan. He called for a comprehensive strategy for security, reconstruction and reintegration that would also address the issue of drug-trafficking, which, with its ties to terrorism, had become a threat to international peace and security. It was inexplicable, he added, that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had not responded to proposals by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation for joint counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan.
Reiterating the importance of regional unity in dealing with Afghanistan’s challenges, Pakistan’s representative said his country was engaged in a number of important regional initiatives aimed at promoting economic and commercial cooperation and rooting out narcotics-trafficking, terrorism and extremism. Pakistan was deeply committed to strengthening its ties with Afghanistan, which were already marked by close cooperation in all fields, continuous dialogue and a regular exchange of visits at all levels. Calling for the early and voluntary return of the nearly 3 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan, he stressed the need to strengthen reintegration programmes for refugees within Afghanistan’s development strategy.
Other speakers today were representatives of Japan, United Kingdom, France, Uganda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, Brazil, Austria, China, Mexico, Lebanon, Gabon, Turkey, Canada, Norway, Germany, New Zealand, India, Italy and Australia.
Also delivering a statement was the Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
Meeting to consider the situation in Afghanistan, Security Council members had before them the report of the Secretary-General entitled The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/64/922-S/2010/463), which provides an update of United Nations activities, including those of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and reviews the situation since the Secretary-General’s 16 June report (document A/64/872-S/2010/318).
The report summarizes key political and security developments, including the Kabul Conference of 20 July, preparations for national legislative elections and the Security Council visit to Afghanistan from 21 to 25 June. The Kabul Conference, building on the January conference in London, initiated the Kabul Process. Co-chaired by the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations, it represented a milestone in the country’s transition towards the full exercise of its sovereign authority.
Through the Kabul Process, the Afghan people will gradually assume full responsibility for their own security and governance, as well as economic and social development, the report says. In preparation for the Conference, the Government drafted 23 national priority strategies and programmes, including the national security policy and the Afghan peace and reintegration programme. It also designed a strategy for the transfer of lead responsibility for security on a province-by-province basis.
According to the report, the preparations for the 18 September parliamentary elections were also a major political focus. The Independent Electoral Commission established a wide-ranging set of fraud-mitigation measures, and the Electoral Complaints Commission addressed the need to establish provincial offices to adjudicate complaints, while the Commission itself would only hear appeals. Widespread intimidation of candidates, particularly women, was reported. As of 30 August, four candidates had been killed, and on 29 August, five agents campaigning for a female candidate were found dead in Herat.
The report notes that the security situation continued to deteriorate in many parts of the country, with a 69 per cent increase in the overall number of security incidents compared to the same period in 2009. The number of incidents in which improvised explosive devices were used rose by 82 per cent. Militant elements significantly intensified their assassination campaign, primarily targeting Government officials, civilians and members of the Afghan national security forces, as well as non-governmental humanitarian workers. In January, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initiated the deployment of 34,000 additional troops, focusing large military operations on Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Regarding security-sector reform, the report states that community-based defence initiatives are intended to stem the spread of the insurgency and mitigate the challenges associated with the recruitment and retention of the Afghan national security forces. UNAMA has provided advice to the Government and ISAF on developing an overarching framework linking all those initiatives to reintegration efforts. The Mission received assurances from both ISAF and the Government that the recruitment of Afghan local police units will reflect the country’s ethnic and tribal composition. UNAMA also continues to monitor the evolution of the joint Government-ISAF transition plan, including the Afghan-NATO Inteqal Board.
On 29 June, President Hamid Karzai launched the peace, reconciliation and reintegration programme, which, among other things, established a financial oversight committee to support a peace and reintegration trust fund. The High Peace Council was established on 4 September to guide the Government’s efforts to build on the outcomes of the Consultative Peace Jirga. The Security Council’s Al‑Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee concluded the review of its Consolidated List of individuals and entities subject to sanctions on 30 July. Although the de-listing process was welcomed in Afghanistan, a representative of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission warned that it might lead to impunity.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative continued to support regional initiatives and cooperation programmes through his good offices, in particular through the Kabul Silk Road initiative, the report states. President Karzai attended the fourth trilateral summit meeting between Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan, in Tehran on 5 August. Other regional cooperation meetings have dealt with criminal, counter-narcotics and border-management matters. Encouraged to note Afghanistan’s continuing dialogue with neighbouring countries on regional cooperation in several areas, the Secretary-General in turn encourages the Government to continue to strengthen its coordination with its regional partners, with the support of UNAMA.
UNAMA remains committed to supporting Government initiatives aimed at ensuring greater aid coherence and effectiveness, as well as the alignment of assistance behind Government priorities, the report says. The Mission will thus facilitate a coherent Afghan-led security, governance and development agenda. It continues to use its close cooperation with partners to enhance the functioning of aid clusters, standing committees and other relevant coordination mechanisms, and the monitoring and evaluation of the decisions of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, which is intended to provide the required robust aid framework. UNAMA also continues to convene weekly donor coordination meetings to encourage donors to take forward the “Operational guide: criteria for effective off-budget development finance”.
The report says that, since the Kabul Process can only succeed by including all segments of Afghan society, UNAMA continues to advocate for and support the participation of civil society, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the private sector in the implementation of the commitments made at the Kabul Conference. In addition, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative is leading an effort by the United Nations country team to put in place, by December 2010, an integrated strategic framework that will define priority areas for the Organization’s support of Afghanistan’s transition.
Observing that much of the progress achieved is fragile and overshadowed by the deteriorating security situation, the Secretary-General emphasizes the particular importance of the Government’s efforts to implement the peace and reintegration programme. The challenge is to ensure sustainable momentum while maintaining the national consensus achieved at the Consultative Peace Jirga. However, he remains concerned by the increasing number of civilian casualties, in particular the women and children increasingly being killed and injured in their own homes and communities. The human impact of the conflict highlights the need, more urgent than ever, to protect Afghan civilians effectively and to minimize the impact of the conflict on basic human rights. “All concerned must do more to protect civilians and comply with their legal obligations under international law,” he writes.
STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, said the recent period had been crucial for the country, and a number of key events represented the foundations for its transition towards the full exercise of its sovereign authority.
The 20 July Kabul Conference had reinforced the Government’s commitment to assume greater control of its own future, he said. It had been a key moment in the Kabul Process, which had begun with President Karzai’s second inaugural speech setting a broad governing agenda. The Conference had added a series of joint commitments, including the development of a framework, timelines and benchmarks for national priority programmes, progress towards Afghanistan taking the lead on security and improvement in governance and tackling corruption.
He said that the Government had indicated its intention to continue its pursuit of agreed priorities through the cluster approach. It had begun rolling out 21 national priority programmes, and had also made an immediate start on public finance management reforms. It had also indicated that it would start tackling the anti-corruption agenda agreed at the Conference, including the creation of a joint monitoring and evaluation committee, by the end of September.
Turning to the 18 September legislative elections, he said they marked an important step towards strengthening democratic institutions, with the campaign period, from 23 June to 15 September, characterized by lively campaigning. More than 2,500 candidates, including nearly 400 women, had contested 249 seats, with only one woman and two men withdrawing. The fact that elections had taken place at all, in a country still in conflict and amid deteriorating security, was an accomplishment in itself, he said.
Security incidents had occurred throughout the country, but with relatively low casualty figures, he continued. UNAMA had recorded 32 civilian deaths and 95 injuries associated with polling day. Despite the violence, an estimated 4.3 million people had cast their ballots, around 1.6 million of which were thought to have been cast at female polling stations, although one would have to see how many actual voters had been part of that, he remarked. Turnout, however, had been uneven throughout the country.
He said a strengthened Independent Electoral Commission had demonstrated significant improvement in the management of the polling process compared to the 2009 presidential elections, having put in place fraud-mitigation measures and increased security arrangements. About 379,000 national party agents and observers had witnessed the voting process, and while early indications did not point to massive or systemic fraud, it was possible that irregularities had been widespread, he said, cautioning that it was still too early to pronounce success.
The Electoral Complaints Commission had received 3,613 complaints so far, he said, expressing hope that the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission would have the stamina and courage to go through them all. Final results were not expected before 30 October, and it was imperative that the two commissions were able to operate in a fully independent manner, free of interference. “We should allow the process the requisite time before making premature judgements,” he said, emphasizing the need to initiate discussions on long-term electoral reform.
He recalled that the year had begun with a series of stepping stones: the London Conference, the Consultative Peace Jirga, the Kabul Conference and the legislative elections. Once the final election results were announced on 30 October, all partners would hopefully return their focus to the Kabul Process and, in parallel, refocus their attention on a political solution. The Kabul Process could not be approached as a “technocratic” exercise, and required all partners to engage politically behind the agenda.
The United Nations was committed to a “one-UN” approach, he said, stressing that new agendas and competing initiatives should be avoided. The international community must keep its part of the bargain to align resources behind Government priorities, and to improve the openness of funding. It was also important to strive for results-oriented initiatives, he said, adding that he intended to work with the Government to ensure that the Joint Coordination Monitoring Board identified key milestones in the Kabul Process to be used for measuring progress.
He said that continued progress in those key areas would require reinforced efforts towards a consolidated peace and reintegration programme, as well as a complementary structured political process that would lead to reconciliation based on mutual respect. No military solution was possible, he emphasized, adding that the solution could only be a political and Afghan one, supplemented by a broader regional solution. The Government had already signalled steps towards a coordinated political strategy, of which President Karzai’s recent announcement of appointments to the High Peace Council was only a beginning. In both the international and regional contexts, UNAMA stood ready to increase its support for the Government’s efforts, he said, stressing that the coming months would be crucial.
ZALMAI RASSOUL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, noted that he was addressing the Council during a critical period, just over three months after the Kabul Conference and less than two weeks since the parliamentary elections. The polls represented a major victory for democracy, with millions of Afghans from all segments of society, including an unprecedented number of young candidates and voters, having braved intimidation and threats to cast their votes. He thanked the United Nations and other partners for having provided financial and technical support.
He pledged that his country would pursue a comprehensive strategy to implement the outcome of the London and Kabul Conferences, while working towards gradual leadership in all affairs of State, including security, development and governance, with the objective of gradually assuming responsibility and self-reliance in ensuring social and economic opportunities for all Afghans, and for enforcing the rule of law through the country. In the area of security, he said that by building the size and operational capability of the national security forces, Afghanistan would meet the 2011 deadline for taking the lead in combat operations and the 2014 target date for independently meeting security obligations. Sustained international support would be needed to ensure those goals, he added.
On efforts to improve the lives of Afghans and achieve a sustainable economy, he said that in order to generate employment, a special focus was being placed on agricultural development, rural rehabilitation, the development of human resources, and economic and infrastructure development. He welcomed international assistance, while maintaining that Afghans must have a greater role in development. For that reason, the Government welcomed the decision by the international community to channel 50 per cent of donor assistance through the national budget by January 2012. At the same time, he said, the Government was fully committed to ridding Afghan society of corruption, “effectively and resolutely”.
Warning that there would be no peace unless military efforts were complemented by “a robust and comprehensive outreach initiative”, he said that was why President Karzai had launched a “reintegration and reconciliation initiative” to ensure an honourable place in society for members of the armed opposition who were willing to surrender their arms, renounce violence, accept the Constitution, return to normal life and embrace international human rights. The High Peace Council had recently been established to oversee that initiative, and would meet regularly. In that context, he welcomed the review and updating of the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee’s Consolidated List, saying he looked forward to further action in that vein.
Addressing terrorism, extremism and the production of narcotic drugs would not be possible without meaningful cooperation at the regional level, he said. The Government remained concerned about the continuing presence in the region of safe havens for terrorists, and affirmed its full commitment to a sincere and effective dialogue with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. On positive regional developments, he described a trade agreement with Pakistan, the signing of a gas-pipeline project involving the two countries as well as Turkmenistan and India, and other regional energy initiatives.
He concluded by stating that his country had come a long way in the nine and a half years since the beginning of its partnership with the international community to defeat terrorism and achieve prosperity and stability, through the sacrifices of the Afghan people and the troops of partner countries. Afghanistan expected its international partners to maintain their fortitude and commitment as it pursued, as a priority, its transition to greater Afghan responsibility and ownership over the coming years.
TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan) said the polling process had proceeded mostly as planned, although some stations had been inaccessible due to the security situation. While it was regrettable that some people had fallen victim to anti-Government violence, UNAMA had played a major role in providing support, to the Independent Electoral Commission in particular, which had been able to publish the list of polling centres one month before the elections. Investigations into complaints must now proceed in a transparent manner, he stressed, welcoming the high turnout of women and young people, despite security risks.
The Kabul Conference had resulted in a Government priority programme with which the international community had committed to align its assistance, he said, emphasizing that it was essential that the Government strengthen its financial management capability and reduce corruption. Underlining the importance of coordinating and monitoring aid, he said his country’s assistance to Afghanistan focused on security, reintegration and development in order to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Stability and reconstruction could not be achieved without the cooperation of neighbouring countries, he cautioned, expressing hope that stability could also be realized through close cooperation with regional organizations.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the elections had allowed the Afghan people to turn a new page on their country’s path to democracy. However, the military and political situation remained tense amid deteriorating security. There had also been an increase in incursions from Afghanistan into other countries, such as Tajikistan. The country’s security forces and ISAF must therefore bolster their actions against instability in northern Afghanistan, he said, adding that ISAF’s withdrawal would only be possible after multilateral training of the Afghan national forces.
Calling for a comprehensive strategy for security, reconstruction and reintegration that would also address the issue of drug trafficking, he said that, with its ties to terrorism, drug trafficking had become a threat to international peace and security. While it was important to provide alternative crops so as to ensure the livelihoods of poppy growers, it was immoral to say that without drug-producing crops they would loose their livelihoods.
He went on to emphasize that anti-drug measures must be comprehensive, and that drug lords should be listed on the Council’s sanctions list. It was inexplicable that NATO had not responded to proposals by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation for joint counter-narcotics operations. To achieve peace and security in Afghanistan, it was necessary to reintegrate those insurgents who had renounced violence, broken their ties to Al-Qaida and refrained from committing crimes, he said, announcing that his country had forgiven Afghan debt amounting to $12 billion.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) acknowledged the progress accomplished by the Government of Afghanistan and affirmed his country’s commitment to assisting further progress. He paid tribute, in particular, to those who had participated in the elections, saying it was up to the Afghan authorities to address complaints and root out any irregularities. The Peace Jirga and the High Peace Council represented valuable efforts, and the international community should now focus on accomplishing the objectives of the Kabul Process.
Expressing deep concern over rising violence and underlining the essential importance of building up the capacities of the Afghan security forces, he pledged ISAF’s continuing work in that area. He also welcomed Afghanistan’s continuing dialogue with Pakistan and other neighbours, including Kabul’s trade agreement with Islamabad. In the coming period, the United Kingdom looked forward to greater aid coherence, in line with the Government’s own priorities, and UNAMA’s continuing support for the Kabul Process and political progress.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the wide participation in the elections, while underscoring that complaints must be dealt with and deadlines maintained. He also welcomed the holding of the Kabul Conference, which had made it possible to reaffirm international support for the reconciliation programme. That must remain constant as long as those participating renounced violence and respected human rights. In that light, it was important to re-examine the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee listing process.
Improving governance and fighting corruption was crucial, he emphasized, adding that the United Nations must remain in Afghanistan, because it represented legitimacy and multilateralism. UNAMA was to be commended for the support it had provided for the elections, and the United Nations should also play a decisive role in national and regional reconciliation and dialogue, in addition to ensuring the coherence of the international assistance programme. He pledged France’s continuing commitment to assisting Afghanistan, as long as necessary, in order to ensure that peace and stability reigned in the country, and that it did not again become a safe haven for terrorism.
SUSAN RICE (United States) said her country’s goal in Afghanistan had been, and remained, to disrupt and dismantle Al-Qaida and prevent its return. The United States was working with the Afghan security forces so that Afghans could assume greater responsibility for security. The United States would ensure that the transition was conditions-based and irreversible, while helping Afghanistan meet its goal of taking the lead on security by 2014. She said her country would continue to help with capacity-building, high-impact economic assistance and support for service delivery, adapted to local realities. That would enhance the visibility and accountability of institutions that could most improve Afghan lives.
The Kabul Conference had launched an ambitious process with clear benchmarks and milestones, she said, welcoming UNAMA’s commitment to align aid behind the Government’s priorities. The United States looked forward to seeing the United Nations Integrated Strategic Framework. It also welcomed the de-listing of some individuals under the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, emphasizing that those who renounced violence, cut their ties to Al-Qaida and accepted the Afghan Constitution deserved to be de-listed. The recent improvements in listing and de-listing procedures would make the Committee a more efficient and credible tool for fighting terrorism, she said.
Turning to the 18 September parliamentary elections, she said they had been the first to have been run entirely by Afghan institutions. The preparations by the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission had resulted in a historic step. Applauding the courage and patriotism of those who had voted, she said the elections would not have been possible without the Afghan security forces. While condemning Taliban attacks on civilians and security forces, she noted, however, that one must not lose sight of the need for long-term electoral reform. The elections had been an important step towards a stronger and more stable Afghanistan.
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) noted with concern that the security situation in some parts of Afghanistan had deteriorated in spite of efforts by the international community, warning that, if not checked, insecurity would overshadow the progress so far achieved. Sustained momentum was needed in the implementation of the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts. The Kabul Conference had proved that the international community was interested in helping Afghans overcome the challenges of national development, he said, welcoming the key commitments made by the Government and the international community.
Emphasizing the importance of aligning development assistance behind a national priority programme, he said the timely implementation of such a programme was essential to maintaining the momentum. He welcomed the fact that, despite attacks, there had been a significant increase in the number of women participating in the elections. He encouraged Afghanistan’s continued cooperation with neighbouring countries in order to improve joint efforts in responding to security concerns and bolster development in the region, noting that the current challenges also required sustained long-term international support.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) commended the work of the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission in organizing the elections despite the security and logistical challenges. The Afghan security forces had also played an important role, but it was sad to learn that at least 30 people had died in attacks on polling stations. While the participation of 397 women candidates was welcome, intimidation and violence against some of them and their campaign workers was to be condemned.
The Kabul Conference had been critical in advancing the Kabul Process, he said, expressing also his country’s full support for transferring lead responsibility for security on a province-by-province basis. Bosnia and Herzegovina saw in the Afghan peace and reintegration programme a promising way towards a peaceful security environment, and encouraged efforts by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to ensure broad representation on the High Peace Council.
Bosnia and Herzegovina also supported the de-listing of individuals and entities subject to sanctions, in line with the guidelines set out by the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, he said. At the same time, it was important to end impunity and bring all alleged criminals to justice. Bilateral and multilateral dialogue and cooperation were essential for security and economic cooperation, he said, adding that his country was encouraged by the ongoing talks between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The findings of the report on the protection of civilians were extremely alarming, he said, adding that the substantial increase in casualties among women and children was a matter of deep concern. High priority must be given urgently to efficient measures to protect civilians. Increased drug dependence was another issue of deep concern, he said, calling on all relevant governmental, international and civil society actors to step up their efforts in drug prevention and dependency treatment, within the context of health care and development programmes.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) congratulated the Afghan people and Government on holding successful elections in daunting conditions, applauding in particular the increased participation of women and commending UNAMA on its role. The efforts and sacrifices of the people must result in the expression of their will, so all complaints must be rigorously investigated and redressed, he said, stressing also the importance of lessons learned from previous elections. Appointments must be made expeditiously to fill unfilled positions in various areas, he added.
Expressing concern over rising violence and political assassinations, he said it was crucial to increase the Government’s capacity in the security sector. Regarding development, he said the building of infrastructure should be priority. The international community must fulfil its commitments to assist in those areas, and the Government must fight corruption and build capacity in all areas. He commended the establishment of the High Peace Council, as well as UNAMA’s participation in such efforts.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) also extended congratulations to the Afghan people for defying terrorist threats to participate in the elections. She expressed concerns over intimidation and reported remarks against women candidates, saying there must be no delay ion dealing with those involved. Noting the rising violence with great concern, while commending the efforts of pro-Government forces in reducing civilian casualties, she said more must be done in that area. Brazil welcomed the progress made in training Afghan security personnel and the improvement of the regional balance, she said, calling for greater Government ownership of that and other elements of the Kabul Process.
She welcomed the establishment and composition of the High Peace Council and called for greater coherence and improved alignment of development assistance with the objectives of the Kabul Conference. There was a need for more transparent information on that matter, a focus on progress countrywide, as well as making the national administration reflective of the whole country. Brazil was committed to strengthening its assistance in ensuring the stability of Afghanistan, she said, pointing out that, just yesterday, a technical cooperation mission, planned in close cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan, had left for Kabul.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said it was critical for the Afghan people to have maximum ownership of the political and security processes. The Kabul Process could only succeed if all segments of Afghan society were included; by yielding a peace dividend, it would improve the lives of the Afghan people, thus helping to contain extremist groups. It was important to enhance the opportunities available for Afghan women and girls, and law-enforcement authorities needed support in the face of rising crime.
While it was too early for a full assessment of the parliamentary elections, there had been tangible improvements in their preparation, he said. Those who had voted in spite of threats and intimidation truly deserved respect, and it was pleasing to see so many young Afghans taking part. It now was up to the Afghan electoral bodies fully and impartially to address any complaints and reported irregularities, he said, adding that comprehensive electoral reform would be necessary in the longer term.
Efforts by the Afghan Government to advance a political solution must ensure that those who had borne the brunt of conflict were not victimized, and that human rights were not compromised, he stressed. The first six months of 2010 had seen a significant rise in civilian casualties, notably among women and children, for which anti-Government elements were largely responsible. Holding the perpetrators accountable was crucial for peace and stability, while victims would require effective assistance. A significant drop in civilian casualties caused by pro-Government forces was welcome, as were Government efforts to address the situation of children caught up in the conflict.
WANG MIN ( China) congratulated Afghanistan on its parliamentary elections, saying they marked an important step towards an “ Afghanistan run by Afghans”. Hopefully, a consensus on moving towards early reconciliation would now be galvanized. July’s Kabul Conference, an important step in the Kabul Process, had enhanced the partnership between the Government and the international community, he said, adding that the focus now was on implementing the goals of the Conference communiqué.
Emphasizing that peace, stability and development called for Afghan ownership, he expressed support for the Government’s efforts in capacity-building, in extending its control over the entire national whole territory and in advancing the peace and reconciliation programme. Peace, stability and development also called for sustained international support on the basis of respect for independence and sovereignty. International assistance must be in line with the priorities identified by the country itself, he reiterated. Concerned at the deteriorating security situation and troubled by increased civilian casualties, he said the transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan national forces must be predicated on an improvement in the security situation.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the deteriorating security situation diminished the trust of the civilian population in their institutions and undermined the efforts of the international community. There was an imperative need to complement military action with genuine dialogue. The political process, supported by military efforts, should be under Afghan leadership, he said, welcoming the announcement on the establishment of a dialogue with the Taliban.
He said the Kabul Conference had provided momentum for the process in which Afghans would gradually resume responsibility for their own security and development. One essential condition for sustainable peace was implementation of justice and rule of law processes, including the fight against crime, especially illegal drug trafficking, he said. He expressed concern over number of children killed or injured in rising violence, which had increased by 55 per cent over the past year. That, together with sexual violence against children, was alarming, he said, condemning the terrorist activities perpetrated by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and others with the aim of destabilizing the 18 September elections.
NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) welcomed the logistical and technical measures put in place to overcome the shortcomings experienced in the 2009 presidential elections, as well as the widespread participation in the legislative elections despite threats of violence. However, irregularities and fraud remained great challenges, he said, noting also that the transition to Afghan ownership must be inclusive and ensure that the Government took complete control of the national territory. He expressed deep concern over the rise in violence, and reaffirmed the need for cooperation at the regional level, particularly in controlling the illicit trade in narcotics, which funded much of that violence.
ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) paid tribute to the Afghan people on their determination to establish a stable and democratic country, despite the concurrent determination of the insurgents to create havoc. He welcomed the progress made by the Government in many areas, including its extension of the hand of reconciliation, as well as the assistance provided by UNAMA. Gabon also welcomed the election results and expected that all complaints of irregularities would be addressed.
To confront the rising violence, he called for more coordination among the country’s international partners as well as between them and the Afghan authorities. The challenges facing the country were complex, he said, emphasizing the need to increase regional cooperation and to enhance the implementation of the decisions taken by the various international conferences on Afghanistan. Support for development efforts was particularly important. In conclusion, he saluted the professionalism of UNAMA and thanked all those who had worked for stability in Afghanistan.
Council President Ertuğrul Apakan (Turkey), speaking in his national capacity, commended the Afghan Government for holding the parliamentary elections in spite of the security situation, and condemned the attacks aimed at undermining the process. The elections had been made possible by international support for the Afghan-owned process, and it was now important that the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission deal with all complaints in a speedy and transparent manner.
Emphasizing that ensuring sustained progress depended on Afghan ownership, he said the Kabul Conference had been a turning point in that regard, and the focus should now be on implementation. The Government was showing strong political will to advance the process and the international community must be consistent in its support. The transition of responsibilities to the Government would only be possible in an atmosphere of security and stability, he said, adding that such an atmosphere required reconciliation. Afghanistan needed enhanced unity and solidarity at the national level, which in turn was directly linked to regional cooperation.
JOHN MCNEE (Canada), noting that the 18 September elections had been the first to be led by the Afghan people since the 1960s, said the Independent Electoral Commission had shown improved ability in comparison to the 2009 presidential elections. Despite incidents of violence and fraud on election day, the Afghan authorities, supported by the international community, had demonstrated that it was possible to hold a vote. The final judgement on its credibility would be determined by the way in which the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission handled complaints.
The Kabul Conference had marked a milestone in Afghanistan’s transition towards the full exercise of its sovereign authority, and was the first step in the larger Kabul Process, he said. The Government now needed to outline clearly the next steps in that Process and to map out a 100-day plan in order to maintain the momentum. An effective transition to Afghan responsibility depended on improved governance, he said, adding that concrete steps were required on electoral reform, combating corruption and upholding human rights.
Any viable reconciliation process must be Afghan led and must reach out to those who had renounced terrorism and declared respect for the Constitution, he said, describing the creation of the High Peace Council as an important step. That Council must now demonstrate that it could represent the diverse interests of all the Afghan people, no matter their ethnicity, religion, tribe or gender. Regional cooperation was vital to the long-term peace, stability and recovery of Afghanistan, he said.
TINE MORCH SMITH (Norway) welcomed UNAMA’s newly refocused mandate, with its commitment to the transition to Afghan leadership, for which the role of the United Nations as the international guarantor of integrity was critical. The Kabul Conference was an important step towards greater Afghan ownership, but implementation was of key importance. Donors should align their support with Afghan priorities, as Norway had already begun to do, she said, stressing the need for robust Afghan leadership and for timely and coherent implementation of national programmes. The Afghan Government must also show a strong will to combat corruption and reform State institutions, she said, adding that the Kabul Process must be made to deliver at the provincial and district levels, through a viable subnational governance policy.
She expressed support for an Afghan-led reconciliation process, including talks with members of the armed opposition who had renounced violence, as part of a viable broader Afghan political settlement, and as long as the process was inclusive, transparent and truly national, with the broad representation of religious, ethnic and civil society groups, including women. In that regard, Norway was concerned about the narrow composition of the High Peace Council, which excluded civil society and included only a limited number of women.
Furthermore, it was important to allow space for transitional justice, she said, welcoming in that context the establishment today of Human Rights Unit in the Ministry of Justice. She said that, while it was still too early to judge the results of the recent parliamentary elections, the real testing would be whether electoral institutions would be able to address complaints in a systematic and impartial manner. In any case, there was a need for long-term electoral reform, particularly to increase participation by women and civil society.
PETER WITTIG (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said his country was a major donor to Afghanistan and contributor to ISAF. Noting with satisfaction the implementation of political commitments made by President Karzai at the inauguration of his second term and at the London Conference, Germany encouraged him and his Government to take further steps towards an inclusive process that could only be Afghan-led, with the international community assuming a supporting role. Germany also applauded the concrete steps taken by UNAMA in promoting regional cooperation, and hoped that approach would continue.
ISAF and the Afghan Government were entering a transitional phase in which responsibility for security would gradually shift to the Afghan side, enabling the Government to exercise full sovereignty, he said. Germany would remain a reliable partner during that critical phase. Despite shortcomings and difficult circumstances, the elections had been an important event for a young democracy, and Germany applauded the courage of Afghans who had taken part. Encouraging the relevant electoral institutions to address all alleged irregularities and fraud, he said the lessons learned should demonstrate the importance of electoral reform, adding that his country stood ready to help prepare the ground for future elections. The Security Council should support UNAMA by providing necessary political guidance, he said, calling for realistic expectations of the Mission, focused on key priorities.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said that while the results were still some weeks away, the outcome of the legislative elections was already clear in the millions of determined Afghans who had shown the courage to defy threats of violence to elect their Parliament. Although Afghanistan could not be, and was not, held up to the same measures of long-established, mature democracies, New Zealand was nevertheless disappointed that the elections could not be conducted in some areas due to security concerns, and that there had been reports of widespread voter fraud. The Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission should be encouraged to maintain rigorous oversight of the process, he stressed.
While the security situation remained tenuous, there were welcome signs of improvement, he said, commending efforts to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces and welcoming the increase, by nearly 40,000 troops, in the number of ISAF forces. Better security would increase opportunities for improved governance, social programmes, and economic development, he said, noting, however, that corruption remained a central obstacle to progress. It must be relentlessly addressed since it destroyed capacity and undermined public and international confidence.
He said his country had increased its development spending, appointed a development adviser, put its provincial reconstruction team under civilian leadership for the first time, and appointed its first ambassador resident in Kabul. It would continue to watch for longer-term outcomes of the Peace Jirga, he said, noting, however, that while the establishment of the High Peace Council was a promising start, results were needed. New Zealand — whose soldiers had been among the first to join the campaign against terrorism nearly 10 years ago – would continue to stand with the Afghan people as their nation grew.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) welcomed the report that progress was outdoing setbacks in Afghanistan, saying that the trend must be sustained. The Kabul Process, in particular, had generated optimism that a destination was in sight. As the Afghan Government assumed greater responsibilities in governance and development, it needed the continuous support of the international community, he said, expressing hope that both sides of that equation would fulfil their mandated tasks, focusing their efforts on priority areas with appropriate sequencing and coordination.
In the context of security, he agreed with the Secretary-General that the peace and reintegration programme was particularly important, noting: “Military action alone is and will not be a solution to Afghanistan’s problems.” Specifically, Pakistan supported an Afghan-led and inclusive reconciliation process to bring opposition groups into the political mainstream, he said, welcoming in that context the establishment of the High Peace Council, and expressing hope that the Security Council would continue to be a willing partner in the reconciliation process.
Reiterating the importance of regional unity in dealing with Afghanistan’s challenges, he said his country was engaged in a number of important initiatives aimed at promoting economic and commercial cooperation, and rooting out the menaces of narcotics, terrorism and extremism. Pakistan was deeply committed to strengthening ties with Afghanistan, and their relations were already marked by close cooperation in all fields, continuous dialogue and a regular exchange of visits at all levels. The Transit Trade Agreement had been successfully concluded, and Pakistan had, in addition, pledged to continue development projects in Afghanistan, despite its constraints due to the recent floods. It was also engaged in security and intelligence cooperation through the Tripartite Commission and other means, he said.
Calling for an early and voluntary return of the nearly 3 million Afghan refugees still living in his country, he underscored the need to strengthen the reintegration programmes for refugees within Afghanistan’s development strategy. He also stressed the centuries-old fluidity of travel over the lines that now formed the borders of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Finally, he commended UNAMA on its performance, calling for the provision of all possible support to the Mission, and calling on the international community to remain steadfast in its commitments to Afghanistan, while being “introspective in its conduct”.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India), recalling the long relationship between his country and Afghanistan, going back thousands of years, said India was committed to Afghanistan’s unity, integrity and independence, and had contributed more than $1.3 billion to strengthen the capacity of its State and people. Afghanistan’s greatest economic potential lay in becoming a trade, transport and energy hub, linking Central Asia, South Asia and the Gulf. Talk of mineral wealth also opened up opportunities. But for Afghanistan fully to realize its potential, its neighbours must forge greater regional cooperation and facilitate trade and transit, he said. Growing economic interdependence would also help wean disaffected youth away from insurgency and militancy, and help create a regional zone of co-prosperity.
He said Afghanistan’s peace and reintegration efforts could only succeed if they were Afghan led and owned. The international community must learn from past experiences of negotiating with fundamentalist and extremist organizations, and ensure that any peace process was conducted in an inclusive and transparent manner. Afghanistan’s security forces and other institutions needed adequate capacity to protect national sovereignty, plurality and democracy; the gains of the last nine years would be squandered if that aspect did not get the attention it deserved, as the international community pondered its next steps. There could be no selectivity in dealing with terrorism, he said, adding: “The fight against terrorism cannot be compartmentalized.” Security and stabilization would remain distant goals unless “the syndicate of terrorism” — including elements of Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and others inside and outside Afghanistan — were isolated and rooted out. External support for terrorist groups inside Afghanistan must end forthwith, he stressed.
PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union, commended Afghanistan on the recent elections, and paid tribute to the millions of Afghans who had courageously exercised their rights under such challenging circumstances. He deplored the loss of life, and condemned all those who had sought to undermine the electoral process, including through acts of violence.
He said he looked to the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission to address irregularities and complaints in a transparent, impartial and principled manner, as that would be the real test in the weeks ahead. It would be important to ensure that all elected women candidates could take up their mandates, and to ensure that areas that had suffered a low turnout due to lack of security were not disenfranchised. The electoral framework needed strengthening, he said, acknowledging the Government’s pledges of future electoral reforms.
Welcoming the results of the Kabul Conference, he said he regarded it as a success since it had mobilized broad international support for, and Afghan buy-into, the overall transition process. Improving governance and development were long-term processes and the European Union had committed itself not only to meeting humanitarian needs in the country, but also to reconstruction and stabilization. The European Union was set to increase assistance from the European Commission to some €200 million per annum during the 2011-2013 period, he said, adding that it was also investing nearly €1 billion each year to address the rule of law, governance, rural development, agriculture and health.
Considering the worsening humanitarian situation in some areas, the European Union would continue taking measure to address those needs, and encouraged other partners to do likewise, he said. The transition hinged on the Government’s ability to ensure security and obtain the necessary support from the population. In addition to socio-economic development, that would require institutional reform, including of the police and judicial systems, two priority areas for European Union assistance. As for reintegration and reconciliation, progress would be achieved through tackling corruption and ensuring transparency, he said, adding that such a process should be Afghan-led, inclusive and conducted in conformity with the Constitution and international commitments, including to human rights.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy) said the Afghan authorities must reform electoral institutions at all levels in order to ensure their transparency and credibility. It was also important to build up the capabilities of the Afghan security forces so as to ensure success in establishing greater Afghan ownership in all areas. Security and development were linked, and it was crucial to deliver services that improved the lives of the Afghan people.
He called on the Afghan authorities to fulfil all commitments made in international conferences, including rigorous efforts against corruption. Reconciliation and reintegration initiatives were necessary, he said, adding, however, that they must remain within the “red lines” described at international conferences. In addition, international aid must be more coherent in all fields.
ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI (Australia) noted that his country had built up its civilian engagement in Afghanistan over the years, increasing that commitment by more than 50 per cent following the London Conference. Australia had also raised its assistance to the country by 50 per cent for the period 2010-2011, and was also committed to channelling at least half of its development assistance through Afghan Government systems, consistent with the results of the Kabul Conference. Australia looked forward to continued engagement with UNAMA, building on its military commitment of approximately 1,550 personnel.
Expressing support for the transition to Afghan leadership, he stressed that it was not just about security, but also about making the climate more conducive to security. Australia therefore welcomed the initiatives of the Afghan Government to pursue reconciliation and reintegration, as well as the recent appointment of the High Peace Council. It also welcomed the widespread and courageous participation of Afghans in the recent elections, while insisting that complaints must be addressed and long-term reforms made.
Mr. DE MISTURA then took the floor once again to affirm that everything he had heard today was of great help to UNAMA, and that the Security Council’s support remained critical, particularly in the coming months.
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