Beginning of Transition in Afghanistan Means End to Business as Usual, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

17 March 2011
SC/10199

Beginning of Transition in Afghanistan Means End to Business as Usual, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

17 March 2011
Security Council
SC/10199
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6497th Meeting (AM)

Beginning of Transition in Afghanistan Means End to Business as Usual,

Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

 

In Debate on Situation, Afghanistan’s Ambassador Says Country on Path to Full

Sovereignty but ‘Cannot Stand on Its Own Two Feet’ with Weak State Institutions

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan called for full international support to the planned transition to Afghan responsibility for security, governance and development in the troubled country as he addressed the Security Council this morning during a debate on that situation.

The beginning of the transition this year, expected to commence with next week’s announcement by President Hamid Karzai of areas under full Afghan responsibility, meant an end to “business as usual”, stressed Staffan de Mistura, who is also the head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), as he introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report (see Background).  In the effort to restore full Afghan sovereignty, the international community must go far beyond security to comprehensive capacity-building and development efforts.

He said that the review of UNAMA requested by the Afghan Government was an opportunity to ensure the effectiveness of United Nations support in those endeavours in the coming period.  In security, Afghan forces must consolidate their gains and earn the full confidence of the Afghan people, amid the surge in violence.

As provinces came under full Afghan governance and security during the transition, they must be rewarded with adequate development assistance and not be abandoned, he said.  Noting that sovereignty came with increased responsibility and accountability, he maintained that institutional progress had been made towards that end.

He stressed the magnitude of the activities of the entire United Nations in a broad range of areas, including human rights, governance, rule of law, humanitarian assistance, institutional capacity-building and development.  Millions of Afghans were benefiting from those activities, and it must be assured that they would not be abandoned once the transition was over.  He appealed for more assistance in building the Government’s capacity to fight the illicit drug trade.

The representative of Afghanistan introduced the request submitted by his Government (again see Background) for a comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandate, greater coherence in the United Nation’s work and reshaping of its mandate, due to expire on 23 March, around the transition to full Afghan assumption of its responsibility in the country.  “ Afghanistan cannot stand on its own two feet if its State institutions remain weak and are undermined by various parallel structures, and if capacity is not strengthened,” he said.

He said his country was on the path to full sovereignty, national ownership and leadership in an effort to realize the goal of a democratic, secure and prosperous nation that could meet the needs of its citizens independently.  While that would be no easy task, he said, the Government and people were completely committed to it, and, with the help of the international community, the transition would be completed and the goals of the Afghan people would become a reality.

Stressing also the need to end the continuing violence, he said that the protection of civilians must be the first priority, including greater measures to prevent civilian casualties by all forces.  In addition, he said that all stakeholders had come to realize that war and violence could not end through military means alone.  That was why the Government continued to reach out to all those who wanted to join the peace process.  The support of the international community was essential to ensuring the success of that process.

Following those statements, Security Council members and the representatives of other interested countries strongly supported a transition to full Afghan responsibility, as well as related aspects of the so-called “ Kabul process”.  In that effort, most prioritized capacity-building of Afghan institutions, particularly those related to security and rule of law, as well as to other services for the Afghan people.  Some said that their countries would funnel more aid through Afghan institutions.

While all speakers addressed the urgent need for security, particularly the protection of civilians, the Head of Delegation of the European Union, among others, stressed a comprehensive vision of security in Afghanistan, encompassing good governance, human rights, development and an inclusive political process.  Most speakers also supported an Afghan-led reconciliation process, although some cautioned that only those who renounced violence should be included.

In that context, Pakistan’s representative supported the visit of the Chairman of the High Peace Council to Pakistan and the recent meeting of the International Contact Group in Jeddah, as well as the High Peace Council’s interaction with the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  The Security Council, he added, should be a willing partner of the Afghan people in the important and delicate reconciliation process.

For its part, Pakistan was extending the fullest security and intelligence cooperation to Afghanistan, with the number of its military and paramilitary personnel deployed along the border greater than all international troops in the country.  “We do not want Afghanistan to become a theatre of proxy wars or descend into chaos and instability,” he stressed.

Throughout the course of the meeting, many speakers also expressed solidarity with the people and Government of Japan following the devastation of the recent earthquake and tsunami.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Germany, Lebanon, South Africa, United States, Portugal, India, Nigeria, United Kingdom, France, Gabon, Russian Federation, Colombia, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey, Canada, Iran and Australia.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 1:30 p.m.

Background

The Council had before it the report entitled:  The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document SC/2011/120), which covers developments in the country, as well as the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission there, known as UNAMA, since 10 December 2010.

In the report, the Secretary-General recommends that UNAMA’s mandate be extended for another year, saying the Mission will continue to support the so-called “ Kabul process” that spells out a transition to greater Afghan responsibility and ownership, in both security and civilian areas.  He says his approach to the Kabul process and transition is based on three key principles — the transition must be Afghan-owned, it must be planned and implemented in a sustainable manner and it must ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of all Afghans.

He adds that the United Nations system in Afghanistan can complement and bring added value to the efforts of the Afghan International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in specific sectors, such as local mediation and conflict resolution support; advocacy and monitoring of human rights; technical assistance to Afghan capacity-building for delivery of basic services and management of natural disasters, within the limits of available funding and resources provided to members of the United Nations country team.

He says that focus will be on those locations where there are needs and where security and access conditions will allow the United Nations to maximize its efforts and reinforce its presence.  The Organization will also continue to pursue a “One United Nations” approach and strengthen the coherence of its efforts in Afghanistan, he adds.

In his observations, Mr. Ban also outlines obstacles facing the Afghan transition, including tension between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches over the status of parliament.  If this continues much longer, or if it leads to an entrenched political crisis, it will be detrimental to the credibility, effectiveness and inclusiveness that is necessary for the Government of Afghanistan to lead the transition process, he says.

He also says there were “significant flaws in the election process”, but adds that they were neither “unexpected nor unprecedented”, maintaining that the electoral institutions performed commendably under difficult circumstances.  He adds that there is also no question that the result, which was a reflection of the patterns of instability in the country, created a parliament where the Pashtun population in some areas is apparently underrepresented compared to the previous parliament.

He calls for the problem to be addressed in a manner that will not have adverse consequences for the transition process and the future stability of Afghanistan.  His Special Representative to Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Staffan de Mistura, has been working closely with all parties to find an appropriate solution, while stressing that the solution should not be achieved at the expense of the electoral institutions, the constitutional separation of powers, the confidence of the international community, or that of the Afghan people, the Secretary-General writes.

The second immediate challenge to the implementation of the Kabul process is the current impasse over the Kabul Bank.  The Secretary-General says that the controversy has implications for the prospect of international partners aligning assistance with Afghanistan’s national priority programmes.

On security, the report says that the number of security incidents, mainly armed clashes and the use of improvised explosive devices, remain significant, with 1,664 incidents in January 2011, compared to a monthly average of 1,620 in 2010, and 960 in 2009.  At the end of 2010, suicide attacks remained at an average of 2.8 per week compared to the weekly average of 2.6 through 2009.

Abductions and assassinations, according to the report, continued through the last two months of 2010 and into January 2011.  The southern city of Kandahar and its surrounding areas remained the focus of such incidents, with 20 suicide attacks and 33 assassinations occurring in the city, which is also the focus of activity for the Afghan national security forces and the ISAF.

The Council also had before it the Annex to the note verbale dated 4 March 2011 from the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2011/118), conveying a request of the Afghan Government to renew UNAMA’s mandate for an additional 12 months beyond 23 March, and requesting a comprehensive review of that mandate in the next six months, consistent with principles outlined in the Kabul and London communiqués, which seek to restore Afghan ownership of security, governance and development.

In that light, the Government requests that the new mandate make its central focus the restoration of full Afghan responsibility in those areas by 2014, along with the promotion of coherence in the international community’s support for that effort, while retaining UNAMA’s formal role as the co-chair of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board.

In that context, the Government says that increased focus should be given to channelling aid through the Afghan budget and recalibrating UNAMA’s role in improving civil-military coordination with ISAF.  It underscores the need for Afghan leadership in reconciliation and reintegration efforts with the support of UNAMA’s good offices, if requested.  It stresses that, while the Government is committed to the electoral reform process as reflected in the Kabul communiqué, the implementation of that reform is the responsibility of the Afghan Government and, therefore, it is not necessary to make references to it in the new UNAMA mandate.

UNAMA’s adjusted role during the transition, according to the annex, could be best fulfilled by limiting its offices to the six recognized zones throughout the country, subject to the requested review.  UNAMA’s support for improving governance and the rule of law would be achieved best through strengthening the efforts of the Government in accordance with the Kabul process, it states.  The Government maintains it is not necessary to refer to UNAMA’s activities at the subnational level in the mandate and thus it should be considered instead in the context of transition.

UNAMA should have a coordinating role in facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance in accordance with humanitarian principles, but the Government’s role should again be central, it states.  United Nations development and humanitarian activities should be geared towards “One United Nations”.  In conclusion, the Government looks forward to maintaining close contact to finalize UNAMA’s mandate for this year, as well as conducting the aforementioned review.  It reiterates its deep gratitude for the steadfast support of the international community.

Statement by Afghanistan

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said that his country was on the path to full Afghan sovereignty, national ownership and leadership in an effort to realize the goal of a democratic, secure and prosperous nation that could meet the needs of its citizens independently.  While the Government was well aware that that would be no easy task, the Government and people were committed to it, and, with the help of the international community, the transition would be completed and the goals of the Afghan people would become a reality.

He said that the full logic of the transition would roll out over the next four years and the people would benefit from a secure, democratic society governed by the rule of law.  The international community’s support would be critical, and all stakeholders, in carrying out their role over the next four years, must be focused on helping the Government meet the needs of the transition.  On the eve of the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, he stressed that the Mission’s work, as the lead international civilian coordinator in the country, would be crucial in the next four years and beyond.

“ Afghanistan cannot stand on its own two feet if its State institutions remain weak and are undermined by various parallel structures, and if capacity is not strengthened,” he continued, emphasizing that securing Afghanistan was first and foremost about Afghan ownership and leadership.  It was also about operating effectively to archive sustainable process.  He then set out the Afghan Government’s recommendations on how UNAMA’s mandate would evolve during the coming transition period, noting that a detailed letter had been sent to the Secretary-General on behalf of the Government towards that end.

Primarily, the Government called for a comprehensive review of the mandate and the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan to be conducted in the next six months.  The Government had agreed that that should be carried out before the Bonn conference at the end of 2011.  Among the other recommendations set out in the letter, the Government had called for strengthening coherence and coordination among all United Nations agencies and programmes working in the country; “reshaping UNAMA’s mandate to the transition” as that process must be a central focus to facilitate a smooth shift to Afghan ownership and leadership; channelling aid through the Afghan budget and better aligning it with the country’s priority programmes; and recalibrating ISAF’s role in line with the transition.

He said that UNAMA’s coordinating role was crucial and, going forward, that role must meet the needs of the Government.  Such an alignment of priorities would make the United Nations operations in Afghanistan more efficient in the years to come and help build and sustain a Government that functioned with greater confidence and self-reliance — not overnight but over time.  The enduring partnership would remain crucial; the transition was not the end but rather the beginning of a new chapter in an evolving partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community.

“We must end the war and violence in Afghanistan.  The time has come to ensure that Afghans have the chance to live in peace, free from the threat of the violence and sufferings they have endured for so many years,” he declared, stressing that the war against terrorism would not be won without the confidence and support of the Afghan people.  While most of the civilian casualties were caused by Al-Qaida, incidences of loss of life during military operations had increased.  The protection of civilian lives “must be priority number one”.  Loss of civilian life must end, he reiterated, and more measures must be put in place to ensure that.  All stakeholders had come to realize that war and violence could not end through military means alone.  That was why the Government continued to reach out to all those who wanted to join the peace process.  The support of the international community was essential to ensuring the success of that process.

Briefing

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report (see Background) said that all the activities of the last year had pointed to the importance of a transition to full Afghan responsibility and ownership of its own governance, security and development efforts.  He said that the review of UNAMA requested by the Afghan Government was an opportunity to ensure the effectiveness of United Nations support in that endeavour.  In security, Afghan forces must consolidate their gains and earn the full confidence of the Afghan people, amid the raging surge in violence.

As provinces were scheduled to come under full Afghan governance and security during the transition, those must be rewarded with adequate development assistance and not be abandoned, he said.  In addition, he stressed the responsibility of Afghan central and local government, noting that sovereignty came with increased responsibility and accountability and maintaining that political progress had been made towards that end.

Reporting on the meeting of the international contact group, he said it endorsed Afghan-led peace activities, as well as transitional progress through the so-called Kabul process.  Civilian casualties were a great source of concern, with 9,000 having perished in recent years.  An opportunity had been given to the anti-Governmental forces to participate in the surveys on civilian casualties, but that offer had not yet been accepted.  He said that vulnerable groups, including women and girls must be protected and supported.

He stressed the magnitude of the activities of the entire United Nations in a broad range of areas including human rights, governance, rule of law, humanitarian assistance, institutional capacity-building and development.  Millions of Afghans were benefiting from those activities, and it must be assured that they will not be abandoned once the transition was over.  Progress in the illicit drug trade had been made by the Government, but the situation was still of great concern.  He appealed for more assistance in building capacity in the Government to ensure greater progress this year.

In conclusion, he said that every year was crucial in Afghanistan, but some years were more crucial than others.  The transition this year meant that business as usual could no longer be conducted.  With the full restoration of Afghan sovereignty, the international community must go far beyond security to comprehensive development efforts.  The United Nations had been in Afghanistan for many years and would continue to support the country after the transition.

Statements

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said that Afghanistan was a national foreign policy focus for his Government and he looked forward to working with the Council on the matter as Afghanistan entered into a phase of full transition.  That was a move towards “real Afghan power”, but transition did not mean an end to international engagement, but merely a change in that relationship.  The international community’s focus must be on training and support so that the gains made during the transition could be sustained.  Germany was concerned that the technical capacity to carry out all the objectives of the transition were not yet in place, especially in areas where the process was set to begin early.  He encouraged the Government to be aware of that fact and work to bolster such capacity, including with UNAMA’s assistance.  He also called for a resolution of the difficulties regarding Parliament’s status.

He said that a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report had noted the increased confidence of the people of Afghanistan in their Government.  At the same time, he called on Afghan authorities to do more to empower Afghan women and to integrate them into all processes under way in the country.  Meanwhile, the increasing number of civilian casualties was a cause for serious concern and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.  Germany favoured the extension of UNAMA’s mandate for another 12 months and was pleased with the wide support for Afghanistan in the Council.  Yet, he agreed with Afghan officials that at times, the amount of international goodwill could undermine Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.  Therefore, he supported a review of UNAMA’s mandate over the next year, as soon as the Council was able to evaluate the status of the transition.  The Bonn conference at the end of the year had been scheduled to facilitate that aim.

CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) agreed that the transition phase should be led by the Afghan Government and people. Following the free elections that had taken place in the country, she said all efforts should be made to ensure that the progress that flowed from that exercise continued apace, while challenges and setbacks were avoided.  There must be greater support for the Electoral Commission, as well as a strengthening of awareness-raising and capacity-building.  The international community must bolster support for national reconciliation, as well as all the objectives of the Bonn and Kabul processes.

She condemned the ongoing killing of civilians and called on all actors in the country to abide by their international law obligations.  She was also concerned about ongoing discrimination of women and recruitment of minors into combat forces, and called for an end to those practices, as well as to sexual violence against women and minors.  Lebanon reaffirmed the importance of regional cooperation as a key to strengthening Afghan internal reconciliation, combating regional drug trade and improving the nation’s economic conditions.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) welcomed the relatively positive developments of the past few months in Afghanistan but expressed concern over continuing challenges, including the continuing violence.  A comprehensive strategy including security, good governance and development was required.  He underscored UNAMA’s central role in supporting the Government and coordinating assistance.  In addition, political dialogue was needed, including among all those who were willing to contribute to peace in Afghanistan.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s views on the issue and called on all stakeholders to achieve national reconciliation.

He was dismayed by growing civilian casualties, and called on all concerned to prevent them.  He expressed particular concern over the plight of children and women, calling for assurances that no child soldiers would be used and for measures to protect women and involve them in all processes.  Counter-narcotic efforts were also crucial.  Most important was the transition to Afghan ownership of all efforts.  He reaffirmed support for UNAMA and for extending its mandate.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) stressed her country’s support for the transition to Afghan ownership and leadership.  The transfer of security responsibility was already beginning.  In the coming days, she expected that the first areas to undergo the transition would be announced by President Hamid Karzai.  There would also be a civilian component to the transition, particularly in mediation, human rights, coordination of assistance and related areas.  She welcomed recent political advances in Afghanistan, and she urged all institutions to act within their respective functions under Afghan law, including the electoral reform process.

She looked forward to three surges, as outlined by her Government, in security, diplomacy and development.  A responsible reconciliation process was an important part of that, under Afghan leadership.  Insurgents who chose the path of peace would find a willing partner in the United States.  She also noted Pakistan’s importance in ending the violence in Afghanistan.  In addition, the pro-Government forces had made great efforts to reduce civilian casualties and would continue to do so, in contrast to insurgents who targeted civilians.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said that peace and security were the Afghan Government’s overarching needs and should, therefore, be the key aims of the United Nations system working in that country.  The Council and the wider international community must acknowledge that the progress thus far, while commendable, was also reversible.  As such, all stakeholders must work harder to bolster their efforts to ensure that relevant capacities were strengthened so that the progress was sustained.  Afghanistan was in the process of transition — “a process in which we all have a stake and in which we must all assume our responsibilities”.  As that was the case, Afghanistan must be able to rely on its partners.  He looked forward to the upcoming Bonn conference to lay out plans to support the transition.

Meanwhile, he said, Afghanistan had a host of challenges that needed to be addressed, including building public trust in Government institutions, supporting the building of a professional and effective police force, and overcoming obstacles to electoral reform.  As for the Council, Portugal was pleased to be working within the 15-nation body on all efforts that would allow UNAMA to fulfil its mandate, including supporting the Afghan Government’s endeavours to launch the transition and to fight corruption.  Another fundamental challenge was ensuring coherence in the allocation of resources to bolster the Government’s battle against the narcotics trade and to hasten reconstruction.  The overriding security situation should not be a pretext to compromise reconciliation or to undermine the promotion and protection of human rights.  “ Afghanistan’s future should not be built over respect of human rights for all,” he reiterated, especially the rights of women and children, which were an integral part of peace and reconciliation.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said the Kabul conference had marked the beginning of a new phase in the partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community.  The hallmark of the Kabul process was Afghan ownership and leadership towards realization of the shared pursuit of sustained and tangible improvements in security, governance and development.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, held in Lisbon in November 2010, had provided a road map for the transition to full Afghan responsibility for security and leadership by the end of 2014.  India agreed that the transition process must be Afghan-owned and that the exercise must be planned and implemented in a systematic manner that ensured, among other things, the protection and promotion of human rights.  It must also be accompanied by an inclusive political process and intra-Afghan dialogue.

He said the transition must be linked to on-the-ground realities rather than “rigid benchmarks”.  It must also be constantly assessed, he said, stressing that Afghan ownership was critical, not only to meeting security priorities, but also to ensuring broad socio-economic development and reconstruction.  That implied greater coherence — and streamlining — of international development initiatives to ensure better alignment with Afghan priorities and increasing management by Afghan institutions.  India supported the Afghan Government’s efforts to reintegrate those individuals who renounced violence, did not have links to terrorist groups and were committed to democracy and human rights.  At the same time, all stakeholders must guard against the impulse to consider such efforts a short-cut to facilitate reconciliation.  Indeed, ignoring the concrete objectives in that regard outlined in the Kabul process would risk Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists and extremist groups.

KIO AMIEYEOFORI ( Nigeria) welcomed Afghan efforts to strengthen democratic structures, as well as UNAMA support in those areas.  An open, credible political process would yield many benefits, and political dialogue could also prove beneficial.  He expressed concern over the upsurge of violence and civilian casualties in several provinces, even as transition was planned.  He urged the Government, therefore, to fully commit itself to taking responsibility and building its capacities in security, good governance, rule of law and development.  To build capacity, funds should be channelled through Afghan institutions.  He affirmed the importance of regional and international cooperation to consolidating peace.  Reaffirming support to UNAMA, he favoured the mandate extension.

PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said that the international community must support the Afghan Government’s reconciliation efforts at the same time that it was supporting its transition to ownership of security and other sectors.  He endorsed that transition in line with the Kabul declaration, and said that, as part of it, 50 per cent of aid funding should be channelled through Afghan institutions, with 80 per cent to Afghan priorities.  UNAMA had an important role working together with the Afghan Government.  It must have the Government’s full support and must be able to operate in any part of the country necessary.

He welcomed the consolidation of Parliament and said that was an opportune time to press ahead with electoral reform, with UNAMA’s support.  His country would work on the security transition with its ISAF partners, following good progress in building security forces by the Afghans.  If that progress was to be sustainable, it must be supported by gains across the rule of law sector.  He condemned insurgent tactics to intimidate the civilian population and endorsed measures to further protect civilians.  At the same time, he supported political initiatives to end the violence.   He underlined his country’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan and fully supported the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate.

MARTIN BRIENS ( France) said the Afghan Government and its partners had laid out the road map for the transition, and President Karzai would shortly announce the areas in which that process was set to begin.  France supported the transition and wanted it to be “lasting and irreversible”.  The exercise should also promote and sustain Afghan ownership of all security, development and governance initiatives.  Several key factors underpinned the transition’s success, including an all-out effort to end civilian deaths; more work to bolster the reconciliation process; and better coordination of civil assistance, based on Afghan budget priorities.

At the same time, he said the Government needed to provide assurances that assistance funds would be earmarked for vital priorities, including reconstruction.  As the transition process got under way, UNAMA’s work would be more crucial than ever.  The mandate approved by the Security Council last year should continue to guide the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.  Going forward, the Special Representative should be involved in the work of the Electoral Commission, especially the reform efforts, even as that exercise should be led by the Afghan Government.  Further, UNAMA’s role should be tailored to the ongoing transition and be reconsidered in the year ahead.

ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI ( Gabon) said the conclusion of an overall transition must be the underlying concern of the Afghan Government and the overall aim of international support.  Gabon regretted the fact that the political transition was weak, as evinced by controversy over representation in Parliament.  Such disagreements could slow the transition.  Nevertheless, the recent seating of the Parliament was a credit to the determination of the Afghan people to ensure democracy.  He was pleased with the number of women that had been elected to Parliament and stressed the need for the Government to ensure inclusiveness and integration at all levels.

He said that the promotion and protection of human rights was another area in which the Government must redirect its efforts.  The situation of women and children, especially the involvement of children in armed groups, was a source of serious concern.  “The future of Afghanistan is taking place now,” he stressed, urging the international community to redouble its efforts to back the ongoing political processes.  A broad show of international support would raise the hopes of many young people and women in the country that had suffered for so long.  Gabon supported the Government’s move to secure sovereignty over all its activities.

ALEXANDER PANKIN ( Russian Federation) agreed in general with the report and recommendations of the Secretary-General.  He expressed deep concern over the continuing violence and the increase in civilian casualties, as well as negative trends that raised concerns in the region over reconciliation efforts.  Only those who renounced violence should be included in those efforts.  Effective compliance with the “1267 sanctions” should be pursued at the same time.  He supported the transition of responsibilities to the Afghan Government, but capacities must be built for that purpose.

He proposed that regional organizations could be of assistance to the consolidation of peace in Afghanistan, and drew attention to the need to physically destroy narcotics crops and prevent the flow of precursors.  Active, counter-drug efforts were needed, and he welcomed proposals of the collective security organization to assist in that regard.  It was only through cooperative engagement that a stable Afghanistan free from the drug trade would be achieved.  He pledged his country’s continued assistance for that purpose.

NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said it was appropriate that UNAMA’s mandate focus on supporting the Afghan Government in critical areas.  He supported the transition to Afghan leadership in key areas, accompanied by political and dialogue processes.  He thus welcomed steps taken to commence dialogue.  Likewise, international organizations should continue to support the Afghan Government in line with the Kabul declaration.  The fight against corruption and organized crime must also continue.  He urged all parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations to ensure the safety of civilians.

He reaffirmed Colombia’s willingness to strengthen bilateral cooperation in combating the illicit drug trade and other organized crime, asserting that alternative economic opportunity was an important part of that effort.  Common strategies in the region and beyond must be adopted.  He endorsed the principles of the Secretary-General that must be followed during the transition to Afghan responsibility.

REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) said the there had been considerable progress in Afghanistan over the past year, and she congratulated the Afghan people, who, despite facing serious threats, went to the polls to vote in the Wolesi Jirga elections on 18 September 2010.  She also acknowledged the importance of the work of the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission, which had been commendable throughout the polling.  At the same time, it was regrettable that insecurity during the elections had led to the closing of some polling stations, leading some groups to claim they had been underrepresented.  In any case, the tensions over the status of Parliament must be solved “in a mature and institutional way”.  Efforts to lay the foundations for a sustainable peace through political dialogue must continue, as only the involvement of all stakeholders would overcome the remaining challenges.

She welcomed the Afghan Government’s latest peace and reconciliation efforts, including the launch of the High Peace Council and the Peace and Reintegration Programme.  The fact that armed groups were increasingly joining the reintegration process was another positive trend, which the international community should support. Nevertheless, the security situation was still alarming and the human cost of the conflict had risen in 2010.  Although the majority of civilian casualties were caused by anti-Government forces, it was important that ISAF and other international forces reviewed their tactics in order to further reduce those figures.  She expressed particular concern at the recent increase in the number of deaths among women and children.  There was no military solution to the conflict; the Kabul process must be closely followed until the transition to full Afghan leadership was attained.  The next few years would be a critical opportunity for donors to support Afghan priorities and to commit to the principles of aid effectiveness.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) said she remained concerned by the deterioration of the security situation, owing to the increase in military operations, use of improvised explosive devices, and suicide attacks.  Regrettably, some 7,120 civilians had lost their lives last year — a 19 per cent increase over 2009.  She was especially concerned about the rise in the number of deaths of children and said that the “vast human losses” indicated that the solution to the conflict could not be military.  Indeed, to prevent further human suffering, a political solution must be found, and all parties must strengthen their efforts to protect civilians and ensure that their actions were in line with international legal norms.

She welcomed the recent positive political developments, which were an important signal that the country was taking the first necessary steps on the path towards national unity and strengthening the capability of its institutions to meet the needs of the people.  She was also pleased that the reconciliation process had continued to gain momentum and, in that regard, encouraged UNAMA to support the work of the High Peace Council and to provide broader backing to the intra-Afghan reconciliation process.  She also hailed recent regional cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran and India, among other partners, to promote stability and sustained economic growth and development.  Sustainable security must go hand-in-hand with economic and social development.

Turning to obstacles, she hoped the problems that arose during the election process would be solved in an open and transparent manner.  As for the impasse over the Kabul Bank, linked to the finalization of the agreement on a new International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bosnia and Herzegovina supported a solution that would best reflect the interests of the Afghan people and the country’s economic development.  She commended the United Nations assistance to refugee returns, and called on all stakeholders to extend all support to ensure that they returned home in safety and security.  Her country supported the one-year extension of UNAMA’s mandate.

WANG MIN (China), speaking in his national capacity, said that support to Afghan political progress, rule of law, governance and security capacity must go hand in hand with the transfer of responsibility to Afghan authorities.  He supported UNAMA in its central role in coordinating assistance to the country, and endorsed extending its mandate.  The Council should heed the request of the Government to review and amend UNAMA’s mandate in the context of the needs of the transition period, he said.

CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI ( Italy) said that his delegation supported the upcoming Afghan Transition process, which it saw, not as an exit strategy, but as a condition-based joint process aimed at achieving Afghan ownership in security, governance and development.  Italy was doing its utmost to ensure that the transition was irreversible, including increasing security trainers in the amount of up to 700 units out of 2,400 on the ground; establishing a “civilian-oriented” presence in Herat; forging new initiatives to support governance at the local and central levels; and supporting the development of the private sector, among other actions.  The Kabul process — whereby the Government of Afghanistan, assisted by the international community, committed to undertake reforms, improve governance and rule of law, promote social and economic development and improve security — remained pivotal.  Roughly 70 per cent of Italy’s aid to the country was already aligned with the priorities indicated by the Afghan Government, but obstacles impeding the channelling of additional resources through the Afghan budget needed to be removed and the management of public funds improved.

He said his country also supported the inter-Afghan political process, which consisted of the “intertwined” processes of reintegration and reconciliation.  In that respect, the “red lines” agreed at the Kabul conference must be respected, giving consideration to local traditions and sensibilities and promoting fundamental human rights.  The delegation encouraged the installation of the local bodies needed for both reconciliation and reintegration, which would require the support of Afghanistan’s regional partners.  Finally, more joint action was needed on issues including trade, water, energy, agriculture and education.

TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan), who prefaced his statement with an expression of deep appreciation for the sentiments of condolences extended to his country by members of the Council over the devastating earthquake and tsunami, said that, while respecting Afghan ownership, the international community, in full cooperation with UNAMA, should continue its support for Afghanistan because that country’s reconstruction and development were among the international community’s most important concerns.  As such, it was an important step for the Afghan Government that NATO allies and partners had confirmed at their meeting in Lisbon in November 2010 their commitment to create conditions to enable Afghan forces to take the lead for security in all the country’s provinces by the end of 2014.

He said that, in order to ensure the country’s sustainable development, it was also necessary to establish a system that enabled it to express its own will, based on democratic processes.  The Afghan-led political process of reconciliation and reintegration would be especially crucial in stabilizing Afghanistan this year.  Thus, in order to consolidate the gains made so far and to improve the well-being of the Afghan people, the international community should respond to the nation’s development needs and promote the stabilization of livelihoods and construction of basic economic infrastructure.  In that, both the Afghan Government and the international community must make unrelenting efforts.  Japan continued to provide assistance in human resource development, infrastructure and for the development and rebuilding of the agricultural sectors and rural communities.  He also reaffirmed Japan’s continued support to UNAMA’s efforts.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand), citing his Government’s strong support for the transition process, welcomed the Afghan Government’s commitment to assuming lead responsibility for security throughout the country.  Although Bamyan Province itself, where New Zealand led the Provincial reconstruction Team, was relatively secure, Afghanistan’s overall security situation remained worrying.  That fragile situation reinforced the need for the Afghan National Security Forces, in partnership with ISAF, to quash insurgent activity and consolidate security gains.  Combined with a push to increase civilian capacity, security gains would provide space for a political solution — an essential element to ensuring a secure and prosperous Afghanistan.

He said that that political solution required isolating hardcore insurgency leaders and integrating into mainstream society those who renounced violence, abandoned alliances with Al-Qaida and embraced the Afghan Constitution.  Increased pressure on those that disrupted the peace must be coupled with opportunity for those insurgents that laid down their arms and helped make that peace durable.  Along with Afghanistan, its neighbours, and the international community, through UNAMA, played an important role in supporting a political solution.  For that reason, New Zealand welcomed the Council’s intention to review the Mission’s mandate, and he urged the Council to give the mandate what it needed to support the Afghan Government effectively during the critical period of transition between now and the end of 2014.

TINE MORCH SMITH ( Norway) affirmed support for UNAMA during the transition in Afghanistan, noting her country’s great stake in the future of that country, given its significant contributions of both troops and development aid.  She stressed that Norway’s engagement was based on the principles of Afghan ownership and responsibility as expressed in the Kabul declaration.  In that respect, she supported transition of security responsibilities to Afghan leadership in the coming months, provided that certain fundamental conditions were met.  At the same time, she stressed the importance of a viable reform agenda, an end to corruption and the Government’s fulfilment of its obligations in many areas.

She said that future success was to a large extent dependent on developments at the provincial and district level, pending the implementation of the Afghan Subnational Governance Policy.  The continued presence of UNAMA offices was a precondition for a successful and gradual political transition, along with closer cooperation and dialogue between UNAMA and the Afghan authorities.  She strongly supported the call for strengthened protection of civilians.  She also endorsed Afghan-led electoral reform and an Afghan-led peace process through structured political dialogue.  Noting with concern the continued assaults on freedom of speech, she commended the establishment of human rights machinery in Afghanistan and urged greater efforts to stop violence against women.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said that 2011 would be a crucial year for Afghanistan, as that country’s Government and its international partners moved steadily towards transition to full Afghan ownership and responsibility.  Turkey was encouraged by the steps taken so far and looked forward to President Karzai’s official announcement next week of the first tranche of the process, which was set to conclude in 2014.  While he was optimistic about the results, he was also realistic that, given the challenges, the transition was not going to be easy.

“We will all make sure this gradual, conditions-based process is irreversible by exerting concerted and sustained efforts in conformity with the priorities and requirements of the Afghan Government,” he said, echoing the sentiments of other speakers that the transition would not mean the end of the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan.  Turkey was confident that the United Nations and its Mission in Afghanistan were capable of playing a critical role through 2014, if provided with the necessary tools.  Therefore, UNAMA’s mandate must be strengthened in line with the principles of Afghan leadership and ownership.  While the international community was working with the Government to ensure a sustainable transition, it must also help usher in the requisite political changes.  To that end, it must help the Afghan Government press ahead with national reconciliation and support interactions with regional partners and neighbouring countries.

JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) welcomed a review of the Mission in 2011.  Efforts for the coming years should focus on the process towards greater Afghan leadership, which must be undertaken in close collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan.  Canada remained committed to working with its international partners and the Government of Afghanistan in supporting the Kabul process and realizing the objectives of that process, including the development of the education and health sectors and the advancement of human rights.  Regarding the goal of transitioning security responsibilities to Afghan authorities by 2014, the international community should bear in mind the need to bolster civilian governance institutions that would oversee the Afghan National Security Forces.

He said the security situation remained a serious concern, pointing to a recent UNAMA report, conducted jointly with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which found that over three quarters of all civilian casualties in 2010 had been caused by insurgents.  Canada also strongly condemned ongoing attacks against humanitarian personnel.  Reconciliation between the Government and the Taliban was essential to bring the conflict in Afghanistan to a conclusion.  That process should be Afghan-led, but the international community must support a process that respected red lines requiring the insurgents to renounce violence, recognize and respect the Afghan Constitution and sever ties with Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.  Canada called on all actors to implement Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security — an area in which some progress had been made.  However, continued efforts to prevent “backsliding” were needed.  Central also to Afghanistan’s development was its relationship with its neighbours.  The 2010 parliamentary elections — marred by “serious irregularities” — provided lessons learned to strengthen electoral institutions in the future.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said that complete Afghan ownership in security, governance and development, including the disbursal of international aid within Afghan priorities and frameworks would facilitate long-term peace, stability and development.  His country advocated a comprehensive vision for meeting the challenges in Afghanistan, with security being only one facet of a myriad of challenges.  For its part, Pakistan was extending the fullest security and intelligence cooperation to Afghanistan, with the number of its military and paramilitary personnel deployed along the border greater than all international troops in the country.  “We do not want Afghanistan to become a theatre of proxy wars or descend into chaos and instability,” he stressed.

He supported an Afghan-led and inclusive reconciliation process, with a view to bringing the opposition groups into the political mainstream.  Ending the violence required an attempt to understand all the parties.  In that context, he supported the visit of the Chairman of the High Peace Council to Pakistan and the recent meeting of the International Contact Group in Jeddah, as well as the High Peace Council’s interaction with the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  The Security Council, he emphasized, should be a willing partner of the Afghan people in the important and delicate reconciliation process.  He added that the quest for peace and stability in Afghanistan was dovetailing into a long-term cooperative partnership.  He reiterated support for the objectives and efforts of UNAMA, as well as for its mandate extension.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said he attached great importance to the role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan.  The announcement of the drawdown of United States forces as of July of this year had been welcome, but it should not lead to the setting up of permanent bases in Afghanistan.  Obviously, the presence of foreign military forces, in whatever form and for whatever justification, would not help secure peace and stability in Afghanistan; rather, it would provide a concrete excuse for extremist groups to prolong the war.  Iran was also concerned about the increase in the deaths and displacement of civilians.  “Putting the lives of innocent people at the mercy of drone attacks must be halted,” he said, adding that there was no justification for sacrificing the lives of civilians in the name of countering terrorism.

He welcomed the setting up of the High Peace Council, and noted that the head of that body had recently visited Iran.  The Iranian Government had expressed its readiness to host one of the Council’s meetings with Afghan political groups and factions in Iran.  He hoped the High Peace Council would expand its discussions on reconciliation and reintegration within Afghanistan and the countries in the wider region.  As for other regional cooperation, a flourishing Afghanistan would be ideal for that country’s neighbours, and ongoing cooperation in areas such as trade, economic development and infrastructure rehabilitation must be supported.  Iran was ready to host meetings with Afghanistan and other neighbours to identify more concrete measure that might be necessary for strengthening a regional framework for development projects and security initiatives.

Finally, he cited the narcotics trade as one of the region’s most serious challenges, and urged everyone to take very seriously the warning by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that the recent uptick in opium prices might encourage farmers to plant more opium poppies.  Those drugs also served as a breeding ground for terrorists and illegal groups bent on destabilizing the Afghan Government.  Iran called again on all those who carried a responsibility for combating narcotic drugs to take more concrete steps to curb that threat as soon as possible.

ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI ( Australia) reaffirmed his Government’s support for all international efforts in Afghanistan.  Next week, President Karzai planned to announce the first provinces that would begin carrying out the aims of the transition process.  The international community supported that process, which also marked the beginning of implementing the President’s goal for Afghan National Security Forces to take the lead in conducting security operations by the end of 2014.  Since the Council’s last meeting on Afghanistan, a Speaker had been elected to the Wolesi Jirga.  Further investigations into the September parliamentary elections had been referred to a special tribunal, and it was vital for that and further probes to be conducted in line with the Constitution and other relevant Afghan laws.

He encouraged President Karzai and all those in the Afghan Government working to rebuild their country to continue strengthening the foundations of sustainable peace and constitutional democracy.  “Strengthening Afghan governance and development will be critical to a sustainable, irreversible transition,” he said, adding that the United Nations played a vital role in the international civilian efforts under way to build Afghan capacity and leadership to support the transition process.  In all that, he stressed that, while the international community and Afghanistan had come a long way, there was still some distance to travel.  An Afghan-driven reconciliation and reintegration were the keys to the country’s future.  While UNAMA was supporting the Government’s efforts to that end, Afghanistan’s neighbours also played an important role.  Turning to Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan, he noted, among other things, that his Government was the tenth largest ISAF contributor and largest overall non-NATO contributor.  Australia also planned to provide some $123 million in development assistance in the 2010-2011 period.

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, welcomed the wish of the Afghan Government to take the lead in the transition process and the overall development of the country.  At the same time, he affirmed that sovereignty also implied responsibility, foremost towards the Afghan people.  In that context, he welcomed the build-up of Afghan security institutions but recognized that they still needed to become stronger.  The Union, therefore, supported training efforts.  A comprehensive vision of security encompassed good governance, human rights, development and an inclusive political process.  It was time, in that context, to resolve current disagreements over the composition of the Parliament, while respecting the mandate of the electoral institutions and the separation of powers.

He said that continuing to build strong and credible institutions, able to deliver justice and other services to the people were key priorities.  Along with human rights improvements, greater involvement of women as actors in post-conflict development was needed.  The European Union’s assistance to Afghanistan had been increased to some €200 million per year and it was also on track regarding the alignment of its programmes with Government priorities and the channelling of assistance through Afghan Government structures and multi-donor trust funds.  It focused on capacity-building in all fields.  UNAMA continued to play a critical role in the coordination and management of international assistance, as well as in support of the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, which must respect human rights and transitional justice.  He endorsed a continued United Nations role in electoral reform, as well as the extension of a strong UNAMA mandate.

Mr. DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, pledged to do his best to carry out the review of UNAMA in a way that supported the Security Council in making upcoming decisions.  He also pledged UNAMA’s efforts to support the protection and empowerment of women in Afghanistan to the best of its abilities.

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