Pledging United Nations Continued Support to Government, People of Afghanistan, General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text Welcoming Phased Security Transition

27 November 2012
GA/11315

Pledging United Nations Continued Support to Government, People of Afghanistan, General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text Welcoming Phased Security Transition

27 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/11315
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

General Assembly Plenary

41st Meeting (AM)

Pledging United Nations Continued Support to Government, People of Afghanistan,

General Assembly Adopts Consensus Text Welcoming Phased Security Transition

With Afghanistan facing a critical juncture in its modern history — the expected pullout of international security forces by 2014 — the international community must stand beside the war-torn central Asian nation and help to usher in a decade “marked less by aid and more by trade”, said General Assembly delegates today as they adopted a consensus resolution affirming their continued support for the country’s peace, reconciliation and development processes.

By the terms of the 22-page text, the Assembly pledged to support the Government and people of Afghanistan as it sought to rebuild a stable, secure and economically self-sufficient State.  Noting renewed commitments made at several major international conferences over the reporting period, the resolution cites, in particular, renewed support for plans to complete the process of security transition by the end of 2014 and to launch a “transformation decade” (2015-2024) shortly thereafter.

Recognizing the challenges that lay ahead for Afghanistan, the Assembly welcomed some $16 billion in pledges made by the international community at a conference in Tokyo in July, as well as its commitment to sustain support, through 2017, at or near levels of the past decade.  It also noted that such support was based on the principle of mutual accountability, as enshrined in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, which detailed Afghan commitments in areas such as good governance, human rights and the rule of law — in particular commitments related to the holding of free, fair and credible presidential elections in April 2014.

“The resolution sends, yet again, a positive signal of sustained support to Afghanistan, its Government and its people,” said the representative of Germany, who introduced the text this morning.  The past year had seen a number of important milestone events, he said, and Afghanistan and the global community had “renewed and reinvigorated their long-term partnership” at the Tokyo Conference.

Indeed, the security transition — including the handover of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) duties to Afghan authorities — was progressing, with the implementation of the first three tranches of the process currently unfolding.  Therefore, a focus of this year’s resolution was on improving the operational capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces, he said, stressing that an increased emphasis would be put on training, equipping and advising those forces throughout the country.

Those commitments had also been reaffirmed at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit held in Chicago earlier this year, through which NATO countries and their ISAF partners committed themselves to working towards establishing a training, advising and assistance mission in Afghanistan.

Taking the floor, the representative of Afghanistan recalled that, in 2001, after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, his country had been a “broken State with an economy in shambles, a shattered infrastructure and a society wearied by years of conflict”.  Since then, significant strides had been made, from the building of schools and roads to the advancement of women to economic growth and the strengthening of Afghan security forces.

In April 2014, Afghanistan would hold its third presidential elections, and by the end of 2014, the last foreign combat forces would leave the country.  Indeed, with the election and the end of the military phase of international support, “a new chapter in Afghanistan is unfolding”, one characterized by consolidated national sovereignty, self-reliance and stabilization.

Citing the Chicago summit as evidence of enduing support for the Afghan people, he said that the post-2014 military engagement in Afghanistan was part of the security agreement that the country’s Government had recently begun with the United States in light of its strategic partnership.  Afghanistan wished to see that negotiation lead to an agreement that ensured long-term peace and stability in the country, he said.

He went on to note that “a successful transition will allay concerns about the possible vacuum created by the end of the military phase”, and that the long-term economic sustainability of the Afghan State was essential in that regard.  Emphasizing that “ Afghanistan’s future is about sustainability”, he added that it was critical to consolidate successes and not to lose what had been achieved over the past decade.  “We must not fall behind in our efforts, not even for a moment,” he stressed.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan, speaking on the behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among a number of Afghanistan’s neighbours to take the floor today, echoed the support expressed for the progress made in the Afghan economy and infrastructure development.  He stressed, however, that “we must not overlook the difficulties and challenges that Afghanistan is still facing in the course of reconstruction”.  There was no marked improvement in the country’s security situation, and terrorist activities continued unabated, including by the Taliban, Al-Qaida forces and other extremists.

Other speakers underscored the need to focus on the multitude of economic challenges facing Afghanistan as it emerged from conflict.  “ Afghanistan’s future will be realized not only by a strong, capable security force, but also by the Afghan people’s access to economic opportunity and a Government that meets their needs,” said the representative of the United States in that regard.  The pledges made in Tokyo met the World Bank’s estimate of Afghanistan’s requirements, just as the commitments made in Chicago had met its security requirements.  That assistance would help that country attract private‑sector investment and help “usher in a transformation decade marked less by aid and more by trade”, she emphasized.

“Progress will only be sustainable if the process is truly inclusive, engaging not only armed groups, but fully involving civil society, including a balanced regional and gender representation from all sections of Afghan society,” said that head of the European Union delegation, adding that both the process and its outcome must respect the Afghan Constitution, including its human rights provisions, in particular the rights of women and girls.

With regard to the upcoming elections presidential elections, he called on the Afghan authorities to engage all political parties and civil society in agreeing an electoral reform process, which would put in place a legal framework for elections consistent with the constitution, with credible measures to prevent fraud, overseen by independent bodies.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization), Tajikistan, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Spain, China, Egypt, Iran, Slovakia, Canada, Lithuania, India, the Republic of Korea and Australia.

The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 28 November, at 10:00 a.m. to take up various agenda items, including sport for peace and development.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to consider the situation in Afghanistan.  Before the 193-Member body was the Secretary-General’s latest report on recent events in the war-torn country and their implications for international peace and security (document A/67/354–S/2012/703).  It provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including humanitarian and human rights efforts, since the previous report of 20 June.  In addition, the report provides a summary of key political and security developments during that period.

The report states that, over the period under review, the attention of Afghan and international stakeholders was focused on preparations for and follow up to the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan, held on 8 July and co-chaired by the Governments of Japan and Afghanistan.  At that meeting, the international community had pledged to continue to provide assistance during the transition into the transformation decade (2015-2024), contingent upon Government progress in key areas.

It goes on to note that, on 27 July, President Hâmid Karzai had issued a decree setting out specific, time-bound actions for Government ministries and agencies, focusing on some aspects of the commitments made at the Tokyo Conference.  In particular, the passage of an electoral law and a law on the duties and structure of the Independent Election Commission should be secured within the first quarter of 2013, a year before polling.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continued to provide analytical, advisory and logistical support to the work of the High Peace Council and, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme, which was aimed at drawing lower-level fighters off the battlefield.

Regarding the security situation, the report states that the third tranche of the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Forces had progressed as planned, with the forces taking responsibility for a number of provinces covering 75 per cent of the Afghan population.  Overall, recorded security incidents had continued at a lower level than in 2011, with the figures being more comparable to 2010 levels.

A 4 per cent decrease in civilian casualties was recorded between 1 May and 31 July compared to the same period in 2011, the report continues.  Insurgents bore responsibility for 85 per cent of civilian casualties, up from 78 per cent for the same period in 2011, and pro-Government forces for 7 per cent, down from 12 per cent in 2011.

During the reporting period, UNAMA continued to reconfigure its structure to best meet its mandate.  The substantial reductions to its 2013 budget — expected to be in the range of between 18 and 19 per cent — required to meet the overall funding levels approved by the General Assembly for the biennium 2012-2013, added urgency and clear financial parameters to the debate, the report states.

Among the Secretary-General’s observations, he notes that demonstrable progress on the indicators in the Tokyo Framework is essential.  Properly sequenced national priority programmes must now evolve into vehicles for tangible development results.  In addition, he states, the next round of elections to the political transition must be a fair contest, free of internal and external interference.

He notes that the consolidated appeals process had increased to $448 million to address the life-saving needs of approximately 8.8 million people.  It was worrying that, as at 1 August, funding stood at 33.5 per cent, less than half the amount that was available during the same period in 2011.

Also before the Assembly was a wide-ranging draft resolution on the Situation in Afghanistan (document A/67/L.16) which covered topics including security and transition; peace, reconciliation and reintegration; governance, rule of law and human rights; and social and economic development.

By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly would underline the significance of the agreement reached between the Government of Afghanistan and countries contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, held in November 2010, to gradually transfer full security responsibility in Afghanistan to the Government country-wide by the end of 2014.

The Assembly would welcome the Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan, issued in May 2012 by the Heads of State and Government of Afghanistan and nations contributing to the ISAF, which stressed the long-term commitment of countries contributing to the ISAF beyond 2014.  It would also emphasizethe central and impartial role of the United Nations in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and pledge its continued support to the Government and people of Afghanistan.

Reiterating its serious concern about the security situation in Afghanistan, the Assembly would further stress the need to continue to address the threat to the security and stability of Afghanistan caused by the ongoing violent and terrorist activity by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other violent and extremist groups and illegal armed groups and criminals, and it would condemn, in the strongest terms, all acts of violence and intimidation and attacks in the country.

Further to the text, the Assembly would welcome the continuing efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to advance peace and reconciliation and to promote an inclusive, Afghan-led dialogue on reconciliation and political participation.  It would welcome the appointment of the new Chair of the High Peace Council in April 2012 as an important step in that process.  Additionally, it would welcome the establishment of a Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund and encourage the international community to assist the efforts of the Government by contributing to the Fund.

Regarding social and economic development, the Assembly would urgently appeal to all States, the United Nations and international and non-governmental organizations, including the international and regional financial institutions, to continue to provide “all possible and necessary humanitarian, recovery, reconstruction, development, financial, educational, technical and material assistance for Afghanistan”.

Among other things, the Assembly would also encouragethe international community and the corporate sector to support the Afghan economy as a measure for long-term stability and to explore possibilities for increased trade and investments, and would encourage the Government of Afghanistan to continue to promote an economic environment and legal framework favourable to private-sector investments.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

PETER WITTIG ( Germany), who introduced the draft on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/96/L.16), said that “the resolution sends, yet again, a positive signal of sustained support to Afghanistan, its Government and its people”.  The past year had seen a number of important milestone events to redefine and reinvigorate the long-term partnership between the country and its regional and international partners, he noted.  According to the text, the security transition process was progressing, with the implementation of the first three tranches currently unfolding.  A focus of the draft was therefore on improving the operational capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces, he said, adding that, at the 2011 Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, the international community had committed itself to supporting the Government throughout the transition and beyond.

Increasing emphasis would be put on training, equipping and advising the Afghan National Security Forces throughout the country.  Those commitments were also reaffirmed at the NATO Summit held in Chicago earlier this year, through which NATO countries and their ISAF partners committed themselves to working towards establishing a training, advising and assistance mission in Afghanistan.

The resolution also focused on long-term commitment by the international community throughout the transformation decade declared by the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners at the Bonn conference.  Afghanistan and the global community had “renewed and reinvigorated their long-term partnership” in that regard at the Tokyo Conference held in July, he said.  Building on a unique framework of mutual accountability, the international community had pledged $16 billion through 2015 in support of the economic and political stabilization of Afghanistan.

“The international community will furthermore sustain its support at or near levels of the past decade through 2017,” he added in that regard.  In return, the Afghan Government had committed itself to achieve its development and governance goals, such as conducting credible, inclusive and transparent elections, the respect for the rule of law and the protection and promotion of human rights in accordance with the stipulations of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.

Reviewing the draft’s assertions in the areas of regional cooperation and peace and reconciliation, he said that the Istanbul process had shown continued momentum since the Heart of Asia Ministerial Meeting held in Kabul earlier this year.  The resolution also stressed that for the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process to yield sustainable results, it must be inclusive, respecting the Afghan Constitution and its human rights provisions, the rights of women in particular as well as the set of principles most recently outlined at the Bonn Conference.

Statements

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) recalled that, in 2001, after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, his country had been a “broken State with an economy in shambles, a shattered infrastructure and a society wearied by years of conflict”.  However, in the last 11 years, Afghanistan had come a long way.  International involvement had begun a decade ago seeking to eliminate the threat posed by Al-Qaida, and, since then, significant strides had been made — from the building of schools and roads to the advancement of women to economic growth and the strengthening of Afghan security forces.

In April 2014, Afghanistan would hold its third presidential elections, and by the end of 2014, the last foreign combat forces would leave the country.  Indeed, with the election and the end of the military phase of international support, “a new chapter in Afghanistan is unfolding”, one characterized by consolidated national sovereignty, self-reliance and stabilization.  “The transition framework is the only path for long-term stability in Afghanistan,” he stressed in that regard, calling for the framework to put the Afghan people at the centre of the management of security, governance and development.  For the success of the transition, the strong, long-term support of the international community was needed.

The decision at the Chicago NATO Summit concerning the shifting role of the international military to a training, advising and assistance mission was an important indication of enduring support for the Afghan people, he continued, adding that the post-2014 military engagement in Afghanistan was part of the security agreement that the country’s Government had recently begun with the United States in light of its strategic partnership.  Based on its interests, Afghanistan wished to see that negotiation lead to an agreement that ensured long-term peace and stability in the country, he stressed.

“A successful transition will allay concerns about the possible vacuum created by the end of the military phase,” he said, and the long-term economic sustainability of the Afghan State was essential in that regard.  The country would move from a primarily aid-based economy to a self-sustaining one, he added, noting that the July Tokyo Conference had made significant steps towards addressing that issue through a clear expression of long-term financial commitment and by presenting a shared vision in the mutual accountability framework.  “In Tokyo the international community committed to continued engagement in Afghanistan, while the Afghan Government committed to being financially responsible and focusing on good governance,” he said.

Emphasizing that “ Afghanistan’s future is about sustainability”, he said that it was critical to consolidate successes and not to lose what had been achieved over the past decade.  “We must not fall behind in our efforts, not even for a moment,” he stressed.  In that regard, the next two years would be vital for Afghanistan.  While “irresponsible, vicious attacks” against innocent Afghans by the Taliban and other extremist groups aimed to undermine hard-earned achievements, he said that the Afghan people would not be deterred from their struggle.  “It is important that this struggle is supported by all who want to see an end to terrorism and extremism,” he added in that vein, calling for close cooperation in the region, including with Pakistan.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, highlighted two topics, namely progress on national reconciliation and preparations for the upcoming election.  The Union welcomed the recent visit of the Afghan High Peace Council to Pakistan and his call on all regional Governments to use their influence to encourage all groups to support an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.  “Progress will only be sustainable if the process is truly inclusive, engaging not only armed groups, but fully involving civil society, including a balanced regional and gender representation from all sections of Afghan society,” he said, adding both the process and its outcome must respect the Afghan Constitution, including its human rights provisions, in particular the rights of women and girls.

Reiterating the European Union’s firm commitment to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and its subsequent decisions on women, peace and security, he welcomed the commitment of the Afghan Government to the full implementation of 1325 through the establishment of the inter-ministerial steering committee on that text.  He also welcomed the announcement of the date for the presidential election.  It would be critical for Afghanistan’s future that elections were as inclusive and transparent as possible, leading to an outcome that was widely accepted as legitimate.

He went on to call on the Afghan authorities to engage all political parties and civil society in agreeing an electoral reform process, which would put in place a legal framework for elections consistent with the Constitution, with credible measures to prevent fraud, overseen by independent bodies.  Early decisions by the relevant Afghan authorities on the system and registration process to be used for elections would be welcome — both to enable international support to the process and to allow for clear communication and voter education.  “The [European Union’s] commitment to Afghanistan is long-term,” he declared, adding that the bloc was currently giving more than one billion euros in development assistance to that country a year.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan), speaking on behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, noted the progress made in the Afghan economy and infrastructure development, but said “we must not overlook the difficulties and challenges that Afghanistan is still facing in the course of reconstruction”.  There was no marked improvement in its security situation.  Terrorist activities continued unabated, including the Taliban, Al-Qaida forces and other extremists.  Illicit drug production and trafficking were still rampant, as well.  The tension and internal conflicts in that nation remained a main source of threat to regional security and stability.

Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization were all neighbours of Afghanistan, he said, adding that they closely followed developments in that country and supported the enhancement of regional cooperation on a bilateral basis.  The organization, which had supported efforts to make Afghanistan an independent, neutral, peaceful and prosperous country free of terrorism and drug-related crime, was of the view that the national reconciliation process should be Afghan-led and owned.  The body had decided to grant Afghanistan observer status, he said, calling on the international community to continue to scale up support and assistance to that nation and expressing its resolve to strengthen and upgrade regional cooperation within the organization’s framework and other existing regional mechanisms.  “The situation in Afghanistan is now at a crucial stage,” he said, stressing the central role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts on that country.

Speaking on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, AKAN RAKHMETULLIN ( Kazakhstan) said the member States of that body followed the situation in Afghanistan closely, as it bordered their area of responsibility, and that they were concerned at escalating tensions in the country.  They would like to see a peaceful, independent, neutral Afghan State, free of terrorism and narcotics, and were ready to cooperate in building stable and sustainable development in Afghanistan, which would reduce such threats to international security as terrorism, narcotic trafficking and religious extremism, among others.

He particularly stressed the threat to international peace and stability from the illicit production, trade and trafficking in narcotics stemming from Afghanistan and said that his organization intended to strengthen its efforts in combating that threat in line with the Third Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact, held in February, and through the potential of the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre’s anti-drug efforts, among other ways.  He counted on Afghan Government and ISAF efforts in that regard.

Noting that the global community must cooperate with the Afghan Government to make the country a stable, democratic State, he supported that country’s integration into the region through strengthened trade and humanitarian cooperation and the rapid realization of infrastructure projects connecting Afghanistan with the region.  He further emphasized the role of Collective Security Treaty Organization members in supporting IASF in Afghanistan by facilitating air and ground deliveries to its contingents.

National reconciliation in the country, he continued, could only be effective if the Government played a leading role and if those fighting laid down their weapons, recognized the Afghan Constitution, and broke with Al-Qaida and other extremist organizations.  Further, only the Security Council should determine when ISAF’s mandate had been fulfilled and troops could be withdrawn.  In closing, he recognized the role of other regional organizations in resolving issues of military-political stabilization and the economic recovery of Afghanistan and welcomed Afghanistan as an observer State in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre.

SIRODJIDIN M. ASLOV (Tajikistan), joining with statements made on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, said that Afghanistan was at a “critical juncture in its modern history”, and that, at this important and complex stage, the international community should provide its full support.  Tajikistan was closely linked with Afghanistan both by history and by present efforts to step up bilateral cooperation.  The country fully supported Afghanistan’s efforts to achieve the goal of national reconciliation, and, in that regard, he welcomed the work of UNAMA and ISAF to establish lasting peace and security in the region.  Involving Afghanistan in the process of regional integration was critical, he added, stressing the role of the quartet group consisting of the Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan to counter such threats as drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.

Given the need to develop human resources and to train Afghan law enforcement and military personnel, Tajikistan had provided opportunities for Afghanistan to utilize its training centres.  Meanwhile, Tajik universities were teaching over 500 Afghan students, and a vocational and training centre had been established.  “In the context of globalization, Afghanistan’s regional significance as a crossroads between countries will only increase,” he stressed, recalling that a railroad project between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, with possible links to other countries, had been internationally assessed and awaited implementation.  In addition, hydropower stations in Tajikistan could help to meet Afghanistan’s energy needs and improve its agricultural sector.

HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said 2014 would see two significant events taking place that would shape the next stage of Afghanistan’s future.  One would be the complete withdrawal of the ISAF, and the other would be the presidential elections.  “Both are equally important and should be looked at as two sides of the same coin.”  On one side, security in that country was a prerequisite for the success for the entire political and economic reconstruction and transformation processes.  On the flip side, fair elections that were inclusive and free from external interference would ensure a competent Government that enjoyed the support of the population.  The Government could then concentrate on efforts to establish good governance and promote justice, human rights, the rule of law and equitable socioeconomic development.

On its part, Malaysia would identify the appropriate area of assistance and cooperation with particular focus on capacity-building and human resource development within the Malaysia Technical Assistance Programme.  In addition, 40 members of the Malaysian Armed Forces Medical Contingent for ISAF, which included women doctors and nurses, were deployed to provide medical, dentistry and healthcare services as well as capacity building programmes to the Afghan people in the Bamian Province.  The team had offered those services since July 2010.  Malaysia had also provided assistance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan over the last 10 years through various bilateral technical training and capacity building programmes in a broad range of areas.  In 2011 and 2012, Malaysia had contributed to nearly $14 million in humanitarian assistance and capacity-building programmes.  “ Malaysia is cautiously optimistic of the situation in Afghanistan,” he said, adding “the next few years would be crucial for the future of the country”.

AHMED AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said that his delegation supported the draft resolution presently before the Assembly and confirmed its support to all Afghan efforts aimed at expanding the process of constructive and inclusive Afghan-led dialogue and reconciliation.  In that context, he emphasized the need for the international community to adopt an “innovative approach” in providing more inclusive development, economic, logistical and technical support to Afghanistan.  Such support should be under the supervision of the United Nations and in cooperation with international organizations, donor countries and other concerned parties, he added.

Stressing the importance of the regional role in achieving security and stability in Afghanistan — which included the implementation of an inclusive package of security cooperation and confidence-building measures, among other things — he said that the United Arab Emirates had stood by the Afghan people since the onset of the crisis and had continued over the last decade to provide political and economic support through direct bilateral cooperation and as part of the international community.  The total contributions made by his country since 2000 stood around $272 million, in addition to private assistance from United Arab Emirates humanitarian foundations. In July, his Government had also announced a grant of $250 million, 80 per cent of which was earmarked to finance the building of houses for Afghans, including widows, orphans and those with disabilities.  The country had also contributed to the international military efforts through ISAF, he said.

CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI ( Italy), aligning with the European Union, said his delegation welcomed the resolution and supported its adoption by consensus.  Italy appreciated the contribution the United Nations was making to the stabilization of Afghanistan, which had made remarkable progress over the past 10 years.  Yet much remained to be done and international support was still needed.  Italy would unequivocally stand by Afghanistan in a long-term perspective, and the bilateral partnership agreement signed last January between the two countries was the cornerstone of their relationship based on mutual commitments.

Making three comments, he said that, first, it was equally important to highlight that a new, more mature and demanding partnership was being forged.  The international community would continue to assure its financial and political support of Afghanistan, and the Afghan Government was expected to make further progress in areas such as democratic reforms, transparency, good governance and protection human rights, particularly women’s rights.  Second, time had come for Afghanistan to turn a new leaf in its history and overcome decades of conflict and turbulence, he said.  The success of the reconciliation process among the many ethnic and political components of Afghan society was a prerequisite for building long-term stabilization and lasting peace.

Third, the success of the reconciliation process was key not only to the stabilization and prosperity of Afghanistan, but also to the stability of the region as a whole.  While fully respecting Afghan ownership of the peace process, Italy believed that the regional environment could help create the conditions for its positive advancement, such as progress achieved so far within the Istanbul Process.  He concluded by saying that the upcoming elections represented a crucial test for the fledgling Afghan democracy, and Italy welcomed the recent announcement of the date of the polls as an important step forward.  The stabilization of Afghanistan remained a priority and 2014 was not the end date of international commitment, but a turning point towards a future that would place the country “more and more in the hands of the Afghan people and Government”.

KAZUO KODAMA (Japan), noting that his country had co-sponsored the draft resolution before the Assembly, said that adoption of that text by consensus would send a strong message reaffirming an international community unified in support of Afghanistan.  Recalling the series of global conferences on the Afghanistan situation over the past year, he said that the decisive outcomes of those events were based on both the Afghan Government’s determination for long-term stability, as well as the long-term commitments of its international partners beyond 2014.  Afghanistan now had a roadmap before it leading towards a stable future and economic growth.  Nevertheless, he stressed three points that would be critical to lasting peace and stability.

First, he said, the Afghan Government must work towards realizing its commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, the driving instrument for achieving political and development goals.  Additionally, the Afghan Government must exhibit sustained political will to proceed with peace and reconciliation, improving the security situation by building up the Afghan National Security Force and advancing the reintegration process.  Lastly, Afghan leadership, with the support of the international community, should address the persistent challenges to holding the upcoming presidential election in April 2014, including security control, electoral law reforms, fraud, an efficient voter registration system and inclusiveness.  In that regard, he expressed hope that the election result would lend absolute legitimacy to the Government and allow desired advancement towards prosperity.

ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) joined consensus in co-sponsoring the draft resolution and said the text reflected the international community’s ongoing commitment to the Afghan people in building a secure, stable and prosperous country, through the 2014 security and political transition and beyond.  The Afghan people and the international community continued on the path for a responsible security transition and an enduring commitment to Afghanistan.  The conferences in Bonn, Chicago, Kabul and Tokyo had clarified the road ahead. “The transition is on track and the international community’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan is resolute,” she said.

The Afghan National Security Forces continues to grow in size and capability and should reach their goal of being 352,000-strong this year, she said.  The Afghan army was fighting in over 90 per cent of all operations and leading nearly half of them.  Through tranche three of the security transition, 75 per cent of the Afghan population, including every provincial capital, would be part of the transition process.  The NATO Summit in May had confirmed that that progress would be supported by the international community beyond 2014.  NATO and its potential operational partners would continue to provide training, assistance and advisory capacity as Afghanistan moved into the Transformation Decade.

“ Afghanistan’s future will be realized not only by a strong, capable security force, but also by the Afghan people’s access to economic opportunity and a Government that meets their needs,” she said.  The international community’s total pledges in Tokyo of $16 billion in economic assistance through 2015 met the World Bank’s estimate of Afghanistan’s requirements, just as Chicago had met its security requirements.  That assistance would help that country attract private‑sector investment and help “usher in a transformation decade marked less by aid and more by trade”.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) warned that “2014 is drawing near”, and said that NATO continued the work of handing over security to the Afghan National Security Forces, which were growing in strength and capacity and were taking on responsibility with great enthusiasm and professionalism.  However, there was no purely military solution to the situation in Afghanistan.  The United Kingdom supported the Afghan Government in its attempts to secure a peaceful political settlement.  In that regard, the upcoming renewal of the Security Council’s 1988 sanctions regime was an opportunity to contribute to that process; it must be ensured that designated individuals could travel to participate in peace and reconciliation talks.

“It is imperative that we continue to build on the momentum and achievements to date,” he stressed.  In that regard, he welcomed the visit of the High Peace Council to Pakistan earlier this month, and, in particular, the call to the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to participate in the peace process and sever links with Al-Qaida and other international terrorist networks.  Turning to the upcoming elections, he emphasized that “we cannot underestimate their importance”.  The United Kingdom looked forward to credible and inclusive polls, he said, adding that the Afghan people would demand nothing less.

“Transparency is key,” he continued, encouraging the Afghan Government to tackle issues such as vote fraud and violence, which had overshadowed previous elections.  The Enduring Strategic Partnership document, agreed by the United Kingdom and Afghanistan earlier this year, provided the basis for the countries’ cooperation.  In addition, he said, the resolution before the Assembly today, as well as the pledges made at Bonn and Chicago, were other examples of the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said that Afghanistan needed the continued and active engagement of the United Nations and its Member States.  After a decade of efforts, the country was poised to assume full responsibility for its security and governance.  It was important for all pledges to be honoured and translated into action, and “there should be no repeat of Afghanistan being left to fend for itself”.  Pakistan agreed that security and humanitarian risks associated with the withdrawal of international forces must be addressed in a forthright manner.  A comprehensive approach alone could not change underlying dynamics of a deep-seated cycle of conflict, he stressed, and therefore all stakeholders must share the goal of reconciliation.  “Externally imposed, impractical caveats complicate the peace process,” he added, noting that the idea of coerced reconciliation ran counter to a fundamental lesson in Afghan history.

Pakistan had always emphasized the importance of regional unity, and felt that immediate neighbours had a special role in the stability of Afghanistan.  This month, Pakistan had organized a regional ministerial meeting on counter-narcotics, seeking to establish a Regional Contact Group on that matter, which would chart a concrete roadmap based on agreed timelines.  In addition, Pakistan’s official bilateral trade with the country stood at around $2 billion annually, and the target to increase it to $5 billion by 2015 was well within reach.  Indeed, Pakistan sought closer engagement with Afghanistan on “real issues that lie well beyond polemics”.

FERNANDO ARIAS ( Spain) said his country was part of the international community’s commitment to support Afghanistan, with this year marking the eleventh anniversary of such efforts.  The human cost to Spain for supporting that country’s security was high.  Spain was currently the ninth-largest troop contributor to ISAF.  About 1,500 Spanish troops were serving there, especially in the most challenging parts of the nation.  Spain supported Afghanistan’s complex transition, which entailed not only security but civilian projects.  For the transition to be irreversible and sustainable, the international community must redouble its efforts over the next few months.  The transfer of security responsibility to local authorities was taking place in five of the six districts.  Only one district still saw a high level of insurgency.

He went on to underscore the civilian aspect of the transition, such as projects in the areas of sanitation, agriculture and water treatment.  These projects were increasingly operated by Afghan people now.  At the end of the first quarter of 2013, Spain’s seven-year assistance would expire, but it would continue to support Afghanistan through international and multilateral mechanisms.  He welcomed the visit of High Peace Council to Pakistan as a positive step toward regional reconciliation.  “2012 was a milestone year,” he said, citing some major conferences on Afghanistan.  The Chicago conference charted a path to stable security after the withdrawal of the international forces in 2014.

Further, the Kabul meeting had confirmed the importance of the Istanbul Process on regional cooperation and the Tokyo conference laid the foundation for the financial sustainability of Afghanistan beyond 2014, highlighting the importance of promoting the rule of law and the fight against corruption.  The 2014 election would be a test of Afghan’s future, he said, calling on Member States to provide all possible support for the success of the election, which should produce “an outcome Afghan people can fully identify with”.

WANG MIN ( China), joining with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, agreed with other speakers that the peace process in Afghanistan was at a critical juncture.  China hoped, in that regard, that UNAMA would continue to strengthen its cooperation and coordination with the Afghan Government, and he emphasized that efforts to ensure peace and development must be fully owned by the Afghan people.  Indeed, the international community must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, and the goal of establishing a peaceful Afghanistan “by the Afghans” should be achieved at the earliest possible date.  It was critical that the upcoming elections be held in a smooth fashion, he said in that regard.

He supported the leading role of the Afghan Government in the peace and reconciliation process, and stressed that the transfer of security responsibilities must be done in a “gradual and orderly” fashion.  Furthermore, the international community must honour its $16 billion in assistance commitments by turning its pledges into action.  China also fully sported the establishment of friendly relationships with countries in the region based on the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit.  He recalled that, at the recent Shanghai Cooperation Coordination Summit in Beijing, Afghanistan had been granted observer status; China, for its part, supported the efforts of the country to achieve development and ensure the well-being of its people.  China would continue to provide support to the Afghan people, he stressed, and it hoped that the country would see peace, security and development at an early date.

MOHAMED DIAAELDIN ABDRABBO ( Egypt) said that his delegation supported the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to exercise full control over its territory by the end of 2014 after the termination of the mandate of international forces, and stressed the active, ongoing bilateral cooperation channels between Egypt and Afghanistan.  He also reaffirmed the importance of national ownership of all programmes, with a special emphasis on those programmes that affected the daily life of Afghan citizens.  Increasing national ownership would help to achieve sustainable development in the long term, he stressed in that regard.

Egypt supported the efforts of the international community to assist the Government of Afghanistan, especially through the international conferences held during the past year.  It reiterated the importance of the inclusivity of the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan to all parties.  “The problems that face Afghanistan are deeply rooted, and the experience of past years prove that finding solutions to those problems imply a collective effort within an international framework in which each country holds a share,” he added in that regard.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan should be genuine.  The experience of the past decades of foreign military presence in that country had taught the lesson that the conflict there could not be resolved by military means.  The continued presence of those forces, under any excuse or pretext, would only add to the instability and violence.  The violence in Afghanistan had had a drastic effect on the security and well-being of its citizens.  Such violence was caused not just by armed extremists; rather, a growing number of civilian causalities were caused by NATO operations.  All sides should strictly abide by international humanitarian law and other relevant legal norms and effectively protect civilians.

Another challenge for Afghanistan was the increase in the cultivation of narcotic drugs, he said, citing a 2012 study showing an 18 per cent jump in total opium poppy cultivation.  A strong commitment was needed from both Afghan and international partners to curb the menace of drug cultivation and trafficking, which bred extremism.  The issue of refugees was also a challenge not only for Afghanistan, but for neighbouring States and the wider international community as well.  Additional efforts must be undertaken to repatriate refugees and ensure that they were reintegrated into Afghan society.  At present, more than 1 million Afghan refugees were registered and an even greater number of unregistered Afghans were living in Iran.  They had enjoyed Iran’s education and welfare programmes, among other benefits.  The Istanbul Conference and the recent series of high-level meetings had strengthened the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries as well as international partners.  In that regard, the United Nations had a key role in coordinating international and regional efforts.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, stated that his delegation was pleased to be one of the co‑sponsors of the draft resolution before the Assembly.  Troops from Slovakia would remain deployed to Afghanistan as long as the situation required.  In order to reflect the evolving situation, Slovakia was reducing engineering and guarding capabilities and deploying a greater number of instructors, mentors and special forces.  Slovakia was also ready to consider the possibility of sending civilian experts to the region if necessary.

Slovakia was also expanding other components of comprehensive assistance to Afghanistan, he continued.  Afghanistan would need help from the international community even after 2014, and there was, rightly, a long-term focus.  Some examples of Slovak engagement included 22 projects, approved since 2004, worth more than 3.7 million euros, that aimed at building schools in rural areas, providing education for girls and women, supporting small enterprises led by women, and capacity-building.  Further, The Government of the Slovak Republic had approved full debt relief for Afghanistan in 2005.  Slovakia, he concluded, believed that through targeted projects that were aligned with the priorities of the Afghan Government, the international community could improve the daily life of Afghan people.

MASUD HUSAIN ( Canada) said that his country was co-sponsoring the draft resolution.  The conferences held during the past year had allowed the international community to demonstrate its commitment and lend its support to the long-term development of a democratic Afghanistan.  The resolution before the Assembly reiterated and further enhanced mutual commitments on the part of both the international community and Afghanistan, he said.  The text also recognized the role played by the regional community, including in efforts to ensure the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan.  Further, it recognized the important need to strengthen trust and cooperation between Afghanistan, neighbouring and other countries to combat Al-Qaida, the Taliban and other extremist groups.

“Indeed, those who do not support stability in Afghanistan are working against peace and freedom”, and may be in contravention of relevant Security Council resolutions, he said.  With regard to its upcoming elections, he encouraged the Afghan Government to take urgent action to strengthen its electoral laws in order to ensure that the fraud that took place in recent elections did not occur again.  Such free and credible elections would help to ensure that the Afghan people had a voice in the future of their country, he stressed.  In addition, transparency and accountability would also be essential to ensuring that international assistance was distributed effectively and efficiently.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ ( Lithuania) recalled that, in Tokyo, her country had reaffirmed its commitment to continue its political support for and assistance to Afghanistan in the run up to 2014 and beyond.  Over the past seven years, Lithuania had provided about 4.5 million euros for over 170 projects in the country, and it was determined to keep its development assistance at the current level after the transition was completed.  It would continue assisting Afghanistan in building its administrative capacity, promoting rural development, supporting women’s empowerment and other areas, and was determined to maintain its strong support to the reform and further development of a sustainable police force and the rule of law through the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan, which Lithuania supported.

“ Afghanistan must keep the pace of reforms,” she stressed, adding that prosperity and security grew “when neighbours trust each other”.  Lithuania encouraged Afghan efforts to foster regional cooperation through the Afghan-led Istanbul Initiative.  In September, Lithuania had hosted an international conference on “ Afghanistan and the Region:  Practical Approach for Sustainable Development”, where participants shared best practices and successful examples of regional Nordic-Baltic integration.  One of the conclusions drawn at the conference was that free trade agreements were essential between Afghanistan and its closest neighbours, she said.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said regional cooperation and connectivity were critical for Afghanistan’s political and economic progress.  The Istanbul “Heart of Asia” process was an important step in that direction.  Afghanistan and India had a long-shared history, going back over millennia.  The two countries were natural strategic partners by virtue of geography and a common vision of peace and cooperation in the region.  “Our bilateral relationship is extensive, multi-faceted and characterized by high-level interaction,” he said.

President Karzai visited India earlier this month, he noted.  That visit had offered an opportunity to review the entire gamut of bilateral relationship and discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest.  During that visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reiterated India’s support to Afghanistan during the crucial period of transition until the end of 2014 and thereafter.  The implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement of October 2011 between the two countries had already been set in motion with the convening of the first meeting of the Partnership Council on 1 May 2012.  During the past decade, India had pledged up to $2 billion in development and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, he added.

SHIN DONG IK ( Republic of Korea) said that the Chicago Summit in May and the Tokyo Conference in July had demonstrated the international community’s commitment to financial support for Afghan efforts to rebuild their country and establish peace and security beyond 2014.  The Afghan presidential decrees to implement commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework showed the Government’s commitment to improving governance efficiency and transparency.  Efforts to improve security capability and to formulate a national development strategy also represented progress, in particular the appointment of a new Chair of the High Peace Council, which he said was an important step in the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.

The Afghan Government was now in the lead managing security in areas covering 75 per cent of the country’s population, he said, with transition to full, nationwide security leadership in 2013 proceeding as planned.  Closer cooperation was needed in the transition process, he said, expressing deep concern about increasing “insider attacks” that could hinder peace and stability.  Though the Afghan Government was responsible for preventing such attacks, it also needed international support “more than ever”.

Continued progress in transition required political reforms and good governance, he said, especially with a presidential election looming in 2014.  Underlining the importance of regional cooperation in building Afghan stability, he described the Republic of Korea’s capacity-building efforts in Afghanistan, which included a Provincial Reconstruction Team operating in Parwan Province since 2010.  In addition, a $50 million donation to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund would be matched this year and another $50 million would be contributed to Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan.

PHILIPPA KING ( Australia), noting that her delegation was also co-sponsoring the resolution, said that “the pledges of support at Chicago and Tokyo send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan and to the insurgency:  that the world will stand by Afghanistan and its people”.  This year, Australia had made agreements that underpinned and strengthened bilateral relations with that country.  In July, Afghan and Australian Ministers also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on development cooperation.  Her country had increased its financial and development assistance beyond 2014 — from $165 million to $250 million per year by 2015 — and would provide $100 million per year to the Afghan National Security Force sustainment from 2015 to 2017.

Australia was pleased that the current resolution welcomed recent progress made in Afghanistan, she said, reviewing several of those strides.  Nevertheless, the text also realistically highlighted the challenges that Afghanistan and the international community continued to face.  “At the most fundamental level, we must continue to ensure Afghanistan will never again become a safe haven for international terrorism,” she said, stressing that everyone had a stake in preventing the return of terrorism.  It was also necessary to continue the fight against narcotics and drug trafficking, to enhance efforts to reinvigorate the reconciliation process and to promote regional cooperation through measures such as the “Heart of Asia”.  As reflected in the resolution, all efforts must be Afghan-led.  Finally, she said, Australia’s term on the Security Council had made Afghanistan’s development and stability a key priority.

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