Series of High-level Meetings ‘Redefined and Reinvigorated’ Long-term Partnership between Afghanistan, World Community, Security Council Told

20 September 2012
SC/10771

Series of High-level Meetings ‘Redefined and Reinvigorated’ Long-term Partnership between Afghanistan, World Community, Security Council Told

20 September 2012
Security Council
SC/10771
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6840th Meeting (PM)

Series of High-level Meetings ‘Redefined and Reinvigorated’ Long-term Partnership

between Afghanistan, World Community, Security Council Told

 

Special Representative Jan Kubiš Briefs;

Afghan Foreign Minister:  Country ‘Increasingly Taking Full Charge of Its Destiny’

The recent series of high-level meetings in Chicago, Kabul and Tokyo had “redefined and reinvigorated” the long term partnership between Afghanistan and the world community, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this afternoon.

“I am encouraged by the firm mutual commitments made between Afghanistan and the international community”, Jan Kubiš, who is also the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said ahead of a Council debate, adding that the strong commitments made for the period beyond the transition to national leadership in security and governance must now be followed up by the achievement of benchmarks in reform, on the part of the Government, and by the fulfilment of international pledges.  “Together we now have the demanding task of translating promises into practice,” he said.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report (see Background), he said that the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago cemented security support well beyond the end of the international combat mission in 2014, the Kabul Conference put regional cooperation on firm ground and the July conference in Tokyo resulted in a long-term compact with international partners based on mutual accountability.

The security transition was on track, he said, citing reports of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan authorities, although civilians were still living in fear of attacks by insurgents.  Strides had been made in preventing casualties from ISAF operations, despite the 15 September accident.  Attacks of Afghans in uniform against their international counterparts had claimed the lives of 51 ISAF troops so far this year, but that had not threatened the continued commitment of ISAF contributors to complete the training and other capacity building for the security transition.

In regard to the important Afghan-led political transition, he said that successful, timely 2015 Presidential elections were now the centre of attention.  UNAMA, he said, stood ready to support them along with an Afghan-led reconciliation process, as requested.

Consideration of UNAMA’s adaptation to the changing political and security environment was currently under way, he said, but he assumed that the core tasks of UNAMA would remain, including provision of good offices, support to regional cooperation, elections and reconciliation, advocacy on human rights, and promotion of development coherence and humanitarian aid.  A steep budget reduction for 2013 had been set, however, which necessarily meant that the Mission could deliver less.  In making strategic choices, however, the Mission would focus on support for Afghan authorities in those core areas in a way that ensured maximum impact, he pledged.

“Afghanistan is transitioning confidently into a vibrant, self-reliant and sovereign nation; a nation that is increasingly taking full charge of its destiny,” the country’s Foreign Minister, who took the floor after Mr. Kubis’ briefing, said.  The country had surpassed the halfway point on its transition to full security responsibility.  Seventy-five per cent of the country was projected to be under its responsibility by the end of November, and it was on track to complete the transition by the end of 2013. 

Sustainability of the national security forces, however, was “inextricably linked” to the international community’s long-term support and he welcomed recent commitments in that regard.  He went on to describe progress and challenges in regional cooperation, intra-Afghan reconciliation, preparing for upcoming elections, governmental reform and other areas.

Following those statements, representatives of Council Members and other interested Member States took the floor.  Most welcomed the mutual commitments that had been made at the Tokyo Conference and other meetings on international cooperation with Afghanistan, as well as progress that had been made in the transition to Afghan leadership. 

ISAF contributors affirmed their continuing commitment to the process despite the increase of insider attacks, but many partner countries stressed that the international community’s ability to sustain support for Afghanistan depended on real and tangible progress by the Government in the areas set out in the Tokyo Framework.  Most speakers supported UNAMA’s continued role in Afghanistan as presented by Mr. Kubis and expressed hope that funding would be adequate for that purpose.

Some speakers, while acknowledging progress, warned that the challenges must not be underestimated.  Pakistan’s representative, describing a “disconcerting” security and humanitarian situation from a variety of viewpoints, underlined the ongoing suffering among the civilian population, and the fact that even as international forces were drawing down, “the Talban’s spear is as sharp as ever.”

Also stressing the challenges of the Afghan security situation, the representative of the Russian Federation warned about new insurgent activity in the north of the country, which he said presented a direct threat to the stability of the region.  He also called for full clarity on bases that would be retained by foreign forces in Afghanistan after 2013 and said that residual presences must not be used against other regional States and must be approved by the Security Council.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Portugal, Guatemala, United Kingdom, Colombia, United States, Morocco, Togo, South Africa, Azerbaijan, France, India, China, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Australia, Finland and Canada.

The representative of the European Union also made a statement.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (S/2012/703), which provides an update on United Nations activities in the country, including significant humanitarian, development and human rights efforts since 20 June 2012.  It also provides a summary of key political and security developments and regional and international events related to Afghanistan.

According to the report, the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan, held on 8 July, dominated the reporting period.  The Secretary-General comments that the number of high-level representatives present and scale of financial pledges made at the Conference clearly demonstrated that Afghanistan will not be abandoned even as the international military presence draws down.  The international community pledged to continue to provide assistance during the transition into the transformation decade of 2015-2024, contingent upon Government progress in key areas.

Demonstrable progress on the indicators in the Tokyo Framework is now essential, the Secretary-General says, adding that national priority programmes must now evolve into vehicles for tangible development results and commenting that mainstreaming counter-narcotics efforts through the endorsement of the Monitoring Mechanism, the Tokyo Conference outcomes and the presidential decree of 27 July are all positive steps.  In tackling corruption, greater official support is needed for the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee for it to fulfil its mandate, while progress on repayments and prosecutions relating to the failed Kabul Bank are required.  In turn, the international community, including the United Nations family, must provide predictable assistance in ways that strengthen national ownership and capacity.

In addition, he says the protection and promotion of gains in human rights and, especially, women’s rights are essential, and the next round of elections must be held in a fair and inclusive manner, free of internal and external interference and open to pluralistic political debate.

On security, the Secretary-General notes improvements compared to the high incident levels of 2011, but says that little has changed in the underlying dynamics to mitigate a deep-seated cycle of conflict.  Accountability is vital for building public confidence in Afghan forces, with clear lines of command and control essential.  He notes that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continues to engage stakeholders over concerns about the Afghan local police. 

Further, he warns, a diminished international presence will have a significant financial impact in many areas that, at least in the short term, may even exacerbate predatory behaviour, with a reduced flow of money encouraging criminality.  The Government and international community, he says, need to work together to mitigate security and humanitarian risks.  In close coordination with major stakeholders and within the bounds of its limited resources, the United Nations will seek to assist Afghans in filling the gaps that may arise as the transition accelerates, he pledges.

He says that appreciation appears to be growing of the urgent need to explore an intra-Afghan dialogue, with appropriate interlocutors, from some Taliban elements.  Providing good offices in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process remains a core priority of UNAMA.  He supported harmonization of sanctions regimes, in accordance with Security Council resolutions, to encourage that process.

The reconfiguration of UNAMA amid a substantial decrease in resources will necessarily affect operational capacity and mandate implementation, he says.  In the light of the expectations of the Government of Afghanistan, civil society and Member States surrounding the post-2014 role and responsibilities of the Mission and the wider United Nations system, constructive debate is required.  “Downsizing is in no way a prelude to exit,” he comments, adding that “the United Nations has been a strong partner of Afghanistan for 60 years and its commitment to a peaceful and secure future for the nation and its people remains undiminished.”

Briefing

JAN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that the recent series of successful high-level meetings had “redefined and reinvigorated” the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the international community.  Introducing the Secretary-General’s report (see Background), he said that the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago cemented security support well beyond the end of the international combat mission in 2014, the Kabul Conference put regional cooperation on firm ground and the July conference in Tokyo resulted in a long-term compact with international partners based on mutual accountability.

In Tokyo, he said, generous donor pledges for development were matched by Afghan Government commitments, notably in the area of good governance, anti-corruption, human rights and elections.  Continued, predictable support was dependent on progress in meeting benchmarks, and it was understood that assistance must reinforce Government systems.  That applied also to the United Nations system.  He was committed to reinvigorating the Joint Monitoring and Coordination Board as a more effective forum to ensure the mutual accountability required, and said that he was encouraged that President Hamid Karzai had prioritized reform.

Both the military campaign and the security transition were on track, according to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan authorities, with a decrease in reported security incidents compared to 2011.  However, fear and insecurity were still endemic and intimidation and targeted killing were taking the life of leaders, particularly those working for peace, and limiting delivery of services and aid.  People continued to be displaced to the relative safety of provincial and regional centres.  And the decrease in civilian casualties had begun to reverse, with August the second deadliest month since UNAMA began recording such casualties — 374 civilians killed and 581 injured — the vast majority due to the activities by anti-Government elements, with bombs in crowed bazaars, mosques and at life-cycle events.

He said that military forces supporting the Government have been making some strides in reducing, by 62 per cent compared with last year, the number of civilians killed and wounded as a result of their operations, mainly by aerial attacks such as the one that on 15 September killed women and girls and was the subject of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) investigation.  Civilians in Kunar province bordering Pakistan, meanwhile, had been displaced by cross-border shelling.  He welcomed reports that authorities in both countries were already engaged in dialogue to resolve the situation.  Uprisings against the Taliban had been reported and required greater analysis to understand their import.  It was clear that Government security should eventually be the solution, and local defence initiatives must be accompanied by efficient systems of vetting for criminal connections, clear lines of command linked to state structures and the rule of law.

The success of the transition of detention facilities, he said, depended on the respect for relevant human rights.  He called on authorities to implement the reforms necessary to prevent torture and inhumane treatment.

Attacks of Afghans in uniform against their international and national counterparts had claimed the lives of 51 ISAF troops so far this year, in comparison with 36 during the whole of last year.  He offered condolences to the families affected and said he was impressed by efforts of Afghan authorities along with the international military to tackle the issue, along with the continued commitment of ISAF contributors to the agreed strategy for the security transition.

In regard to the important Afghan-led political transition, he said that successful, timely 2015 Presidential elections were now the centre of attention.  Noting President Karzai’s commitment in that regard, he stressed the importance of wide consultations and early decisions to improve the registration process and the final dispute mechanism.  UNAMA, he said, stood ready to support an Afghan-led reconciliation process as requested, along with a “Track II” inter-Afghan dialogue to help engage civil society and broad political forces in discussing the future of the country.  In that light, he considered it useful to reflect upon possible revisions of the travel ban procedure, while fully respecting Security Council resolutions.  He outlined some of UNAMA’s engagement in support of regional cooperation and confidence-building, as well.

Turning to Afghanistan’s great, immediate humanitarian needs, he said that he was disappointed that in the first eight months of this year only 37 per cent of the consolidated appeal of $437 million had been forthcoming.  In regard to the counter-narcotics effort, he said that genuine mainstreaming of a comprehensive and multifaceted strategy was now required.

On UNAMA’s adaptation to the changing political and security environment, he said that a “Criticality Review” was currently under way.  He assumed that the core tasks of UNAMA would remain, including good offices, regional cooperation, support for elections and peace and reconciliation, advocacy on human rights, and promotion of development coherence and humanitarian aid.  Despite the closure of nine field offices, UNAMA still emphasized outreach throughout the country, with some field offices handed over to other United Nations entities.  UNAMA’s increased focus on core activities was taking place, under conditions of a steep budget reduction for 2013.  Fewer resources necessarily meant that the Mission could deliver less.  In making strategic choices, however, the Mission would focus support for Afghan authorities in those core areas in a way that ensured maximum impact, he pledged.

In closing, he emphasized that “I am encouraged by the firm mutual commitments made between Afghanistan and the international community.  Together we now have the demanding task of translating promises into practice.”

Afghan Foreign Minister ZALMAI RASSOUL said:  “Afghanistan is transitioning confidently into a vibrant, self-reliant and sovereign nation; a nation that is increasingly taking full charge of its destiny”.  The country had surpassed the halfway point on its transition to full security responsibility.  Seventy-five per cent of the country was projected to be under its responsibility by the end of November, and it was on track to complete the transition by the end of 2013.  Sustainability of the national security forces, however, was “inextricably linked” to the international community’s long-term support, and he welcomed recent commitments in that regard.

He said he expected the international community to meet its commitment in channelling assistance through the national core budget and aligning its aid with Afghan priorities, assuring the Council that combating corruption, strengthening governance and consolidating the rule of law remained key Afghan priorities.  “ Afghanistan is regaining its legitimate place in the region and the world through playing an active role in the neighbourhood and international community,” he continued, adding that the partnerships that the Government had formed, both in the region and beyond, were essential to preserving the historic achievements of Afghanistan’s young democracy and securing its future peace and stability.

As the country continued its transition, with bold steps towards strengthening Afghan sovereignty and national ownership, “the enemies of Afghanistan continued to make desperate attempts to undermine our progress,” he said, noting the up-tick in terrorist attacks that had inflicted brutal harm on innocent civilians across the country.  Undoubtedly, the unremitting violence was the result of the continued military, financial and ideological support that terrorists enjoyed, as well as the presence of safe-havens outside the county.  Continuing, he said that while the fight against terrorism would continue, the next few years of the political and security transition were vital to ensure a stable future.

“We are working diligently to ensure a fruitful result of peace and reconciliation efforts under way,” he said, explaining that that inclusive exercise sought to build trust and confidence among all Afghans and the Government was determined to bring into the fold all the elements of armed opposition willing to renounce violence, cut ties with terrorist groups and accept the Afghan constitution.  To that end, he said that while the High Peace Council had revitalized its approach to reconciliation efforts, regional actors and the international community had an important role to play.  Moreover, the Security Council would be imperative to the process, and he thanked the 15-nation body for its support, including through meeting delisting requests.  At the same time, the Afghan Government hoped the new mandate of the Taliban Sanctions Committee would be adjusted, in recognition of the importance of an Afghan-owned and led peace and reconciliation process, so that the sanctions regime was more responsive and flexible and used more effectively.

He went on to express serious concern about the loss of life and the number of injuries that occurred during the course of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations, and he underscored that the loss of even one innocent life was one too many and there was a need to exert all necessary measures to protect the civilian populations.  Continuing, he said that Afghanistan’s greatest challenges — terrorism, extremism and narcotic drugs among them — were shared regionally and internationally.  “Our common threats require cooperative solutions.  We are working with regional countries and other partners towards a comprehensive response to these menaces,” he said, recalling the relevant launch last November of the Istanbul Process, which had been bolstered at the Tokyo conference.

Turning next to the deeply concerning matter of the shelling of areas in the Kunar province in the country’s east, he said such actions had generated unprecedented anger and frustration among Afghans from all walks of life.  He reiterated the Government’s call for an immediate and complete end to those acts, which had taken the lives of dozens of Afghan civilians and wounded many more.  “We remain in close contact with the Government of Pakistan to address this issue,” he added, and stressed that if such attacks continued, they would risk jeopardizing relations between the two countries, including undermining the conditions necessary to promote security and socio-economic development throughout the region.

As the country faced the challenges on the road ahead, “let us not lose sight of the historic transformative successes made thus far,” he said, citing significant advances in social and economic development and the sharp increase in school enrolment among boys a well as girls.  Moreover, the majority of Afghans now had access to basic health services, and they were also increasingly participating in democratic processes.  “We can be proud that today, initiatives under way in regards to development are increasingly Afghan-driven and Afghan-led, with the support of the international community,” he said, stressing that that characteristic was crucial for maintaining such development efforts and for helping the country realize its full potential.

He said that with the next presidential elections fast approaching, the current Government was committed to ensuring a transparent process, free from any external interference.  He said that after three decades of suffering and struggles, Afghanistan was “moving ahead towards recovery and renewed strength.”  The people of the country recognized the important indications of sovereignty and were determined to advance national ownership across the board, which was the most effective way to ensure lasting peace and security.  Before concluding, he reiterated his Government’s profound condemnation of the recent senselessly provocative acts that had insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

While acknowledging fellow Muslims’ right to peacefully protest those insults, “we deplore any violence resulting from such protests, especially against diplomatic representatives anywhere in the world,” he said.  Finally, he stressed that the key to Afghanistan’s future success was cooperation, both for the country’s transition and the Transformation Decade that would follow.  Building trust and confidence with the international community was at the heart of a path to security and prosperity and he was pleased for the support of the Council and the wider United Nations to that end, including through the revision of UNAMA’s mandate in line with the demands of Afghan sovereignty.  “With long-term cooperation and partnership at the centre of our efforts, we are confident that, together, we can build a more peaceful and stable Afghanistan,” he said.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said the opening statements offered a clear and comprehensive picture on achievements made in Afghanistan thus far and challenges that lay ahead.  His delegation believed that the mutual accountability framework agreed in Tokyo would lead to the building of broader cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community.  Implementation of the Tokyo framework would require increased statesmanship by Afghan authorities and strengthened action and cooperation by the country’s international partners.  Regional actors were also necessary in that regard, and regional integration, as highlighted at Tokyo, was essential to ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

As for human rights, he stressed the “particular predicament” of children in the context of the Afghan conflict.  The specific targeting of children was “especially odious” and required ongoing serious attention in the reports of the Secretary-General.  Further, denial of humanitarian assistance and medical treatment to children seriously undermined the movement towards peace.  He also noted the troubling situation of women and girls, and he called on international partners to assist in the implementation of the National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan.  He also urged the Government to address gaps in the hiring of women polices officers.  That effort was critical to protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls in the country.  Finally, he stressed the work of UNAMA and said that the Mission’s efforts would continue to be needed as the country’s transition continued. 

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said the Secretary-General’s report detailed relevant events taking place in the country, including the successful holding of the Tokyo Conference, which had strengthened the partnership between Afghanistan and the wider international community.  Guatemala would carefully follow efforts to implement all the commitments made in Tokyo and, in the meantime, welcomed the Government’s statement of determination to see them through, including those aimed at bolstering the socio-economic situation in the country.  As for the upcoming elections, he said the framework of an electoral commission needed to be agreed, as did a comprehensive strategy for the polling process.

Afghanistan’s problems could not be resolved by military means alone and, as such, Guatemala would like to see equal attention devoted to assisting the national reconciliation process.  To that end, he welcomed the increasing use of UNAMA’s good offices.  He was also seriously concerned by civilian casualties, and stressed that whatever their cause, all parties needed to work harder to ensure they were protected.  The “quite deplorable” situation of women and children also must be addressed and he called for concrete measures to be taken to guarantee their rights, and supported the efforts of the United Nations in that regard.  Finally, he voiced concern about a “substantial decrease” in resources devoted to UNAMA and hoped that situation would not impact the mission’s work.  Indeed, UNAMA should be bolstered, as the country was just beginning its transition process and would continue to need the support of the United Nations.

PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) concurred that the Tokyo Conference had ensured support for Afghanistan for the long term and secured commitments on important goals from the Afghan Government, and that the transition was on track.  The security transition was proceeding well, without any significant deterioration of public order in areas under Afghan control.  Eliminating insider attacks was a priority, but such attacks did not change the ISAF strategy.  Affirming efforts to decrease casualties from ISAF operations, he regretted that insurgents continued to target civilians.  He added that regional cooperation was also key.  UNAMA, he said, had a key continuing role during the transitional period and must be funded, but its mission must continuously be clearly delineated.  He pledged that the United Kingdom would continue to work with the Afghan Government and the international community for a stable Afghanistan.

NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) supported the renewed, long-term international commitment to Afghanistan agreed upon in Tokyo.  Fighting corruption was an important element in achieving all the Government’s other goals to provide all necessary services, decrease dependence on aid, and increase democratic governance.  It was also critical to continue to improve the professionalization of Afghan security forces.  ISAF and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) continued to be vital for that purpose and he hoped their commitment was not harmed by so-called insider attacks.  Welcoming signs of willingness for dialogue on the part of some opposition groups, he said that UNAMA must support efforts at reconciliation led by Afghans.  The United Nations should continue to play its central coordination goals in support of Afghan priorities.  He hoped that resources would continue to be available for those purposes, including necessary humanitarian aid.  He pledged Colombia’s full support in areas where it could be helpful.

SUSAN RICE ( United States) said that that her country had continued to demonstrate its commitment to Afghanistan past the transition.  Afghan security forces continued to grow and improve in their abilities, and she looked forward to the completion of the third phase of the transition.  The international community was committed to supporting Afghan security forces through and beyond the transition date.  Her country was working closely with the Government of Afghanistan to end insider attacks and would not let them stop progress towards a self-sufficient country.  She welcomed Afghan commitments to reform, looking forward to foreign investment that would help end insurgency.  She also welcomed growing regional cooperation in security and economic development.  Protection of human rights, particularly those of women, was critical through the transition, and protection systems were a priority and were being supported by her country and others.  UNAMA would continue to play a critical role in helping to move Afghanistan forward, along with United Nations agencies.  She called for close consultations with all stakeholders as the Organization’s role was adapted for the post-transition period.

LOTFI BOUCHAARA (Morocco) said the Tokyo Conference had seen the international community reiterate its commitment to ensure peace and security in Afghanistan.  Morocco backed the Tokyo process, including the mutual accountability framework that would lead to credible presidential elections within two years.  He also noted that, in the meantime, President Hamid Karzai had laid out his framework for the better management of State institutions.  Still, his delegation was concerned by the number of serious security incidents, which were taking place at a time when security responsibility was being transferred to national authorities.  He, therefore, hoped that the recent increase in the number of Afghans joining national police and security forces would have a positive impact on the situation.

Continuing, he said that issues such as the situation of women and children and refugees needed increased attention by all, including in the region. Afghanistan had come a long way and it still had a long way to go to ensure stability and security.  In that effort, it would continue to need the assistance of UNAMA and the international community.

KODJO MENAN ( Togo) said today marked the Council’s third debate on the situation in Afghanistan this year and it was clear that, while some progress had been made, serious work remained to be done.  He hoped that the Government’s efforts to launch and maintain the transition process would continue apace.  He also encouraged more progress on addressing the situation of women in the country, including increasing their numbers in police forces.  He was concerned that an atmosphere of “insecurity and terror” still prevailed in the country, as witnessed by ongoing terrorist attacks against high-profile officials, as well as against neutral actors, such as United Nations and other humanitarian workers.

He said that the hard won efforts of president Karzai’s Government were coming to fruition, as evinced by that official’s announcement that he would devote the last two years of his term to good governance and institution-building.  Togo continued to hope that the ongoing preparations for the 2014-2015 elections would gain momentum.  While he applauded Afghanistan’s efforts, he stressed that countries in the region must do everything in their powers to remove obstacles that would undermine the movement towards a “good end” to the Istanbul Process.  On humanitarian issues, he was pleased to applaud progress made on reducing infant mortality, as well as ongoing efforts to improve the situation of women.  Overall, he said the hopes generated by the Tokyo Conference should not be dashed; they must instead be supported and strengthened.

NOUMISA NOTUTELA (South Africa) said the debate was taking place at a time when mass violent protests were taking place across the Islamic world.  Afghanistan had not been immune and, in a recent incident, protest in that country had left eight South African nationals dead.  That event, along with other violent incidents, reminded all that much remained to be done to ensure peace, stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan.  She called for support to the reconciliation process and welcomed the moves by all those factions that wished to lay down arms, and encouraged more to do so.  Reconciliation remained central to all efforts to cement sustainable peace in Afghanistan.  That process must include the broad and active participation of women, as well as religious and cultural figures.  Indeed, an Afghan-led process, being put in place by the work of the High Peace Council, was the only way forward.

She went on to welcome the Government’s recent pledges to strengthen accountability, transparency and good governance.  She was concerned that, while civilian casualties had decreased, terrible harm continued to be inflicted on women and children.  She recalled that the Security Council had reiterated its call on all parties in the country to comply with international law and to step up efforts to ensure civilian protection.  The obstacles that women continued to face in the social and political spheres were a source of concern, though the Government’s efforts to address those situations were encouraging.  South Africa was also encouraged by regional efforts to enhance the peace process, particularly the series of meetings between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Finally, she stressed that national ownership, backed by broad international support, was the best path to ensuring lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that, regrettably, Afghanistan was still experiencing a challenging security situation, particularly in the north, presenting a direct threat to the stability of the region.  It was critical that Afghan forces be ready to take over security by 2014; his country would continue to assist in that regard.  He called for full clarity on bases that would be retained by foreign forces in Afghanistan after 2013.  Residual presences must not be used against other regional States and must be approved by the Security Council.

UNAMA, he stressed, must remain the coordinator of international efforts and support Afghan-led governance, and the future of such support must be discussed by all stakeholders.  Counter-drug efforts must be made more effective, regardless of the withdrawal of ISAF.  Unfortunately, his country’s overtures to NATO for that purpose continued to be rebuffed; discussions continued with other organizations.  On reconciliation, he said that removing individuals from the sanctions regime must be strictly dependent on their meeting criteria consistent with Security Council resolutions.  Supporting an increase in regional cooperation, he pledged that his country stood ready to participate in all partnerships that benefited the Afghan people and increased regional stability.

TOFIG MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said Afghanistan continued to make substantial progress towards stabilization and development, and it was of paramount importance to keep that pace, which required equal commitment from Afghanistan and its partners.  Describing the security situation as precarious, he said security-related incidents had dropped during the reporting period and that progress had been made in the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Forces.  He welcomed the Government’s establishment of a civilian casualty mitigation team in the Afghan National Army and, in the political realm, commended the High Peace Council for its efforts to create conditions conducive for a durable peace process.

He similarly assessed the implementation of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration programme, calling UNAMA’s support for those initiatives “indispensable” to advancing an inclusive, Afghan-owned peace process.  He welcomed Afghanistan’s cooperation with its neighbours and regional counterparts on a range of issues, while stressing the importance of outcomes at the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference, held in Kabul on 14 June, which aimed to set annual high-level political consultations on all issues of common interest.  The gravity of security and development tasks faced by Afghan authorities was growing and the 8 July Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan solidified commitments made in Bonn and Chicago by Afghanistan and the global community.  Azerbaijan had increased its military contribution to the ISAF, as well as its financial and capacity-building assistance in non-military spheres in Afghanistan.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France), endorsing the statement to be made by the European Union, said that insider attacks and other setbacks should not overshadow the progress that has been made in the transition.  Training aid would continue, towards Afghanistan’s assumption of security responsibilities.  He noted increased French development assistance and the achievements of the Tokyo Conference.  His country was also interested in supporting regional efforts countering terrorism and the effects of natural disasters, among other areas.  United Nations assistance has been long valuable in Afghanistan and the country must provide conditions conducive to allowing the Organization to continue.  He hoped, in particular, that budget constraints would not prevent UNAMA from carrying out its mandate.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the sustained international commitment to Afghanistan at this critical juncture was essential, noting events hosted by India to encourage international investment in the country.  As the transition continued, however, the terrorist threat must be kept firmly in mind.  Security remained fragile.  Concerted action to root out all extremist groups must be undertaken and he welcomed continued international support for that purpose.  He also warned that good governance required a strong State that was fully in control of its territory.  India saw its relation with Afghanistan as needs-based and long-term, and it had consequently implemented some of the most effective and cost-efficient projects in Afghanistan.  Future assistance would be determined by conditions created by the Afghan Government.  Meanwhile, regional confidence-building efforts were being supported by India.  Regional transportation infrastructure was particularly important for regional prosperity.  Throughout the changes ahead, including reductions in funding for UNAMA, it was important to avoid adverse impact on the Mission’s ability to carry out its mandated tasks.

LI BAODONG (China) said that the peace and reconstruction process in Afghanistan was achieving positive results, the transfer of security responsibilities to national forces was moving along smoothly, the Afghan economy was improving, and trade and cooperation with other countries was being scaled up.  China welcomed all those developments and would reiterate its support for all measures aimed at ensuring Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  China also hoped the international community would back the Tokyo mutual accountability framework “with the ultimate goal of achieving an Afghanistan led by Afghans”.

He said that the transfer of security responsibilities must proceed slowly and, in the meantime, the international community must continue to help the country improve its security sector. In that regard, China was seriously concerned by recent incidents of violence, especially the high number of resulting civilian casualties.  All parties must abide by international law in ensuring the safety and protection of civilians.  China firmly supported greater integration among countries of the region in line with the principle of mutual benefit and cooperation.  Strengthened regional cooperation could benefit from making full use of existing mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  He also hoped that UNAMA would continue to play a role in coordinating international efforts to assist Afghanistan.  As the transition process moved forward, China would continue to provide support.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said that the United Nations role in Afghanistan should adjust to emerging realities, including the drawdown of international forces and the ongoing national transition process. Likewise, the cuts in UNAMA’s budget must not in any way impact the Organization’s activities in the country.  On the Secretary-General’s report, he noted that the survey had highlighted several disparate issues not mentioned thus far in the meeting, including efforts by the authorities to promote the rule of law; the appointment of alleged human rights abusers to important positions in the country; the fact that air raids carried out by security forces continued to cause a high number of civilian casualties; possible limitations placed on the Afghan media; and the fact that high-level judicial posts had remained open for two years.  He was also concerned that the consolidated appeal for Afghanistan remained seriously under-funded.

He went on to provide “disconcerting” security and humanitarian issues from other reports and media outlets, stressing the increase in “green on blue” attacks,  the ongoing suffering among civilian populations, and the fact that even as international forces were drawing down, “the Taliban’s spear is as sharp as ever.”  The Secretary-General had stressed the need to transfer security gains into benefits for the public sector.  That official had also noted that Afghanistan peace and reconciliation was crucial to sustained peace and stability.  While that process must be Afghan-led, it must be supported by regional and international partners.  Yet, he cautioned against any reconciliation that appeared to be forced from outside.  Stability in Afghanistan was essential to Pakistan.

Indeed, his country continued its active participation in the Istanbul Process and all other international efforts to achieve that end.  The improvement in military cooperation between the two countries should be recognized by all players.  Pakistan was maintaining its security forces along the international boarder, and indeed it had placed more troops there than both the Afghan Government and its international partners.  Pakistan intended to maintain those forces, despite the high cost in lives and resources.  Pakistan had shown great restraint, including regarding attacks on its checkpoints, and would continue to cooperate with ISAF on security matters.  He went on to highlight his nation’s support for all humanitarian and counter-narcotics initiatives.  He was confident that the “redoubtable people of Afghanistan” would achieve their aims towards lasting peace and security. In that effort, they could continue to count on the support of the people and Government of Pakistan.

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) expressed his deepest regret and heartfelt sympathy to the families, friends and communities of the most recent attacks, including eight South Africans who had been killed in the horrible and malicious attack in Kabul on Tuesday.  They had been working closely with colleagues of the German Police Project Team in Afghanistan.  In his national capacity, he touched on three key issues.  First, during the Tokyo Conference, the Afghan Government and the international community had agreed on a long-term partnership and framework for the country’s assumption of full responsibility for its security and development.  Germany welcomed sustained progress in the five main areas agreed in Tokyo and encouraged the Afghan Government to finalize its National Priority Programmes and transform them into “vehicles for tangible development results”, as the Secretary-General calls for in his report and for which Germany had pledged 430 million euros annually.

Underlining his second point, he said he looked forward to supporting the process elaborated at the “Heart of Asia” ministerial meeting, as that would help foster cooperation in the region and, thus, its stability and prosperity.  Thirdly, with the number of civilian casualties having declined, he encouraged Afghan partners to strengthen their efforts in that regard as they assumed full responsibility for the nation’s security.  The United Nations would play a crucial role during the “Transformation Decade”, he said, noting that UNAMA’s task was to support electoral preparations, protect and promote human rights gains, and support the Government in ensuring effective coordination among donors.  Germany would lend its full support to the Mission in implementing its mandate.

KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said representatives from more than 80 countries and organizations adopted the Tokyo Declaration on 8 July, reaffirming their partnership in the form of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.  In that road map, Afghanistan pledged to be more efficient and transparent, while international partners vowed to help Afghanistan gain stability, with more than $16 billion pledged through 2015.  Japan’s contribution to development and security capabilities would reach some $3 billion in five years from 2012.  Political will and action were now needed to build on outcomes from the NATO security summit, the Kabul Ministerial Meeting and the Tokyo Conference.

He went on to stress the need to improve the security situation by building up the Afghan National Police and Army.  Japan also called for Afghanistan and its partners to stop the cycle of violence.  On development matters, he welcomed efforts to devise an implementation plan for the 16 governance targets in the five major areas described in the Framework, expressing hope to see progress before the 2014 Ministerial Meeting in the United Kingdom.  He also voiced strong hope for an accountable Government under President Hamid Karzai, and for a fair, inclusive upcoming presidential election.  He was encouraged by the growing number of former anti-government personnel enrolling in the reintegration process and stressed the urgency of ensuring the safety of international organization personnel.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said Afghanistan stood at an important crossroads; as security responsibilities were being handed over, a host of security, socio-economic and development challenges remained to be addressed.  Tackling such challenges successfully and completing the transition were crucial for the country, region and the world at large.  The successful completion of the processes under way required the unequivocal support of the international community.  In turn, such support would be necessary in bolstering the will and trust of the Afghan population, and to that end, he welcomed pledges of support to the Transformation Decade made at the recent Tokyo and Chicago conferences.

Turning to the regional dimensions, he said that the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours was critical to addressing common challenges such as terrorism, trade and investment, illicit drugs, and addressing the situation of Afghan refugees.  The Istanbul Process was crucial in dealing with those issues in all “heart of Asia” countries.  It recognized the crucial role Afghanistan could play in increasing cooperation and trade across the region.  Turkey was pleased that the Process had received strong support, and noted that the next senior officials on advancing the measure was set to be held next week on the margins of the general debate.  Turkey was also pleased to see commitment by many regional players in mutual confidence-building measures.  “As Afghanistan’s regional and international partners, we should spare no effort to contribute to a peaceful and secure Afghanistan,” he said, stressing that Turkey would always remain in solidarity with the Afghan people.  He also expressed gratitude for UNAMA’s effort to advance the Istanbul Process.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said the recent conferences had set the way forward for Afghanistan to progressively assume responsibility for all aspects of policy and to achieve its development and governance goals.  Noting agreement at the Tokyo Conference on mutual accountability, he said that was of paramount importance in view of the unprecedented financial support pledged by the international community.  The Union remained committed to increasing coordination of that support and to ensuring its alignment with the Afghan Government’s priorities, as set out in the National Priority Programme.  The Union was also committed to helping Afghans develop the ability to provide their own security and, as such, it maintained strong support to the development of a civilian police force through the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan. 

He said that the international community’s ability to sustain support for Afghanistan depended on real and tangible progress by the Government in the areas set out in the Tokyo Framework.  That would not only increase support for continued aid, but also help build the country’s capacity to absorb it and ensure the Afghan people benefited from it.  The Union looked forward to finalization of the National Priority Programmes, particularly the one on law and justice, which was essential to convince all Afghan citizens that their Government was able to deliver justice and that rule of law would protect their rights.  That would also increase investor confidence.  Delays in designing that programme were of concern, due to its key role in delivering the Framework Commitments.  Further, the Union’s continued support to that sector depended on the programme’s swift finalization. 

Since 2004, the Union had contributed more than 56 million euros to development projects in Afghanistan aimed at increasing the country’s capacity for regional integration, he noted, adding that the Union intended to stay engaged.  At the same time, cooperation among countries in the region was key to achieving more stability and prosperity.  The Union would cooperate closely with the “Heart of Asia” countries to build confidence in the areas of disaster management, counter-narcotics and commercial opportunities.  Confidence-building measures, however, should support a growing political process and not substitute for it.  The Union supported UNAMA’s essential role in moving beyond the transition, and believed the aim of the overall strategy in Afghanistan was clear — to support the country on its path to a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous society.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said 2012 would be remembered as the year when the common goal of a secure and stable Afghanistan was underwritten by unprecedented support from the international community.  The commitments pledged at the Chicago Summit and Tokyo Conference gave that goal the best chance of succeeding.  The clear message from those meetings was that Afghanistan would not again be abandoned.  For its part, Australia was increasing its development assistance to $250 million by 2015–2016.

The successful conduct of the 2014 political transition was critical to Afghanistan’s future stability, he said, as were credible presidential and parliamentary elections.  Even though peace talks had effectively stalled, political dialogue would be key to securing Afghanistan’s future.  Regional cooperation was also important for security, a peace process and economic development, and his country would continue to support the “Heart of Asia” process.  Tragic as recent “insider attacks” were, he said “we must not let them dent our resolve to see our mission through so Afghanistan does not again provide sanctuary for international terrorism”.

JANNE TAALAS (Finland) said that the pledges made at the Tokyo Conference were a sign that Afghanistan would not be abandoned in 2014 when its transition was complete.  The international community must now focus on implementing the agreements reached in Tokyo, with a special focus on the mutual accountability framework and on assisting with the finalization of national priority programmes.  Finland had long backed Afghanistan’s development efforts and a major portion of the more than 125 million euro it had committed between now and 2016 would be channelled through the United Nations and the Wold Bank.

He said that the Tokyo Conference had highlighted two important priorities for Afghanistan’s future:  good governance and human rights.  Regarding governance, he said that presidential elections scheduled for 2014 and 2015 were crucial for consolidating democracy.  As such, the passage of the electoral law and the duties and structure of the Independent Electoral Commission should be cemented within the first quarter of 2013, as every effort should be made to ensure that the election process was free and fair and broadly inclusive of the Afghan citizenry, especially women.  As for human rights, he said that although remarkable gains had been made in that sphere, since the Taliban’s ouster, much remained to be done.  Indeed, Afghan women today still faced insecurity in public spaces and at home, and their rights continued to be negatively impacted by a biased judicial system and poor access to legal representation.  “Full and equal participation of women is a prerequisite for development, economic success and social stability,” he said, urging the international community to ensure that the rights of women, as well as children, remained at the heart of the common strategy for Afghanistan.

GILLES RIVARD ( Canada) said that at the Tokyo conference, Canada had pledged support for Afghanistan, notably Afghan women, by committing $227 million in development assistance from 2015 to 2017.  That was in addition to the $300 million Canada was contributing through 2014.  The success of the next decade would be judged by how Afghanistan established a functional democracy, based on credible elections, a professional civil service, access to justice and respect for the rule of law.  Canada was monitoring the implementation of the Accountability Framework, and appreciated the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board’s efforts to ensure that aid delivery aligned with the Afghan National Development Strategy and national priority programmes.

He said transparency and accountability would be central to ensuring that international funds were effectively used, and much work must be done to both eliminate corruption and maintain confidence in the public sector.  He looked forward to Afghanistan following through on measures to foster foreign investors’ confidence.  Also, the rights of women and girls must be integrated through efforts that saw women emerging as political leaders, at the Afghan Supreme Court, in the civil service and in civil society.  “Women must not be forsaken for the sake of stability”, he said.  Canada was committed to supporting the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan authorities, and also supported Afghan-led efforts to reach out to those who renounced violence, respected the Constitution and severed ties to all terrorists.  In sum, he called for implementing confidence-building measures established by the parties to the June Istanbul Process.

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