Despite Temporary Setbacks, Afghanistan’s Political, Security Transition on Track, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Despite Temporary Setbacks, Afghanistan’s Political, Security Transition on Track, Special Representative Tells Security Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7085th Meeting (AM)
Despite Temporary Setbacks, Afghanistan’s Political, Security Transition
on Track, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Acknowledging Challenges Ahead, Speakers Call for Inclusive, Transparent Elections
Despite temporary setbacks, Afghanistan’s political and security transition was on track as the Central Asian country sought to emerge from conflict and complete such work by the end of 2014, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning, stressing that predictability would be essential to building confidence in the future.
Briefing the Council, Ján Kubiš, also Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), stated, “We must resolutely continue working together to ensure a sovereign and sustainable State that will never again become a haven for international terrorism and organized crime.”
The political transition was at the core of the country’s efforts, he said, with next year’s presidential elections marking a historic democratic transfer of power. Technical preparations and political momentum for the agreed 5 April election day were moving ahead. An Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and a Media Commission had been established. The 11 candidates for presidential polls and 2,713 for provincial councils, including 308 women, spoke to the widespread interest. More than 3.2 million voter cards had been issued to date, one third of them to women.
In addition, the security transition, he said, was proceeding as planned, with the Afghan army and police stepping up to the challenge. Casualties were still a concern, however, with civilians continuing to bear the brunt of the conflict. UNAMA had recorded 2,730 civilian deaths and 5,169 injuries, a 10 per cent increase over the same 2012 period, attributable mainly to armed groups. As Afghan forces assumed the security lead, that would bring increased responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians. Corruption and a decrease in revenue collection were among other concerns.
On the development front, he urged continuity throughout the political transition, as well as stepped-up efforts to implement the law on eliminating violence against women. More broadly, he recognized the need for greater United Nations coherence, stressing that assistance must be delivered in ways that reinforced the capacity of Afghan institutions to deliver services, in line with national priorities. With that, he urged determination in ensuring that mutual efforts remained firmly focused on strategic interests and ultimate goals shared by Afghans and the international community.
Afghanistan’s representative stated that the culmination of his country’s transition would pave the way to embark on the Transformation Decade, which in turn, would mark a new phase of cooperation with the international community. With that in mind, Afghanistan had signed a number of strategic partnership agreements, including with the United States. The Government was reaching out to the armed opposition, building confidence and engaging in peace talks. On a regional level, President Hamid Karzai had engaged with regional leaders in New Delhi, Islamabad, Beijing, Dushanbe and Tehran.
However, while delegates commended Afghanistan for its significant progress, citing the fact that Afghan Security Forces had taken the lead for national security and that solid institutional foundations were being built to consolidate gains, they also acknowledged the major challenges ahead.
The Head of the European Union Delegation, urging that the upcoming elections be inclusive and transparent, stressed that appropriate measures must be taken from the start to manage the sizeable security risks during the electoral process. Japan’s delegate, echoing that sentiment, also noted that his country had donated $20 million to the Independent Electoral Commission and was considering sending electoral observers.
The representative of the Russian Federation, addressing the security situation after the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), questioned the appropriateness of hastening the transfer of responsibility to the Afghan military on an artificially imposed timeline. He also cited increased opiate production, noting that the number of drug addicts in Afghanistan had topped 1 million people, 300,000 of them children.
On that point, Iran’s delegate said support for the triangular counter-narcotics initiative among Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan was essential, as the production and trade in narcotic drugs was used to fund terrorist, extremist and illegal armed groups.
Pakistan’s representative said his country favoured increasing its contacts with Afghan Armed Forces and intelligence agencies to secure their shared border. He also stressed that Pakistan would not choose sides in the elections or interfere in Afghan affairs. Rather, it would do its utmost to sustain the reconciliation process, having appealed to the Taliban to enter into dialogue with the Afghan Government.
The United States’ delegate, as well, said her country would not endorse any party or candidate. “That choice rested, as it should, with the Afghan people,” she said. Expanding connections to its central Asian neighbours would enable Afghanistan to diversify its economy and increase trade. The United States also supported Afghanistan’s goal of acceding to the World Trade Organization in 2014.
Also speaking were the representatives of Australia, Rwanda, Azerbaijan, China, Guatemala, Togo, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Morocco, France, India, Canada, Turkey and Germany.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:45 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Afghanistan. Before it was the Secretary-General’s report, “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security” (document A/68/645-S/2013/721), which covers key political and security developments since 6 September 2013.
JÁN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said that despite challenges and temporary setbacks, progress continued. The fundamental elements needed in order to enhance stability in Afghanistan and the region were being consolidated amid the ongoing drawdown of international security forces. “Over a decade of efforts by Afghanistan, supported by the international community, have transformed the country we see today,” he stressed.
Indeed, Afghans recognized that in order to sustain their State, security agencies and economy, international support would be required through at least the decade of transformation, he said. In turn, States had pledged “extraordinary” levels of long-term assistance at Tokyo and Chicago, underscored by a growing number of strategic partnership agreements across the region. “Predictability is critical to building confidence in the future,” he said. “We must resolutely continue working together to ensure a sovereign and sustainable State that will never again become a haven for international terrorism and organized crime.”
The political transition was at the core of such efforts, he said, with next year’s presidential elections marking a historic democratic transfer of power. Technical preparations and political momentum for the agreed 5 April election day remained on track. An Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and a Media Commission had been established. With the Independent Electoral Commission, all three electoral management bodies were in place. For the first time, those three bodies had been created under an agreed legal framework. The 11 presidential candidates and 2,713 provincial council candidates, including 308 women, demonstrated the widespread interest in the elections. As well, one third of new voters were women. Security challenges, however, were real and should be proactively and realistically addressed to promote maximum inclusion, which required planning based on credible assessments and public outreach. He urged each candidate to commit to a fair, clean and issues-based race, as well as States, regional and multilateral organizations to contribute to observation efforts.
Afghanistan’s regional relationships would be the best guarantor of stability, he continued, welcoming President Hamid Karzai’s visits to Dushanbe, Tehran and New Delhi, as well as the “positive” momentum in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Promoting an environment conducive for peace, mitigating the impact of the conflict on civilians and building architecture to support direct talks between Afghan authorities and anti-Government elements remained essential. More broadly, a focus on shared economic interests offered a chance to enhance regional relationships, with the Istanbul Process continuing to show potential in enhancing multilateral relationships and regional approaches. He had heard concerns about the potential, if there was a vacuum, for volatility post-2014, which could encourage the spread of Al-Qaida-linked international terrorism. Another record-setting year of poppy cultivation and production — resulting in some 5,500 tons of opium — was also of grave concern. In the face of such challenges, he had been impressed by the calm, measured responses of Afghanistan’s partners.
On the security transition, he said it was proceeding as planned, with the Afghan army and police stepping up to the challenge. Casualty rates remained a concern, but he was pleased to hear that the high rate of death among police was now decreasing. However, civilians were still bearing the brunt of the conflict. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had recorded 2,730 deaths and 5,169 injuries, a 10 per cent increase over the same 2012 period. UNAMA’s data showed that armed opposition groups were responsible for the vast majority of such casualties, and he appealed to Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to meet obligations in ensuring that vacated premises were fully cleared of potential explosive remnants of war. As Afghan forces assumed the security lead, such work brought with it increased responsibilities for ensuring civilian protection.
A focus on increasing public confidence in security services must be addressed now, he said. Corruption also remained an extreme problem, as Afghanistan ranked 175th of 177 countries on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. As well, humanitarian needs would likely increase, amid chronic poverty. Those particularly vulnerable were the 35,000 conflict-related internally displaced persons in Wardak, Nuristan, Ghor, Ghazni, Paktya and Faryab provinces. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had recorded 237 incidents against humanitarian personnel, facilities and assets, including 36 deaths. A decrease in revenue collection, at the same time as the country moved to meet more of its national budget, was also worrisome and he urged increased revenue generation.
Continued momentum in the development agenda was required to ensure continuity throughout the political transition, he said. More efforts were needed in the implementation of the law on eliminating violence against women, as UNAMA’s reporting found that Afghan authorities had registered more reports of violence against women over the past year. With that, a need for greater internal United Nations coherence was recognized. Assistance must be delivered in ways that reinforced the capacity of Afghan institutions to deliver services, in line with national priorities. The United Nations’ future role would be considered more comprehensively when there was more clarity on the impact of the political and security transitions.
Concluding, he said that he foresaw the continued need for an integrated mission, streamlined around the core areas of good offices in support of an Afghan-led process; leading development coherence among international stakeholders; and human rights monitoring and advocacy. Elements for Afghanistan’s transition were generally on track. The key at “this delicate time” was enhancing predictability.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) observed that the current December gathering was a lucid reminder of progress made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime and the signing of the Bonn agreement. Since then, over 6 million refugees had returned to the country and millions of Afghans now had access to education and health care. The past year had marked the culmination of the transition, paving the way for the country to embark on the Transformation Decade, he said, noting that since June, the Afghan National Security Forces had assumed full security responsibility nationwide.
The Transformation Decade, he added, also marked the start of a new phase of cooperation with the international community. The country had renewed several international partnerships, signing a number of strategic partnership agreements with several countries, including the United States. In May of last year, President Karzai and United States President Barak Obama had signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement. Afghanistan was also preparing for presidential and provincial council elections. Its Independent Election Commission had announced the final list of 11 presidential candidates and their running mates. Over 3 million new voters had registered for elections, of which one third were women.
In order to ensure a political solution to the conflict, he continued, the Government was reaching out to the armed opposition, building confidence and engaging in peace talks. A new phase of dialogue had been launched at the regional level between Afghanistan and Pakistan’s leadership through bilateral and trilateral meetings in London, Kabul and Islamabad. The country had also ramped up efforts to increase contact with neighbours and countries in the region. President Karzai had engaged with regional leaders in New Delhi, Islamabad, Beijing, Dushanbe and Tehran and at the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Bishkek. The country would also benefit from all forms of cooperation, particularly the Istanbul Process.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) stated that “this was the first fighting season” in which the Afghan National Security Forces were in the lead for security across the country. Those forces had conducted 95 per cent of conventional operations and 100 per cent of the planning. While his country would continue to support NATO-led training missions, an agreed bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States would be a precondition for Australia’s commitment post-2014. Afghanistan must not lose the gains of the last 12 years, including in the area of fair elections, eliminating violence against women, and protecting children, media workers, detainees, humanitarian and development workers. Further, Afghanistan’s narcotic industry, a major threat to stability, required a comprehensive approach that included effective law enforcement and the creation of viable alternative livelihoods. As the Security Council coordinator on Afghanistan, his delegation remained committed to securing a mandate which had the backing of the Afghan Government.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said that the transition in Afghanistan remained challenging, especially in the security and humanitarian aspects. The Afghan Government had taken important strides forward in its preparation for the presidential and provincial elections next year. However, it was regrettable that no single woman had qualified as a candidate for the presidential elections. Increased participation of women would improve the transparency of the elections. Further, the Afghan Security Forces must ensure that women could participate fully in the electoral process. Welcoming the commitment of the Afghan Government to counter the scourge of opium cultivation, he called for a holistic and long-term strategy that took into account security and capacity-building.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that the year of 2014 would signify several milestones in the process of consolidating Afghanistan’s sovereignty and national unity. In particular, the upcoming presidential and provincial elections would further strengthen the political foundations of peace, stability and development in the country. He joined the Secretary-General’s call on all parties to commit to peaceful elections that would respect the right of the Afghan people to exercise their vote. He also stressed the importance of the Istanbul “Heart of Asia” process as a unique regional platform, with Afghanistan at its core, for dialogue and partnership aimed at promoting security, confidence and cooperation.
LIU JIEYI ( China) welcomed both the conclusion of nominations for the presidential elections and the National Security Forces’ progress in assuming its full responsibility. At the same time, Afghanistan faced the “daunting” task of restoring stability. He urged the Government to help ensure elections were held in a safe manner, and called on the global community to provide assistance. Expressing concern at the growing number of deadly security incidents, he voiced support for the Government’s efforts to build the military police’s capacity. While the Afghan Government should lead the reconciliation process, they should also focus on economic and social development, he said and he called on the international community to support those efforts and honour their commitments. Regional cooperation should be enhanced as well. “We’re ready to play our role in maintaining regional peace, stability and development in Afghanistan,” he said. UNAMA should strengthen its coordination with the Government and concerned parties. His country, he said, would continue to provide assistance to Afghanistan through multilateral and bilateral channels.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) welcomed the foundation that had been laid for credible presidential and provincial council elections, stressing that the process must be fair and inclusive. The number of women candidates for provincial seats was “striking”, while three of the presidential candidates had female vice-presidential candidates. It was disheartening, however, that terrorism continued to spread, and even worsen. Not even United Nations personnel were safe, he underscored, deploring the recent terrorist attacks that had just taken place. “We cannot allow for there to be a security vacuum when International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) leaves in 2014”, he said, urging that the capacity of Afghan Security Forces continue to be strengthened. As well, he supported an Afghan-led process towards stability and national reconciliation. The Tokyo Agreement had acknowledged the importance of protecting human rights, and he emphasized that those of women and children must remain a priority. His country continued to support a solid United Nations presence in Afghanistan. He advised extending UNAMA’s mandate for another year, stressing that it must be endowed with appropriate resources.
ALEXANDER A. PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said that the Secretary-General’s report did not touch on the true nature of the threat from the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Further, he did not share the self-assuring reassurance of NATO’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Noting the rise in terrorist activities in the north-east provinces, he expressed concern about the security situation in Afghanistan, as well as neighbouring countries after the withdrawal of the ISAF. “How appropriate was it to hasten the transfer of that responsibility to the Afghan military, on an artificially imposed timeline?” he asked. NATO must provide detailed and self-critical reporting to the Security Council next year.
The increasing impact of fighting, he continued, had brought about a 50 per cent increase in the production of opiates. The number of drug addicts in Afghanistan was more than 1 million people, 300,000 of them children. That was a huge threat to peace and stability, not only in Afghanistan, but also in the region. That could not be ignored by saying that the ISAF had no mandate to counter narcotics. He cautioned that, as the international contingents withdrew from Afghanistan, the motivation for armed opposition to come to an agreement would be lost. Demonstrating flexibility in easing the sanctions regime was only feasible if the Taliban took steps to compromise. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was the most optimal platform for working with outside partners to achieve stability and peace in Afghanistan and the extensive value placed on the Istanbul Process was unjustified.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) said that since 2000, Afghanistan’s score in the human development index had improved by 60 per cent. With help from the United States military and many allies, the Afghan Security Forces had taken the lead for managing the security requirements of the country. Stating her country’s commitment to remain a strong partner in the Afghan people’s efforts to achieve lasting peace and security, she said she was encouraged by the progress in preparing for 2014 elections. Noting that each presidential ticket represented a broad coalition, ensuring that all groups were represented, she emphasized that the United States did not endorse any party or candidate. “That choice rested, as it should, with the Afghan people,” she said.
Expanding connections to its central Asian neighbours would enable Afghanistan to diversify its economy and increase trade, she said. The United States also supported Afghanistan’s goal of acceding to the World Trade Organization in 2014. Turning to security concerns, she noted that there had been more than 232 incidents of violence directed at development professionals this year. Three weeks ago, separate attacks had claimed the lives of nine aid workers. Extending condolences to the families, she called on all parties to respect the neutrality and human rights of humanitarian workers. With an eye to continuity, the United States hoped the Council would approve a one-year extension of UNAMA’s mandate.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), wishing the Afghan people success in negotiating difficult economic, political and security transitions, said that credible elections would have an impact on peace and stability, and that related security challenges must be addressed in the early planning stages. He called on all parties to support the peace efforts, stressing, “It is imperative to reverse the destructive cycle of violence”. His country would not choose sides or interfere in Afghan affairs, nor should any other State. Further, it would do its utmost to sustain the reconciliation process, having appealed to the Taliban to enter into dialogue with the Afghan Government. On the security front, he said the ISAF drawdown should not lead to a security vacuum. Afghanistan’s transformation from a wartime to a peacetime economy would require more reliance on growth.
Pakistan was contributing to Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction, he said, citing the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of enhanced assistance. Pakistanis and Afghans were bound by strong bonds. “These bonds will never be atrophied or severed”, he said, noting that a prosperous Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest. The two Presidents had resolved to craft a strategic partnership and work for economic development. As well, his country had agreed to accelerate regional projects. However, while it had renewed the legal status of Afghan refugees to the end of 2015, it would not be able to absorb fresh inflows. The countries must secure their border through effective management and real-time communication, including more contacts between their Armed Forces and intelligence agencies. The United Nations must concentrate on good offices and coherent approaches to equitable sustainable development.
EDAWE LIMBIYÈ KANDANGHA-BARIKI (Togo), noting that Afghanistan’s political process was not perfect, called on all political actors to realize what was at stake, and for the High Council for Peace to continue its efforts to conclude the process. UNAMA must continue to attenuate ethnic and tribal tensions. It was encouraging that Afghanistan’s relationship with its neighbours was making process, as was the Kabul process to coordinate development aid. The publication of candidate lists, among other efforts, showed the Government’s commitment to ensure timely elections. Measures must be taken to ensure the safety of voters and electoral staff, as the Taliban and others would do everything to sabotage the process. He deplored that the number of civilian victims from such violence had risen by 30 per cent over last year, and was especially outraged that children were indiscriminate victims. Encouraging the establishment of local Afghan police, he demanded that the perpetrators of violence against United Nations personnel and others be prosecuted. He also urged Afghanistan’s neighbours to help address the problem of narcotics, and, with the help of UNAMA, that commitments made in Tokyo be honoured.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), aligning herself with the European Union Delegation, said that what had been unimaginable in Afghanistan in 2002 was possible today with the elections scheduled for April 2014. Pleased with the progress on electoral preparation, she said that she hoped that no efforts would be spared to ensure adequate security guarantees and women’s participation. Another important stride forward was that of the Afghan Security Forces, which did not exist 12 years ago, and which were now in charge. Turning to human rights, she added that it was important to hold on to progress made since 2001. Expressing concern about the extensive discrimination and abuse that women were subjected to, she noted the low number of sentences in comparison to the high number of complaints. “It seemed that impunity was the rule rather than the exception,” she said. Her delegation also attached great importance to the fate of children in armed conflict. Given the magnitude of that problem, she called upon UNAMA to maintain appropriate capacity to protect children.
PETER WILSON ( United Kingdom) said that the Afghan Security Forces had proved themselves “this fighting season”, their first in the lead. However, their gains were fragile and the support of the international community was vital. A political settlement remained the best way to secure a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Welcoming the talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he added that Afghanistan’s other neighbours were also critical to the process of creating a secure and economically viable Afghanistan. As the country entered the final phase of preparations for the elections, over a third of those participating in the voter registrations were women. “That is good news,” he emphasized, encouraging Afghanistan to provide access to election observers. The priorities for the Government was to maintain economic stability, deliver credible elections, and consolidate gains made in human rights, particularly women’s rights. The coming year would be a challenging one and the United Kingdom would uphold its pledge to support Afghanistan as it built a peaceful and stable future for its people.
MARIO OYARZÁBAL ( Argentina) highlighted progress made in the election preparation, especially finalization of the list of presidential candidates. Elections must be held in a safe, secure environment and he urged that female police and security agents be included in such work so that they could exercise their right to participate in elections. Further, it was vital that women participate in the peace and reconciliation processes. That must be a priority in the transition, he said, stressing their participation in all levels and sectors of the economy. He voiced concern at the rise of civilian victims of terrorist attacks, reiterating the call to adhere to international humanitarian law and urging that the perpetrators be brought to justice. For its part, the United Nations must continue to support Afghanistan in capacity-building. In sum, he reiterated the importance of strengthening the protection of women and children.
OH JOON ( Republic of Korea), welcoming progress, said that in the final year of Afghanistan’s transition, it was important that gains made were sustainable and irreversible. On the political transition, he said that ensuring the success of presidential and provincial elections would be most critical, welcoming the finalization of the candidates list and completion of voter registration. UNAMA should strengthen its support in order to consolidate the integrity of the process. On the security front, while he welcomed work to enhance the capacity of the security and police forces, he urged all parties to take every step to ensure civilian protection and comply with international law. Strengthened cross-border cooperation was also essential. On human rights, he expected the Government to make more progress on the law to eliminate violence against women. On narcotics, he expressed concern over high opium production, urging international and regional partners to support Afghan-led efforts in that regard. UNAMA should continue to assist Afghanistan in protecting human rights and strengthening governance.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said that the elections scheduled for 2014 were part and parcel of the transformation process in Afghanistan. However, the call to boycott the elections from the Taliban and other armed opposition groups was a matter of great concern. Commending UNAMA for starting local dialogues to mitigate tribal and ethnic tensions, he deplored the continued violence by those hostile to the Government. Unfortunately, civilians were the victims of such conflict and the toll was increasing. Noting the voluntary return of refugees, he called it a sign of optimism on the part of the population. He also hailed the endeavours to carry out the polio vaccination programme. Further, he encouraged Afghanistan to pursue, intensify and diversify its regional and bilateral relations.
ALEXIS LAMEK ( France), Council President, speaking in his national capacity and aligning with the European Union Delegation, said that Afghanistan had come to the last lap of preparations for the elections that would be the foundation for its future democracy. The success of those elections hinged on security and everything must be done to ensure that the Afghan Security Forces were able to fulfil that task. The humanitarian situation remained a matter of concern with the resumption of combat which was affecting civilians. While there had been unprecedented progress in women’s rights in Afghanistan, violence against women was still a big problem. He expressed concern as well about the safety conditions of humanitarian workers. Noting that opium production had soared to new heights this year, he emphasized that drug control was not only a security imperative, but also a matter of public health. The regional context was all the more important in that matter, he said, stating support for the activities of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.
ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI ( India) said that the events preceding the presidential elections would be extremely important to political reconstruction efforts which must remain Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. During the first 10 months of this year, there had been 7,394 casualties, which was a significant increase as compared to 2012. The use of improvised explosive devices accounted for 49 per cent of those casualties and remained the biggest threat to civilians. Concerted action was needed to isolate and root out the syndicate of terrorism, which included elements of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba, among others. It was, therefore, extremely important that the drawdown of troops and its implication on the security arrangements be carefully assessed, he said, emphasizing the need for continuing international support and greater regional integration with Afghanistan. As well, record levels of poppy cultivation and opium production remained a critical hazard to security and well-being. Nevertheless, Afghanistan had reached a level of maturity with the ongoing political reconstruction efforts. The new mandate of UNAMA should help keep its focus on supporting the political institutions rather than attempting to influence the political process itself, which must be left entirely to Afghanistan’s leaders.
HIROSHI ISHIKAWA ( Japan) hoped UNAMA would continue to play an important role in coordinating the international commitments made under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. The Afghan Government must fight corruption and show tangible results at the next Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board meeting in January. The presidential and provincial elections must give strong legitimacy to the new Government and take place in line with the Constitution, with its April 2014 timeline observed. Election results should reflect the entire population’s will. Expressing concern over the security situation, he encouraged the Government to take risk mitigation measures, underlining that Japan had donated $20 million to support the Independent Electoral Commission and was considering sending electoral observers. He decried the loss of life due to terrorist attacks, pressing the Government to conclude a bilateral security agreement with the United States. The peace process should be Afghan-led and owned. Responsibility should not shift to any other parties.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, said he was encouraged by the progress made in preparing for the presidential and provincial elections, including the creation of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission. The elections must be inclusive and transparent, with Afghan authorities ensuring that a security plan was in place enabling people to exercise their democratic right. For its part, the European Union would continue to provide financial and technical support to the electoral process through the United Nations, and other organizations.
On the security front, he underlined the importance of concluding the bilateral security agreement with the United States, which would provide the basis for international support in training the Afghan Security Forces and facilitating the provision of development assistance. International engagement must be matched by Afghan progress under the Tokyo Framework. Afghanistan must take all measures to tackle corruption and improve the investment climate. As for UNAMA, he fully supported its role — and that of all United Nations agencies — in coordinating international assistance, urging that the Organization must have enough resources to maintain a country-wide presence that would ensure development efforts led to Afghanistan’s self-reliance. The international community should be strongly committed to long-term progress in the country.
GUILLERMO E. RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) said that the April 2014 presidential election will mark the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history. The Afghan National Security Forces must demonstrate their capability in confronting security challenges. He urged President Karzai to sign the bilateral security arrangement with the United States. While progress had been made, challenges remained, he said, pointing to the 4,100 reports of violence against women in the first half of 2013 alone. “We must be clear, sacrificing the safety and security of women cannot be viewed as an acceptable compromise for stability,” he said. It was important to implement the elimination of violence against women law by providing training to police, prosecutors and judges. The rights of women and girls must be taken into account in all legislation being developed. The future success and stability of Afghanistan would be the result of the leadership of women.
Y. HALIT ÇEVIK ( Turkey) said that the three main challenges to the 2014 presidential elections were security, accessibility and inclusiveness. Following the elections, international support should continue to promote democracy and institution-building in Afghanistan. Addressing grave human rights matters, particularly violence against women and girls, and the issue of civilian casualties should be another priority, both in the short and long run. Lasting solutions could only be reached through inclusive Afghan-owned and -led reconciliation. As international forces withdraw, regional cooperation should gain increased importance for sustainability. He welcomed the heightened momentum of the Istanbul Process; all trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral initiatives centred on Afghanistan; and the constructive role played by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As well, he placed particular importance on the completion of local railroad and land routes, as well as the enhancing of civil aviation capabilities.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said that the long-term commitment of the international community was essential, especially in 2014, as Afghanistan prepared for presidential elections and the withdrawal of foreign forces. Stressing the need to continue the peace and national reconciliation efforts, he emphasized that the process should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. The complete withdrawal of foreign forces should be followed by the strong support of the international community in equipping Afghan forces, commensurate with the existing security threats. Special attention should be paid to combating the interlinked sources of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan, in particular the production and trade in narcotic drugs, which funded terrorist, extremist and illegal armed groups. Continued international support for the triangular counter-narcotics initiative between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan was essential. Millions of Afghan refugees still lived in host countries and “an alarming drop in their voluntary repatriation in 2013” underlined the importance of meeting the reasonable needs of repatriated refugees in Afghanistan.
HEIKO THOMS (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that for Afghanistan 2014 would be marked by decisive events such as the presidential elections in April and the withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force combat troops at year’s end. Further, supporting Afghan security forces required the signing of the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States. “Without this signature, the continued presence of the whole international community, military as well as civilian, is put into question,” he stressed. With the consent of the Afghan Government, UNAMA must focus on implementing the Tokyo Framework Agreement; ensure transparency in future political processes; support the Government in the peace and reconciliation processes; and continue monitoring human rights violations. To carry out those tasks, the Mission would need to be adequately financed and staffed.
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