STATEMENT OF H.E. Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the General Debate
of the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
First, let me welcome you, Mr. President, and congratulate you on assuming the Presidency of the 64th Session of the General Assembly. Afghanistan looks forward to working with you over the next year, and to strengthening the international responses to the crises facing us today.
Since its inception, the UN has been instrumental in addressing world’s challenges, particularly the global south. But significant challenges remain unresolved. The growing gap in opportunities and prosperity between and among nations reminds us that we are still far away from meeting the ideals and objectives of the UN charter in creating a just and secure world.
Strengthening and restructuring of the UN agencies remain pivotal in closing the gap between the objectives of the charter and the realities of the world. The UN is not a forum for lip service. It must embody the ideals of the charter by providing political and moral direction and leadership. n our increasingly interdependent world and the multi-laterally-oriented international system, the UN must assume greater responsibility in finding collective solutions to our challenges. The world, particularly the developing nations are faced with the threats of poverty, underdevelopment, environmental degradation, extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, culturally-based racism, spread of weapons of mass destruction and arms race.
Rather than just managing and reacting to problems, the UN must find ways to address the structural causes of world’s problems and conflicts. To these ends, closer cooperation between the UN, the international criminal court, the International Financial Organizations and global civil society is vital in moving towards a more just and equitable relations among and between the nations.
Our efforts to address the new challenges must be accompanied by redoubling our commitment for resolving the remaining historical conflicts. Chief among them is the middle-east peace process. Afghanistan reiterates its call for the full implementation of UN Resolutions and other regional initiatives for bringing an end to the suffering of Palestinian nation and creating a safe region for all middle-eastern nations.
Finding a just and working solution to the middle-east peace process will also deny terrorists a potent recruiting tool. This will also remove a significant obstacle towards mutual understanding and cooperation between the Islamic world and the West.
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic world faces a number of important internal and external questions and issues. Addressing these issues and reviving the prominent role of Muslims in contributing to humanity’s progress and civilization can only be attained if we, as members of the Islamic world, collectively confront current intellectual stagnation that many of us suffer. As with the golden era of Islamic history, intellectual freedom and creativity must be elevated to our highest social and political priorities. The Islamic world is in urgent need of an intellectual renaissance.
Islamophobia and equating Muslims to a violent minority is another issue that calls upon all of us, particularly the western nations, to seek effective ways to confront them. As with racially-motivated racism and discrimination, culturally-based racism must also be rejected and confronted.
Let me now turn to the situation in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the negative coverage of the situation in Afghanistan by international media has overshadowed the many positive trends and developments achieved since the collapse of the Taliban’s regime. Alongside terrorism, drugs, weak state institutions and corruption, a new Afghanistan is emerging. This Afghanistan comprises our emerging democracy, rising state institutions, nascent civil society, growing private sector and strong international solidarity.
I can refer to many examples about this Afghanistan. In the course of last 8 years, the percentage of access to basic health services has risen from 9% in 2001 to present 85%. The number of students had grown from one million only boy students in 2001 to nearly 7 million boys and girls in 2008. In 2001, there were only 4000 students in universities, whereas now more than 75000 are enrolled in 22 universities. The armies of private militia in late 2001 have been replaced by a nearly 200000 strong national security forces. Compared with one state Radio and a couple of newspapers during the Taliban, Afghanistan now has over 700 media outlets, who are often critical of the government.
In late 2001, only a handful had access to internet across Afghanistan, but today, we have one million users. Our average GDP per capita has grown from $US 185 in 2001 to $US 485 in 2008.
The generous support and sacrifices of the international community were vital in our joint and proud achievements in Afghanistan, for which we remain grateful.
The August presidential and provincial elections demonstrated the many positive changes. It was the first time in modern history of Afghanistan, that the Afghan institutions were tasked with organizing and holding a nationwide election. Taking into account the socio-historical realities of Afghanistan, we passed this national test successfully. In addition to be our first experience, we were faced with merciless enemies who did their utmost to disrupt and derail the process by terrorizing the Afghan voters.
By braving Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, Afghan voters demonstrated their determination and desire to have a modern, moderate and democratic political system. The electoral campaigns were conducted in a democratic spirit. The candidates transcended ethnic and religious lines. There was not major physical violence between the candidates’ supporters. The Independent Election Commission conducted successfully the voter-registration process, voting and counting. The Afghan media played a crucial role in educating and mobilizing the voters. Our national security forces did an excellent job in providing security prior and during the elections with the full coordination and cooperation with our international partners. On Election Day, we lost a number of our security forces, Afghan civilians as well as members of the International Security Assistance Forces to terrorist attacks.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the UN-supported Election Complaint Commission (ECC) are working hard on counting votes and addressing the complaints.
As with any emerging democracy, undoubtedly, there were cases of irregularities. But one should not assess a terrorist-inflicted nascent democracy with the criteria of centuries-old stable and prosperous democracies. This is not a call to condone fraud and irregularities. But in passing judgment, we should be conscious of the context, the process and the full picture, rather than only one aspect or issue.
In due course, the Independent Elections Commission and the Election Complain Commission will announce and certify the final results of the elections. For the sake of stability and consolidation of our nascent democratic institutions and process, it is imperative by all of us to respect and support their decision. Continuing delegitimizing efforts to undermine the integrity of the process and our institutions will certainly result in worsening the situation not only for Afghanistan but also for the international community.
Afghanistan still faces significant challenges. Chief of them is terrorism, which enjoys safe haven and institutional support beyond our borders. As long as the terrorism infrastructure and sanctuaries, including the leadership of the Taliban remains protected, Afghanistan, the region and the world will be at the mercy of terrorists and their totalitarian ideology and objectives. Narcotic drugs, weak state institutions, corruption and socio-economic challenges such as poverty and unemployment constitute our other challenges.
Only by pursuing a comprehensive strategy, adequate resources, effective implementation and more importantly strategic patience and steadfastness, we can address our interconnected challenges in Afghanistan and the region. The main pillars of such a comprehensive strategy are security, good governance, economic development, regional cooperation and international solidarity.
Afghanistan fully endorses Pres. Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the new assessment by Gen MackCrystal, particularly, their emphasis on the need for a comprehensive and long-term strategy.
The forthcoming international conference on Afghanistan will be an opportunity for Afghanistan and our international partners to review and reiterate our mutual commitment and determination for addressing Afghanistan’s remaining challenges. It must renew the sense of partnership and cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community. It must aim to build upon our many joint achievements as well as addressing our mutual shortcomings and deficiencies. Our renewed compact with the international community will be complemented by the new compact between the Afghan government and the Afghan nation.
What the Afghan nation expects and deserves from a renewed partnership with the international community is the reassurance of long-term commitment and solidarity. They are rightly fearful of being abandoned once again to lawlessness, extremism, and external interference. Abandoning the Afghan nation who has endured years of suffering and pain will undermine the spirit of collective cooperation and the ideals of the UN. It will also overshadow the moral credibility of those who failed to honor their promise and commitment to Afghans for many generations to come. Furthermore, it will embolden extremists in the region and beyond.
On its part, the Afghan Government is fully committed and determined to assume the lead responsibilities in providing leadership for the full realization of the aspiration of Afghan citizens and its commitment to the international community. The principles of good governance, mutual accountability and regional cooperation are of highest priority. There must be zero-tolerance for any drug-related activities and corruption by both the Afghan Government and our international partners.
I have full confidence that with the full support and commitment of the family of nations, Afghanistan will be able to overcome the legacies of decades of violence and suffering. We will restore our historic position as a model of cooperation of different cultures and a regional crossroads and hub for trade, transit, transportation and tourism.
I thank you.