Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
at the General Assembly debate on
agenda item 38 â€œThe Situation in Afghanistanâ€
Once more in this august hall, we are discussing the situation in Afghanistan: the cycle of suffering, the immensity of new challenges, and certainly the progress we have made thus far. For the past decade, the world has been extensively engaged in Afghanistan, in our ongoing struggle for peace and stability. We come together today, to adopt a resolution which will affirm, again, the support of the international community for ending a continued crisis that has long shaken the world and also our commitment to helping the Afghan people in their difficult struggle to finally arrive at peace and stability.
I thank all who have contributed to shaping the resolution, in particular, the German delegation headed by H. E. Ambassador Peter Wittig for their leadership and hard work throughout the process. We are especially appreciative of Mr. Elmar Eich for his role in facilitating the negotiations.
We are leaving behind another year of national trauma: violence has, regrettably, remained a constant in the lives of many Afghans, resulting in significant loss of life. We have seen indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians, targeted assassinations and the attempt to shatter what we have worked so hard to build. In fact, the terrorist attacks are aimed at breaking our determination, and attempting to undermine our national unity and historical integrity.
Afghans have been the prime victims of terrorism, but we are not alone; it is also our friends and partners that are hurt and losing their lives alongside our people. As the threat of terrorism originating from our region became global in character, the international community intervened to stop it. But we have not yet succeeded in ending the threat. The Taliban, who hijacked Afghanistan for years, hid their heads for some time, and are now reappearing with a barbaric and brutal face. Resuscitated by the continued existence of safe-havens in the region, they continue to hold Afghanistan hostage, killing our people, destroying the country, and threatening our gains, freedom and way of life.
Despite the recent increase in violent activities, the Afghan people are determined to continue their progress. And, fragile as the country may seem, substantial improvements have been made over the last decade. Afghanistan has risen from the ashes of a state disintegrated by decades of conflict, and millions of Afghans have rebuilt their lives and are moving forward. Thousands of new schools and universities have been built, with millions of enrolled students, nearly half of which are female. Hundreds of clinics and hospitals have been established and thousands of doctors and nurses trained. New roads have been constructed, benefitting travel within Afghanistan and enhancing partnerships and trade with those in our region and beyond. Our achievements are not only economic and social; good and democratic governance is being extended to areas where previously there was none. The rule of law is being strengthened; and we are working to rid our society of the cancer of corruption. With wider participation in political and social life, and a greater focus on human rights, including womenâ€™s rights, Afghanistan is becoming a home for all.
Not far from the burning memories of the bloody and destructive power-struggles of the 1990s, we drafted our new constitution, held two Presidential and two parliamentary elections, and now have our national and local administrations in place. These achievements have helped Afghanistan regain its legitimate place on the world stage, as a responsible member of the international community.
But, Mr. President,
This progress has not been easy â€“ it is a constant struggle. Terrorism remains the main threat, exacerbating all other challenges. The terrorists and their insolent supporters continue to destroy the country and prevent us from living in peace and prosperity. Afghanistanâ€™s enemies wanted to convince the world that success is not possible and all efforts are doomed to fail. But they must understand we are not in the Afghanistan of the 1990s â€“ terrorist acts undermine our daily work, but will not force us back to where we were a decade ago.
As we begin a new decade of international involvement in Afghanistan, ten years into the post-Taliban era, we are confronted with many questions: Where do we go from here? More specifically, how can Afghans stand on their own feet and maintain a stable society through the transition process as international forces continue their withdrawal?
This year marked the historic start of the transition process, by which Afghans will assume full responsibility, ownership and leadership. Transition is about transforming the country from one suffering from violence and instability to a fully functioning state and a viable society. A comprehensive transition includes these six interlinked issues:
First is security. Security transition is on track. We are working with our international partners to assume full responsibility in all provinces by 2014 or possibly earlier. The gradual draw-down of international forces through 2014 is strongly linked to the training and equipping of Afghan forces and an ongoing strategic partnership over the next decade or more. While the numbers, capabilities, and self-confidence of the Afghan National Security Forces are growing, transition is not happening in a vacuum; continued international engagement through recruiting, training, and equipping Afghan forces will be essential through transition and beyond.
Second is good governance and rule of law. Building a better future for Afghanistan will require a stable, functioning and clean Government that is capable of turning opportunities into successes. Actions such as the release of the National Priority Programme on Law and Justice, which outlines the justice sector reform strategy for the next three years, highlight the important focus of strengthening rule of law in all provinces and districts. For transition to be successful the Government of Afghanistan must, and will, continue to enhance its efforts in improving services to the Afghan people, strengthening justice and rule of law, and fighting against corruption at all levels.
Third is social and economic development. Afghanistan is on its way to a sustainable, drug-free, and fully functional economy. Over the last year we have been finalising our national priority programs within the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. Agricultural development is the top priority, along with increasing investment in Afghanistanâ€™s rich mineral resources and rebuilding infrastructure. Social development is reflected as well, for instance in the ten-year National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, and a continuing focus on education and health. These programs will effectively address poverty and inequality, efficiently and without duplication of efforts. We urge the international community to ensure that the provision of development aid is transparent, accountable, and coordinated with Afghanistanâ€™s priorities.
Fourth is reconciliation and reintegration. Transition is interlinked with the peace process, which can help put an end to violence and insecurity. This year, the peace process saw both significant steps forward and a major setback, with the assassination of Professor Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council. However, despite all attacks, the Afghan people want the peace process to continue. This is just what the Loya Jirga, the traditional grand assembly, which ended this weekend in Kabul, calls for. The Loya Jirga brought together 2,200 representatives, Afghans from all ethnic groups, North and South, East and West, and from all segments of society – parliamentarians, politicians, tribal elders, scholars and Afghan refugees – to discuss the peace process and the strategic partnership agreement with the United States. It was an inclusive process, which will inform the Governmentâ€™s position and ensure a unified Afghan voice. It marked a significant step in the peace and reconciliation process and was a clear display of the will of Afghans, reaffirming that Afghanistan is ready to accept and build on a strategic alliance with United Sates as well as other real friends and partners.
Fifth is regional cooperation: Through a number of initiatives, Afghanistan is re-claiming our historic role as a trade, transport and economic hub and most importantly as a catalyst for wider collaboration in the â€˜Heart of Asiaâ€™. Earlier this month, we saw the successful conclusion of the Istanbul Conference, generously hosted by our brother country, Turkey. Afghanistan sees the Istanbul Process as a new beginning for comprehensive regional inter-connectedness. We look forward to the first follow-up Ministerial Meeting in Kabul next June.
Before Istanbul we saw the finalisation and implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, after decades of negotiations. This agreement is a tremendous and historic step forward. In September, thirty high-level delegations from the region and beyond convened here in New York to endorse the New Silk Road Initiative. We believe that this vision holds a real promise of attracting greater investment and trade and will provide economic opportunities for all countries in our wider region.
Security is the basis of regional cooperation, aimed at achieving regional and international peace and stability. The threat of terrorism comes from the region – in safe-havens beyond our borders, terrorists find sanctuary, training, broadened logistical support, and strategic guidance for preparing renewed attacks against Afghanistan and the international community. Unless the scourge of terrorism is eliminated, all our efforts – for economic development, for social and political progress – will be in vain.
That brings us to the sixth element of transition: strategic partnerships. We are now finalizing the Strategic Partnership Document, which will involve US support in training and assisting Afghan forces through 2014 and beyond. We have also signed a strategic partnership agreement with India, and negotiations for similar arrangements are under way with the UK, France, Australia, and the European Union. The basis for long-term partnership has also been established with NATO. These partnerships will continue to build on and redefine the ties we have formed with the international community, to guarantee the future success of the country.
In December, the Afghan leadership will come together with the international community in Bonn, Germany in order to assess progress and map out a long-term commitment for peace and security in Afghanistan. The Bonn conference will mark a new beginning at the start of a new decade of the international communityâ€™s partnership with Afghanistan. We thank Germany for their efforts and leadership in hosting what will no doubt become a milestone in our history.
For Afghanistan, 2014 is not a solid endpoint set in stone. Instead it stands as a way marker for a new phase of the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, with Afghanistan as a fully sovereign partner. We need to be realistic in understanding why the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan is important in an increasingly inter-connected world and a strategically crucial region. A successful transition, which addresses the six interwoven elements I outlined today, will lead us to a stable, reliable Afghanistan partnering in a mutually beneficial way with the international community.
Often, we are presented with a grim picture of Afghanistan, one of disappointment and disengagement. Such scenarios raise doubts about the possibility of a successful transition in Afghanistan. But we Afghans and the international community have agreed on a different vision. We have a plan for a successful transition, with all elements and all partners acting in harmonious accord. We believe that with the support and goodwill of the Afghan people and the international community, it will succeed.
All of us are not here simply to see how the situation in Afghanistan will unfold, but to shape it and craft future history. We have a responsibility to act for success; we cannot simply sit back and wait in fear of failure in Afghanistan, though there are some out there who prefer to do so. Let us not insult the future, as it is said – instead, on the basis of the real progress of the past decade, let us stick to making a successful present day.