StatementÂ by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Â At the Security Council debate on The Situation in Afghanistan
It is truly a pleasure to be among the Members of the Security Council today, at this critical juncture on Afghanistanâ€™s path to peace and prosperity. I congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of the Council for the month of September, and convey our appreciation for Germanyâ€™s continual support and assistance for Afghanistan during its tenure on the Council. Let me also convey a warm welcome to my good friend and colleague the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Jan Kubis. We thank him for his clear presentation of the Secretary Generalâ€™s comprehensive report.
We meet at an important time, when Afghanistan is transitioning confidently into a vibrant, self-reliant and sovereign nation; a nation that is increasingly taking full charge of its destiny. The Afghan people are inspired by the prospect of a future free from violence and war. And thanks to our joint efforts, important progress towards that endeavor continues.
As we speak, Afghanistan has surpassed the halfway point on our transition to full security responsibility. With the commencement of the third tranche of security transition in May, 75% of the country will be under Afghan security responsibility by the end of November.Â Our progress is on track to complete security transition by the end of 2013. The Afghan army and police are showing more resilience and effectiveness, as they take on more responsibility in meeting the countryâ€™s security needs.
Needless to say, sustainability of the ANSF is inextricably linked to the international communityâ€™s long-term support.Â The outcome of the recent Chicago NATO Summit was a clear manifestation of our international partnersâ€™ resolute commitment to a strong and effective Afghan national security force. We also welcome NATOâ€™s decision to develop a new â€œtraining, advising and assistanceâ€ role, which will take effect in 2014, and look forward to working with our relevant partners on the scope and mandate of the new mission.
The Afghan people are encouraged by the international communityâ€™s assurance to helping them secure peace and prosperity throughout transition, and the Transformation decade (2015-2024). In this regard, commitments made at the Bonn Conference last year, the NATO Summit this past May, and more recently, at the Tokyo Conference in July are crucial for our long-term success.
The Tokyo Conference marked the beginning of a new relationship between Afghanistan and our international friends; one based on a result oriented cooperation, to be conducted within the â€œmutual accountability framework.â€ We expect the international community to meet its commitment in channeling assistance through our core-budget, and aligning its aid with the Afghan National Priority Programme. Combating corruption, strengthening governance, and consolidating the rule of law will remain key priorities for us. President Karzaiâ€™s decree of July of this year is a significant step forward in our counter-corruption efforts. And it will be implemented by clear and time-bound measures by all Government Ministries, agencies and departments towards full accountability and transparency.
Afghanistan is regaining its legitimate place in the region and the world, through playing an active role within the neighborhood and international community. Our multilateral agreements and strategic partnerships involve long-term commitments between Afghanistan and our international partners. The partnerships we have formed, both within our neighborhood and beyond, are essential to preserving the historic achievements of Afghanistanâ€™s young democracy and securing the future peace and stability of the country. Thus far, we have concluded strategic, long-term partnership agreements with United States of America, India, China, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia. We see these partnerships as the key for our collective fight against the twin menaces of terrorism and extremism and for our future peace and stability through supporting our evolving national ownership.
As we continue our transition, with bold steps toward strengthening Afghan sovereignty and national ownership, the enemies of Afghanistan continue to make desperate attempts to undermine our progress towards a brighter future. Terrorist attacks have been increasingly inflicted on families and innocent Afghan men, women and children in many parts of the country, putting a brutal and tragic halt to their peaceful lives.
Undoubtedly, the unremitting violence plaguing Afghanistan is the result of the continued military, financial and ideological support enjoyed by terrorists, and the presence of sanctuaries and safe-havens outside our borders.
While the fight against terrorism will continue, the next few years of the political and security transition are vital for a stable future for Afghanistan. We are working diligently to ensure a fruitful result of peace and reconciliation efforts underway. Our inclusive peace and reconciliation process seeks to build trust and confidence among all Afghans. We are determined to bring to the folds of society those elements of the armed opposition willing to renounce violence, cut ties with terrorist groups, and accept the Afghan constitution. The High Peace Council has revitalized its approach to reconciliation efforts. The international community and our region have an important part to play. The role of the UN Security Council will be imperative to this process. We thank the Council for its support of our reconciliation efforts by meeting delisting requests, which we have presented. By the same token, we hope the new mandate of the Taliban sanctions committee will entail required adjustments, in recognition of the importance of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process â€“ so that the sanctions regime is more responsive and flexible and used in an even more effective, positive way to encourage those willing to join this process. Therefore, we look forward to working closely with the Council members to amend the resolution in a way that further benefits and accelerates the Afghan peace process.
The violence in Afghanistan has had a drastic effect on the security and well-being of our citizens. We express our serious concern about the growing number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan â€“ the majority of which are caused by the Taliban and other extremist groups.
Meanwhile, loss of innocent life and harm to populations has also occurred in the course of NATO operations. The loss of even one innocent life is one too many. We underscore, yet again, the need to exert all measures necessary to protect civilian populations.
The greatest challenges to peace and stability in Afghanistan, such as terrorism, extremism, and narcotic drugs, are shared regionally and internationally. Our common threats require cooperative solutions. We are working with regional countries, and other partners for a comprehensive response to these menaces. Launched in November of last year, the Istanbul Process is gaining momentum. The process was further crystallized at the Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Kabul in June, with the prioritization of key confidence-building measures. We look forward to coming together with our Heart of Asia partners in less than a week from now at the next Senior Officials Meeting in this city.
Let me now turn to a matter of deep and serious concern to my Government and the Afghan people. The shelling of areas of Kunar province of eastern Afghanistan from across the Durand Line, has led to unprecedented anger and frustration among Afghans from all walks of life. We reiterate our call for an immediate and complete end to these acts, which have taken the lives of dozens of Afghans, mainly civilians, while leaving many more wounded. We remain in close contact with the Government of Pakistan to address this issue, holistically and resolutely.
Failure to end such attacks risks jeopardizing Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral relations, with potential negative consequences for necessary bilateral cooperation for peace, security and economic development in our two countries and the wider region. Afghanistan desires close and fruitful relations with Pakistan, a neighbour with whom we share historical, cultural and traditional ties.
As we work to tackle the challenges on the road ahead, let us not lose sight of the historic, transformative successes made thus far. Significant advances in social and economic development are clearly evident. Millions of students, boys and girls, men and women are enrolled in primary and higher education. The majority of Afghans now have access to basic health services; and Afghans are increasingly taking part in the democratic processes, exercising their right to shape their own destiny. While we have seen such changes unfolding throughout the last decade, we can be proud that today the initiatives underway in regards to development are increasingly Afghan-driven and Afghan-led, with support from the international community.Â This characteristic is crucial for the sustainability of development efforts and for helping Afghanistan realize its full potential.
With the next Presidential elections fast approaching, we are fully committed to ensuring a transparent election process, free of any external interference.
After over three decades of struggle and suffering, we are moving ahead with Afghanistanâ€™s recovery and renewed strength. Afghans recognize the important indications of our sovereignty. We are determined to further our efforts toward national ownership across the board, as the most effective way to ensure lasting peace and security to our country.
Before concluding, allow me to register the Afghan Governmentâ€™s strong condemnation of the recent senselessly provocative acts of insult to Islam and Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). While acknowledging our fellow Muslimsâ€™ right to peacefully protesting these insults, we deplore any violence resulting from such protests, especially against diplomatic representations anywhere in the world.
The key for Afghanistanâ€™s future success is cooperation, both for our transition and the Transformation Decade to follow. Building trust and confidence with the international community is the basis for our path to security and prosperity. We are pleased that the Security Council is continuing to follow the situation closely, and we are thankful for their support and the support of the United Nations, including on revising UNAMAâ€™s mandate in line with the demands of Afghan sovereignty. With long-term cooperation and partnership in the center of our efforts, we are confident that together we can build a more peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
Thank you, Mr. President!
Briefing to the Security Council by JÃ¡n KubiÅ¡, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan
Mr. President, esteemed members of the Security Council,
Ten years after the creation of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), we face a very different set of ground realities.
The international military presence gradually transfers full security responsibility in Afghanistan to the Afghan National Security forces (ANSF) and will finish its current mission by the end of 2014. Efforts continue to make institutions of national and sub-national governance gradually capable to provide governance, rule of law, development and social services to the population, to provide for their rights and fundamental freedoms. Voices in support of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation are stronger, both from different parts of the Afghan society and from the region.
The profile and work of the United Nations in Afghanistan must reflect these realities, must take full account of the principles and requirements of the transition process. Active support of these positive trends and developments in partnership with Afghan authorities and society must be at the very core of the way we work.
During the first two months of my work in Afghanistan, I met many government officials, political leaders and civil society actors in Kabul, Afghan provinces and across the region. Starting with President Karzai, each and every individual has offered a warm welcome.
If there was one thing I drew hope from, it was the strong expressions of the desire for peace. The message of the people is clear – it is time to wind down this war.
News about the nascent peace process has prompted a lively debate which needs to be harnessed and fed into constructive policymaking. Under the Peopleâ€™s Dialogue supported by UNAMA, Afghans across the country share their vision and roadmap for a peace process. The dialogue also revealed that corruption, lack of justice and abuse of authority are seen by many as the biggest problem facing ordinary people, coupled with lack of working perspective for the growing urban population of young people.
Another important point I drew from these introductory meetings was a near universal recognition of the value of the UNâ€™s work and a great desire for UNAMAâ€™s continued presence.
Finally, I need to mention the recent tragedies that marked my first weeks in Afghanistan. I again offer my condolences and sympathies to the families of all casualties of the recent instances of violence, be it civilian or military. And I applaud commitment to full accountability.
At the same time I passionately emphasise the need for non-violent means of protest, even in response to such grave, albeit unintentional mistakes as the recent burning of the Holy Qurâ€™an. I commend the appeals and actions of the majority of religious leaders and community elders who ensured that deep anger was expressed at peaceful community gatherings. And I condemn sermons and appeals of those few who called for violence. They only brought death and destruction, firstly to Afghans.
A series of killings also targeted international troops there to help and train Afghan forces and institutions. This is unacceptable. These malicious acts have potentially profound implications for these essential efforts, for public support for enduring commitment of the international community to assist Afghanistan and its people.
Also the UN was singled out for violence by some. Notably the UNAMA office in Kunduz was directly attacked which brought back frightening memories of the seven dear colleagues of ours killed a year ago under similar circumstances in Mazar-e Sharif. The timely actions of the Afghan National Security Forces ensured that no UN personnel were hurt. Yet, six persons lost their lives. We regret these losses.
In response international staff members have been temporarily relocated while security is reassessed. This may impact on some programmes in the short term and there are already statements from local leaders appealing for their return.
The security of all our staff, national and international, is however of critical importance. We continue to work with ISAF, but increasingly with Afghan authorities, to address this. And I expect, indeed request support and understanding of the Afghan authorities for our security requirements. They are sine qua non for our continuous work and presence in the country.
Regardless those recent tragedies let us not lose perspective. Recent events should not overshadow positive trends and developments. They should not push the international community and Afghanistan, the transition process off agreed plans and timetables. The transition so far has been on track and on target, the ANSF have so far proven that they are up to the tasks. The Chicago summit should firm up these developments and plans by specific and solid commitments. Absence of such commitments would mean se-back to the transition, to stability in Afghanistan and in the region. In looking to the future we must demonstrate we have learned from the mistakes of the past.
Transition, however, encompasses also accelerated Afghan leadership, responsibility and accountability in governance, rule of law, justice, economic development and combating corruption and poverty. Stronger efforts in combating drug production and trafficking are critically important given the increase in poppy cultivation and opium production and thus increased threat to security, stability, development and governance in Afghanistan and in the region. Security gains must be supported by progress in these areas to make them and the transition sustainable.
Last yearâ€™s international conference in Bonn saw commitment to an enduring partnership also during the transformation decade beyond the 2014. Mutual commitments need to be respected by both the international community and Afghanistan.
The challenge now is to translate political commitments into predictable funding for the National Priority Programmes (NPPs). Tokyo provides the opportunity. In the coming months, the Government and its international partners must intensify their engagement to ensure that properly sequenced NPPs serve as the basis for strategic public and private funding and the achievement of development outcomes identified by the Government as fundamental for self-reliance.
UNAMA works consistently for coherent approaches by the international community to supporting Afghanistanâ€™s development and governance challenges, including as co-chair of the JCMB.
Many of my Afghan interlocutors have placed a stress on the 2014 presidential polls. Already the focus of intense debate and political mobilisation, the leadership change coincides with the planned culmination of the security transfer.
Elections are an Afghan process to be managed by Afghan independent electoral management bodies. For the results to be trusted the majority of my Afghan partners gave me a clear message â€“ there is a need to strengthen and improve Afghanistanâ€™s electoral process, including electoral reform in order to increase its sustainability, integrity, transparency and inclusiveness. And UN supporting role at the request of Afghan authorities is welcome, indeed needed.
The value of UNAMAâ€™s human rights work has been repeatedly emphasized to me by all parties.
As confirmed by UNAMAâ€™s impartial tracking and verification of civilian casualties, 2011 was the fifth year in a row that civilian deaths rose. Insurgent tactics of suicide attacks and the use of victim-activated pressure plate IEDs account for the majority of this toll. This is unacceptable and contradicts even the publicly declared ban on land mines by anti-government forces.
Improvements in the condition of Afghan detention centres and a reduction in torture and mistreatment of detainees has been another concrete outcome of our efforts. Both ISAF and Afghan authorities have undertaken measures to address abusive practices in Afghan detention facilities.Â It is important to build on gains made to date.
In spite of legal and constitutional protections for women, violence against women and girls remains pervasive in Afghanistan. Improvements require enforcement of laws that criminalize and penalize violence and harmful practices against women and girls, notably the law on Elimination of Violence against Women. UNAMA will continue working to improve protection and promote rights for Afghan women, including their participation in public life, peace and reconciliation processes and equal opportunities in education and employment. Similarly we will continue in our work for the benefit of Afghan children.
Past months have seen some potentially positive developments in support of peace and reconciliation. To turn this potential into a successful process the efforts must first of all be fully Afghan-led, but also comprehensive and genuinely inclusive and involve representatives of all relevant forces and segments of the Afghan society. At the same time peace should not be reached at the expense of the basic achievement of the past decade, as confirmed by the Kabul communiquÃ© and the Bonn conference. In moving towards a peace process, reducing civilian deaths and injuries should be of the highest priority.
A much repeated request has been for UNAMA to continue to support the High Peace Council and to generally make use of its good offices and services in support of peace and reconciliation. Many called for a UN role in those nascent processes. There were different ideas on what form and shape this could take and when.
Support for Afghanistan in the region has gained momentum, as documented by the recent trilateral summit between the leaders of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan in Islamabad or other similar efforts. They, inter alia, have confirmed support for Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
I have been particularly impressed with Afghan leadership of the regionally-owned Istanbul Process and of how the process progresses. I also welcome commitment of the supporting countries. The work currently focuses on seven specific confidence building measures and on preparations of the Kabul ministerial meeting in June. It is preceded by an important RECCA meeting in Dushanbe next week.
My recent visits to Pakistan, Turkmenistan, India and Iran provided invaluable opportunity for exchange of views on their support for Afghanistan and UNAMA. We spoke about opportunities, but I also heard words of strong concerns. I would like to thank for these invaluable meetings and for the hospitality.
One of my top priorities is ensuring greater coherence of UN efforts in all areas, both programmatic, operational and policy, and to ensure that our activities are outcome-oriented, transparent and cost effective. DSRSG Michael Keating is working with the entire UN system to ensure full UN alignment behind the national development strategy and the NPPs, which will serve as the basis for the UNâ€™s programmatic and operational coherence. As Humanitarian Coordinator, he is working with OCHA to promote greater coherence by the entire humanitarian community â€“ including UN agencies, NGOs, and the authorities â€“ to promote and provide practical support for effective response to humanitarian needs, whether as a result of chronic vulnerability, disasters or conflict. The decades lasting problem of refugees and IDPs should also be addressed on the basis of sustainable solutions that integrate humanitarian efforts with development.
From the outset of my work in Kabul, I have been clear that the Mission and the 28 UN agencies, funds and programmes present in Afghanistan must work in support of the increasing capacity of Afghan authorities and institutions to meet the needs of the Afghan people. This approach will also determine the future footprint of UNAMA and the UN family in the country.
Thank you for the attention.