Let me begin by offering my warmest greetings for the New Year.
I hope and trust that it will bring greater peace and serenity, both in the public and private affairs of peoples and nations around the world.
I welcome the new members of the Council, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria and Gabon.
I wish them a fruitful and distinguished tenure on the Council.
I would like also to congratulate the Permanent Representative of China on his assumption of the Presidency of the Council for this month.
I welcome this opportunity to brief the Council on the situation in Afghanistan.
Following my remarks, Special Representative Kai Eide will provide an update.
Last year was another extremely challenging period for Afghanistan and for international efforts to assist the government and its people.
Difficult elections … deterioriating security … doubts about the current strategies of both the Government and the international community.
All combined to produce further violence and uncertainty for a country facing immense challenges.
There can be no doubt that Afghanistan will remain one of our main priorities in 2010.
Let me focus on two aspects in particular:
First, strengthening the role of the Afghan Government;
Second, coordinating international civilian efforts under the UN umbrella.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the UN Development Programme, alongside other international organizations and bilateral representatives, played an instrumental role in helping the Afghan authorities to conduct last year’s presidential and provincial council elections.
The electoral process was problematic, to say the least.
This should have been no surprise, given the security conditions and institutional imitations.
Still, the elections did produce results that were ultimately accepted.
Preparations for this year’s parliamentary elections are expected to start soon.
Should the Government ask for UN assistance, and if the Security Council agrees, the United Nations is ready to support the process through technical assistance and institution-building.
More generally, we hope that the tremendous political energy released during last year’s elections will now be directed towards forging a meaningful, realistic and renewed compact between the Afghan Government and its people.
President Karzai’s inaugural speech was encouraging.
The priorities he set out reflect the real issues facing Afghan society: security, good governance, corruption, national unity, and the need to expand cooperation with the country’s neighbors so as to address drug-trafficking and other cross-border threats to stability.
President Karzai also made an explicit commitment to ensure measurable achievements, allowing for the start of a gradual transfer of responsibilities from international actors to Afghan institutions, particularly in the field of security.
This is especially important given that conditions across the country have deteriorated further.
While the violence was caused by a politically driven insurgency, it has also been exploited by criminal groups, drug traffickers and others.
There have been increased civilian casualties and greater risks for UNAMA and other Afghan partners.
Efforts by the Taliban and insurgents to prevent people from participating in the electoral process has also destroyed social structures and traditional security mechanisms
This insecurity remains the single biggest impediment to progress.
Last year, about three times as many civilian deaths were attributed to anti-Government elements as to pro-Government forces.
Most resulted from suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices used by anti-Government elements, or air-strikes by pro-Government forces.
The vulnerability of civilians is a serious issue, with great implications for the standing of the Government and its partners in steering the country towards stability and peace.
I urge all parties to do their utmost to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law.
Afghanistan is at a critical juncture.
All key players – Afghan and international -have drawn important lessons from controversial experiences and missed opportunities.
I appeal to both the Afghan Government and the international community to make the best possible use of the next few months.
The international community has reaffirmed its resolve to complete the task of erasing the terrorist threat.
The sharpened strategies demonstrate a clear understanding that continued pursuit of the same policies will not lead to success.
But if these strategies are to be implemented in an efficient and timely manner, the new Afghan Government must fulfill its far-reaching pledges.
At the same time, the relationship between Afghanistan and its international partners must be re-evaluated.
Well-prepared international conferences, both inside and outside Afghanistan, can help to ensure the sustainability of the international community’s efforts.
The forthcoming International Conference in London offers an important opportunity for fresh impetus, both to the international effort as well as that of the newly established government in Kabul to provide greater stability and support to the security and developmental needs of Afghanistan.
While external assistance can help, it is for the Afghans to take ownership of these efforts through strong commitment and good governance.
I appreciate the initiative taken by the UK, France and Germany in convening this meeting. I also commend the important contribution made by the Group of Friends of Afghanistan.
In this regard, I welcome the new approach by US President Obama and other world leaders that seeks an optimal balance between military and civilian efforts, and that would strengthen cooperation with the United Nations.
It is clear that there is a need for broader and more effective civilian efforts, which will require much better international coordination.
UNAMA is mandated to lead this coordination, and Special Representative Kai Eide has suggested exploring the viability of a dedicated civilian coordination structure, in consultation with the Afghan Government and international stakeholders.
Ultimately, however, the main obstacle is not the lack of structures or even a shortage of resources, although both of these play a part and cuts in the recently approved biennium budget will not help.
Rather, the main problem is a question of political will.
Better coordination based on strong political willingness of donor countries and strong local effort is key to resolving the current situation.
We need strategies that meet the requirements of building sustainable institutions to deliver services to the Afghan people, and to develop the Afghan economy.
At a time of increasingly challenging security conditions and a more demanding political environment, our task is that much more difficult.
But if it is more arduous for us, imagine how it feels to the average Afghan.
Despite the uncertainties, the United Nations remains firmly committed to supporting the men and women of Afghanistan to find the path of stability and peace.
We are also committed to ensuring the safety and security of our local and international staff in this increasingly dangerous mission.
Their courage, dedication and, often, outright heroism are an inspiration to us all.
At this moment, I wish to recall those who have paid for this service with their lives.
We can expect more terror attacks, and I again ask for your full support to doing everything possible to ensure the well-being of the mission’s personnel.
Let me close with a word on Special Representative Kai Eide.
His intrepid spirit, strong determination and selfless dedication have sustained the mission during these past critical months.
His contribution will be remembered with gratitude both by this Organization and the people of Afghanistan.