STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on
“The Situation in Afghanistan”
(check against delivery)
17 November 2016
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Seventy years ago, two days from now, Afghanistan’s flag was raised at the grounds of the General Assembly, as the 52nd member of the United Nations. Today, I am pleased to stand before you, on behalf of a great nation, with the world’s support behind us through the unanimous adoption of the resolution entitled “The Situation in Afghanistan”.
Allow me to thank all member states for their support for the resolution. I would like to express my gratitude to Ambassador Harald Braun, Counselor Peter Neven, and the rest of the team at the Permanent Mission of Germany for so ably leading negotiations on the resolution. We are also thankful to the delegations who took part in the negotiations in a constructive spirit, as an expression of their solidarity and support for Afghanistan.
I also wish to thank member states that have co-sponsored this resolution, which signifies their continued support for a stable Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s story of resilience and accomplishments against all odds, despite our ongoing struggle against illegalities and stagnation, in particular those crafted and imposed on us by regional orchestrators of violent extremism and terrorism, should be a source of hope and inspiration for those who champion shared values of a democratic and free society, based on rule of law, human rights, and dignity for all. However, in the current scenario of violent extremism and radicalism threatening our global order, unanimous international consensus and support for Afghanistan is needed in the fight against global terrorism. We hope that through this resolution, member states will be guided in addressing key issues facing Afghanistan.
To state that Afghanistan has achieved unprecedented progress in the past fifteen years while faced with enormous challenges is not an overstatement. I witnessed this yet again during my visit to Kabul last week, finding a more vibrant and cleaner city with major improvement in waste management. Almost all of you have been involved in some form in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan since 2001. The giant leap forward in almost all sectors of the society would not have been possible without your contribution. The Government and people of Afghanistan are truly grateful for your support, and we look forward to continuing our joint partnership for prosperity and peace. We will do so on the basis of mutual commitments, under the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) and Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) agreed upon at the recently concluded Brussels Conference.
The outcome of last month’s Brussels Conference on Afghanistan was truly a milestone, which revitalized the essence of our partnership with the international community. The National Unity Government’s progress report on the benchmarks of the comprehensive reform agenda laid out our efforts towards a democratic state. We will remain consistently focused on strengthening state institutions, developing self-reliance, and crafting social services to serve our people. Hence it is imperative that we consolidate the gains as Afghanistan completes its Millennium Development Goals and embarks on Sustainable Development Goals.
Notwithstanding the transformational effects of our gains for the country, we have faced continued threats from violent extremism and terrorism. In 2016, we have witnessed new security challenges that impinge upon various levels of national, regional, and global stability. Currently, multiple conflicts plague many nations with painful stories of suffering, displacement and exodus of refugees in search of safety. Foreign terrorist fighters are on the move, taking advantage of negative state rivalries and operating across regions to establish new footholds in various countries.
In Afghanistan, we have paid a heavy price at the forefront of global struggle against terrorism. The year 2016 was one of the bloodiest in terms of both civilian and military casualties. We faced a thinly disguised declared war, where a neighboring state, contrary to the UN Charter and the principle of good neighborly relations, used the proxy Taliban including the Haqqani network, Al-Qaida, ISIL (Daesh), and others to orchestrate and conduct attacks with the aim of overrunning a number of provincial capitals and stoking the flames of disunity among the Afghans. Those who seek solace from the intention of keeping Afghanistan bleeding must remember that such actions would bleed them too and warrant international isolation. The export of foreign terrorist fighters, including Daesh in parts of Afghanistan remains a serious concern. Lately they have sought to expand their brutal presence into northern Afghanistan, often operating in tandem with the Taliban and other affiliate groups.
Yet, I am pleased to report that against the enormous odds, our national security forces have heroically confronted this myriad of interconnected extremist groups, shaped and exported to Afghanistan. They have thwarted terrorist militia plans for the capture and control of territory in different parts of the country, repulsing successive attacks in various provinces, including Kunduz and Helmand. Terrorist militias continue to sustain heavy losses, whereupon they resort to desperate attacks on soft targets, including aid agencies, educational institutions and civilian premises. Last week they attacked the German Consulate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif where six civilians were killed and over a hundred were injured. The recent attacks are the latest attempts by the terrorist handlers to undermine our stability.
Nevertheless and in order to make our security forces more sustainable and provide them with everything needed to face the ever-evolving terrorist tactics, we require continued support from the international community. We note with gratitude the outcomes of the NATO Warsaw Summit, on the basis of which partner countries pledged new commitments for training, equipping, financing, and further enhancing the operational capacity of our security forces until the end of 2020. We very much welcome the decision reached to maintain the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) beyond 2016. The pledges of renewed support have instilled renewed confidence in our armed forces.
A joint international response to combating terrorism can only succeed if the world addresses the key enablers of terrorism. Without foreign planning, safe havens, provision of training and weapons, and logistical support, groups like the Taliban would not have the same destructive reach, and can be addressed within the democratic political system. The fact that rogue elements within certain state structures facilitate violent extremist activities is hugely problematic and contrary to relevant counter-terrorism and sanction regime resolutions of the UN, particularly resolutions 1373, 1624, 2178, 2253 and 2255. A renewed three-tier approach to UN counter-terrorism strategy is needed. At debate level, we ought to address the impact on the growth of terrorism of negative state rivalries and state use of violence in pursuit of political objectives. At operational level, we need to enrich relevant existing resolutions or adopt new resolutions to target the drivers of such policies within state structures. At implementation level, effectively and equally enforcing the counter-terrorism resolutions and sanctions regimes on the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Daesh and member states that politically and militarily support them, can have a significant impact on war and peace in Afghanistan. President Ghani has asked for the timely inclusion of select Taliban leaders in the sanctions list. We welcome the recent visit of the Sanctions Committee to Afghanistan, where relevant issues were discussed with the senior leadership. We urge all member states, in particular countries accommodating terrorists, to actively strengthen mechanisms within state structures for proper implementation of these resolutions. There is an urgent need for increased and meaningful interaction between the UN counter terrorism bodies and Afghan security agencies.
The National Unity Government has made unremitting efforts to advance the cause of a durable peace. This has been a key issue for both President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. We are determined to bring peace to Afghanistan with or without the support of those who have thus far failed to proactively support this process. The recently signed peace agreement between the Afghan Government and the leadership of Hezb-e-Islami marks our strong commitment to peace and the fact that we are willing to take hard decisions for it. The implementation process has already begun with cessation of active hostilities where relevant between our national security forces and those loyal to this group. We hope this agreement can serve as a model for reconcilable Taliban who are willing to give up violence and embrace peace.
We believe the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, comprised of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States, can still be a useful platform to facilitate dialogue with the Taliban. Yet, achieving any degree of progress requires clear and decisive action to honor commitments within the framework of the QCG “Road Map.”
The National Unity Government’s efforts to promote regional economic cooperation through the pursuit of common regional objectives and existing processes, organizations, and programs are moving forward. Few of the recently concluded or currently ongoing regional projects include the Chabahar Port; TAPI and CASA 1000 initiatives for transfer of gas and electricity across the region, as well as the railway line between China and Afghanistan. The Afghan led Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Processes are working to strengthen connectivity and increase trade and transit for the benefit of regional prosperity. The region sees in Afghanistan, a country located in the Heart of Asia, the potential to develop as a key player in strengthening economic ties and cultivating regional connections. Once again, we would like to reiterate that we are willing to work with all neighboring countries to achieve a shared prosperous future for all.
Good governance has paved the way for notable strides across social indicators. We have created a culture of free speech and tolerance for alternate opinions. The 2016 World Press Freedom Index ranks Afghanistan 4th best among the 13 countries of South and Central Asia.
Afghanistan is committed to the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security based on our 8 year plan of action. Women’s empowerment has created a more equal society, with women taking key roles in state institutions and various professional fields. Multiple women’s protection centers for survivors of domestic violence and children’s protection units to prevent recruitment of children in the armed forces are functional. Respect for rule of law and promotion and protection of human rights for all are key values strengthening the development of our nation.
As a country firmly committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Afghanistan is a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period (2018-2020). We look to your support for our candidacy and can state with confidence that a vote for Afghanistan will be a vote to strengthen the human rights architecture worldwide.
By strengthening national consensus for a viable approach to reform our electoral institutions, we are enhancing the credibility and transparency of our future elections and the democratic process in Afghanistan. Recently the Selection Committee presented to the President a list of candidates, from which a select group will be appointed to serve as new commissioners in the electoral bodies. Last week, the leadership of the National Unity Government convened a consultative meeting with broad spectrum of prominent personalities to exchange views on issues related to holding future elections. These meetings demonstrate our efforts to enhance national unity and political stability.
The fight against corruption remains our priority. Earlier this week, the Anti-Corruption Justice Center held its first two trials open to public and monitored by representatives from civil society, media, and national and international observers. This further signifies the government’s commitment to prosecute corruption cases of senior officials. In our efforts to promote good governance at all levels, we have also pursued “merit-based appointments” to achieve more effective, transparent, and accountable institutions that are able to serve our people.
Countering the menace of narcotics trade and breaking down the nexus of criminality and drugs remain crucial objectives for us. Increased insecurity leads to a rise in opium production, and to counter the illegality of narcotics money fueling extremist activities is a challenge we are aiming to counter through our comprehensive Afghan National Drug Action Plan with the support of our international partners.
Due to a shrinking economy and increasing insecurity, Afghanistan is still one of the leading refugee origin country. This, along with 485,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in 2016 remains a cause of concern. In recent months, we have witnessed the return of around half a million refugees from Pakistan. We urge the Pakistani Government to have a more meaningful dialogue with us on this issue. Given the magnitude of the problem, we invite the international community to support the OCHA flash appeal to provide for the immediate needs of this population. Currently, the Government is working on a long term vision for the returnees.
In conclusion, the joint sacrifices over the past fifteen years by Afghanistan and our international partners has ushered a profound change in the lives of ordinary Afghans. Together, we have created a situation whereby Afghans look to the future with a great degree of confidence, knowing their country will never again be taken back to the past when tyranny, extremist ideology, and darkness prevailed over justice, democracy and rule of law. Today’s Afghanistan is among the most pluralistic societies in our region, and slowly but surely, we are regaining our historic place as a hub of connectivity, flow of people, and exchange of innovative ideas between diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Looking ahead, we stand confident in being able to continue and solidify gains in a wide-array of fields. Nevertheless, we also realize the road ahead is not void of difficulties. In this light, we urge our friends and international partners to stay the course with fortitude and determination to realize the vision of a self-reliant and prosperous Afghanistan that serves its people and the world. As we move forward, we look to your continued support for, and solidarity with the heroic people of my country.
Thank you Mr. President.