STATEMENT by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
at the Security Council Debate on
The Situation in Afghanistan and its implications
For International Peace and Security
Let me first congratulate Turkey for assuming the Presidency of the Council this month and thank you for convening this debate on Afghanistan. These debates offer an important opportunity to take stock of the situation and ensure that we move forward in a unified fashion. Let me also thank my friend Kai Eide for his typically insightful briefing. We welcome the Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan, and are grateful for the incisive, detailed assessment of where we are now, and where we are going.
We are nearing a new beginning in Afghanistan. Five years ago we held our first elections after decades of bloody power struggle. Despite the continuing terrorist activities by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Afghanistan has made enormous progress since 2001 and our people are ready to go to the polls for a second time. This, in itself, is a huge success, and it reflects the enduring Afghan support for the stabilization process and the value of the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community.
The elections have been planned for less than three months from now. Between now and August, we must act to ensure the transparency and fairness of the electoral process. There is a lot at stake. Afghans know that the elections are the only feasible way to build on the positive progress of the past years, but in order to do so they must be credible and legitimate. The results of the elections should serve to unite the Afghan people, strengthen Afghan institutions, and provide momentum for ongoing stabilization efforts.
In terms of the campaign, the rules of the game have been defined by law, and the government of Afghanistan and other relevant bodies are working to ensure that the candidates receive security, transportation, and access to the media. For the elections themselves, the essential priority is to ensure security so that people from all over the country will be able to vote. In this regard, the Afghan National Army and Police will provide the main security for more than 7000 polling stations nationwide, supported by a strengthened international force. In addition, independent bodies like the IEC, Electoral Complaints Commission and Media Commission will be responsible for providing information, logistics and oversight, guaranteeing access to media for candidates and responding to concerns and questions from the public. UNAMA and the SRSG continue to play an essential role here as the international focal point, along with the government of Afghanistan, in ensuring fair play and a transparent, legitimate and credible elections process.
These upcoming elections have deservedly been the center of attention both among Afghans and the international community. However, we must remember that they are part of larger ongoing efforts for change and stability that go beyond the election process. The coming months should reinvigorate the partnership between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community. We should use the elections to add additional momentum to the strategic shifts that began this year and unify our approach around first, the need to strengthen Afghan institutions and make them sustainable; and second, the need to be increasingly responsive to the growing expectations of the Afghan people, who want to see a tangible improvement in their lives.
The past months, with some welcome strategic reviews by the US and NATO, have provided us with a timely opportunity to review our achievements and rethink our strategies in different multilateral arenas. Combined with increasing involvement from Afghan ministries, this has resulted in a shift towards a more unified strategic approach, focusing on an intensified civilian effort, an improvement in sub-national governance and service delivery, and increased alignment of international priorities with Afghan national strategies. We must continue to build on the substantial progress made thus far.
In the past eight years, Afghanistan has grown from a country devoid of society, government or infrastructure to one with thousands of miles of roads, millions of children in school, and access to basic healthcare for 85% of the population. In addition, the Government of Afghanistan has made positive developments in anti-corruption and rule of law. The international community has helped us to build, train and equip an Army and Police force that can begin to protect our citizens. Kabul and a few other cities now have uninterrupted electricity. And in a promising and historic development, Afghanistan will be agriculturally self-sufficient this year for the first time.
But, Mr. President,
Daunting challenges remain to be adequately addressed in the areas of security, development and regional cooperation.
First, insecurity is an increasing, rather than decreasing, problem, and civilians continue to disproportionately bear the costs. The Taliban have shown an increasing disregard for human life, intentionally targeting civilians, particularly women, children and humanitarian staff, and using populated areas to stage attacks on international forces in order to force civilian casualties. As the international military force increases in strength over the summer, and as insecurity worsens in parts of the country in advance of the elections, we must be particularly careful to avoid an increase in the loss of civilian life. We applaud the recent steps taken by NATO and the United States to address these concerns, and the recently announced improved guidelines for rules of engagement and use of air bombardment. It is our hope that these steps will serve to strengthen the partnership between the international community and the Afghan people, and reassure Afghans that the government and the international community see their protection as a priority.
Second, Mr. President,
Despite more focused and unified goals, our development efforts remain fragmented, inefficient and incomplete. Poverty in Afghanistan has increased and unemployment is one of the biggest challenges. Governance, corruption and rule of law remain weak and need sustained attention from both the government and the international community. Humanitarian and development aid should be better coordinated and more accountable. Resources need to be funneled towards capacity building for the Afghan government because, as the Secretary-General’s report so eloquently states, we need a “lasting expansion of government present and not a temporary expansion of foreign presence.”
To address this issue, the civilian surge will be the backbone of the successful implementation of the ANDS because it will further support national development priorities and programmes in key sectors. In addition, improvements in sub-national governance and service delivery can help disrupt the negative impacts of insecurity and provide Afghans with the incentives to engage with the stabilization process. In both of these efforts, donors’ political, technical and financial assistance must be aligned behind national priorities.
In this regard, my government continues to fully support the essential coordination role of UNAMA. We welcome UNAMA’s strengthened mandate, and applaud the courageous work of the men and women who have accomplished so much. We also welcome the recently signed UNDAF, as it provides priorities that are in line with the ANDS and other national development priorities.
And finally, Mr. President,
While the international community and the UN have essential roles to play in the coming months and years, Afghanistan also needs to have stronger cooperation with its neighbors. As has been widely recognized, this conflict is not limited to the borders of Afghanistan but involves the entire region, and endangers people all over the world. Our enemies are not local, but regional, and find sanctuary and support outside of Afghaistan. A full regional approach will be needed to combat them.
We have recently begun to move towards a more positive regional interaction with Pakistan, particularly through trilateral arrangements with the US, as well as with Turkey and Iran. There have been promising bilateral and multilateral advances towards better regional understanding as well. It is our hope that all regional stakeholders can recognize the mutual advantages to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan, and can be involved to help confront our shared challenges in a sustainable, cooperative way.
In conclusion, Mr. President,
We share the Secretary-General’s assessment that we have an opportunity to make significant progress if we maintain our new momentum and focus in the coming months. This effort will require broad and consistent international engagement going forward. If we can ensure transparent and open elections, increase security for the Afghan population, improve coordination and effectiveness of aid, strengthen Afghan institutions and constructively address the regional dimensions of the situation, we can clear a space on which to build a strong, sustainable Afghanistan.