Thursday, November 27, 2014

Afghanistan’s Transition to Greater Responsibility for Its Own Destiny Requires Realignment of Aid with Priorities, Security Council Told

Standing on Doesn’t Mean Standing Alone,

Secretary-General’s Special Representative Stresses in Briefing

Afghanistan’s transition to responsibility for its own security, governance and development, put into motion this year, would result in a realignment of aid but not the country’s abandonment, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country said today.

The message was to “help the Afghan authorities to stand on their own but not to stand alone”, Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said in a briefing, specifying that the realignment was being undertaken to ensure that multilateral and bilateral aid was in alignment with Afghan priorities.

Mr. de Mistura said increasing activities by Afghan forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were showing results, although, at the same time, anti-Government elements were carrying out some spectacular attacks.  He warned that the situation would get worse before it got better.  Underlining the importance of political peacemaking, he said everyone, even the Taliban, recognized that there was no military solution.

Welcoming in that context the establishment of the High Peace Council, and the “Salaam Support Group” that the United Nations had placed at its disposal, he said UNAMA would provide logistical support for dialogue, within or outside Afghanistan.  In fact, national dialogue could only be sustained through constructive engagement by all regional actors, he added.

Welcoming the participation of millions of Afghans in the September parliamentary elections, he expressed recognition of the “diligent and intense” work carried out by the two independent electoral commissions, particularly in settling complaints over cases of alleged fraud.  Electoral reform remained necessary, he emphasized.

Turning to the trade in drugs, he said that despite a disease affecting prices, production had increased and continued to affect close and distant neighbours.  In the area of human rights, UNAMA’s priority was to continue issuing frank reports and raising awareness, as well as addressing civilian casualties.  The Mission’s mandate could only be fulfilled if the necessary resources were allocated to its next budget, he stressed.

Following the briefing, Afghanistan’s representative said his country had made momentous strides this year towards defining and strengthening its relationship with its international partners, while seeking to re-engage the Afghan people in all efforts to bring about peace and security, enhance collaboration with regional partners and reach out to the armed opposition.  Improving security remained a top Government priority, he said, maintaining that “despite isolated incidents of attacks and suicide bombings by the Taliban and other extremists, overall security has improved”.  He underlined the need to eliminate sanctuaries for terrorists and extremists in the region, saying that without progress on that front, all other efforts would be in vain.  He also stressed the importance of reducing civilian casualties in all operations.

He went on to say that reintegration and reconciliation would be pursued as a matter of high priority, cautioning, however, that in order for it to work, the Taliban must be ready to engage sincerely in peace talks.  They must put down their arms, renounce violence and choose the path of peace, he stressed, pointing out that the recent elections had reaffirmed the Afghan people’s commitment to democracy.  In the four years ahead, the focus of Afghanistan’s partnership with the international community must be on building the Government’s capacity to take responsibility in security, development and governance.  Unity of understanding, unity of effort and unity of action was required, he emphasized, assuring the Council that the Afghan Government would spare no effort in doing its part.

Following those statements, delegates reaffirmed their support for the Kabul Process and the general international framework for assistance to Afghanistan, which prioritized the transition to Afghan ownership in critical areas.  In that context, speakers welcomed the September elections despite the irregularities, and commended the electoral institutions for their work in addressing complaints, while calling for long-term electoral reform.  France’s representative said it was critical for Afghanistan’s stability that the international community respect the outcome of the elections.

Most speakers also prioritized the fight against corruption and affirmed the necessity for reconciliation efforts, while stressing that there could be no compromises on democratization, human rights and adherence to the Afghan Constitution.  Most delegates welcomed UNAMA’s role in coordinating international assistance, although some, including Germany’s representative, called for a review of the Mission’s role in the context of the transition period.

Many speakers also stressed the importance of regional cooperation, with Iran’s representative underscoring the importance of cooperation in fighting drugs and illegal transit of persons.  Pakistan’s representative, noting that a long-term cooperative partnership was developing between Afghanistan and his own country, pledged its readiness to help build the capacity of the Afghan security forces, noting the two neighbours’ ongoing cooperation on security and intelligence.  “We do not want Afghanistan to become a theatre of proxy wars,” he emphasized.

During today’s meeting, Mr. de Mistura and several delegates paid tribute to Richard Holbrooke, the United States diplomat responsible for policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, who passed away last week.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Nigeria, Uganda, Mexico, Lebanon, Brazil, Austria, Gabon, United States, Italy, India, Canada and Australia.

A representative of the European Union delegation also delivered a statement.

The meeting began at 11:12 a.m. and ended at 2:27 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/65/612–S/2010/630) dated 10 December, which reviews the country’s situation since his report of 14 September.  It also provides an update on the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the rest of the United Nations system.

According to the report, the number of security incidents during the period was 66 per cent higher than those in the same period in 2009, peaking during the 18 September elections for the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the National Assembly.  Despite that violence, as well as threats by the Taliban and other armed groups, approximately 4.3 million Afghans, out of an estimated 12 million eligible voters, turned out to cast their ballots.

It was clear that after the vote that there was widespread fraud and irregularities across the country, sparking numerous complaints and a thorough audit and recount by the Independent Electoral Commission, the report says.  After the recount, UNAMA, the European Union, the United States and other stakeholders welcomed the certification of the final results while acknowledging that the process still requires improvement and calling for accountability in cases in which fraud had been proven.

The election results raised some concerns because of a decrease in Pashtun representation, resulting from insecurity in certain areas, the report says, emphasizing that addressing those concerns is a political task that must not undermine the independence of electoral institutions.  The international community, together with donors and Afghanistan’s partners, need to continue the pursuit of long-term electoral reform.

There is an increasing sense that conditions for reconciliation are becoming more favourable and that there may soon be a real opportunity for political dialogue leading to a settlement, the report states.  However, the attendant challenges should not be underestimated, it cautions, stressing that any political settlement must respect the Constitution and not undermine achievements in the areas of human rights and democratization.

Meanwhile, the report says, the transition to full Afghan leadership and ownership of governance, security and economic development requires a strong but flexible partnership between the Government and the international community.  To support the Kabul process, it was critical that the international community be fully committed to aligning its assistance with the Government’s policies and priorities.

On regional cooperation, the report underscores the need for continued dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to deepen political, economic and security relationships.  There is also a need to liberalize trade policy and develop transport infrastructure.  Power-purchasing and trade would give impetus to industrial development and renewable power generation — including hydro and thermal power — should be explored.  There is also scope for enhanced cooperation in the area of counter-narcotics, including increased information-sharing and border control, an area in which the United Nations has been active.

The Secretary-General concludes by noting that the October attack against the United Nations compound in Herat serves as a reminder that the security of the world body’s staff remains a major concern for the Organization.  He expresses gratitude, in that regard, to Kuwait for providing a support office allowing UNAMA to redeploy some of its staff to that country, and to the Netherlands for making available to the United Nations residences in its compound in the centre of Kabul.

Briefing

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, paid tribute to the memory of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, saying that the last words uttered by the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan to his Afghan doctor had been: “Please work for the peace in Afghanistan.”

Turning to the security situation, he said the increased combined activities of Afghan forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were showing results.  At the same time, however, anti-Government elements were carrying out some spectacular attacks to diminish the feeling of success, he said, warning that the situation would get worse before it got better.  Thanks to strong support by Afghan security forces, an attack on a United Nations centre in Herat had not resulted in the deaths of any of the 22 employees present.

Describing the recent Lisbon Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as having contributed to a clear perspective on the mutual commitment towards Afghanistan, he said the upcoming transition would allow for a more speedy delegation of responsibility to Afghan authorities.  The message was to “help the Afghan authorities to stand on their own but not to stand alone”.  UNAMA would continue to assist in capacity-building, and a realignment of aid was being undertaken to ensure that multilateral and bilateral assistance was in alignment with Afghan priorities.

In the area of human rights, he said UNAMA’s priority was to continue issuing reports which were objective and frank — sometimes too frank — and to help raise awareness of the importance of human rights.  It was also important to address the issue of civilian casualties — which had risen over the past year — in the best possible way.  Reports had also been issued on violence against women, he said, adding that the election results had been encouraging in relation to the involvement of women in Parliament.

Emphasizing that everyone, even the Taliban, recognized that there was no military solution to the conflict, he underlined the importance of such initiatives as the establishment of the High Peace Council and the “Salaam Support Group”, which the United Nations had placed at the Peace Council’s disposal.  That could lead to an accelerated level of dialogue, he said, adding that UNAMA would provide logistical support for it, within or outside Afghanistan.

However, national dialogue could only be sustained through constructive engagement by all regional actors, he continued, pointing out that many such initiatives were taking place.  President Hamid Karzai was now in Ankara for discussions with the Government of Turkey, he said, adding that the Bonn conference scheduled for the end of 2011 might provide other opportunities for regional cooperation.  As for the question of drugs, he said that despite a disease affecting prices, production had increased and continued to affect close and distant neighbours.

Despite a situation of conflict and Taliban warnings not to participate, millions of Afghan voters had cast their ballots in the 18 September elections, he said.  Recognizing the diligent and intense work carried out by the two independent electoral commissions, he said numerous States had welcomed their announcements certifying the election results.  Regrettably, there had been substantial cases of fraud, but Afghan democracy was young and the security situation was one of concern.  The electoral commissions had worked hard to remove fraudulent cases, thereby sending a signal against impunity.

Welcoming President Karzai’s announcement of his intention to inaugurate the new Parliament by the end of January 2011, he stressed the necessity of electoral reform to avoid future irregularities.  In conclusion, he said UNAMA’s mandate could only be fulfilled if the necessary resources were allocated to its next budget.

Statements

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said his country had made momentous strides this year towards defining and strengthening its relationship with international partners while seeking to re-engage the Afghan people in all efforts to bring about peace and security, enhance collaboration with regional partners and reach out to the armed opposition.  The London Conference and the subsequent Peace Jirga, the Kabul Conference, the second parliamentary elections and the NATO Summit in Lisbon had been important events in that regard.

Improving security remained a top Government priority, he said, maintaining that “despite isolated incidents of attacks and suicide bombings by the Taliban and other extremists, overall security has improved”.  Afghan forces and ISAF had regained the military initiative, particularly in the southern provinces, as well as an expanded zone of security where Afghan security forces were exerting greater control in areas previously held by enemy combatants.  In the south, the rural population acknowledged the progress being made and had begun to engage with local authorities, he said.  Consolidating local support was vital, he commented, going on to underline the need to continue placing emphasis on ensuring basic services for Afghans as well as avoiding civilian casualties.

Regarding the latter, he welcomed measures to increase coordination among international forces as well as a review of tactics.  On a strategic level, he underlined the need to eliminate sanctuaries for terrorists and extremists in the region, underscoring that without progress on that front, all other efforts would be in vain.  As for the recent parliamentary elections, they reaffirmed the Afghan people’s commitment to democracy, he said, noting that millions had braved threats to cast their votes.  “Nobody expected a perfect election process,” he added, pointing out the conditions that had led to irregularities.

He said the Government continued to focus on enhancing relationships with neighbours in the region, maintaining high-level communications with the Government of Pakistan for wider cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in promoting peace, stability and economic development.  Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India had signed agreements on a gas pipeline project on 11 December, he noted.  For the “essential political factor” of reintegration and reconciliation to work, however, the Taliban must be ready to engage sincerely in peace talks, he said, emphasizing that they must put down their arms, renounce violence and choose the path of peace.  It was crucial to maintain Afghan leadership and ownership of the reconciliation process, while the international community, the region and the United Nations played an important supporting role.

He said recent progress towards implementing the Government’s security, development and governance goals was outlined in the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board’s progress report on the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, which showed that 95 per cent of planned activities for creating an efficient and effective Government had been completed in the first 100 days following the Kabul Conference.  The Government would continue to pursue effective and timely implementation of all national priority challenges, he pledged, adding that public opinion showed positive assessment of the Government.

In the four years ahead, he said, the measure of success would be determined by the strength of his country’s partnership with the international community.  The focus of that partnership must be on building the Government’s capacity to take responsibility far beyond the training of security forces to include development and governance.  Unity of understanding, unity of effort and unity of action was required, he said, assuring the Council that the Government would spare no effort to do its part.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey), also paying tribute to the late Richard Holbrooke, stressed his strong support for the work of UNAMA, particularly in supporting the elections, while condemning attacks on United Nations facilities in the strongest terms.  Despite continuing difficulties, the Afghan Government and the international community were on the right track for a sustainable transition to Afghan leadership in all areas.  The Government was showing strong political will in that regard, he said, cautioning, however, that the transition should not be seen as an exit.  The international community should be steadfast and flexible in its support.  Afghan institutions needed strengthening and UNAMA needed the resources required to provide support in that area, he said.

Reconciliation should seek to enlist the support of all Afghans for stability, he said, welcoming the peace initiative and the holding of parliamentary elections.  Efforts by the electoral bodies to make the polls credible were also commendable, he said, adding that he looked forward to success in the remainder of the process.  Underlining the importance of regional engagement by Afghanistan, he also outlined some of his own country’s support for multidimensional cooperation in a wide range of areas, stressing that Turkey was ready to do its utmost to continue that support.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) commended the Afghan people on their participation in elections and the electoral institutions for their integrity and independence.  Due to the difficulties experienced and the importance of credible elections, she agreed fully that the international community and UNAMA needed to continue supporting the pursuit of long-term electoral reform.  Reiterating her country’s support for the Kabul process, she welcomed the Government’s presentation of a monitoring and reporting framework to track the progress of each of its 22 priority programmes.

She said peace and reintegration were priorities, adding that she expected practical steps in that direction to continue to multiply.  Achieving set targets in building the Afghan security forces and combating corruption were other priorities.  She welcomed positive Government steps in the area of access to justice as well as UNAMA’s efforts in supporting the coordination of development activities at the subnational level.  The alignment of provincial development councils with donors to the Government-led process was essential to future development, she said, welcoming also the work of all those who had assisted in creating the conditions for refugees to return, in addition to progress on regional cooperation and mine clearance.  However, she noted with concern that the human rights situation had deteriorated significantly and called on all parties to redouble their efforts to protect civilians.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that the Kabul process was at a watershed, marked by increasing acts of violence by the Taliban and Al-Qaida.  Afghan and international forces must step up their efforts to control areas, including the north, he said, expressing support for the Government’s national reconciliation policies, while also emphasizing the crucial need for acceptance of the Afghan Constitution and other democratic factors.  Reversing narcotics production trends had not yet been accomplished, he said, underscoring the need for more effective efforts to physically eradicate production, from cultivation to the uppermost levels of distribution.

Pledging his country’s continued cooperation in that area, he said the Russian Federation also supported security efforts through recent transit arrangements, counter-narcotics efforts, helicopter support, bilateral provision of small arms and security training.  It stood ready to rehabilitate facilities it had originally built, he added.  While agreeing in general with the Secretary-General’s report, he called for enhancing the sections relating to the relevance of the Afghan situation to international peace and security.

PHILIP JOHN PARHAM (United Kingdom), describing the progress achieved as Afghan-led and -owned, welcomed the certification of the election results while also applauding the courage displayed by the Afghan people during the voting.  He condemned attempts by insurgents to undermine the electoral process, and said it was important now to focus on longer-term electoral reform.  Afghanistan had been a central topic during the NATO Summit in Lisbon, he noted, adding that his country would work alongside its ISAF partners and the Government to realize the transition towards Afghan responsibility for security.

Welcoming UNAMA’s approach to supporting the civilian aspects of the transition, he said also ISAF’s role would now evolve away from combat towards training and support.  The United Kingdom would continue to press its international partners to ensure that the necessary resources would be provided for the NATO training programme.  As for civilian casualties, he reiterated previous statements that the large majority of those had been a consequence of insurgent action.  He welcomed the inauguration of the High Peace Council and the development of a reintegration programme, stressing that conditions for the reintegration of insurgents should include cutting ties with Al-Qaida, renouncing violence and agreeing to the constitutional framework.

TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan) welcomed the certification of the results of elections managed by Afghans, even though there had been fraud and irregularities.  Japan hoped the Government would address longer-term electoral reform in order to develop a more transparent electoral system.  He also welcomed the Lisbon NATO Summit, during which Alliance partners had committed to ensuring that responsibility for security was transferred to the Afghan authorities by 2014.  Japan’s Diet had approved $540 million in assistance and the Government was considering sending self-defence force personnel to Afghanistan for training purposes.  He said it was critical that the Government tackle corruption and implement a reintegration process supported by the international community.

WANG MIN (China) said the holding of parliamentary elections represented another significant step towards effective Afghan governance, and he urged Afghans to build on that accomplishment.  The peace and reconstruction process must be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, he said, adding that Government authority must be extended over the entire country.  He called for the Government to build up its capacity and take measures on development and security, adding that China supported the peace and reconciliation programme.  Afghanistan still needed the support of the international community, which must, in turn, respect Afghan ownership of security, governance and development efforts, he said.  China affirmed the leading role of the United Nations in all areas of international support and expressed hope that UNAMA would strengthen its coordinating role in that regard.

RAFF BUKUN-0LU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) welcomed the successful holding of parliamentary elections, commending the electoral commissions and UNAMA for the part they had played.  All electoral complaints must be dealt with, he stressed.  He also expressed support for efforts to promote reconciliation, particularly with groups that had renounced violence.  On the other hand, insurgent attacks, particularly those on civilians and the United Nations, deserved the strongest condemnation, he stressed, adding that support for building the Afghan security forces was crucial in that regard.  The international community must also continue to support Afghan institutions, he said, welcoming, in addition, Afghanistan’s cooperation with other countries in its region and UNAMA’s fulfilment of its development-coordination mandate.  Nigeria also welcomed the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) facilitation of the return of refugees.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) congratulated the Afghan people on completing the elections in spite of reported irregularities, saying the polls were an important step in the healing process.  Uganda encouraged the Government to reach out to all Afghans in the quest for peace, he said, adding that all sides must make compromises for a just and durable political settlement.  Concerned that the security situation in some parts of the country continued to deteriorate, he condemned terrorist attacks aimed at disrupting peace and security, and supported Government efforts to forge ahead with security, reintegration and development programmes in order to take over responsibility for security by 2014.

Emphasizing that Afghanistan’s stability and prosperity were inextricably linked to those its neighbours, he welcomed the improvement in regional relations.  The Government and people were increasingly taking responsibility for development, a requirement for building sustainable peace, he said, adding that Afghanistan would continue to require international support and partnership in that regard.  He called on international partners to align their support with the priorities set by the Afghan Government at the Kabul Conference.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said stability depended not only on the success of military operations, but also on genuine reconciliation and on addressing the root causes of violence by giving impetus to development, respect for human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law.  The 2014 transition strategy should be guided by progress on the ground and not be subjected to a rigid timeline, he emphasized, expressing concern at the increased number of civilians killed and injured.  Rejecting the recruitment of children by Taliban forces and the group’s violence directed at girls, he said he hoped enhanced communication and coordination between Afghan forces and ISAF would include efforts to minimize civilian casualties.

The fact that a high number of irregularities and complaints had been seen during the election was a reflection of the challenges still facing institutional capacity-building.  It was now important to undertake long-term electoral reform, led by the Government with support from UNAMA and the international community, in order to consolidate the capacities of the electoral authorities.  It was also necessary to combat corruption and organized crime in order to enhance the rule of law and accountability.  Mexico welcomed regional initiatives to combat drug trafficking and production, he added.

MARTIN BRIENS (France), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union and with tributes to Richard Holbrooke, said the election results must be respected despite the difficulties encountered.  At the same time, reform of the electoral process was very much needed.  There was also a need for reconciliation, without which no peace would be achieved.  However, the preconditions for reconciliation spelled out by the Kabul process must be respected, he said, suggesting that the 1267 sanctions regime could be used as an effective lever to support reconciliation efforts.  Little by little, the Afghan security forces were becoming stronger, including in areas where French forces had been deployed, he said, describing that progress as an essential component of the transition to Afghan responsibility in security, governance and development.

IBRAHIM ASSAF ( Lebanon) welcomed the wide participation in the elections, but noted that the widespread fraud and deteriorating security had not allowed the full exercise of democracy.  Fraud should be prosecuted in the future, he stressed, adding that security, of course, was required for all other progress.  The Council should therefore seriously heed the assessment that the security situation was worse than ever, he said.  Welcoming the reconciliation and reintegration process and the provisions of the Kabul Agreement under implementation, he said his country also welcomed the decision by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to appoint a representative for Afghanistan.  Lebanon also welcomed the decisions by Kuwait and the Netherlands to provide facilities for UNAMA operations.  He pointed out the importance of regional cooperation in improving the situation in Afghanistan, particularly in the area of drug control.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the November Summit between NATO and the Government of Afghanistan had completed the framework for the transition to greater Afghan responsibility for security.  The fact that Afghanistan had been exceeding force-generation targets for its army and police was encouraging, she said, adding that Afghans deserved continuing international support for such efforts, including through the provision of necessary equipment and capabilities.  However, although important progress had been made in the protection of civilians, more should be done, she said, stressing that a redoubling of efforts towards peace and reintegration was vital in that regard.  Brazil was encouraged that a number of alleged combatants had already approached Afghan authorities expressing their intention to lay down arms, she added.

She said the parliamentary elections had shown that despite allegations of fraud and security, as well as logistical and political challenges, the electoral institutions had been able to investigate and address complaints effectively.  The will of the people and the decisions of the independent electoral institutions must be respected by all, without undue interference.  She welcomed the progress made by the Government on its Kabul process commitments, in particular the establishment of a monitoring and reporting framework.  Since there was an information gap regarding progress on international commitments, she suggested a monitoring and reporting mechanism for that process as well.  The response to the attack against the United Nations compound in Herat had demonstrated the Organization’s ability to learn from past misfortunes, she said, praising the enhanced security arrangements and the increase in secure accommodation.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria), welcoming the Government’s progress on implementation of the London and Kabul commitments, as well as the strengthening of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, said the resulting enhanced accountability and transparency would benefit the Afghan people and facilitate cooperation with the international community.  The Kabul process should include all segments of society, since maximum ownership by the Afghan people would be critical for the country’s long-term stability.  He welcomed the inauguration of the High Peace Council and the establishment of the “Salaam Support Group”, and urged the Government to consider the recommendations made by civil society groups regarding the peace process.  He also acknowledged UNAMA’s important human rights work.

Commending the Afghan electoral institutions for their work under challenging circumstances, he expressed hope that the newly elected lower house would be convened in a speedy manner, and called for comprehensive and long-term electoral reform as a matter of priority.  The difficult security situation continued to be of great concern, in particular the increase in the number of civilian casualties, the majority of which were linked to anti-Government elements.  Direct targeting of the civilian population, including public officials and international staff, was in violation of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law, he said.  He also expressed concern at the continued cultivation and production of narcotic drugs, noting that those activities were concentrated mainly in areas where the Taliban and Al-Qaida were active.

ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) said there had been a positive evolution in the situation in Afghanistan, although challenges remained that could affect the transition.  He welcomed the excellent work of the electoral institutions, saying that despite some shortcomings, the elections had demonstrated the Afghan people’s willingness to “take the reins” of their own destiny.  The new Parliament must soon start its work in order to continue along the path to democracy, peace and stability, he said.  The security situation remained a source of concern, as did the “raging corruption” caused by drug trafficking and impunity, he said, calling on the Government to do everything possible to combat those threats to peace and stability.  Regional cooperation was an important link in the political and development processes, he emphasized, welcoming Afghanistan’s closer diplomatic and trade cooperation with Pakistan and Tajikistan.  That cooperation could also boost the fight against drug trafficking, he added.

Council President ROSEMARY DI CARLO ( United States), speaking in her national capacity, thanked delegates for their expressions of sympathy over the passing of Ambassador Holbrooke.

She recalled that during the NATO Summit in Lisbon, the Government of Afghanistan and international partners had agreed that early 2011 would mark the beginning of a transition towards Afghan responsibility for security by 2014.  The transition and the international community’s enduring commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014 were key to long-term success, she stressed, adding that training was critical in that regard.  UNAMA would play an important and growing role in supporting the Government, including in its reintegration efforts.

Welcoming the certification of the final election results, she said that the ballot, held under challenging circumstances, had been the first since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.  Looking beyond elections, it was important that UNAMA remain engaged with the electoral institutions in order to press forward with electoral reform.  In that regard, she underscored the importance of meeting the Mission’s resource requirements and urged all Member States to consider carefully and support UNAMA’s recent budget request.  Although real progress had been made, the gains remained fragile and reversible, she cautioned.  However, more and more Afghans were reclaiming their own communities from Taliban control.  To sustain those gains, political and economic progress were urgently needed, as were transparency and accountability.

CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy) said the Government and the international community must make a concerted and sustained effort to address obstacles to a sustainable and irreversible transition to Afghan responsibility for security, governance and development.  Political reconciliation must be an Afghan-led process, compliant with national laws and fundamental rights, and supported by regional partners.  A successful reintegration process would contribute to reconciliation by building mutual confidence and curbing the influence of insurgency, he said, welcoming in that regard the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme, which should remain within the agreed “red lines” and be tied closely to the security agenda.  It should follow a community-centred approach, he added.

Improving living conditions, creating job opportunities and harmonizing traditional decision-making mechanisms with a modern decentralized administration were fundamental to the success of the reintegration efforts, he said, going on to emphasize that ensuring that the Kabul process did not lose momentum was a priority for his country.  While security was gradually improving — thanks to better training of Afghan forces — Italy’s actions were shifting towards “civilianization”, with a focus on capacity- and institution-building.  Italy was also committed to fostering a balanced relationship among different levels of Government through enhanced coordination, increased administrative capacities and a predictable flow of resources from the centre to the periphery.  Justice and the rule of law deserved more attention and international support, he added.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) agreed that the international community’s overarching objective in Afghanistan was to create an enabling environment for the Afghan Government eventually to assume full responsibility for its own destiny.  The holding of national assembly elections, despite violence and threats, had been an important step in the consolidation of democratic governance towards that end.  He emphasized that, in the support efforts of the international community, unity of purpose and overall coordination was imperative.  India was pleased to note that UNAMA was assuming a greater role in that regard.

However, it was crucial to guard against the impulse to consider the peace process as a shortcut to the transition since that would risk a slide back to becoming a safe haven for terrorists and extremists, he warned, adding that lessons learned from past experiences with such groups must be borne in mind.  India supported efforts to reintegrate individuals who abjured violence and were willing to abide by values enshrined in the Afghan Constitution, he said.  Strengthening the security forces was critical, as was rooting out the “syndicate of terrorism” operating within and outside the country’s borders.  While appreciating the gains made in the southern provinces, he expressed concern about the deterioration of security in the north and elsewhere.

Expressing support for the wishes of the Afghan Government to take the lead in promoting greater regional cooperation, he said his own country’s efforts in Afghanistan had focused on developmental and humanitarian work.  India’s $1.3 billion assistance programme had contributed to help Afghans build a peaceful, stable, democratic and pluralistic nation.  In the coming year, India hoped the international community would remain steadfast in its commitments to support Afghanistan through enhanced synergy and coherence, he said, expressing support for UNAMA’s work in that regard.

ESHAG ALHABIB ( Iran) welcomed the country’s recent political progress, including the September elections, in the context of the Afghan people’s desire to take their destiny into their own capable hands and to end the sombre presence of foreign forces in their homeland.  It was hard to assess the achievements of the current military excursion, but it was clear that the suffering of Afghan civilians was on the rise.  In particular, the lives of innocent people had been placed at the mercy of drone attacks, he noted, asking how such “wild and indiscriminate” attacks could be justified in the context of counter-terrorism.  As a result of foreign military operations in Afghanistan, not only had the threat of terrorism not been curbed, it had spread its evil effects to other parts of the region, including Iran, he said, recalling that the 15 December suicide bombing at a mosque in Chabahar had left scores of people dead and many more injured.  Emphasizing that the hearts and minds of the Afghan people could not be won by more troops and private contractors, he said foreign forces must instead leave the country.  At the same time, there was a need to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan forces and to hand over the control and management of Afghan affairs to the people and Government.

Turning to the menace of narcotics, he said his country had been at the forefront of a full-scale war against smuggling, with thousands of Iranian law-enforcement personnel having lost their lives, or suffered injuries, and billions of dollars having been spent.  Iran strongly called for firm and measurable international steps to curb the threat as soon as possible.  He welcomed greater engagement by regional countries in promoting Afghanistan’s socio-economic development, noting that his own country had undertaken a number of developmental projects aimed at rebuilding infrastructure, including road and rail development.  Iran was willing to continue holding joint meetings with the representatives of countries neighbouring Afghanistan to elaborate more concrete measures needed to strengthen the regional framework to help the country on development and security.  The international community should help strengthen that approach, he said, welcoming UNAMA’s efforts to encourage regional cooperation on the drug trade and the illegal movement of people, as well as its general support for Afghanistan.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said the Secretary-General’s report had underscored the importance of effective follow-up to the Kabul conference in terms of transition to full Afghan leadership.  Strong partnership between the Government and the international community was key for a successful transition that must have tangible benefits for the Afghan people.  Support for the country must be tailored to Afghans needs.  The report had also documented a 66 per cent increase security-related incidents during the reporting period, compared to the same period in 2009, which required a dispassionate, political analysis.  Noting the importance of the Peace and Reintegration Programme, he said a reconciled Afghanistan, at peace with itself, was the best guarantor of its security.  Noting some “strange results” in the electoral process, he said correct democracy would bring people forward who would take the defence of their country into their own hands.

He said his country supported an Afghan-led and inclusive reconciliation process, with a view to bringing the opposition groups into the political mainstream.  Welcoming the establishment of the High Peace Council, he underlined the importance of its sustained engagement with the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  “Pakistan wants durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.  Stability and development in Afghanistan is in our national interest,” he said, adding that the safe return of more than 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan was only possible in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.  Stability and security of Afghanistan was also indispensable for the recently concluded Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement and could guarantee successful completion of important energy projects.

The quest for peace and stability in Afghanistan was driving bilateral relations into long-term cooperative partnership, he said.  Pakistan was ready to assist, among other things, in capacity-building of Afghan security forces.  His country was also engaged in security and intelligence cooperation, including through the Tripartite Commission, which also included the United States and ISAF.  “We do not want Afghanistan to become a theatre of proxy wars,” he said.

MIGUEL BERGER ( Germany) said his country was a major contributor to ISAF and a major donor of development aid to Afghanistan.  From the perspective of the upcoming transition, it had increased its civilian engagement to $540 million per annum.  2010 had been a turning point since the beginning of the international community’s engagement in 2001, but many challenges remained.  Noting that training of Afghan security forces was progressing at a higher speed than expected and that infrastructure development projects were starting to make a positive difference in the lives of the local population, he said his country would strengthen its civilian efforts and was willing to assist, upon request, in the search for a political settlement.

He said the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme would need skilful diplomatic handling, patience and time, and the international community must continue to financially support the Government in reintegrating those who renounced violence, had distanced themselves from terrorist groups, respected the Afghan Constitution and were willing to work constructively for rebuilding a democratic and stable Afghanistan.  The principle of Afghan ownership and the framework for transition had been put in place.  With the transition of security responsibility progressing, the Security Council should reconsider UNAMA’s priorities, competences and resources, and provide clear guidance for the Mission’s role within the international network of mutually reinforcing civilian institutions assisting Afghanistan.  The United Nations should provide the necessary resources for UNAMA to fulfil its mandate.

JOHN MCNEE (Canada) said there had been mixed results in Afghanistan in the past year, with an increased level of civilian casualties and deterioration of the humanitarian situation.  He expressed particular concern over the increased number of internally displaced persons and over the potential effect of volatile grain markets on the food security of the populace.  All such issues were clear obstacles to a stable Afghanistan.  He added that the Government’s credibility in facing them and providing basic services was impeded by persistent corruption.  A legal committee was needed to counter that situation, as well as the adoption of an audit law and the provision of a statutory basis for the Major Crimes Task Force and the Anti-Corruption Tribunal.

He was pleased, however, with the work of the electoral commissions and he encouraged all parties to move forward in a collaborative manner to ensure a parliament that reflected the will of the Afghan people.  An early date for the inauguration was critical.  The Kabul process had thus far been positive, although much work remained to finalize plans so that they addressed the country’s most pressing needs.  The outcome of the NATO Summit had also been positive in reaffirming long-term partnerships.  It was essential to provide UNAMA with the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.

Encouraged by progress, he said, Canada’s continued engagement was important and worthwhile.  As Canada’s combat mission ended in 2011, a new, country-wide engagement based out of Kabul from 2011 to 2014 would focus on the future of Afghan youth, particularly girls, in the areas of education and health, as well as on security, the rule of law, human rights, regional diplomacy and humanitarian assistance.  An important part of Canada’s engagement would be a Canadian Forces training mission of up to 950 members, in addition to a substantial police-training component.  The overall objective remained the same: to help build a more secure and stable Afghanistan that was no longer a safe haven for terrorists.

ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI ( Australia) strongly supported the key themes of the recent United States strategy review, with an emphasis on ensuring that the gains of stabilization were irreversible.  Australia’s recent parliamentary debate supported the country’s continued civil and military contributions to the international effort, after an increase in civilian commitment by 50 per cent in the past 18 months.  Total assistance for 2010 to 2011 was expected to reach $106 million.  The country was committed to channelling at least 50 per cent of development assistance through the Afghan Government, in addition to the military contribution of approximately 1,550 personnel.

He said transition would not be an easy task, and it would be gradual, to be achieved when conditions were right on a district-by-district basis.  He recognized that the country, in addition, would continue to require support beyond the transition.  His country had made clear its commitment to helping provide that.  He welcomed the Afghan-led process on reconciliation and reintegration, noting that his country had committed funds to the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund and was considering additional support.  He recognized that the elections were not perfect, but maintained it was important to keep the positive outcome in mind and focus on long-term electoral reform.

He affirmed that sustained progress in Afghanistan required the engagement of its neighbours.  UNAMA’s efforts in halting the illegal drug trade and movement of people in that regard, among others, were welcome.  In conclusion, he paid tribute to all those who were involved in assisting Afghanistan, including all those who had lost their lives or were wounded.  He also paid tribute to Richard Holbrooke.

PETER SCHWAIGER, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said the Afghan Government, supported by the international community, was embarking on a crucial period of transition in which strong leadership would be essential to make the necessary, tangible progress in the fields of security, governance, justice and reconciliation, and socio-economic development.  Hoping for new political momentum for electoral reform, he said more checks and balances were needed in the political system in order to enhance credibility, legitimacy, inclusiveness, efficiency and accountability.  The continuing deterioration of the security situation and the high number of civilian casualties caused by anti-Government elements were of utmost concern.  He welcomed progress made, however, in the build-up of the Afghan National Army and Police and the mitigating measures taken to prevent casualties among United Nations staff.

He said there could be no sustainable transition of security responsibility without a civilian framework for stability.  Better governance, access to basic services, justice, rule of law and human rights were just as important as “hard security”.  The European Union, therefore, would reinforce its efforts in strengthening Afghan capacity to foster effective and accountable State institutions, especially at the subnational level.  Welcoming increased momentum in implementing the Kabul process, he emphasized that tangible development gains were necessary on provincial, district and local levels.  He urged for progress in combating corruption and improving financial management, welcoming the strengthening of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board.

Commending the Government for its work in the area of peace and reconciliation, including the establishment of the High Peace Council, he said a greater scope was possible for the participation of women and minorities, inclusion of civil society and the integration of human rights, truth and justice considerations into the process.  He urged for more progress in setting up provincial peace and reconciliation councils.  Any political settlement must respect the Afghan Constitution and Afghanistan’s international commitments, including to human rights.  It must not undermine recent achievements, in particular regarding the protection of women and children, human rights and democratization.

Speaking again in her national capacity, Ms. DI CARLO (United States) said that the representative of Iran’s assertion that the 15 December suicide bombing at a mosque in Chabahar had been the result of the wrong policy of deployment of military foreign forces in the region was totally without foundation.  United States President Barack Obama had condemned the attack.

In concluding remarks, Mr. DE MISTURA expressed his and his colleagues’ deep appreciation for the strong and clear support heard today for UNAMA’s work and the joint venture of UNAMA and the Government to improve the situation in Afghanistan.  As 2011 was going to be a challenging year, the united support of the Council would provide UNAMA with a lot of strength.