Sunday, November 23, 2014

Briefing by UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, to Security Council on Afghanistan

Good morning Mr President, Esteemed Members of the Security Council. We meet amidst intense focus on ensuring that Afghanistan’s three complex and intertwined transition processes – political, security and economic – are on track.

These efforts are due to culminate in 2014 but the fundamentals are to be put in place this year.

The very core of transition is strengthening Afghan national ownership and leadership. The onus for driving progress is thus on the Government of Afghanistan and the country’s leading political forces.

There is however a clear need to sustained and predictable international support, through 2014 and beyond, in ways that reinforce Afghanistan’s leadership.

Mr. President,

Summer-time is when Afghanistan is at its most alive: melons fill the bazaars and wedding parties throng the streets. It is also the season of fighting. This summer, unfortunately, promises to be a “hot” one.

As announced this week, Afghan security forces have entered the last phase in assuming the lead responsibility for security throughout the country. Anti-Government elements are, however, seeking to counter this by targeting security personnel and terrorising civilians. They aim to shake the population’s confidence in the Government and its armed forces.

We see increasingly brutal complex assaults on high-profile targets, high on civilian casualties, low on reaching military objectives, but nevertheless garnering media attention. Targeted killings of those deemed supportive of the Government include civil servants and judicial workers in violation of international law and the norms of war. In population centres, attacks in public spaces demonstrate a complete disregard for civilian lives.

From 1 January to 6 June 2013, 1,061 civilians have been killed and 2,031 injured. This is a 24 per cent increase in civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2012. Anti-Government elements have been responsible for 74 per cent of these casualties and pro-Government forces (Afghan national security forces and international forces), nine per cent.

Those aged under 18 make up one-fifth of civilians killed or injured so far this year, an increase of 31 per cent over the same period in 2012.

Afghan security institutions fight bravely and bear the brunt of the losses, show increased courage, confidence and competence in countering the intentions of the anti-Government elements.

At the same time, the Afghan forces, notably the National Army, still require critical enablers such as air capacity to ensure their effectiveness and the sustainability. It is for the international community to assist.

Mr. President,

After 30 years of war, the internal and external drivers of conflict are complex and deep-seated. Diverse elements seek advantage of this fluid and unstable security transition.

Just recently, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan claimed joint responsibility for a multiple suicide attack in the Panjshir Valley, the very heartland of the former Northern Alliance. There are reports of foreign terrorists active in other parts of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s large-scale drugs economy is another source, driver and symptom of instability. This illicit production and trade simultaneously funds insurgent activity and if not curtailed, threatens to undermine Afghanistan’s institutions, security and economic self-sufficiency. The global and regional consequences demand resolute and targeted action.

Mr. President,

A smooth and legitimate transfer of power is widely acknowledged as the most critical part of transition, underpinning all other efforts. President Karzai continues to reiterate his commitment to standing aside in accordance with the Constitution. Planning and positioning ahead of the polls, scheduled for 5 April 2014, dominates the political landscape.

A robust and credible electoral architecture developed in good time in a transparent and participatory manner is a key Government commitment made at Tokyo.

Although I see progress in many technical areas, I am concerned by continued delays in the passage of the two major pieces of electoral legislation. For orderly and timely preparations for the polls, promulgation is necessary before the summer recess of the National Assembly. It will require compromise and goodwill on all sides, and notably, proactive engagement of the government.

The continuous lack of progress in this critical area has already raised questions in some minds about the intention to hold elections in a timely and acceptable manner.

An increased focus on a broad national accord with regard to electoral platforms and possible presidential candidates is legitimate and even advisable. However, this must not be at the expense of electoral preparations. And it cannot and should not be a substitute for credible elections. There is no alternative to inclusive and transparent elections as a means of delivering political transition with the necessary degree of legitimacy and acceptability. The elections are central to international and domestic legitimacy and sustained extraordinary support of the international community for the new government.

Securing the electoral process will a vital element of ensuring broad enfranchisement. Almost a year before polling day the Independent Election Commission has provided security institutions with a list of over 7,000 proposed polling centres to allow assessment and planning. This is unprecedented and I urge the full attention of Afghan security institutions, who are in the lead.

Government and donor emphasis on the e-taskira, that has been the subject of numerous delays combined with voter registration being confined to a top-up exercise means that voter identification in 2014, and even 2015, will likely see no significant improvement on this aspect of the electoral arrangements. This requires a renewed focus on a broad spectrum of other anti-fraud measures in ensuring a credible process and public trust.

Mr. President,

Peace is the Afghan people’s greatest desire.

Political efforts centred on establishing a Taliban office in Doha for the purpose of talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and authorised representatives of the Taliban to promote peace and reconciliation, led to contradictory developments and announcement this week. We hope that the current controversies and legitimate concerns around the Taliban office in Doha will soon be resolved, thus opening the way to direct peace and reconciliation discussions between the High Peace Council and the Taliban. We also hope that this will be accompanied by a reduction of violence and civilian casualties. UNAMA stands ready to support all peace and reconciliation efforts based on and in full conformity with its mandate. Among others, it stands ready to facilitate an inter-Afghan Track II dialogue, as well as to engage with the Taliban on issues related to the promotion of human rights, application of humanitarian law and reduction of civilian casualties.

Promotion of peace and reconciliation requires an enabling regional environment.

Recent developments between Afghanistan and Pakistan as noted in the Secretary General’s report are of concern. Such tensions are unfortunate and dangerous, especially at this stage of Afghanistan’s development. They bring in additional elements of risks to an already complex and complicated political and security situation in Afghanistan and in the region. It is for the two countries to address these concerns and problems and their underlying reasons, to build trust and to refrain from any step that could contribute to an escalation of tensions and inflamed public sentiments. The two neighbouring countries share common concerns and interests in fighting terrorism. They can succeed or fail together.

I am encouraged by the positive exchanges following the recent Pakistani elections between President Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as by the resumption of high-level military contacts between the two countries with the participation of the International Security Assistance Force.

Mr. President,

A major conference in Kabul next month will assess progress on the mutual commitments to Government reform and international civilian assistance made one year ago in Tokyo. Frank discussion between the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners must result in a reinvigorated agenda for action in the coming year. It is important to emphasise the mutual nature of commitments. The international community pledged not just to the provision of financial assistance but how it will be delivered. It was agreed that 50 per cent of development funding would be delivered on budget and 80 per cent in alignment with national programmes. We must not get caught up in merely the technical definitions but rather ensure real progress in reinforcing national systems and dismantling parallel efforts.

Among the hard deliverables are not only issues of economic development and good governance, but, at this juncture of the transition, issues related to elections and human rights. They address fundamental building blocks of the Afghan State.

This week’s appointment of new human rights commissioners to the AIHRC saw concerns at whether the appointment process complied with international principles and standards and met Afghan legal requirements of transparency, broad consultations and selection of independent qualified individuals. These concerns are currently under review by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and will be further reviewed by the respective international accreditation body for such national human rights institutions. In the meantime, the work of the Commission will be under increased scrutiny.

Implementation of the law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in protecting and promoting the rights of Afghan women and girls, and gains made by them over the last decade, is another central obligation.

Women’s equal and meaningful participation in economic, political and public life is Constitutionally guaranteed in Afghanistan and globally recognised as central to improving social development , including the health and well-being of children – the future of any nation. Key international donors are clear that any erosion of such commitments including erosion of the the Elimination of Violence Against Women law and its implementation would have a direct, negative impact on future international assistance.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan’s already acutely low humanitarian indicators are put further at risk by shrinking humanitarian space. Recent high profile attacks, including on the Jalalabad office of the immensely respected impartial International Committee of the Red Cross, has prompted questions by humanitarian organisations and agencies on how to stay and deliver.

Amidst increasing needs, the 2013 humanitarian appeal for $471 million was 41 per cent funded at the end of May. This momentum should be maintained. I further call on member states to ensure the alignment of their assistance with the strategic priorities agreed in the common humanitarian response plan.

Humanitarian response alone will not suffice and greater attention and priority must be afforded to durable solutions and Government capacity. This includes a greater development focus on disaster management systems, internally displaced persons and refugees, their strictly voluntary return and sustainable livelihoods, and sustaining the access and quality of the health system.

Mr. President,

This is a critical juncture. The trajectory is irreversible but we need to work together – the Afghan authorities, the Afghan people and international partners – in ensuring it is sustainable.

There are results to report. But setbacks appear and are and will be inevitable.

The need is for predictability and confidence. Determined internal and external efforts are required to prove that worse case scenarios are wrong. This is challenging but possible.

Thank you for your attention.