Saturday, October 25, 2014

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Today, 19 September 2013, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin delivered a statement at the Security Council on the occasion of the debate convened on the situation of Afghanistan. The debate focused on Afghanistan’s upcoming elections, security transition, human rights and the peace and reconciliation process.

During the open debate, members of the Security Council along with representatives of Italy, India, Estonia, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Slovakia, Canada, Islamic Republic of Iran and the European Union took the floor.

Mr. Jan Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNAMA, participated in the discussions highlighting the vital importance of regional cooperation to Afghanistan’s stability and the necessity of ensuring justice and human rights in the region. He also welcomed the significant progress made in technical preparations for the upcoming elections, as well as the increased capability of the Afghan army and police in facing the challenges of security transition.

In his remarks, H.E. Ambassador Tanin stated that since the launch of the final phase of security transition on 18 June this year, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have been at the forefront of combat, defending the country and providing security.

He emphasized that the transition will take Afghanistan into a “decade of transformation characterized by strengthening sovereignty and normalization of the situation.” It will bring security to the region and allow Afghanistan’s economy to move “from aid-independency to self-sufficiency.” In this regard, the elections are seen as crucial to the success of the transformation period. “This is why Afghans from all walks of life are actively engaged in the process and debate before the elections,” he stated.

Moreover, the Ambassador stressed that neighboring countries play a vital role in securing prosperity and peace in Afghanistan and in the region, noting that “our vision is not simply to better Afghanistan’s future, but also enable us to be a constructive, friendly and dependable partner to our neighbors and to countries in the region.”

Speaking about the increasing number of terrorist attacks and civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the Ambassador noted, “as Afghanistan looks towards a brighter future, the enemies of Afghanistan- the enemies of peace- continue their violent campaigns against civilians, soldiers, civil servants, men, women, children and foreign forces. If they see brutality as the measure of their power, they are wrong; it is a measure of their weakness.”

Speaking of a recent increase in attacks on women officials, the Ambassador was emphatic: “It is not brave to kill a police officer, particularly if she is a woman protecting and serving her country,” he said. “It is time for the Taliban to stop the killing, renounce the violence, and to heed the call to peace.”

Several Council members and other speakers welcomed the appointment of new members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and of the Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC), underlining the key role these institutions play in ensuring an effective democratic process. Also, they noted the adoption of the electoral legal framework as a significant step towards credible, inclusive and transparent elections.

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
 Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations on your assumption of the Presidency of the Council for this month.  We are very grateful for the role Australia is playing as the penholder on Afghanistan under your leadership, Mr. President, and for its capable work in the Security Council.  I thank my good friend Special Representative Kubis for his very comprehensive briefing, and more broadly, for his effective leadership of UNAMA in Afghanistan.Also, let me express a warm welcome to my new colleagues, Ambassadors from the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

Mr. President,

We are now at the beginning of the 68th GA at the United Nations, which has turned this city into the epicentre of world dialogue.  Today’s debate is convened ahead of a number of events with a broader focus on Afghanistan- the International Contact Group, the Senior Officials Meeting of the Istanbul Process, a number of ministerial meetings, and the opportunity for the Afghan delegation to meet with our friends and partners at a high level.  Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the campaigns for the third Presidential elections are about to begin.  At the same time, we are envisioning the end of the International Security Assistance Force’s mandate by the end of 2014, a mission that started 12 years ago and which then became the backbone of international stabilization efforts in Afghanistan.

On 18 June this year, the final phase of security transition, the 5th tranche, began in Afghanistan.  In the past several months, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have been at the forefront of difficult combat.  They have largely proved themselves capable of defending the country and providing security. The transition will take us into a new decade- the decade of transformation- characterized by strengthening sovereignty and normalization of the situation.  It is a leap in the right direction, and a proud new chapter in our history.

But Mr. President, while this is a new chapter, it is also remarkably familiar: throughout our long history, our country has consistently risen up from the ashes, defiant after tragedies, and has re-emerged from war, conflict and destruction.   Today, backed by the collective efforts of the international community, we take responsibility for our security and our defence, as we have done time and again, and we meet this challenge with confidence, courage, and responsibility.

Mr. President,

At the beginning of his second term, President Karzai outlined a new vision for Afghanistan’s future.  He called for full Afghan responsibility for security, a move towards a self-reliant economy, and a political solution to end the war.  Since 2010, Afghanistan and its partners have solidified these commitments through constructive conferences in London, Lisbon, Istanbul, Bonn, Chicago, and Tokyo.

Mr. President,

In Lisbon and then in Chicago, the international community committed itself to long-term support after 2014 to train, advise and support the ANSF.  Our international partners pledged financial support and equipment necessary for our armed forces to function independently, a goal furthered through strategic partnerships signed with a number of countries including the United States. We signed the Enduring Partnership Agreement with NATO, which will be realized through its post-2014 role, Operation Resolute Support.  We are also in the final phases of negotiating the Bilateral Security, Defence and Cooperation Agreement with the United States. Other countries outside NATO have also committed to provide long-term support to Afghan forces.

These agreements are not aimed at fighting wars, but rather at ensuring the security of our country, protecting its people, and safeguarding the democratic order we created so painstakingly over the past 12 years.

Mr. President,

In addition to progress in security, the transformation decade aims to move Afghanistan’s economy from aid-dependency to self-sufficiency.  In Tokyo, international donors pledged $16 billion to support Afghanistan’s economic transition through 2017 by adopting the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF).  This links aid directly to Afghan commitments in sectors such as human rights and governance, and commits donors to strengthen aid efficiency and sustainability, channelling their commitments through Afghanistan’s core budget.   The Senior Officials Meeting of the Tokyo Conference looked critically into these obligations this past July in Kabul.

Mr. President,

Our neighbours are vital to Afghanistan’s future prosperity and peace.  Yet, as President Karzai explained at the Shanghai Summit last week, our vision is not simply to better Afghanistan’s future, but also enable us to be a constructive, friendly and dependable partner to our neighbours and to countries in the region.

To this end, we are now part of many regional cooperative frameworks.  We are at the centre of the Istanbul Process initiative.  We hope that this process will become an important forum for all countries in the region to build more trust, counter shared threats to stability and peace, and focus on steps needed for the prosperity of all countries in the region. We are very happy to see that our brotherly country the People’s Republic of China is going to lead the ministerial conference next year.

Mr. President,

We are preparing for our 3rd ever Presidential elections, an accomplishment that demonstrates the increased maturity of Afghanistan’s emerging democracy. The last decades were characterized by decisions made with violence, problems solved through war, and power solidified with weapons rather than votes. Electing a new President is an important symbol that bloody struggle for power in our country belongs to the past.

Our enemies want to derail the process, as made evident by the assassination of the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) office in Kunduz province.  But let it be known, no such acts will prevent a successful electoral process from taking place.

Mr. President,

The coming elections are seen by all as crucial to the success of the transformation decade, the trust of Afghans, and the continuing support of the international community.  Afghans know this deeply, and this is why Afghans from all walks of life are actively engaged in the process and debate before the elections.  A robust electoral framework has been established: new members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC) have been appointed, a chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has been elected, a national security strategy for elections has been arranged, and two new pieces of legislation have been signed into law.

 

Mr. President,

As Afghanistan looks towards a brighter future, the enemies of Afghanistan- the enemies of peace- continue their violent campaigns against civilians, soldiers, civil servants, men, women, children and foreign forces. If they see brutality as the measure of their power, they are wrong; it is a measure of their weakness.

It is not brave to kill a police officer, particularly if she is a woman protecting and serving her country.  It is time for the Taliban to stop the killing, renounce the violence, and heed the call to peace.

The first attempts at peace negotiations were undermined by the Taliban’s determination to take Afghanistan back to the past.   But the Afghan people do not want to return to the past.  They want the violence to end. This is why, despite the atrocities, Afghanistan’s leadership has not lost faith in a political solution.

 

Mr. President,

Countries in the region, particularly Pakistan, play an important role in supporting this process. We are encouraged by the outcome of President Karzai’s recent visit to Islamabad, and reassured by the new government of Pakistan guarantees of support for the process. We look forward to working together towards enhanced cooperation.

Mr. President,

As we approach the transformation decade, we must secure the gains made in the last 12 years, despite the difficulties, vulnerabilities and risks.   In the years ahead, we must build upon our achievements, and enable Afghanistan to stand on its feet, with a strong voice, as a full partner of the international community.  In this period of change, we will go into the elections in search of a solution, in a spirit of national unity and coherence, together with our international partners, to further our struggle for democracy, prosperity and peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Jan Kubis to Security Council, 19 September 2013

Mr President, Esteemed Members of the Security Council,

Last week Afghanistan’s first international football victory triggered exuberant celebrations of an historic achievement. In a display of national unity and national pride the streets filled with dancing, flag-waving crowds. Following decades of war which devastated the country’s institutional and social fabric, the South Asian Football Federation Championship win was a welcome sign of Afghanistan’s gradual return to normalcy and success on the international stage.

The three month since I last appeared before you have seen progress in Afghanistan’s political and security transitions. Considerable challenges remain and the situation is volatile, but efforts are on track.

In this period I personally have had a particular focus on regional issues. This recognizes the vital importance of the neighbours, and near neighbours, support for – and engagement with – Afghanistan. The stability and ultimate sustainability of transition processes depend upon it.

I travelled with the Secretary-General to Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s new leadership. I represented the Secretary-General at the inauguration of Iran’s new President and at the council of the heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Kyrgyzstan. I also undertook working visits to Tajikistan, Russia, India and China.

Mr President,

Tranche Five, the final tranche, of the security transition was announced just the day before my last briefing.

Since then security incidents have increased on 2012 – but not to the record levels of 2011. A campaign of bloodshed by anti-Government elements has targeted mostly Afghans – both in uniform and civilians – including in previously calmer districts. They have however failed to achieve a significant military victory. The majority of violence takes places away from populated areas.

The Afghan army and police have shown courage and increased capability in rising to the challenge of security transition. They increasingly trust themselves and work to earn the trust of the population despite heavy casualties in the ranks. We are requested to trust them as well.

In recent meetings with senior Afghan military personnel I was pleased to hear that instilling public trust in the army’s capacity and cohesion is recognized as an institutional priority.

Yet, Afghan security forces capabilities are not yet fully developed nor completely sustainable. ISAF Commander General Dunford recently stated that international support will be required for at least the next five years in enabling entirely independent operations.

I welcome the numerous bilateral partnership agreements that now underlay multilateral commitments from Chicago. These are a demonstration of the seriousness and long-term nature of international support.

Mr President,

The 2014 elections remain at the forefront of political life in Afghanistan. More broadly, a stable leadership transition through timely elections in accordance with the Constitution is central to everything else to be achieved.

President Karzai recently again emphasized that polls will be held, recognizing that “retaining power without elections will raise questions about the systems’ legitimacy”.

The last three months have seen significant progress in technical preparations. This includes passage of two key laws, appointments to the two independent electoral management bodies, and rollout of the district-level voter registration update. A six-week extension of the registration effort will help ensure maximum participation, including that of women.

An acceleration in registration since Ramadan means that more than one million new voter cards have been issued, nearly 30 per cent of these to women. Numbers continue to grow steadily.

I welcome the attention Afghan authorities are giving to securing the elections. Improved coordination of security institutions; robust security assessments; planning and implementing risk mitigation measures; and instilling greater confidence through public awareness are necessary now.

Again, President Karzai has recognized that “any election is better than no election. We cannot delay elections for security considerations.”

With the launch of candidate registration earlier this week, the political contest is formally underway. Clear visions for the future of Afghanistan need to be articulated to allow voters to make their choices. Direct or indirect appeals to narrow ethnic or factional interests must be avoided. Democratic transfer of political authority should contribute to national unity.

A level playing field, including equal access to state resources as well as balance in media coverage will be important aspects of a fair process and help ensure a widely accepted result.

There is increasing concern over the slow progress in creating an appropriate legal framework for the media, especially in this election period. The legislation on the right to information and the media law have both been delayed while violence against journalists is seen to be on the rise. Press freedom is one of the success stories in Afghanistan and must be protected.

 

Mr President,

Across the region there is growing recognition of the need for constructive bilateral and multilateral engagement with Afghanistan. The transnational nature of challenges – including instability, terrorism, population displacement, and narcotics – as well as the opportunities – in trade, infrastructure and connectivity – seems to be understood.

I welcome the positive initial signals and engagements from the new leaderships in Iran and Pakistan.

President Karzai’s visit to Islamabad was of particular significance. A new tone in relations seems to be emerging, narrowing the trust deficit.

This was confirmed by statements of Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s adviser, where he emphasized genuine efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He stated that Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan and that the policy is one of “non-interference”.

Afghan officials are also “reasonably hopeful” of better cooperation with the new Government of Pakistan.

Confidence building measures including in the area of economic development can help build trust through shared interests and prosperity.

The Istanbul Process remains a valuable regional effort, placing Afghanistan at the very “Heart of Asia”. I look forward to the meeting here in New York on Monday to hear about progress since Almaty. And I welcome the People’s Republic of China’s preparations to host the 2014 ministerial. Beijing’ seriousness of intent was highlighted during my recent visit.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is also positioning itself to play an increasing role in support of Afghanistan. At this month’s heads of state summit there was clear interest in moving beyond anxiety and expressions of concern about the situation post-2014. The emphasis was rather on shared responsibilities, with Afghanistan and the broader international community, in ensuring durable solutions, including through the increased engagement of regional countries.

Indeed, throughout my regional travels, it was clearly understood that political solutions will be the key to sustainable peace, security and economic prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. Most immediately for Afghanistan this means elections resulting in a legitimate and peaceful transfer of power. More broadly this must include early dialogue on peace and reconciliation.

The United Nations continues to support the need for dialogue. We hope that new, mutually accepted, modalities can be swiftly agreed.

Mr President,

Narcotics remain a key problem in Afghanistan and beyond. The annual Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC survey found there was a reduction in cannabis cultivation in 2012 – although higher yields still saw increased production. I am extremely concerned at assessments that this year will see a significant rise – yet again – in opium cultivation and a continuing drop in “poppy-free” provinces.

Afghanistan is already by far the largest centre of opium production in the world. This is not an issue that can be compartmentalized. Narcotics are a source and symptom of violence and institutional weakness and threaten ever sphere: political, economic and security.

Farmers choose what they plant based on food security, access to markets and access to non-farm income. It is essential that counter-narcotics be main-streamed into agricultural policy.

Further up the value chain, narcotics trafficking engenders corruption, black markets and insecurity which risks undermining the very foundations of the state. Renewed attention to mainstreaming counter-narcotics efforts in every sector is essential. This is ultimately a matter of political will – by Afghan authorities, regional partners and international donors.

Mr President,

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, was in Kabul this week meeting with President Karzai and senior officials as well as civil society representatives and human rights activists.

Ms Pillay noted commendable progress in some areas of human rights and the commitment of President Karzai. However she stated her concern that momentum of improvements in human rights may not only have peaked but is even waning. She urged additional efforts by the President and the Government to ensure that justice and human rights – in particular women’s rights – be preserved and consolidated rather than undermined or sacrificed to political expediency.

Issues of human rights and accountability need to be mainstreamed across all lines of effort – political, developmental and security related.

The rise in civilian casualties is of deep concern, the vast majority of these being at the hands of anti-Government elements and rogue or criminal armed groups. Targeted killings of civilians and the use of improvised explosive devices are increasingly frequent tactics.

Deaths during this period include the head of the Kunduz appellate court, the chief electoral officer in Kunduz, a district education head in Parwan, and a young woman taking part in vaccination campaigns in Jawzjan. Indeed, increasing attacks on women are of major concern. Only last Monday a courageous female police officer in Helmand, Lieutenant Nigara, was gunned down as was her predecessor Islam Bibi earlier this year.

A renegade Taliban militia brutally killed Sushmita Bannerjee – a well- known social worker and author of Indian origin married to an Afghan.

The Taliban movement continues to assert in its public statements that anyone associated with the Government, or seen to support it, constitutes a target. This includes educators, judicial official and civil servants in clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Mr President,

A further effect of heightened uncertainty and violence has been increased population displacement. The changing nature of conflict to more ground engagements has a concomitant impact on civilians. There are now half a million individuals internally displaced, over 100,000 of these during the first seven months of the year. At the same time, the number of refugees returning to Afghanistan decreased by 41 per cent compared to the same period in 2012.

This year’s humanitarian appeal has seen far higher levels of funding. Increasing humanitarian needs will however require more stable and flexible funding that will allow a rapid response to humanitarian crises. I am happy to note that there is now agreement and commitment from the international donor community to support a Common Humanitarian Fund for Afghanistan which should become operational in early 2014.

Mr President,

As Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson has already briefed you following his visit in this period, the key message from the people of Afghanistan is a desire for peace, justice, prosperity, and stability and the need to protect the gains made over the last decade. We are rightly requested to help.

Under-Secretary General Ray Kennedy of the Department of Safety and Security has also been to Afghanistan to see for himself the reality of a complex and volatile security situation and the implications for United Nations activities. The safety of personnel is a top priority in determining the means to stay and deliver.

There is clear progress in vital elements underpinning Afghanistan’s transition processes. At the same time challenges persist in the security and narcotics sectors in particular.

More needs to be done in meeting mutual commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. A focus on election preparations must not draw attention away from issues like combatting corruption, the rule of law, and economic growth. This is what will ensure Afghanistan’s ultimate institutional and financial sustainability.

I welcome the signals of positive support of the region and ongoing commitment of the international community in ensuring continued momentum in strengthening Afghan institutions, Afghan sovereignty, and Afghan solutions.