We come together today to adopt this year’s General Assembly resolution on the Situation in Afghanistan. I thank all member states that participated in the spirit of cooperation, supporting the efforts of the Afghan government and expressing their solidarity with Afghan people, in their struggle to build a democratic, stable, and prosperous future. We also thank Ambassador Wittig our colleagues of the Permanent Mission of Germany for facilitating this resolution.
As we gather to take stock of the situation in Afghanistan, we are mindful of the monumental progress made to date. From the ashes of war, over the past 12 years a new state was founded, on the basis of a democratic constitution, and the will of the Afghan people. Afghanistan regained its historical place as a responsible member of the international community, and the country again became home to all Afghans, all ethnic groups, men and women. Millions of Afghan refugees who escaped wars, violence, and devastation returned home. The Afghan flag is now raised in far remote ends of the country, and around the world. Today, millions of Afghan boys and girls have access to education. 90% of people receive primary health care in hundreds of clinics and health centers countrywide. We made tremendous progress in reducing maternal and child mortality, and people live longer and with more certainty about their future. Our vibrant civil society and independent media are emblematic of an emerging democracy in the region. Big steps were taken to restore the rights of women, elevate their status, and strengthen their role in society. Afghan people enjoy their democratic rights and freedoms, guaranteed by the Afghan constitution. In summary, Afghanistan’s progress has been huge, and, to a larger extent, unprecedented for a country that is still struggling to leave conflict and violence behind.
Following a decade of extraordinary engagement by the international community in reconstruction and stabilization efforts, Afghanistan is moving towards a new beginning, characterized and guided by the principles of national ownership, leadership and strengthened sovereignty:
Tomorrow, in Kabul, the Consultative Loya Jirgah will confer on the agreement that is at the core of strategic relations between Afghanistan and the United States. This is an important event, following the signing of the Enduring Strategic Partnership of 2nd of May, last year, and 15 months of negotiations between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States. Representatives of the Afghan people will have their say on the pact, which will shape our future in a changing world.
In four months, Afghanistan will hold the next presidential and provincial council elections. In a spirit of national unity, Afghans from all segments of the society will go to the polls to choose the new leadership of the country. This marks the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power from one elected president to another. All efforts are being made to ensure that the elections are transparent, credible, free and fair. Inclusion of women as candidates, voters and active civil society members is essential to these efforts. The Afghan people expect the outcome of elections to further solidify political stability and to strengthen the gains of the last decade.
At the end of next year, we will enter a new phase, when the international military forces will leave the country. Afghan forces assumed full security responsibility this past June, and will be in charge of security and defense of the country, nationwide. Beyond 2014, training, advising and assisting Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will remain imperative. In this connection, we are in the process of determining together with our NATO partners, the structure of NATO’s post 2014 posture in the country.
As we look into the future, Afghanistan is focused on a number of immediate priorities, key to the success of transition and to achieving lasting peace and stability in the country.
Firstly, peace and reconciliation: The government of Afghanistan continues its efforts towards finding a political settlement, reconciliation, and securing durable peace. In the last year, many attempts have been made to re-start peace talks with the Taliban, through the vigilant efforts of the High Peace Council, as well as the framework of bilateral and trilateral initiatives. Despite some setbacks, we are confident that we will reach a political solution. We continue our efforts for moving the process forward, and we are encouraged by the commitment and cooperation of our brotherly country Pakistan, which is vital to the advancement of the peace and reconciliation process.
Secondly, regional cooperation: Peace and security in Afghanistan is inextricable from the peace and prosperity of the region. We are working together with all our neighbors through different forums and initiatives to enhance cooperation in a number of areas. The Istanbul Process is central to our goal of realizing a secure, stable and prosperous region. We have come a long way in enhancing the process, strengthening the framework of cooperation through dialogue and by focusing on a concrete set of confidence building measures. The Senior Officials Meeting in New York in September was another important advance, and we look forward to working closely with our Chinese partners in preparation for the up-coming Fourth Ministerial Meeting in Tianjin. In recent months, the government of Afghanistan conducted a number of high-level consultations with the leadership of neighboring countries and countries in the region aimed at furthering cooperation and collaboration, for the region’s collective security and stability, particularly during the transition and beyond.
Thirdly, economic development: Moving from a predominantly aid dependent to a non-aid dependent economy is at the core of our economic transition. We are improving our economy, attracting national and international private sector investment and trade, and seeking to make the most of our rich and untapped natural resource supply, which will serve as the backbone of our economy in the future. It is important to emphasize, that Afghanistan’s social and economic development also requires greater coherence and efficiency in regards to the provision of international assistance, as well as greater transparency and accountability. In this respect, we look forward to further progress in meeting mutual commitments set out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF). For our part, we are vigorously pursuing inclusive and sustained growth with a focus on strengthening our infrastructure and a sound legal policy and institutional environment, essential to the realization of our self-sufficiency strategy and sustained economic growth. Additionally, we are making every effort to implement our national development strategy by way of our National Priority Programs (NPP’s), into which our MDG’s have been integrated. We underscore the importance of alignment of assistance with National Priority Programs and the channeling of aid through our core budget.
Fourthly, good governance and strengthening the rule of law: this has been central to our efforts. This year, new steps were taken towards improving governance at the national and subnational levels, administrative reform, and the fight against corruption. To this end, I should note that President Karzai’s Decree of July 2012 continues to be implemented in Government Ministries, organs, agencies and directorates. Our good-governance effort is grounded on a comprehensive approach, entailing various components. This includes a robust effort to improve security and overcome the problem of narcotic drugs. The nexus between narcotic drugs, criminality and terrorism, poses a serious threat to the rule of law. To this end, we are seriously engaged in implementing our National Drug Control Strategy, including our prioritized implementation plan and benchmarks. Nevertheless, we underscore, once again, that a real solution to the problem of narcotic drugs relies on a holistic approach addressing all components: production, trafficking and consumption. In this connection, let me highlight, again, the importance of the principle of shared responsibility, in our joint efforts to defeat the scourge of drugs. We are thankful for, and emphasize, continued regional and international support in our continued fight against this menace.
Lastly, the Afghan government has been fully committed to its responsibilities to protect and promote the rights of all Afghan people, including those of women and girls. All Afghans- the elderly, the youth, men and women, boys and girls- enjoy more rights and fundamental freedoms today than ever before, by virtue of our democratic constitution. We continue to take bold steps towards the advancement of women and their rights, and to empower them as proactive members of society, contributing to the building of a new Afghanistan. In assessing the plight of Afghan women, it’s imperative to not lose sight of the gains made thus far. We have come a long way, and continued support and commitment are essential to advancement of women’s rights in the country as we proceed into the transformation decade. We deem unacceptable any incident of violence or discrimination against women, and are pursuing all cases with serious attention. Let me note, this year has seen notable progress in the implementation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law. Investigations and prosecution of alleged crimes against women has increased significantly. All perpetrators will be held accountable.
As a country that is committed to the principles of the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Afghanistan is fully aware of the importance of universal values, fundamental freedoms, and rights, as enshrined in our constitution. Afghanistan has, throughout history, been a diverse and tolerant society, respectful of the customs, traditions, and religious beliefs of all peoples, including those of other faiths. By the same token, we underscore awareness and respect for cultural norms, values and beliefs of Afghan society. Such will only serve to benefit our enduring partnership in the way forward.
The coming year for Afghanistan is crucial. We are embracing the challenges of the future with full confidence. Our commitment to building on the achievements of the past is as strong as ever. We know that the journey we embarked on more than a decade ago remains incomplete, and that the way forward will not be void of challenges. But if anything, this resolution is a manifestation of the prospect for success, made possible by the enormous sacrifices made by the people of Afghanistan, who have, throughout history, demonstrated resilience, fortitude and courage in overcoming the most difficult of obstacles and achieving success. Our international partners were essential to these efforts, and I would like to take this opportunity to gratefully thank all our international friends and partners who stand with us in support and solidarity as we seek to complete the goal we set out to achieve in 2001!
I thank you!