Statment by H.E. Dr Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Security Council debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
Thank you for convening today’s important meeting, which includes the extension of UNAMA’s mandate. I also wish to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency for the month of March. We convey our gratitude to the Secretary-General for his remarks and presentation of his report, which provides a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground. I extend my appreciation to Special Representative Kubiš for joining us today. I wish to thank Foreign Minister Carr for honouring us with his presence and participation.
I would like to seize this opportunity to thank the members of the Council for the spirit of cooperation and openness shown during the course of negotiations. A special thanks goes to Ambassador Quinlan, and his team at the Australian Mission, for the able manner in which they led the process.
In just two days, the Afghan New Year will begin, a year in which transition to full Afghan responsibility is central to our efforts, a year that will take us to the next elections, a year to bring an end to war, and a year of building confidence and resilience.
Since the adoption of UNAMA’s mandate last year, Afghanistan and the international community undertook a new focus on the needs of the transition period, which involves strengthening peace and security and the realization of national priorities. Together with the international community, we developed the parameters of future cooperation to ensure building a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan that is able to stand on its own feet. We did this through continuing dialogue with our partners, and agreements made in Chicago last May, at the Heart of Asia conference in Kabul in June and in Tokyo in July. More will need to be done to crystallize all aspects of cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community, including the shaping of our relations with the region.
A successful and orderly transition to Afghan ownership and leadership is about a continuous focus on five priority areas:
First, strengthening Afghan national sovereignty and national ownership and leadership are central to transition. After more than a decade of shared efforts, strengthening of sovereignty entails normalization through security, political and economic transition. For the Afghan people, national sovereignty means taking full responsibility for their destiny.
With the announcement of the 4th tranche of transition this past December, assumption of full security responsibility by Afghan forces is more tangible than ever. By the end of this stage, eighty-seven percent of the Afghan population will be living in areas where Afghan security forces are in charge of security.
The Afghan people are keenly focused on a successful political transition, and all eyes are on the election next spring. The Government of Afghanistan is committed to fair, democratic, transparent and inclusive elections, in which the men and women of Afghanistan will again shape their political future. Preparations for elections are well underway. There is overwhelming consensus that a successful and credible election will be necessary for stability and lasting peace.
At the same time, peace talks and reconciliation with the armed opposition are essential for a successful election. The Afghan Government is doing its utmost to ensure the success of the reconciliation process. The High Peace Council has recently taken necessary steps to galvanize the reconciliation efforts. The support of the international community and in particular some countries in the region are important for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process. As we work to move the peace process forward, the role of the Security Council will remain imperative; and we welcome the adoption of SC resolution 2082, which refined the Taliban sanctions regime in view of Afghanistan’s leadership of the reconciliation process.
Second, during transition and the decade of transformation to follow, the relationship between Afghanistan and our international partners will evolve. Strategic partnership agreements, such as those we finalized in the last two years, are key for shaping long-term relationships and for stability during transition and beyond. Afghanistan has established bilateral strategic partnerships with a number of countries including the agreement between Afghanistan and the US signed in May, which was followed by recognition of Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally. Talks are ongoing to conclude the security agreement between the two countries, which will be finalized in due course. Just last month, we signed a strategic partnership with Norway. We are now defining parameters of similar partnerships with Denmark and Finland. With the transition, Afghanistan is entering a new era of relations with international partners, and we are committed to basing our strategic cooperation on bilateral frameworks, an important step toward normalization of the situation.
Our close partnership with NATO has been a significant source of progress for stabilization efforts. We look forward to furthering our partnership into the transformation decade ahead. In this context, we welcome the important discussions which took place at the NATO Defence Ministers’ Meetings in Brussels on 21-22 February, where NATO took concrete steps toward planning improved capabilities and reinforced their commitment to NATO’s post-2014 role of training, advising and assisting Afghan National Security Forces. Such strategic cooperation will ensure the future sustainability of Afghan National Security Forces.
Third, economic transition and aid delivery will be crucial for the sustainability of transition. This requires the commitment of the international community for supporting our self-reliance strategy through the transformation decade. The Tokyo conference last July was about not letting the drawdown of international combat forces affect Afghanistan’s strides toward stability and prosperity. It will be important to see how realization of the mutual commitments made in Tokyo will help us to address humanitarian and development challenges essential for not only stability but sustainability in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is committed to upholding the agreements made in Tokyo, which include commitments in the areas of equitable elections, good governance and rule of law, human right including women’s rights, and inclusive and sustainable development. We look forward to continuing to work with our international partners on the basis of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.
The economic transition is also about improving aid effectiveness, ensuring alignment with national priorities, and accountability and transparency of aid spending. Aid delivery and efficiency are particularly important at a time in which we not only face economic instability as a result of conflict, but unemployment and poverty remain significant problems. Capacity building for Afghan institutions to address the challenges ahead will be essential. It is crucial that the international community’s support is in line with national priorities and is channeled through the Afghan budget as agreed at the 2010 Kabul Conference. It is also important that aid delivery is based on emerging needs on the ground, and is directed to areas where need is greatest. Afghanistan is ready to be held accountable for any penny it spends, and we believe the commitments made in Tokyo will facilitate a sustainable economic future for Afghanistan.
Fourth, relations with Afghanistan’s neighbours and countries in our greater region are critical for stability and progress. Afghanistan is developing its bilateral and multilateral relations in all areas with countries in the region. We are in the centre of the Heart of Asia process, and see this cooperation as essential for peace and stability. Our partnerships with all countries in the region can be mutually beneficial; Afghanistan can serve as an economic bridge in an increasingly globalized region that is seeking progress and prosperity. At the Heart of Asia meeting in Kabul in June 2012, participating countries agreed upon a series of confidence building measures (CBMs) regarding a range of issues, a number of which were endorsed in February in Baku. We look forward to the next ministerial meeting in Almaty in April.
We are engaged with a number of countries on our path to normalization, which includes helping our reconciliation process. Most recently we have continued trilateral discussions with Pakistan and the UK as well as other forums to help cooperation. We are hopeful about the outcome that will result from our joint efforts.
Fifth, successful transition will require effective partnership with the UN. Since 2001, the UN has been at the centre of the coordination of international efforts in Afghanistan. We appreciate the important role it has played. More recently, we have seen how the UN is adjusting its role to meet the needs of transition. In this regard, the UN underwent a comprehensive review of its activities in Afghanistan in 2011; and in his recent report, the Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of realigning the relationship between the international community and Government of Afghanistan, and reflection on the UN’s role beyond transition.
As we complete transition, and transfer full responsibility to the Afghan Government, we can envisage normalization of the UN’s activities in the years to come. Aid coherence, One UN, and greater accountability are important for Afghanistan, the UN itself, and donor countries. Afghanistan looks forward to close cooperation with UNAMA in the coming year as it continues its efforts toward the priority areas of good offices in support of Afghan-led political processes, human rights, development coherence, and coordination of humanitarian assistance. In this regard, we welcome the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, which has continually evolved to reflect and reinforce the principles of Afghan ownership and leadership.
The end of transition will signal the beginning of a new chapter, one marked by national resilience and the strategic goal of self-reliance. While the nature of the international community’s engagement with Afghanistan is evolving, their continued support will be vital. Full realization of sovereignty and self-reliance will make Afghanistan a more effective partner for the world, but achieving this requires the trust, confidence and long-term commitment of international community. Afghanistan looks forward to lasting cooperation with our international partners toward enduring peace, stability, and prosperity in the country.
I thank you.
I am pleased to brief you today on the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. I thank the Russian Mission [for organising] this very important open meeting on this very crucially important subject.
This has been an intense period of activity as we look ahead to 2014. The United Nations is reflecting on our future role. We are preparing for the challenges ahead.
Our core priorities should guide us going forward. We should continue providing good offices, including support for elections. We should maintain our work for reconciliation and regional cooperation. We must stand firm for human rights. And we must advance development.
Humanitarian action is also crucial to our future role. This is especially important in addressing Afghanistan’s chronic vulnerability and the impact of the transition.
I would like to speak briefly on all of these issues today.
Afghanistan’s political climate is dominated by the 2014 elections. Broad participation and a credible process are essential to reaching the goal of a widely accepted leadership transition.
Let me stress that the elections are Afghan-led and Afghan-managed. Now is the time to take critical decisions. The Government has committed to making this an inclusive, consultative and transparent process. I welcome the active and responsible participation by all stakeholders in building a widely accepted electoral framework.
I also welcome President Karzai’s emphasis on adopting electoral legislation at the opening ceremony of the National Assembly. Agreement on an impartial, credible and independent electoral dispute resolution mechanism will be critical. Another core element is the appointment of a respected, widely accepted chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission.
That Commission, along with the Ministry of Finance and donors, will have to seriously engage on electoral funding modalities to find solutions that are realistic and satisfactory to all.
The Government favours an electronic national identity card project. This is an important initiative with wide-ranging applications. It should be used to the extent possible in the 2014 and 2015 elections. At the same time, it is important to understand that there may be few improvements in voter identification for elections during those two years.
This makes other checks and balances, including widely agreed “rules of the game” and anti-fraud measures, all the more essential. The principle of respect for the independence of the electoral management body in the conduct of its constitutional duties is vital.
Afghanistan’s greatest need is peace. I welcome the joint US-Afghan declaration adopted in January supporting greater coherence of reconciliation efforts.
Expectations must be realistic. Reconciliation efforts will not be quick or easy.
The United Nations is pushing for a culture of peace, including support for a second phase of the Afghan People’s Dialogue.
Afghanistan’s people must come together not only to shun conflict but to assume leadership and ownership of the transition process for the sake of one Afghanistan. This is essential to end more than 30 years of conflict and establish true and lasting peace.
Our human rights efforts are built on constructive engagement. We have reported on the torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees. A presidential fact-finding commission also heard widespread testimony of abuse. It put forward 11 recommendations to address the problem.
On civilian casualties, the Government and international forces have taken measures to reduce the impact of their operations. Anti-government groups must now live up to their public statement and international obligations to cease targeting civilians, using children in suicide operations, attacking public places and using victim-activated pressure-plate explosives. And these are crimes under international law.
I am especially concerned about the 20 per cent increase in civilian casualties among women and girls in 2012.
UNAMA’s monitoring on civilian casualties prompted two statements from the Taliban perhaps indicating a willingness to engage. I encourage a meaningful dialogue to reduce this intolerable, continuing death toll and to protect civilians.
I welcome President Karzai’s speech on International Women’s Day – especially his focus on raising awareness of gender issues among men. But I remain deeply disturbed that despite some improvements in prosecuting cases of violence, there is still a pervasive climate of impunity in Afghanistan for abuses of women and girls. They have the inviolable right to live free of fear or attacks. And women and girls are key to a better future for Afghanistan. Protecting them is central to peace, prosperity and stability for all people in the country.
This calls for strictly applying the Elimination of Violence against Women Law and ensuring that women and girls can more actively participate in public life.
Distinguished members of the Council,
We have to strengthen the way we provide development assistance to reinforce Afghan ownership. For its part, the Government must maintain the momentum for economic governance reforms that are needed to increase the sustainability of security and political transitions.
Tackling the illicit economy is also critical to boosting economic confidence. The High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, together with the United Nations, has documented the scope of corruption tearing at Afghanistan’s economic and social fabric.
I am concerned that the Opium Risk Assessment shows an increase in poppy cultivation.
But there have been positive developments on the counter-narcotics front. Earlier this month, the Afghan authorities made their largest seizure so far this year, taking some 23 tons of heroin, morphine and precursor chemicals.
In addition to counter-narcotics, we face the continuing challenge of responding to the needs of returnees and the internally displaced. I am committed to finding lasting solutions to post-conflict displacement. We have elements for success in the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refuges and the national Afghan policy on IDPs.
We must prepare to look ahead beyond 2014. In a recent meeting with UN officials, Afghan representatives emphasized that they will not need less UN engagement, but a different kind of engagement. They consistently called for better coordination in the work of agencies, funds and programmes to prevent gaps and overlaps – among themselves and with others.
The Afghan representatives also broadly appreciated the need for a special political mission, with an evolving focus and scope.
The United Nations must reinforce Afghan efforts. We aim to strengthen Afghan political processes and institutions. We work to boost their ability to deliver nationally and in different regions.
We must bring to a close the time of parallel structures and efforts by the international community and fully integrate our support for Afghanistan.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To fulfil its mandate, the Mission must maintain its ability to reach out across the country and to meet the many demands it faces during this crucial period. As such, while the budget of UNAMA for 2013 reflected significant reductions, I do not envisage additional reductions for 2014. We can then more realistically assess the re-orientation of the United Nations presence in Afghanistan after the transition.
The success we have achieved so far comes thanks in large measure to the dedication of my Special Representative Jan Kubiš and all of the women and men – national and international – who have worked with commitment and dedication. We are ultimately responsible for their security and their ability to support the Afghan people.
We are approaching a moment of transition in Afghanistan – a country that has survived decades of upheaval. Let us work as hard as possible to ensure that this transition leads to the stable, prosperous and safe future that the country’s people deserve.
Thank you, Mr. President.