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At the outset, I would like to thank the Republic of Chad for its leadership of the Council this month and for convening this debate. I thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report on the Situation in Afghanistan. I also welcome the statement of Mr. Haysom, Special Representative to the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and congratulate him on his recent appointment. Also, I would like to thank Mr. Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, for his presence here today and for his briefing. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Ambassador Quinlan and the Permanent Mission of Australia for their support and great efforts as Afghanistan’s penholder on the Council for the past two years.
The international military combat mission in Afghanistan, authorised under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter 13 years ago, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, will officially end in 14 days. Just a few days ago, this august Council adopted a resolution reaffirming the completion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)’s mandate and welcoming the Resolute Support Mission, aimed at training, advising and assisting Afghan National Security and Defence Forces (ANDSF) on the basis of agreements between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, NATO and the United States. This is an historic step towards a new beginning in Afghanistan and a key marker of the country’s transition to a new chapter in its relations with the international community.
This monumental achievement comes at the heels of another significant moment in the history of Afghanistan, and another major victory for the transition agenda: presidential elections. While complex and challenging, the elections culminated in the first peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another in the country. The agreement of Afghanistan’s leaders to put the country’s successful future ahead of political divisions and establish a national unity government fostered an environment of hopefulness, inclusivity and political consensus, and cemented the foundation for lasting peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
While the people and leadership of Afghanistan are confident that the country is moving in a positive direction, the challenges Afghanistan faces are formidable. Insecurity remains the main impediment to progress across the country. In the past several months, terrorists and insurgent groups have intensified attacks in an attempt to deplete national confidence in the new government and to intimidate the Afghan people. As they commit acts of violence and brutality against innocent men, women and children, extremist armed groups should know that the courageous Afghan security forces stand ready to fight for the future of Afghan democracy, peace and security. Their resilience, particularly during the election period and throughout the past year, demonstrates their commitment to protect the lives of Afghans and the future of the country.
In the months and years ahead, the sustained support of the international community, including through the NATO-Afghanistan enduring partnership and the Resolute Support Mission as well as the commitments made at the Bonn conference, the Chicago, Lisbon and Wales summits and the recent NATO Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, will continue to be essential to enhancing the capacity and capabilities of the Afghan forces in the years ahead. At the same time, the government of Afghanistan recognizes that a political solution is essential to stopping the violence and the continuing terror campaign. To this end, an extensive a reconciliation process with the armed opposition is high on the agenda of the government.
As Afghanistan takes steps to overcome security threats, the country faces immediate economic challenges including a looming fiscal crisis. The protracted election process triggered uncertainty and negatively impacted revenue collection, donor confidence and economic growth, making it difficult for the government to mobilize adequate revenue to meet its financing priorities. We call on our international partners to fulfil their commitments to support the country so that the government can close the long-running fiscal gap and deliver on its reform promises.
The government of national unity has devised a comprehensive reform agenda aimed at addressing both the immediate and the long term challenges Afghanistan faces and at enabling the country to make progress towards self-reliance, sustainable growth, peace and stability. Today I will highlight a few key aspects of the new agenda, which the leadership of Afghanistan presented in full to international partners at the London conference on Afghanistan earlier this month:
1. Fighting corruption. Recognizing the corrosive effects of corruption, the government of Afghanistan has already taken steps to tackle this endemic scourge and its underlying drivers. In its first days in office, the new administration reopened the Kabul Bank case and made plans to reform a number of key oversight bodies.
2. Advancing good governance. The government is committed to strengthening democratic institutions, promoting the rule of law, enhancing human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls, and undertaking comprehensive reforms of electoral laws and institutions.
3. Promoting economic and fiscal stability. Afghanistan is committed to enhancing productivity, mobilizing domestic revenue, and expanding private sector investment, growth and employment opportunities with the ultimate aim of reducing Afghanistan’s dependence on donor support and achieving long term sustainability and prosperity in the country. The illicit drug economy is a grave concern, and to this end the government is committed to a comprehensive response to combat this menace, in collaboration with our regional and international partners.
4. Strengthening regional cooperation. This will set Afghanistan firmly on the path towards peace and security and will enhance growth, prosperity and stability in Afghanistan and across the region. President Ghani’s state visits to China, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and engagement with other neighbouring countries as well as his attendance at key regional meetings, such as the 17th SAARC summit in Kathmandu and the Fourth Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in China, indicate the priority that the new government gives to regional integration. The government has also taken steps to increase transit, trade, investment and energy and power projects such as CASA 1000 and TAPI and to utilize Afghanistan’s geographical advantage as a hub connecting Central, South, West and East Asia.
5. Enhancing the development partnership. The government of Afghanistan is committed to delivering upon its commitments as set out in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. At the same time, it is crucial that donors reaffirm mutual commitments to aid effectiveness principles, including the importance of building Afghan capabilities, delivering more aid on budget, and aligning development initiatives with Afghan national priorities. We look forward to deepening these mutual commitments at the Senior Officials Meeting in 2015 in Kabul and the next Ministerial Meeting in 2016.
The national unity government has already taken significant, positive steps to advance its reform agenda and to lay the foundation for lasting peace and stability in the country. Its decisive actions in the areas of governance, security, economic and social development, regional and international relations and human rights and its successful achievement of key milestones in the transition process have sent a powerful message to the people of Afghanistan and the international community that, as President Ghani has said, a successful Afghanistan is entirely within our reach. At the same time, we recognize that a great deal of hard work lies ahead of us including the formation of a merit based cabinet, which the leadership of Afghanistan aims to accomplish in the coming weeks. Moving forward, the government is dedicated to sustaining the optimism of the Afghan people and to building a successful future.
At this critical juncture in the country’s history, the national unity government is determined to build upon the enthusiasm of the Afghan people, and the successes of the past 13 years, to take bold steps towards self-sufficiency, peace and prosperity for all Afghans. As it does so, the enduring support of the international community is essential to the success of the government’s comprehensive reform agenda, to the country’s efforts to achieve the objectives of the Transformation decade and to enduring peace, stability and prosperity in the years ahead.