Wednesday, April 16, 2014

United Nations Security Council Debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

at the Security Council Debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

At the outset, I congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of the Council. I also wish to thank the Secretary General for his report on the Situation in Afghanistan, and extend a warm welcome back to the Council to my good friend, Special Representative Staffan de Mistura.

I also take this opportunity to express deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Government and people of Afghanistan, to the people and Government of Japan, for the tragic loss of life and destruction from the earthquake and Tsunami this past week.  We stand beside the friendly peoples of Japan as they recover from that tragedy.

Mr. President,

As we come together today to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, the country embarks on transition to full Afghan sovereignty, national ownership and leadership in an effort to realize the noble vision of a secure, democratic, and prosperous nation – one that is able to meet the needs of its citizens independently. We in Afghanistan know that transition is no easy task, but achievable with our determination and unity, and the sincere support and commitment of the international community.

The logic of transition will guide the way forward over the next four years. During this time, Afghanistan is determined to assume full responsibility at all levels, in order to provide Afghans with security, opportunities for social and economic progress, and the benefits of a society governed by the rule of law.

Mr. President,

The role of the international community in supporting the transition will remain essential for our success.  In London, Kabul and Lisbon, the international community endorsed, and committed to supporting the transition towards Afghan ownership and leadership. Over the next four years, the international community’s role in Afghanistan will revolve around the needs and requirements of the transition process.

Mr. President,

Today’s meeting comes on the eve of the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate.  As the lead international civilian coordinator, the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan over the transition period and beyond will remain crucial. We convey our appreciation for the resolute commitment of all UN staff working under difficult conditions to help meet the aspirations of the Afghan people. As we prepare to officially commence the transition process on the 21st of March, we look to the UN as a key partner in the way forward.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan cannot stand on its own feet if its state institutions remain weak and undermined by various parallel structures, and if its capacity is not strengthened. So, Mr. President, securing Afghanistan is first and foremost about Afghan ownership and leadership; about taking responsibility; and about operating effectively to achieve sustainable progress. This is our ultimate goal to which we are firmly committed.

In the past weeks, we have been engaged in discussions about how UNAMA’s mandate should evolve, in light of transition.  In that regard, on the First of March, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul sent a letter to the Secretary General on behalf of the Afghan Government, in which he underscored three main requests:

First, a comprehensive review of the UNAMA mandate and the role of the UN in Afghanistan, to be conducted, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, within the next six months.  In subsequent weeks we have agreed that such a review will be done before the Bonn Conference at the end of 2011.

Second, greater coherence, coordination, and efficiency in the work of UN funds, programs, and agencies operating in Afghanistan towards “One United Nations.” Such an approach, bringing each of the UN’s entities together in synergy, is necessary for an efficient and successful transition in the country.

And third, a reshaping of this year’s UNAMA mandate around the transition. To this end, Mr. President, the Government of Afghanistan proposed the following adjustments to the mandate:

1. Transition must be the Central Focus of UNAMA.  A UN mandate that is centered on transition objectives would facilitate a smooth shift to Afghan ownership and leadership. The underlying imperative to transition full responsibility for security, governance, and development to Afghan leadership by the end of 2014 should guide the work of UNAMA and the SRSG.

2. Emphasis must be placed on UNAMA’s responsibility as the co-chair of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) to promote coherence in the international community’s support for the Afghan-defined and Afghan-led development strategy.

3. We stress the need to increasingly channel aid through the Afghan budget, and align it with our Afghan National Priority Programs.  We are convinced that this will lead to more effective and efficient utilization of development assistance.

4. UNAMA plays a crucial role in improving civil military coordination with ISAF. This role, however, should be recalibrated to reflect the aim of the transition process in order to support Afghan-led stabilization efforts.

5. National ownership of the reintegration and reconciliation process is necessary. We are reaching out to all Afghans who are willing to renounce violence and join the peace process. The peace and reconciliation process is Afghan-led and could benefit from support and good offices of UNAMA if requested by the Afghan government.

6. The Afghan government must have ownership of the election process, based on the clear requirements of the Afghan constitution and principle of Afghan sovereignty. In line with the Kabul and London Communiqués, the Government of Afghanistan is fully committed to electoral reform as a measure to ensure sustainability for the democratic process, one which is national in nature and should be addressed by the citizens of Afghanistan. We welcome the availability of UNAMA in helping with capacity building and technical assistance for electoral law if requested by the Government of Afghanistan. Last year’s elections in Afghanistan cost hundreds of millions of dollars, a cost which is not sustainable for an Afghan-led democratic process over time. The election process in Afghanistan must be effective and sustainable; this is only possible through Afghan ownership.

7. A reassessment of UNAMA’s work throughout the country is necessary. While the presence of UNAMA’s offices in eight regional zones remains important, the number, location and TOR of UNAMA’s offices in other provinces should be looked at within the comprehensive mandate review.  This will help encourage Afghan institutions to end the culture of dependence; avoid unnecessary security risks for the UNAMA staff; and streamline funding for the relevant UN agencies in the country.

8. UNAMA’s role in supporting the efforts to enhance governance and rule of law would be achieved best through strengthening the effort of the government of Afghanistan, in accordance with the Kabul Process. This is why we request that all efforts be made toward strengthening the Afghan government’s capacity.

9. The coordinating role of UNAMA in delivering humanitarian assistance in accordance with humanitarian principles is crucial. However, in the way forward, the focus must be on strengthening the central coordinating role of the government of Afghanistan, consistent with the goal of Afghan ownership.

Mr. President,

The realization of our requests, will not only facilitate a more efficient UN in years to come, but also a government functioning with greater confidence in its ability to become self reliant.

Ten years after the Bonn Conference, Afghanistan is adamant in its decision to take responsibility for its country and people. This is a process that will not happen overnight, but over time. Throughout the four-year transition to Afghan leadership and ownership, and beyond, the enduring partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, the UN and other partners will remain crucial. The transition is not an end to the relationship between Afghanistan and the international community, but the beginning of a new chapter in an evolving partnership.

Mr. President,

We must end the war and violence in Afghanistan. The time has come to ensure that Afghans have the chance to live in peace – free from the threat of violence and sufferings endured for many years. The war against terrorism will not be won without the confidence and support of the Afghan people. While most of the civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, incidences of loss of innocent life during military operations have increased. However, our moral obligations place a heavy burden on us to make the protection of civilian lives priority number one. Civilian casualties must end and additional measures must be taken to prevent harm to civilians.

We all have come to realize that war and violence cannot be ended through military means alone. That is why we continue to reach out to all those who want to join the peace process. The support of the international community and our enduring partnership is essential for this process and for success in Afghanistan. Afghans are determined to work toward their own destiny. Let us renew our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity in the country through the transition and beyond.

I thank you.

Speech of Staffan de Mistura to the UN Security Council

Mr. President, Members of the Security Council, dear Ambassador Tanin:

Today’s meeting marks almost a year since the assumption of my duties in Afghanistan and coincides with discussions over the renewal of the UNAMA mandate. It is therefore an opportune moment to reflect on the events of the last year—from the London Conference to Lisbon summit, the time horizon ahead and the UN’s activities in line with Afghan priorities.

What has tied these and the Afghanistan-based events together—the consultative Peace Jirga, the Kabul Conference, the parliamentary elections, has been the increased sense of Afghan ownership and transition to Afghan lead. And transition is clearly premised on sovereignty and the build up of government capacity to manage its own affairs. It is further grounded on the need for the Afghans to articulate and execute a political vision; A vision of a stable, sovereign, Islamic, constitutional democracy; An Afghanistan at peace with itself, its neighbors and the international community.

The Government of Afghanistan is increasingly, and legitimately, demanding to lead all aspects of governance, development, and efforts to achieve peace. In this light we welcome the recent letter from Foreign Minister Rassoul to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And we view the upcoming review of UN support for Afghanistan as a good opportunity to streamline UNAMA’s activities and those of the UN family in a coherent effort of “delivering as one”.

The primary focus for the coming months will be on transition of security arrangements as international forces begin the gradual transition in lead responsibility for security to Afghan security forces. This is a formidable challenge of preparing the Afghan forces to shoulder an increased responsibility for military operations. Afghan security forces will be called to sustain the security gains of the past year. At the same time they will need to obtain the confidence of the Afghan people. This is despite a persistent violence and intimidation campaign by insurgents against communities across the country. Such spectacular “horror-inducing” attacks will remain the tactic of the insurgents so long as the military surge incurs its intended objectives.

We welcome transition of security, which we accompany constructively as active observers. But in order for transition be a success, it must be sustainable. And transition is only sustainable if it is linked to 3 elements: a political and development process, in particular peace and reintegration, and a substantive regional process.

It should essentially create sufficient space for dialogue among all Afghans and those who define themselves as such by taking a distance from foreign terrorist elements. And it should present itself as attractive.

Transiting provinces must get incentives and be rewarded instead of neglected and forgotten.

Secretary Clinton’s recent remarks were very clear in this regard. The military and ongoing civilian surge needs to be matched by an enhanced diplomatic surge. This call for the necessity of fostering a political process has since been echoed by Afghan and international stakeholders, most recently in Jeddah, matching a call by the Afghans for all international reconciliation endeavours to respect Afghan sovereignty.

Transitioning implies the existence of sustainable institutions at national and sub-national level to transition to. Sovereignty comes with increased responsibility and accountability. And accountability is measured by the Afghan people themselves, through build up of independent institutions and respect for the division of constitutional powers.

And the Afghans this year have made considerable progress in this regard. Two Afghan independent electoral bodies carried out their work with professionalism and improved capacity to lead on electoral preparations with the required technical assistance. The Parliament is now inaugurated.

The election of an Uzbek candidate as a leader of the Wolesi Jirga shows that Afghans can find solutions that meet various ethnic, factional and regional needs. With an executive board fully appointed the legislature has now embarked on its agenda.

The UN attaches great importance to its partnership with the Government of Afghanistan—and its institutions, to manage a successful transition process. We believe that our long experience in the country positions us to serve as a partner to the Government and the International Community to support transition. We further recognize the need for supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014 in efforts to normalize the country, guaranteeing a long-term international commitment, and an Afghan ownership backed by capacity.

Over the past year we have brought into sharper focus the priorities for the UN and the international role in aligning with the Afghan-set stepping stones. We have all the while placed emphasis in their capacity-building and ownership. And we are now positioned to assist the government and the Afghan people in key areas as long as needed and if as such requested.

These areas include: a) assisting Afghan-led efforts to find a peaceful solution and settlement to the conflict, including aspects of confidence-building; b) exercising our moral authority on the situation of human rights and protection of civilians; c) supporting Afghan-led coordination of the International Community, both at the national and provincial levels; and, d) positioning UN assistance in the regions to be of most value to Afghan government partners, in the context of the transition.

Peace, reintegration and the region

The beginning of the month witnessed the International Contact Group meeting in Jeddah, in the presence of the High Peace Council representatives. The meeting hosted at the OIC HQ demonstrated clear and symbolic commitment to the political process. But most importantly, it endorsed the HPC’s call for a Kabul-based approach to peace and reconciliation initiatives, with a support group of international and regional key players to soon meet in Kabul. This is in recognition that the instability in Afghanistan has negative impacts on the region but is also crucial for peace in the international community; both requiring the Afghans to take hold of the situation.

The meeting unwittingly further underscored the need for more predictability of the international players’ motives vis-à-vis their engagement with Afghanistan. Such a transparency would in turn facilitate the articulation of a vision by the Afghans.

On the ground in Afghanistan, UNAMA continues to facilitate the work of the HPC, at its request through the Salaam Support Group, and supports the unfolding of the APRP-led process, which continues to make progress with an odd 700 reintegrees.

Minister Stanekzai has recently requested UNAMA’s further assistance for reaching out to the provinces. Given its neutrality and humanitarian contacts the UN will also continue to reach out to all segments of Afghan society. The UN can provide legitimacy to the process by accepting to meet with those who signal they are open for dialogue.

There is no sustainable solution for peace among Afghans without the support of its neighbors and extended neighbors. And Afghanistan, the heart of Asia, enjoys long and strong historical, political, trade and cultural ties with its contiguous neighbors and across the old Silk Route extending into Eurasia.

The HPC and the Foreign Ministry, and UNAMA under its regional dialogue mandate have engaged in increased regional diplomacy. And here Turkey is the lead partner –for the Afghans and the international community—in a regional process that will lead to the Istanbul conference in the fall.

Human Rights/Humanitarian/Women Civilian casualties have been a great source of concern to the Government and people of Afghanistan. Since 2007 9,000 Afghan civilians have perished in the conflict, with the greatest annual toll of 2,777 civilian deaths recorded in 2010.

Statistics speak volumes, but each civilian death is also human and personal; and we are adamant that no loss of life is acceptable. Cumulatively, the grim statistics serve to facilitate our understanding of the negative trend. They also strengthen our commitment to influence changes in behavior by the parties to the armed conflict. We recognize that the best way to reduce civilian casualties is to end this conflict. But as long as we are witnessing a military surge, which we, by consensus, need to match with a political one, the key is to make 2011, also the year of a surge in protection of civilians.

At the same time we should be poised to react to increased conflict-induced humanitarian needs (as much as to poverty and natural disaster induced ones). Ongoing conflict affects civilians through displacement and mostly lack of access to any basic services. We are searching further for sustainable solutions to existing humanitarian needs, including for returned refugees, which constitute about 25% of the population with some 40% still in dire need of reintegration assistance.

Finally, it is important to take into account the rights, interests, and constraints of men, women, girls and boys in the political, social and economic agenda. Women’s protection centers/shelters provide a critical service for vulnerable women and girls including those facing violence and abuse.

Government efforts to regulate and set standards for women’s shelters are welcome as government monitoring and oversight of these centers is appropriate. A mix of publicly and privately run shelters may be in best interests of women and in line with international practice. The ultimate objective is to ensure that women and girls fleeing domestic violence have available safe and secure places of refuge and protection. It is equally important that they are not subject to any form of punishment including imprisonment, for running away from such violence.

Footprint

Transition, civilian transition per se, is an imperative and an opportunity. An opportunity to focus on: a critical set of development priorities, better alignment of GoA systems, and increased aid (albeit short term). It is also an opportunity to contribute to peace, a coherent approach to national priorities such as the Kabul process and APRP. An Afghan transition process will need to be both sustainable and attractive. In this context, the UN sub-national presence in Afghanistan supports the government in: coordination; governance, human rights and rule of law; support to delivery of basic social services – health, education and agriculture, and sustainable livelihoods; humanitarian action; and capacity building.

UN support of government priorities include: a) advocating for alignment of international funding to government priorities at provincial levels; b) providing technical capacity and assistance, coordinating donor efforts in support of provincial institutions; c) enhancing line ministry capacity development for delivery of essential services; d) calling for an equitable approach between provinces earmarked for transition and those not yet considered ready, and e) ensuring that transition arrangements adapt to the diversity of local needs and conditions.

Our strength and comparative advantage lies in the fact that we are diversified. 30 UN agencies funds and programmes are together with UNAMA present in all 34 provinces with spending last year amounting to USD 904.5 million. Millions of Afghans benefit from UN support to nationwide polio vaccinations and improved access to basic health services, nutritional support programmes, support to Afghans returning from other countries and increased access to education , including in areas retaken from the insurgency.

WFP reaches approximately 7.3 million vulnerable Afghans per year with more than 300,000 metric tones of food assistance. The Food for Training programme trained approximately 135,000 people mostly women (total beneficiaries at 800,000). Food for work beneficiaries were approximately 1.8 million. Food for education was provided to 1.1 million children in 5,656 schools. In addition, WFP supported more than 1.6 million people affected by conflict, man-made emergencies or natural disasters.

WHO and UNICEF support the MoPH to vaccinate 7. 5 million children under five against polio on every round of immunization campaigns. UNFPA is expanding access to the Basic Package of Health Care Services to 600,000 people living in remote areas not currently covered by health care services.

UNHCR has worked with the government to assist in the voluntary repatriation of more than 4.5 million Afghans to return home since 2002.

To date MACCA has cleared hazards in more than 2,500 communities and in 2010 alone more than 300,000 mines were cleared.

With UNDP assistance, Afghan authorities have established district development assemblies in nearly all provinces. More than 7,400 civil service positions were restructured and salary scales revised

In 2010 support was provided to the 2,600 Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan in terms of infrastructure, equipment, training and mentoring.

UNAMA has recently facilitated the deployment of a special envoy of the ICAO SG, currently in country at the request of the Afghan authorities and stakeholders. This is in order to put forward recommendations for a coordinated plan for the Afghan civil aviation, a crucial sector for a landlocked country such as Afghanistan (which impacts on humanitarian aid, capacity and economic development).

Drugs

Now turning to another threat to Afghan and international peace stability.

The narcotics issue is equally an issue that warrants a shared responsibility among international stakeholders. Progress has been made by government over the recent years. The situation however remains dire and the government needs our full support. The facts speak of a dramatic situation with addiction in Afghanistan rising fast and the treatment infrastructure falling short. Prices are soaring with dry opium, sold one year ago for an average $95/kg and today to nearly triple that amount.

The measures taken have to impact the entire chain from eradication to crop substitution, precursor chemicals and global demand reduction. Cooperation among the multilateral stakeholders (CIS, CSTO, ECO, NATO ISAF, OSCE, SCO) should be a given.

What is required is a social contract between farmer communities and aid providers. To induce political will at the sub-national and community levels, this is not to be relegated solely to alternative livelihoods. It should encompass the entire support package delivered to specific districts vulnerable to conflict and the cultivation of illicit crops. At the other end of the Social Contract, aid is to be renegotiated in case the farmer communities do not deliver their side of the agreement.

I hereby appeal to the international community to build capacity within the government of Afghanistan and its counter-narcotics bodies allowing these to cope in a decisive manner with the exceptional situation.

Conclusion,

In a crucial year such as this one it is important to sit around the same table with our Afghan and international partners to focus on the same issues, come to compatible conclusions, deliver similar messages and act towards the same objectives.

We have heard the message from the Afghan authorities loud and clear. This is a year of sovereignty and we can’t operate just as if it is business as usual. We should constantly adjust our profile and activities on the basis of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned priorities. And we look forward to working with Afghan counterparts in this respect. This is in order to assist them to go through the beginning stages of transition and also be able to incrementally sustain security and political gains beyond this immediate timeline.

The UN has partnered with the Government of Afghanistan for 60 odd years and will remain in the country to support the Afghans as long as they require its assistance. The assurance of our long-term presence remains civilian focused.

UNAMA has thus positioned itself to be supportive of the Afghan government in this period of its transition to greater responsibility. At the same time UNAMA will continue to be an advocate for the Afghan people, drawing attention to the humanitarian needs and calling on all parties to the conflict to put the safety of civilians first.

UN Debates PeaceBuilding: Afghan Ambassador Calls for National Ownership, End to Taliban Violence

On January 21st, the United Nations Security Council debated post-conflict peace-building and Institution building. After opening remarks by the Secretary General, the Vice Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Jose Luis Guterres, spoke on behalf of G7+, a new group of conflict affected and fragile states, providing a unique perspective on the subject.  Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany then addressed the Council as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission.

Security Council Meeting: Open debate on Post-Conflict peacebuilding.

Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, expressed the need for institution building as an essential component for lasting peace in Afghanistan.  He reminded that in the “ubiquitous debate on the current situation in Afghanistan, it is easy to overlook the thirty years of conflict that Afghanistan has overcome.”  While Afghanistan was thought of as the most failed state in the world in 2001, it has made significant progress toward stabilization considering its context, he said.

Afghanistan’s reintegration and reconciliation process was highlighted in Ambassador Tanin’s statement.  He invited members of the armed opposition to put down their arms, renounce violence, and join the peace process.  He addressed the Taliban directly, “Now that we have come halfway, it is the Taliban’s turn to fulfill its responsibility. If the Taliban wants to join the peace talks, it must end violence and terrorist attacks…and sever ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

In keeping with a common theme emphasized by most member states in this debate, national ownership was underscored as vital for sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

Video of Security Council Meeting: Post-conflict peacebuilding

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Security Council Meeting: Post-conflict peacebuilding