Briefing to the United Nations Security Council by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, 17 March 2014
Kubiš tells Security Council that Afghan polls should not be "winner takes all" contest
UNAMA mandate extended for one more year
17 March 2014 – The top United Nations official in Afghanistan today told a meeting of the Security Council in New York that the country's Presidential and Provincial Council elections next month should not be a ‘winner takes all’ contest and the candidates should understand that not being the winner is not prima facie evidence of fraud.
“Elections will necessarily have losers but, notably in the current conditions of Afghanistan, should not be a ‘winner takes all’ contest... threats of civil disobedience over alleged fraud now, weeks before the elections, or [the] resort to civil disruption only increase tensions and create confusion,” said Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
While presenting the latest quarterly report of the Secretary-General, Mr. Kubiš also said leadership and commitment remain critical to the holding of the 5 April polls, which – as UN officials have previously said – is critical to the country’s future stability and continued international support.
“The success of the April 2014 elections will be of critical significance in reinforcing Afghanistan's institutional and political stability and instilling confidence in the future,” the UNAMA chief said.
The mandate of UNAMA includes supporting Afghan authorities, at their request, in the organization of the polls as well as to strengthen, in support of the Government’s own efforts, the sustainability, integrity and inclusiveness of the electoral process. The presidential poll will mark the first-ever transfer of power from one elected president to another in the country’s history.
“In underscoring a stable political dispensation, these elections are a defining moment that will earn President Hamid Karzai a place in history,” said Mr. Kubiš. “At this delicate juncture in Afghanistan's transitions, it [the election] is a credible political transition that can provide much needed stability and predictability through a popular mandate across ethnic lines for wider political, economic and social development agendas – including peace and reconciliation.”
Afghanistan’s political transition coincides with a security transition in which the Afghan National Security Forces are taking over the responsibility of securing the country from their international allies who are ending their combat mission later this year after 13 years of engagement.
While noting that election-related violence decreased compared to elections in 2009 and 2010, Mr. Kubiš stressed that “general security incidents have increased” and “electoral-related violence is on the rise.”
The UN envoy welcomed the support for the electoral process expressed by parts of the insurgency, including that from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar-led Hezb-i Islami group, and urged the main armed group, the Taliban, to respect the polls.
“I am gravely disturbed by the Taliban’s recent declaration that it will seek to disrupt the process by force, unleashing a campaign of terror,” he told the 15-member Council.
“Voters, electoral workers, candidates and observers are all civilians. Targeting civilians, or indiscriminate attacks on polling centres and other civilian locations, undermine any claims to legitimate political status and is punishable under international law,” Mr. Kubiš said. “I urge all eligible Afghan citizens – men and women – to exercise their franchise on 5 April. Do not let spoilers and terrorists deprive you of your choice, of your future.”
At today’s meeting, the Security Council also voted unanimously to extend UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2015. Referring to this, Mr. Kubiš reiterated the UN’s long-term commitment to “a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.”
“Given the current elements of uncertainty, interlocutors - almost unanimously - stress the continuity and value that UNAMA brings in the exercise of good offices, protection and promotion of human rights, and facilitation of international development coherence,” he said.
In his briefing, besides addressing election issues, Mr. Kubiš spoke on a range of other areas covered in UNAMA’s mandate – including human rights, peace and reconciliation and regional cooperation.
On human rights, the UN official said that sustaining the gains Afghanistan has made in human rights over the last decade – and in particular the rights of women and children – is not a luxury and must not be sacrificed to short-term political expediency. “Justice, good governance, the rule of law and human rights are crucial elements of lasting peace, equitable development, and human security,” he noted.
On peace and reconciliation efforts, the UN envoy said that despite “some interesting recent initiatives” by Afghanistan’s main body leading peace efforts, the High Peace Council, a breakthrough in direct talks between Afghan authorities and the Taliban remains elusive.
He urged Afghan actors to continue efforts to build understandings and agreed frameworks in “patiently building an environment conducive to more formal efforts later where the United Nations should, and would, have a more prominent role.”
While noting that the level of international assistance pledged to Afghanistan remains “truly exceptional,” Mr. Kubiš said the international commitment is linked to “successful political transition and demonstrable progress” in the Government’s commitments to governance, reforms, economic sustainability and a rights’ based agenda.
“I welcome assurances by the presidential candidates of commitment to sustaining and accelerating momentum under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF),” said Mr. Kubiš. TMAF is an instrument agreed on between the international community and Afghan authorities on civilian development assistance at a donors conference in the Japanese capital in July 2012.
Speaking on the ongoing discussion on the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the United States, Mr. Kubiš said the “continued uncertainty” on the finalization of the accord has added a layer of unpredictability. “But, with strategic patience, I remain confident of mutually agreed outcomes,” he added.
Speaking on the topic, during his briefing to the Council meeting, Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Zahir Tanin, said, “We are certain that the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States will be signed soon.”
Mr. Tanin also noted that UNAMA has remained a centre of international engagement in support of Afghanistan throughout the last decade.
He termed the upcoming elections as “the pinnacle of transition” and stressed that the elections are “legitimate, credible and transparent.”
“With all Afghans focused on the elections, we are not losing sight of the challenges that we face this year that are crucial to the preservation of the gains of the last decade, and to a successful departure towards the Transformation Decade (2015-2014),” said Mr. Tanin.
The Afghan envoy highlighted three main areas needing a “serious focus” in order to address these challenges: continued cooperation with the international community, fiscal stability and sustainable economic growth and development, and regional cooperation.