6935th Meeting (AM & PM)
Secretary-General: Strong Support Needed as ‘Moment of Transition’ Approaches; In Debate, Hears from Afghanistan, 35 Delegations, Including 3 Foreign Ministers
The Security Council today extended for another year the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan and called on the Organization and the international community to bolster the Afghan Government’s efforts to take ownership of and leadership in National Priority Programmes covering security, governance, justice and socio-economic development.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2096 (2013), the Council extended through 19 March 2014 the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and called on the operation to support the achievement of objectives agreed between the long-troubled country and its international partners at the London, Kabul, Bonn and Tokyo conferences, and the Lisbon and Chicago summits. UNAMA was also tasked with continuing its support for Afghanistan’s multi-phase transition process, and providing assistance with organizing fair and inclusive presidential elections, set for April 2014.
The 16-page text also called on UNAMA to coordinate and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including in support of the Afghan Government, with a view to building the Government’s capacity so it could assume the central coordinating functions in the future. It also stressed the role of UNAMA in supporting, if requested, an inclusive Afghan-led and ‑owned process of peace and reconciliation, as well as the ongoing Afghan-led regional effort. In that regard, the Council looked forward to the next Ministerial Conference, the ‘Heart of Asia’ Meeting, to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 26 April.
Opening the meeting, which featured statements from more than 35 delegations, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Afghanistan’s political climate was dominated by the 2014 elections, and as such, broad participation and a credible process were essential to reaching the goal of a widely accepted leadership transition. “Let me stress that the elections are Afghan-led and Afghan-managed,” he said, noting that the Government had committed to making the polling process inclusive, consultative and transparent.
He went on to touch briefly on the core priorities that should guide the United Nations through the elections and beyond, explaining that the Organization should maintain its work for reconciliation and regional cooperation. “We must stand firm for human rights. And we must advance development,” he said, adding that humanitarian action was also crucial to the future role of the United Nations, especially in addressing Afghanistan’s chronic vulnerability and the impact of the transition.
Yet, he said that the country’s greatest need was peace, and he welcomed the joint United States-Afghan declaration adopted in January supporting greater coherence of reconciliation efforts. “Expectations must be realistic. Reconciliation efforts will not be quick or easy,” he said, stressing that the United Nations was 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,” he declared, adding that such a national stand was essential to end more than 30 years of conflict and establish true and lasting peace. The Secretary-General drew the Council’s attention to the areas of concern, including the 20 per cent increase of civilian casualties among women and girls in 2012, and the overall “pervasive” climate of impunity in Afghanistan for gender-based violence.
Looking ahead, he said the United Nations must reinforce Afghan efforts. It must aim to strengthen Afghan political processes and institutions and 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,” he said, adding that to fulfil its mandate, UNAMA must maintain its ability to reach out across the country and to meet the many demands it faced during “this crucial period”. As such, while the Mission’s 2013 budget reflected significant reductions, he did not envisage additional cuts for 2014.
“We are approaching a moment of transition,” he concluded. “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,” he said.
Taking the floor next, the representative of Afghanistan said: “For the Afghan people, national sovereignty means taking full responsibility for their destiny.” In addition, assumption of full security responsibility by Afghan forces was more tangible than ever. By the end of the “fourth tranche” of the transition, 87 per cent of Afghans would be living in areas where Afghan forces were in charge of security.
“All eyes are also keenly focused on the election,” he continued, and the Government was committed to fair, democratic and transparent polls. Moreover, peace talks and reconciliation with the armed opposition were essential for a successful election. For its part, the Government was doing its utmost to ensure the success of the reconciliation process. The High Peace Council had taken steps to galvanize those efforts. “As we work to move the peace process forward, the role of the Security Council will remain imperative,” he said, welcoming the adoption of resolution 2082 (2012), which refined the Taliban sanctions regime.
“With the transition, Afghanistan is entering a new era of relations with international partners,” he said, describing that evolving relationship and noting that strategic partnership agreements — such as those finalized in the last two years — were key for shaping long-term interactions. A strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the United States was signed last May, and talks to conclude the security agreement between the countries would be finalized in due course. Also, last month, Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership with Norway and was currently defining partnerships with Denmark and Finland.
Finally, a successful transition would require partnership with the United Nations, he said, noting Afghanistan had seen how the United Nations was adjusting its role to meet the needs of transition, having reviewed its activities in 2011. His Government could envisage normalization of the Organization’s activities in the years ahead, he said, noting that aid coherence, “One UN” and more accountability were important for Afghanistan, the United Nations and donor countries alike. “The end of transition will signal the beginning of a new chapter,” he said, one marked by national resilience and the strategic goal of self-reliance.
Many of those sentiments were echoed by today’s speakers, many of whom represented Governments that had committed to long-term and strategic assistance to help pull Afghanistan out of its war-torn past and put the country on a path towards stability, inclusiveness and socio-economic development. The representative of the United States said that Afghanistan and the international community “are at an important juncture”, and that, despite recent challenges, cooperation was needed to achieve shared goals. She was also among those calling for an inclusive and credible presidential election in 2014, the result of which must produce an outcome that was “legitimately accepted by the Afghan people”.
Beyond the elections, many delegations also shared the Secretary-General’s alarm at the ongoing difficulties’ facing Afghan women, with the representative of Togo noting the December 2012 killing of the Deputy Director of the Office for Women’s Affairs, and Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, noting that they still faced insecurity in public spaces and at home, in addition to lacking access to an effective and fair justice system and legal representation. Canada’s representative emphasized that the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission was essential to defending the rights of women and the Government must move forward with the appointment of its commissioners.
Speaking in his national capacity, the representative of the Russian Federation, which holds the Council presidency this month, said that, although Afghanistan was approaching a “watershed moment” amid preparations for presidential elections, a transfer of security duties, national reconciliation efforts and changes in the Afghan social fabric, that situation gave rise to concerns, especially as terrorism, extremism and drug crimes were far from being resolved, and parts of Afghanistan were still under Taliban control.
Dialogue with armed opposition could be positive only if the Afghan Government led it and the opposition laid down its arms and cut ties with Al-Qaida. He also supported the Council’s agreed measures to improve the sanctions regime vis-à-vis the Taliban. The Russian Federation would continue to help bolster national security forces and had carried out a voluntary provision of arms and armaments to the Afghan national police. At the same time, his Government did not favour maintaining a long-term military presence in the country, he said, as foreign contingents no longer had a role to play.
The Council was also addressed by the Foreign Ministers of Australia and Denmark.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Azerbaijan, Argentina, Republic of Korea, China, France, Morocco, Rwanda, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Guatemala, Pakistan, Italy, Japan, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, Estonia, Turkey, India, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
The special representative of the European Union for Afghanistan also made a statement.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and suspended at 1:10 p.m. the Council resumed its debate at 3:08 p.m. and adjourned at 4:14 p.m.