Press Releases

    GA/10002
    21 December 2001

    INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST MAINTAIN COMMITMENT TO AFGHANISTAN, SAY SPEAKERS IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

    Pakistan Warns of Dangers Inherent
    In Yet Another Abandonment of People of Afghanistan

    NEW YORK, 21 December (UN Headquarters) -- For the first time in more than a generation, there was a justified hope that Afghanistan would establish a broad-based, gender-sensitive, multi-ethnic and fully representative government, the representative of Germany told the General Assembly this morning as it considered the situation in Afghanistan, its implications for international peace and security, and emergency international assistance to the war-stricken country.

    Introducing a draft resolution on the issue, he said the Afghan people had suffered immensely in the last 20 years. In the past 12 months, repression by the Taliban had reached new heights. The national economy was near collapse, aggravated by the worst drought in living memory. It would take enormous efforts and many years to rehabilitate the socio-economic structures of Afghanistan. Political momentum and the socio-economic recovery were intertwined and mutually dependent. Both aspects had to be addressed at the same time.

    Afghanistan's representative emphasized the need for security and stability as a requirement for short- and medium-term humanitarian tasks. Twenty-three years of conflict had destroyed roads, irrigation and power. The Taliban had closed the schools to women and failed to promote education for boys. Their discrimination against women and lack of interest in humanitarian affairs had destroyed the health-care system. There were 7 million Afghan refugees in all, and the country also had to cope with mines and unexploded ordnance.

    United Nations agencies would need $662 million to cope with vital needs in the country up to 1 March, he said. So far, only $35 million had been pledged by donor countries. He hoped the Tokyo meeting in January 2002 would prepare the ground for urgent humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, especially for reconstruction and revitalization.

    The representative of the United States said establishment of the Afghan Interim Authority was the first step in a process aimed to usher in a new era of peace and security in an Afghanistan free of terrorism and drugs, and at peace with its neighbours. The Afghan people faced daunting challenges in making that goal a reality.

    The United States and the international community stood ready to support the Afghan people in their efforts to establish a new government, and were fully committed to humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction, she said. International assistance must target the most disenfranchised of the Afghans -- women and children. Liberated from the Taliban yoke, women in the country must be reintegrated as full members of Afghan society and Government. She called on all Afghan groups to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those of women.

    The representative of Pakistan said Afghanistan had been the subject of debates and resolutions in the United Nations for years, aggravating the sufferings of people in that war-ravaged country. Their isolation and ostracization had driven them in despair into the hands of Al Qaeda. If the world had not turned its back on the country, the situation today might have been totally different. Perhaps, Osama

    bin Laden and his associates would not have exploited the country. The United Nations had allowed itself to be used as a tool to punish the Afghans for sins they had never committed.

    Uzbekistan's representative drew the Assembly's attention to the enormous stocks of light and heavy weapons in Afghanistan. Those weapons were still in the hands of uncontrollable groups among the civilian population, and could be used by hostile parties to resolve inter-ethnic differences. Any armed conflict could rekindle hostilities and enhance instability in the region. The various specialized agencies of the United Nations and the Security Council should address the issue, he said.

    The representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Norway, Iran, Japan, India, Ukraine, Turkey, Colombia, Bangladesh, Canada and Nepal also spoke.

    The tenth emergency session of the General Assembly on illegal Israeli action in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory will convene at 3 p.m.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this morning to consider the situation in Afghanistan, including emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction in that war-stricken country.

    The Secretary-General’s report on the situation (document A/56/681-S/2001/1157) covers developments from 17 August to 15 November 2001, reviewing peacemaking efforts and special mission activities, recent political developments, humanitarian activities, narcotics and human rights. The Secretary-General submitted two earlier progress reports in April (A/55/907-S/2001/1384) and August (A/55/1028-S/2001/789).

    The report states that the last two months had altered the Afghan landscape irrevocably, offering a fresh opportunity to tackle a problem which, only a few weeks ago, seemed to have no solution.

    A central theme that the Secretary-General has pursued during the course of the year was the need for the Security Council to adopt a comprehensive approach to Afghanistan, which would enable the Afghans to freely determine their form of government through an internationally acceptable mechanism, such as an election or a fully representative Loya Jirga. It should also ensure a stable and unified Afghanistan at peace with its neighbours.

    While much preparatory work had been undertaken to build up support for such objectives before the events of 11 September, the report states, dramatic changes brought about by those terrorist attacks have made objectives easier to achieve. The international community's renewed focus on Afghanistan, and its realization that rooting out terrorism requires a simultaneous political process leading to a legitimate Afghan government, offered renewed hope to the Afghan people.

    The report describes the talks in Bonn, Germany, as a "first step" towards a broad-based and fully representative government that will be at peace internally and with its neighbours. On 5 December, the leaders of four Afghan groups agreed in those United Nations-sponsored talks on an Interim Authority for Afghanistan, which will run the country for six months.

    The Authority, to be set up on 22 December 2001, will be chaired by Hamid Karzai and include 28 others to direct the work of as many departments. At the same time, an independent commission will work towards convening a Loya Jirga –- a council of elders to make necessary decisions until elections can be held two years after the six-month period.

    The Assembly also had before it a Secretary-General’s report on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan (document A/56/687), which covers developments in that country from 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001. The report notes that Afghanistan faces a worsening food crisis due to a severe three-year drought and intensifying economic problems.

    Continuing drought has severely affected the socio-economic situation in the country, causing a drastic drop in rural income, savings and investment, the report states. Purchasing power has fallen significantly due to unemployment, declines in cash crop production, dwindling livestock and low livestock prices. Poppy cultivation ended in 2001, which imposed severe economic hardship on poppy farmers, workers and traders.

    Given the magnitude of the food crisis facing Afghanistan, a concerted international response was needed to avoid catastrophe, the report states. Current assistance meets only a small proportion of the country’s huge rehabilitation and development needs. In addition, Afghanistan remains severely affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance. The current known area contaminated by landmines is 728 square kilometres, including much land that could be used for productive economic and social purposes. Of that total, 350 square kilometres are vital residential areas, commercial land, roads, irrigation systems and primary production land.

    The Assembly also had before it a two-part draft resolution on Afghanistan (document A/56/L.62).

    Under part A of the draft the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, the Assembly would call on all Afghan groups to fully cooperate with the United Nations to promote peace, as well as a lasting political settlement in the country, and fully implement the Bonn agreement.

    The Assembly would also strongly urge Afghan groups to refrain from acts of reprisal, respect human rights and adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. It would stress the need for full, equal and effective participation of women in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life and decision-making processes, and call upon all Afghan groups to protect and promote the equal rights of men and women, especially in education, work and health care.

    The Assembly would further call on the international community to reinforce assistance to ease urgent humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and generously support post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction. It would call on concerned countries to continue assisting and protecting Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons, and work with the United Nations for their orderly return and reintegration.

    The Assembly would also call on the Afghan Interim Government to fully respect the country’s international obligations regarding narcotic drugs. It would call on the international community to increase assistance for programmes aimed at reducing poppy cultivation in the country, including capacity-building for drug control, drug-control monitoring systems and crop-substitution programmes.

    By part B of the draft emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan, the Assembly would urge all Afghan groups to stop using landmines and cooperate fully with the United Nations mine-action programme. It would invite relevant United Nations bodies, as well as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Islamic Development Bank, Asian Development Bank and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to jointly develop a strategy for early recovery and reconstruction in Afghanistan. As part of that strategy, the international community should ensure adequate measures for demining, disaster reduction, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants.

    The Assembly would also urge all Afghan groups to ensure the safety, security and free movement of all United Nations and humanitarian personnel, and protect the property of the United Nations and humanitarian organizations against looting and theft. It would encourage Afghan groups to refrain from interfering in the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies and guarantee the secure and uninterrupted supply of aid to all vulnerable populations.

    The Assembly would strongly condemn discrimination against women and girls, as well as ethnic and religious groups, which adversely affected international relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. It would also urge all Afghan groups to refrain from recruiting children for armed conflict, and take all necessary steps to demobilize and socially reintegrate war-affected children.

    The Assembly would also call upon the international community to respond generously to the donor alert, future consolidated appeals, and long-term interventions to rehabilitate and reconstruct the country, and would invite Member States to actively take part in the meeting on reconstruction assistance in Japan in January 2002.

    The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia.

    Introduction of Draft Resolution

    HANNS SCHUMACHER (Germany), introducing draft resolution A/56/L.62, said that two days from now the new Interim Authority comprising all Afghan groups would take office in Kabul. For the first time in more than a generation, there was a justified hope that peace would prevail and that Afghanistan would establish a broad-based, gender-sensitive, multi-ethnic and fully representative Afghan Government. The shock of 11 September had galvanized the Afghans to rid themselves of the oppressive Taliban regime which had provided a safe haven for international terrorists.

    The Afghan people had suffered immensely in the last 20 years, he said. The past 12 months had seen repression by the Taliban reach new heights. The national economy had reached a point of near collapse, which was aggravated by the worst drought in living memory. A major humanitarian crisis had to be faced. It would take enormous efforts and many years to rehabilitate the socio-economic structure of Afghanistan. Political momentum and socio-economic recovery were intertwined and mutually dependent. Both aspects had to be addressed jointly, and the United Nations and the international community must remain committed to Afghanistan. The draft resolution conveyed exactly that message to the Afghan people.

    Long before the tragic events of 11 September, he said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had tried to raise awareness of the fact that Afghanistan was heading for another large-scale humanitarian disaster. For many years, Germany had shown special commitment to Afghanistan and had traditionally introduced the Assembly resolutions on the situation in that country. The international community must help the Afghan people find their way to a stable, peaceful and unified State. He wanted to see a peaceful and free Afghanistan that would play its part in ensuring the region’s long-term stability.

    He announced that the Central African Republic, Haiti, India, Iran, Jordan, Latvia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Rwanda, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Suriname and Venezuela had joined as co-sponsors of the draft.

    Statements

    RAVAN A.G. FARHÂDI (Afghanistan) said he was grateful to Germany for hosting the Bonn meeting on Afghanistan, which had brought so many changes to his country. Security and stability were to be restored as a requirement for short- and medium-term humanitarian tasks. Without such security, food would not get to where it was most needed. The winter would be cold and soon mountainous areas would be covered by snow. The snow in winter and rain from March to April were needed for irrigation. For more than three years, precipitation had been scarce in the country and the Taliban regime had failed to do anything to mitigate the severe drought. Twenty-three years of conflict had destroyed roads, irrigation and power. The Taliban had closed the schools to women and failed to promote education for boys. Their discrimination against women and lack of interest in humanitarian affairs had destroyed the health-care system.

    There were 2 million Afghan refugees in Iran, and the coming of winter would prevent their immediate repatriation, he continued. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had expressed concern that 400,000 children would die each year before the age of five. Also, there were mines and unexploded ordnance from conflict and the recent air attacks. The United Nations mine-action programme had planned to spend $30 million to demine over the next three years, but now quicker action was needed, and the Organization was now appealing for $24 million for mine action over the next six months.

    The United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs had estimated that United Nations agencies would need $662 million to cope with vital needs in the country up to 1 March, he said. So far, only $35 million had been pledged by donor countries. The United Nations was performing a major job in assisting the Afghan Interim Administration on the humanitarian and reconstruction fronts on a relatively modest budget. Fortunately, additional aid was planned by the United States, Japan and other countries. He hoped the Tokyo meeting in January 2002 would prepare the ground for urgent humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, especially for reconstruction and revitalization.

    He expressed appreciation for the work done by Lakhdar Brahimi, Fransesc Vendrell and other United Nations colleagues, who had spent many sleepless nights in Bonn. Those efforts would always be appreciated by the Afghan people.

    JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said Afghanistan was still confronting three challenges: putting an end to the fighting, reinstating respect for human rights, and working towards a political solution. The signing in Bonn on 5 December of an agreement defining provisional arrangements in Afghanistan was a first step in the right direction, the first stage of a broad-based, representative, and gender-sensitive Government.

    The European Council, he said, had committed itself to efforts to establish stability in Afghanistan, and had encouraged deployment of an international security force in Kabul on the basis of the 5 December agreement and relevant resolutions of the Security Council. The Security Council should encourage Member States to participate in such a force, he said.

    However, positive developments in the political field should not temper the reality of the humanitarian situation. Humanitarian assistance was still a top priority. Aid to refugees and internally displaced persons must be carried out in the most efficient and coordinated fashion. He was concerned by lack of security for humanitarian aid workers. The European Union would commit €350 million in humanitarian aid.

    Post-conflict settlement still remained an enormous challenge, he said. The structure of Afghan society had been destructed. The Union would help the Afghan people to rebuild the country and promote its return to democracy. To reinforce that commitment, it had appointed Klaus-Peter Klaiber as Special Representative to Afghanistan.

    The European Union was co-chairing the first meeting, today in Brussels, of the steering group on rebuilding Afghanistan. The meeting should fine-tune the machinery to channel financial assistance and support for the political renewal in Afghanistan.

    HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said terrorism had triggered the current military intervention in Afghanistan, but the international community must now confront a wide array of challenges to help the country return to long-term stability. He hoped Afghanistan would not be abandoned once the immediate military and security objectives of the United States-led international coalition had been achieved. Learning from past lessons, every effort should be made to ensure that Afghanistan would not be left as a "failed State" to be ruled by various warlords, which would provide fertile breeding ground for the kind of terrorism that had shaken the world on 11 September.

    The recently concluded Bonn agreement, reflecting a political consensus by Afghan parties -- an unprecedented development -- was a step in the right direction, he said. Malaysia wholeheartedly welcomed that development, and hoped it would provide the necessary basis for a strong and viable government in Afghanistan. Much credit was due to the untiring efforts and negotiating skills of Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and his team in facilitating that achievement, a landmark in Afghan history.

    He said that reconstruction in Afghanistan must not be confined to the physical rehabilitation of devastated infrastructure or to ensuring an economically viable State. The world must seize the opportunity to re-engineer the socio-economic foundations of Afghanistan and help its people break away from the tragic modes and patterns of behaviour of its unhappy past. While the creation of a stable, broad-based representative government remained the political endgame, every effort must be made to address the grievances of ethnic groups who felt they had been economically, politically and culturally sidelined.

    SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said his country was committed to doing its utmost to help Afghanistan through those tumultuous times. But "we should refrain from pursuing any narrow national interests in helping the Afghans restore their rights to peace and democracy", he cautioned. In that light, his country wished to establish a friendly and cooperative relationship with Afghanistan.

    He expressed appreciation for the Security Council's continued attention to the issue of Afghanistan, including its recently adopted resolution authorizing the dispatch of international security forces to designated areas of Afghanistan. Since the 11 September terrorist attacks, his country had been in close consultation with other States on participation in the international coalition to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, including the possible dispatch of medical and transportation support units.

    He said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan was the most urgent and critical issue requiring the attention of the international community. His country was meeting its pledged contribution of emergency humanitarian and economic assistance -- $12 million in cash and kind -- to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries in response to the emergency appeal by the Secretary-General in October. "We are willing to continue discussing further ways and means of rendering assistance in consultation with other actors in various international forums."

    December 22 would be a historic day for all Afghans, he noted. "We hope that, with the launch of the interim administration, they can bury their tragic history and begin a new era of freedom, prosperity and respect for human dignity." He also underscored the important role to be played by women, as primary caregivers and key actors, for positive change in building a culture of peace in Afghanistan.

    OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said his country would be chairing the Afghanistan Support Group, which would focus on improving donor coordination and ensuring that human rights considerations were taken into account when providing aid. Immediate attention must be paid to education, food security, mine action and the repatriation and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced people. A comprehensive, coordinated and coherent approach would facilitate the transition to longer-term reconstruction and development.

    He said that while political changes had made the transportation of food and other relief into Afghanistan easier, the security situation remained a major obstacle to the distribution of humanitarian goods to those most in need. High priority must now be given to protecting civilians and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. The challenge posed by landmines was formidable, but some progress had been made. Afghanistan already had the world's largest demining programme. That effort would have to be scaled up for reconstruction and resettlement to take place.

    Avoiding duplication of efforts was a key element in planning for reconstruction, he emphasized. It was of utmost importance to avoid having different agencies trying to drag the process in different directions. There must be a close and continuous connection between humanitarian assistance and reconstruction in order to form a joint and complementary effort. Recovery and reconstruction must be carried out in tandem with further progress in Afghanistan's political process.

    He underscored the importance of improving the appalling human rights situation, with particular attention to restoring women's access to social services and their full participation in productive economic activities. Children had suffered intolerable violations of their basic rights and had only limited access to health, education and food. In making up for the misery they had been through, education for Afghan children, particularly girls, was one of the best investments that could be made in Afghanistan's future.

    It was necessary to build on the capacities of local communities that had already established programmes and projects in education, health, water and sanitation, he said. Building on the decentralized nature of Afghan society would probably have a quicker and more positive impact. Making use of the capacities and networks of NGOs would also help to strengthen Afghan civil society. At the same time, a regional dimension was needed owing to the outflow of displaced persons across the borders, which had put an unprecedented strain on the societies concerned. All steps should be taken to reflect local needs.

    M.H. FADAIFARD (Iran) said the Interim Authority in Afghanistan presently represented the best hope for reviving ethnic unity and bringing about peace and normalcy in the country. There was, however, no room for complacency. The situation there was precarious and unstable. Taliban leaders, still at large, were a danger to the new, nascent Afghan Government. A press conference held outside the country last week indicated that at least some elements of the defunct Taliban leadership were intent on playing a disruptive role in the future. "We believe that they should not be allowed to do so and any new malicious efforts should be nipped in the bud."

    He said reconstruction of Afghanistan and revival of its infrastructure would require sustained international commitment in the years ahead. Undoubtedly, generous investment by the international community in rebuilding the country today would pay off in the form of sparing the region and the world the re-emergence of that nation as a source of instability tomorrow. It was also necessary to draft a framework for the reconstruction of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Rebuilding the Afghan education system, encouraging Afghans to take an active part in the political decision-making process, developing a poppy-substitution programme, and funding the return of refugees should feature prominently among priorities in the reconstruction period.

    "We strongly encourage the continuation and intensification of the food-for-education programme, especially for girls", he said. That programme helped feed malnourished Afghan children, on the one hand, and provided food incentives to increase student enrolment and attendance, on the other. He encouraged countries and cities worldwide to each sponsor education in one Afghan city or province. For two decades, Iran had hosted more than 2 million Afghan refugees on its soil. Those refugees were not confined to camps, but given the opportunity to blend into Iranian society and to work. Yet despite their numbers, his country had received only the most minimal international assistance.

    He said the hosting of refugees, coupled with recent domestic economic constraints, had impacted adversely on the Iranian population. The international community should meet its obligations by providing assistance to the refugees in Iran and by providing funds for the voluntary repatriation of Afghans. Iran expected its concerns to be taken into account in the new post-Taliban era. There was also desperate need to get food to most parts of Afghanistan during the coming winter. Otherwise, the food crisis might worsen, resulting in loss of lives, as well as a further influx of refugees into neighbouring countries.

    More than three years ago, he continued, the Taliban had cold-bloodedly murdered Iranian diplomats and one journalist in Mazar-i-Sharif. "We believe that those who committed this crime should be held accountable and brought to justice", he said. The Afghan people and their international partners must address the problems of the past by ending impunity and ensuring accountability for abuses. Iran was pleased to sponsor the present draft resolution, which highlighted the commitment of the international community to the Afghan people.

    SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said Afghanistan had been the subject of debates and resolutions in the United Nations for years, aggravating the sufferings of people in that war-ravaged country. Their isolation and ostracization had driven them in despair into the hands of Al Qaeda –- a group of non-Afghan dissidents who could find no better hiding place than Afghanistan’s rugged mountains. If the world had not turned its back on the country, the situation today might have been totally different. Perhaps, Osama bin Laden and his associates would not have exploited the country or taken advantage of Afghan traditions of hospitality and friendship, abusing their trust to spread terror across the globe.

    The people of Afghanistan had suffered for 22 long years at the hands of both man and nature, he said. They had been the victims of self-serving exploitation by the free world, fratricidal civil war, the ruthlessness of power-hungry and blood-sucking warlords, and the excesses of oppressive and obscurantist regimes. The United Nations had allowed itself to be used as a tool to punish the Afghans for sins they had never committed. Devastating drought, which had afflicted them over the past several years, had aggravated their already severe plight. Today, over 6 million Afghans were sheltered as refugees in neighbouring countries, and millions more were either internally displaced or faced tremendous hardship in their own localities.

    The two-decade-long conflict in Afghanistan had taken the country back to the eighteenth century, he said. It lacked basic infrastructure and its people remained deprived of basic necessities. No peace process could work without support to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation. It was imperative that the international community immediately begin reconstructing and rehabilitating Afghanistan, and arrange the necessary finances to support that work. Any reconstruction effort must, at the minimum, mean restoring the water management system, reviving agriculture, reconstructing the infrastructure and rebuilding institutions, as well as continued humanitarian assistance.

    YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said establishment of a duly elected Afghan government would not be easy. Ultimately, the key to the success of that process was the will of the Afghan people. Cooperation and support from the international community would be equally important. It was essential that the international community help maintain security pending the establishment of a legitimate government.

    He said humanitarian assistance was another area where Afghanistan needed the support and cooperation of the international community now. His Government had already pledged $120 million for such assistance. Ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel was an important precondition for the delivery of assistance, and he urged the Interim Administration to take every necessary measure in that regard.

    Providing a clear prospect for the reconstruction of Afghanistan would help to strengthen the will of the Afghan people to pursue peace and political stability. His Government would host the Ministerial Meeting for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan in January. That conference was expected to serve as an opportunity for the international community to provide the Interim Authority and the people of Afghanistan with a hopeful prospect for reconstruction and development. He proposed to ask the Secretary-General to convey the content of today’s discussion and the related resolution to Chairman Hamid Karzai of the Interim Administration, as a message of support from the international community to the Afghan people.

    SATYABRATA PAL (India) said the Afghans were trying to walk out of the valley of the shadow of death, and the international community must walk with them. Help should be given that was needed and asked for, not what was thought to be best for them. The Afghans had had enough of the fatwas wished upon them by people who thought they had all the answers. Fatwas should not be replaced by fiats. The international community should listen carefully to what the Afghans wanted, and respond to their needs.

    Local talent and capabilities should be used, he said. Afghan women must have an important role to play and a say in Afghan recovery. International support should be guided by a sense of duty and fellowship, not by the pursuit of narrow self-interest. It should be committed to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Afghanistan. After decades of war, Afghanistan’s needs were so enormous that they could only be met by a coordinated international response.

    Emergency relief, long-term recovery, and even Afghanistan’s political evolution would depend very much on the country’s ability to set aside the culture of the gun, he said. In its resolution 1383 (2001), the Security Council had demonstrated its confidence in the Afghan groups by calling upon them to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers. "All of us, and particularly those of us in Afghanistan’s neighbourhood, want to see the country stable, democratic and moderate, ruled by governments that are elected by Afghans, represent their collective interests, protect their fundamental rights, and promote economic and social development."

    NANCY CAIN MARCUS (United States) said establishment of the Afghan Interim Authority was the first step in a process that envisaged a permanent, broad-based, multi-ethnic and gender-sensitive government. That process aimed to usher in a new era of peace and security in an Afghanistan free of terrorism and drugs, and at peace with its neighbours.

    The Afghan people faced daunting challenges in making that goal a reality, she said. The United States and the international community stood ready to support the Afghan people in their efforts to establish a new government, and were fully committed to humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction. The United Sates had pledged $320 million in humanitarian assistance and was working with international organizations, NGOs and neighbouring countries to meet the urgent needs of the Afghan people.

    International assistance must also target the most disenfranchised of the Afghans -- women and children who had suffered greatly from Taliban oppression, she continued. Liberated from the Taliban yoke, women in the country must be reintegrated as full members of Afghan society and government. The inclusion of two women in the Interim Authority was an important signal. She called on all Afghan groups to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those of women, consistent with the commitments made at Bonn and their international obligations.

    VALERY P. KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the Bonn agreement now needed to become operational on the ground. Afghanistan still faced a grave humanitarian challenge and an acute security problem that must be addressed by both the Government and the international community. Rebuilding the economy, institutions and infrastructure, the refugee issue, protection of human rights, establishing the rule of law, and maintaining peaceful relations with neighbouring States would be among the priority tasks of the Transitional Authority. Global support was, therefore, crucial for Afghanistan.

    He said the international community would need to make an enormous commitment, both politically and financially, to long-term stability in Afghanistan. "Our efforts to assist Afghanistan will only be effective if they are well coordinated and become part of a comprehensive political and economic strategy", he said. The United Nations should play the central role in facilitating the transformation of Afghanistan into a secure and stable State.

    He said his delegation believed that the draft text to be adopted would reflect the support of the international community for the goal of achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.

    MEHMET UMIT PAMIR (Turkey), associating himself with the European Union, said his country viewed the Bonn agreement as the first step towards establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan, and expected it to serve as the basis for ending the great suffering the Afghan people had endured for the past 20 years.

    It was of paramount importance that the reconciliation process be all-inclusive, bringing together all the country's ethnic groups in a cooperative spirit, he said. While the international community had a role to play in that regard, the main responsibility lay with the Afghan people. It was, therefore, incumbent upon all groups in the country to focus on building a stable homeland in which they could all coexist and prosper in harmony and peace.

    Noting Turkey's deep-rooted historical and cultural ties with the Afghan people, he said that as a long-standing friend with no hidden agenda or special interest, his country had always been willing to play an important role in efforts to secure the development of Afghanistan. Turkey's historic experience enabled it to provide substantial support for the reconciliation and rehabilitation of Afghanistan, including committing troops to help ensure the necessary conditions for a viable security environment.

    He said Turkey was ready to augment its contribution to rebuilding Afghanistan as a politically united nation, enjoying friendly relations with all its neighbours. Having held regular consultations with all the Afghan groups, Turkey would continue its constructive efforts towards that end. The country had already undertaken numerous assistance programmes to provide health, education and humanitarian assistance, as well as shelter, heating and electricity for displaced families.

    ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the United Nations faced a challenge of enormous proportions. The decisions on Afghanistan adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly would be the first steps towards an as yet unknown future. The basic proposition in that regard would have to be the establishment of peace and reconstruction. A situation of impunity was not acceptable. The Afghan people should commit themselves to confront the problems of the past, including violations of human rights.

    The greatest responsibility for finding a peaceful solution rested with the Afghan people, he said. The Bonn agreement had established an interim authority. He hoped that transitional authority would generate its own capacity to demand respect for human rights and eradicate links with international terrorism and the illicit drug trade. A truly representative government, respecting human rights, would be a requisite for establishing lasting peace and national reconciliation.

    He also hoped the transitional solution would be based on a dialogue involving the entire Afghan society, as well as countries in the region.

    There was no doubt the United Nations should continue to play an impartial role in international efforts towards a peaceful solution of the Afghan conflict. But while it was essential that the work of the United Nations continued, the international community should also focus on efforts towards good governance, food security and integration of refugees and internally displaced persons. It was important to ensure full participation of women in the life and decision-making process of the country. He called on the Afghan groups to promote equal rights between men and women.

    IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the General Assembly had often focused on Afghanistan in the past, adopting resolutions and focusing attention on that country. But the focus had been only momentary. The sense of urgency had evaporated when immediate concerns were removed, and the land and people were left in the lurch.

    Once again, he said, the Assembly had turned its attention to that country, as realization dawned that the international community ignored the country at its own peril. It had become the breeding ground of terrorism, the haven of unreason. The Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus was the blackest era in Afghan history. By now, much of that evil had hopefully been eliminated. The world was united in achieving that goal.

    The international community was now on the threshold of deploying an international security assistance force in Afghanistan, he said. There might also be the need for a sustained United Nations-sanctioned peacekeeping presence there. More significantly, the international community was looking at a phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Its 7 million refugees should return before the Loya Jirga was established so that they could take part in decision-making. Empowerment of women was also crucial to the country’s future. The increasing social role of women would help give human rights a central focus.

    PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said the draft provided much-needed guidance on the evolving situation in Afghanistan. The impending inauguration of the interim administration was a crucial first step towards a better future of the Afghan people. Above all, the Afghan leaders were to be commended for reaching that historic agreement.

    He hoped the United Nations would go on responding to the challenges in Afghanistan. All United Nations agencies and all humanitarian and development departments must be fully coordinated. Any government in Afghanistan should be integrated and should ensure the participation of women. The new Authority should show respect for all international obligations, including respect for human rights. He was concerned by the insecurity throughout the country. Deployment of an international stabilization force would make a contribution to betterment of the situation.

    He emphasized the importance of building and supporting Afghan civilian society. His country remained committed to providing humanitarian assistance and would meet that commitment. He looked forward to the outcome of the meeting of the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group in Brussels and the upcoming conference in Tokyo. He recognized the burden neighbouring countries had shouldered in meeting the needs of refugee Afghans, and his country would help facilitate the safe return of refugees once the situation permitted.

    MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said the tragic events of 11 September had stunned humanity and exposed the brutality of the terrorists. They had brought a coalition of nations together in the fight against terrorism, and Nepal had supported the measures taken to stamp out the scourge.

    The repressive and obscurantist regime in Afghanistan had collapsed and terrorist networks had been severely disrupted, he continued. The Bonn talks had paved the way for an interim administration. The Afghan people could now hope for a peaceful future and the international community for declined terrorism and improved peace and security. However, challenges still remained. There were many other terrorist organizations wreaking havoc in the world. They, too, needed to be taken out.

    Sustainable development remained an urgent need in many areas to ensure that terrorism did not rise again, he said. He welcomed the initiative to embark on a multinational force for peacekeeping in Afghanistan. The next urgent priority for Afghanistan and the international community must be to foster the democracy and development that Afghanistan so urgently needed.

    ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) said the draft resolution could be conducive to the formation of a broad-based government and to achieving stability in Afghanistan, and could also promote good-neighbourly relations in the region. He supported the Bonn agreements, as well as the formation of an interim authority, which was the first step towards a peaceful settlement of the problem.

    His country was deeply conscious of the grief and suffering inflicted on the Afghan people for more than 20 years. Generations had known nothing but bloodletting. There was great mistrust between the parties. Achieving peace in Afghanistan was essential, and his country supported restoration of stability. Six thousand tons of humanitarian assistance had been dispatched through Uzbekistan, he added.

    There was a serious problem that could lead to new tensions, he said: the enormous stocks of weaponry and ammunition in Afghanistan. There were millions of light weapons, as well as heavy artillery. He was concerned that that weaponry was still in the hands of uncontrollable groups among the civilian population. Those weapons could be used by hostile parties to resolve inter-ethnic differences. Any armed conflict could rekindle conflict and enhance instability in the region. The various specialized agencies of the United Nations had a crucial role to play in that regard. The Security Council should also address the issue.

    Action on Draft Resolution Deferred

    It was announced that action on draft resolution A/56/L.62 would be postponed in order to allow time for the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to review the text’s programme budget implications.

    * *** *