SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR PROPOSED UNITED NATIONS ASSISTANCE MISSION
Proposals to Extend Mandate, Theatre of Operations
NEW YORK, 26 March (UN Headquarters) -- Overwhelming support was expressed by speakers in the Security Council this morning and this afternoon for the proposed creation of a United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan.
Briefing the Council on the latest report of the Secretary-General on Afghanistan, in which the concept for the mission is set out, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said the mission would be based on two pillars -- one for political affairs and one for relief, recovery and reconstruction. Those pillars would complement each other rather than run at cross-purposes, and would help to rebuild Afghanistan in a sustainable way. The mission was envisaged to leave a light international footprint on Afghanistan, she noted.
Jan Petersen, Foreign Minister of Norway, Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said he supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for a lean, integrated structure for the mission. He looked forward to cooperating with concerned actors at all levels to ensure a coordinated approach that included the Afghanistan Support Group, bilateral and multilateral donors, and non-governmental organizations working hand in hand with local Afghan communities.
The representative of Spain, speaking for the European Union, noted that the proposed mission’s two main goals were to build a strong United Nations presence and to avoid Afghan dependence so as to build local capacities. He therefore called for building on already existing initiatives to avoid duplication of work. He also called for lead sectoral agencies to implement humanitarian and reconstruction activities.
The mission would be entrusted with assuming a great responsibility at a critical turning point in Afghan history, said the representative of Bangladesh. Beyond the borders of Afghanistan, its contribution would be critical for Central Asia. It would help create a regenerated nation at peace with itself and its neighbours -- one that was free from external political and military interference.
Also during the meeting, speakers highlighted the urgent need to address the security situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s representative said security was a prerequisite for implementing the Bonn Agreements and crucial to Afghanistan's stable political and economic future. The international community must ensure that old rivalries and hatreds were not given a chance to obstruct the establishment of a stable political dispensation there. While supporting the deployment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, he felt that its size and scope must now be expanded and extended to all parts of the country, especially its major urban centres.
Singapore’s representative said that to be sustainable, any political or peace process must adopt a comprehensive and cohesive approach. She noted the ISAF’s crucial role in helping with the security situation in Kabul. However, there had been reports of instability in other areas of Afghanistan. The Council should examine all instruments in its toolbox of measures to address the security issue.
The United States was helping Afghanistan to address security needs, that country’s representative said. It would help in training an Afghan army and in training and equipping a police force. When the ISAF’s mandate came up for renewal, it would support that extension. However, given the current security situation, he did not see the need to expand the ISAF beyond Kabul at the present time.
The representative of Afghanistan said the formation of a national army and police force remained a vital priority of the Interim Administration. An army would serve as a symbol of national unity, and he was grateful for international support in that regard. It was imperative that the views of the Interim Administration be sought regarding the expansion of the ISAF.
Also during the meeting, speakers stressed the need for the international community to help with the reconstruction of Afghanistan and for donors to make rapidly available the financial commitments they had undertaken. The need to support the convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga, which would lead to the establishment of an elected national Government, was also strongly emphasized. Many speakers expressed their satisfaction at the positive developments that had taken place in Afghanistan, including the return to school of many children, both girls and boys.
At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Petersen, Foreign Minister of Norway and Council President, conveyed the Council’s deepest condolences to the Afghan authorities and people, following yesterday's devastating earthquake in northern Afghanistan. Many speakers also expressed their condolences.
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Turk responded to speakers' questions and comments at the meeting’s conclusion.
Statements were also made during the meeting by the representatives of France, Colombia, Syria, Mexico, China, Cameroon, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Ireland, Russian Federation, Guinea, Mauritius, Japan, Australia, India, Canada, Tajikistan, Turkey, Iran, New Zealand and Kazakhstan.
The meeting was called to order at 10:13 a.m. and suspended at 1:30 p.m. It resumed at 3:34 p.m. and adjourned at 4:45 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Afghanistan. It had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/56/875-S/2002/278), which summarized the key developments in Afghanistan since the signing of the Agreement on provisional arrangements in Afghanistan pending the re-establishment of permanent government institutions, the so-called "Bonn Agreement", on 5 December 2001.
The Secretary-General states in his report that few would have imagined in October 2001 that the Taliban regime's collapse could so quickly be followed by the installation of an internationally recognized Interim Administration, which has already established sufficient international credibility and legitimacy that donors, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations alike are firmly committed to following its lead in helping to administer life-saving assistance, restore basic services around the country and work towards formulating a national development framework.
According to the report, a critical turning point in the peace process will be the convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga, a traditional assembly of provincial elders and powers, which must occur before 22 June. It is vitally important that the legitimate political aspirations of individuals and groups be pursued peacefully, constructively and in free and fair conditions, so as not to erode the credibility and legitimacy of the process.
Risks to peace remain however, the report states. Questions about future stability are raised not only by continued fighting between coalition forces and Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, but also by mistrust between rival factions. A priority is therefore the restoration of mutual trust and confidence and timely action to stem the re-emergence of factors that plunged the country back into war in 1992. Speed is of the essence in security assistance and aid in building the Afghan military and civilian police forces.
According to the Secretary-General, the proposed mission -- the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan -- under the leadership of his Special Representative, is intended to ensure that all United Nations assistance efforts are channelled towards supporting the implementation of the peace process by the Afghan people. Its proposed size and structure is relatively lean. However, it will not be able to carry out its functions effectively unless the security situation is addressed immediately, with the assistance of those countries that have the means to do so.
At the same time, the Secretary-General reminds Afghan leaders that the international community would be more receptive to such appeals if it was convinced that Afghans were doing as much as they could to help themselves. He urged them, therefore, to transcend ethnic and regional parochialism in order to pursue dialogue and compromise with rivals -- which did not require international financial assistance -- towards genuine national unity and lasting peace.
JAN PETERSEN, Foreign Minister of Norway, Council President, conveyed the Council’s deepest condolences to the Afghan authorities and people, following the devastating earthquakes in Northern Afghanistan.
LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, introduced the recent report of the Secretary-General on Afghanistan. She said the recent earthquake in the north of that country had caused great damage. The Secretary-General had issued a statement this morning expressing distress at the news, and United Nations relief agencies had already sent assistance into the area.
Noting the large number of non-Council members participating in today’s meeting, she said she was encouraged by the great interest in rebuilding Afghanistan. She said the report of the Secretary-General also presented the future of the United Nations presence in Afghanistan, and Council approval was sought in that respect.
Detailing aspects of the report, she said both the Interim Administration in Afghanistan and the United Nations had made education a key priority. The first day of the school year -- last Saturday –- had been a major step towards getting children back to school; 1.5 million students had been able to return. Supplies by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to schools around the country had provided materials for both students and teachers.
She said increased rainfall had also left many farmers optimistic about their next crops after three years of drought. That optimism had been reflected in a spontaneous population movement especially among internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of whom had started to return home. In addition, an average of 10,000 refugees per day had crossed from neighbouring Pakistan into Afghanistan. To address that flow, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would open more registration centres in the next few weeks.
She said the nutritional deficits in some parts of the country were also a source of concern. Recent outbreaks of scurvy in certain areas highlighted the need to both address malnutrition and to target interventions carefully.
Even though United Nations agencies had been gearing up to meet all the challenges she had outlined, she said, they had also become increasingly alarmed by the slow pace of funding. Almost one month ago requirements had been highlighted in Kabul. She appealed to donors to respond urgently to their generous promises.
She said the budget had also been drawn up to address the convening of the Loya Jirga. Recent trips by the Loya Jirga Commission to various parts of the country had confirmed enormous Afghan interest in the Loya Jirga. The possibility that the Loya Jirga could be intimidated or corrupted, however, was still very real, and addressing those concerns was directly related to security in Afghanistan.
She went on to say that while the security situation had improved, there were still clashes in a number of places. In Kandahar, for example, a grenade was thrown into a crowded bazaar, killing one person and injuring others. Such incidents demonstrated how volatile the situation was and were warnings against complacency.
She added that the proposed United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan was based on two pillars -- one for structure and one for relief and assistance. Those pillars would support each other rather than run at cross-purposes. Both had the legitimate authority to rebuild Afghanistan in a sustainable way. The Mission would also have a "light-footprint" expatriate composition.
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) associated himself with the statement that would be made later by Spain for the European Union. He said the road traveled in six months was impressive. The struggle against terrorism was continuing, with the United States and its allies tracking down Al Qaeda. The political process was also continuing. The Afghan people were reclaiming their destiny, and in June the Loya Jirga would reach a new stage on the way to creation of a multi-ethnic, representative and democratic Government. The reconstruction of Afghanistan was well under way, with the help of the entire international community. The success of the reconstruction would lie, in part, in good coordination between the bilateral and multilateral donors. Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, should ensure this coordination on the ground.
He then noted the impressive steps taken at United Nations Headquarters with regard to the situation in Afghanistan. One resolution had come after the other, including the new resolution being prepared that would put into place the recommendations of the Secretary-General, which would give a unified and structured form to the United Nations presence in the country. The security situation remained more difficult to deal with. Agreement was emerging to extend the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond 20 June -- the right time frame for its extension would have to be agreed on. Given a lack of agreement on expanding the ISAF, absolute priority would have to be given to the formation of the Afghan army and police. France would play its full role in reconstructing Afghanistan, he stressed.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) expressed his gratitude for the Secretary-General’s report. Security was the most important need of the Afghan people and the Council must help to achieve it. Without security, the Interim Administration would not be able to achieve its tasks and the Loya Jirga would have great difficulty as well. He expressed his support for expanding the ISAF beyond Kabul. He invited those countries that led the Force to explore mechanisms to respond to that appeal. Such a step could help deal with the risks and threats set out in the report.
He emphasized the report’s assertion that the only way of guaranteeing the eradication of terrorism was by empowering the legitimate authorities to monitor their territory. He was satisfied by the return of children to schools in Afghanistan on 23 March. The difficult financial situation of the Interim Administration was a subject that deserved reflection. Colombia supported the proposed new United Nations mission in the country. He noted the important coordinating role the mission would have to play.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and the proposal to establish a mission in Afghanistan. He seconded the Secretary-General’s comment in the report that the accomplishments in the region were remarkable. He supported the Secretary-General’s intent to get an efficient mission into place.
He said all recognized the security challenges in the country. The United States was helping Afghanistan to address security needs. It would help in training the army and in training and equipping the police. When the ISAF’s mandate came up for renewal it would support that extension and would support Turkey’s taking over the force from the United Kingdom. Given the current security situation, he did not see the need to expand the ISAF beyond Kabul at the present time.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said the present report of the Secretary-General provided the Council with an important opportunity to review the situation in Afghanistan. Assessing and discussing the role of the United Nations in that country necessitated exercising the greatest patience and accuracy in light of the sensitivity and complexity of the situation. He said the Loya Jirga was core of the whole Afghan political process, and its success would be seen in ending the war, removing its shadow and preventing its future re-emergence.
He also expressed condolences to the people of Afghanistan who had suffered during the recent earthquake.
He said the question of security and stability still represented a major concern in Afghanistan. Without those two elements, the peace process, reconstruction and development could not go forward. Instability in certain parts of the country was due to the persistence of pockets of Taliban and Al Qaeda resistance. He expressed regret that those confrontations had reached a level of ethnic violence between and among various parties. His delegation supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that all efforts should be made as soon as possible to persuade different Afghan leaders and their hesitant partners to participate in the political process.
The report, he said, stressed the importance of continued humanitarian assistance and the proper coordination of humanitarian efforts. Those humanitarian efforts were necessary before economic recovery could begin. The proposal to establish a renewed United Nations structure in Afghanistan was also timely. The composition of the mission, as described earlier by Ms. Fréchette, and presented by France, represented a new hope for Afghanistan. The proposed mission should coordinate the efforts of all the international agencies in Afghanistan.
TAN YEE WOAN (Singapore) was in full agreement with most of the points in the report. Afghanistan’s priorities should lead the international community’s efforts and Afghan voices should guide the Council’s works. Afghans should work together and transcend regional parochialism. Given the global interest in Afghanistan, it was important for the Council to listen to non-Council member voices, including those of the 6 + 2 group and other key players. Singapore looked forward to helping set up UNAMA, she added.
The Council, she said, was but one forum intended to develop a coherent and comprehensive long-term strategy to achieve peace in Afghanistan. It was, nevertheless, well placed to play perhaps the key role in those efforts. There was no room for complacency. Despite the positive achievements, tensions bubbled below the surface. To be sustainable, any political or peace process must adopt a comprehensive and cohesive approach. She noted the ISAF’s crucial role in helping with the security situation in Kabul. However, there had been reports of instability in other areas of Afghanistan. The Council should examine all instruments in its toolbox of measures to address the security issue. The lesson from Afghanistan was that the fate of a distant country could have a global impact.
ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) expressed condolences on the loss of human life and the situation caused by the earthquake in parts of Afghanistan. While his country echoed the satisfaction expressed by Council members at recent progress in Afghanistan, he also believed that this morning’s message from the Deputy Secretary-General contained a warning that must be heeded. This was not a time for complacency, as the tasks ahead of the international community and the Afghan people were extremely difficult and complex.
He said there were two guiding points to be borne in mind vis-à-vis Afghanistan. First, the efforts of the international community must be sustained. Many examples from the past showed that loss of sustained engagement could give rise to the return of cycles that would be regretted by that community. His delegation believed that the task of reconstructing Afghanistan was basically one of coordination among all responsible entities.
One of the first challenges was the political integration of Afghanistan through the Loya Jirga. The second challenge was security. The immediate task was to combine activities in order to achieve the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants while creating both a national security force and a police force. He also emphasized the need to eradicate the cultivation and production of narcotics. Another challenge was the humanitarian issue –- that could not be sidestepped. All efforts must also be part of a major thrust towards socioeconomic development. The United Nations mission must be designed to produce a real model partnership among the combined United Nations agencies in Afghanistan.
WANG YINGFAN (China) said the Secretary-General had given a full analysis of the present situation in Afghanistan. The political process had made headway. He also noted the return to school of a large number of children, including girls, and improvements in the situation of women. Through cooperation with United Nations agencies, the governments concerned and non-governmental organizations, Afghanistan was on its way to relaunching the agricultural system. He congratulated the Afghans on their achievements and noted the role of Mr. Brahimi and his team.
The overall situation remained rather fragile, he said. The eradication of Al Qaeda and Taliban, and putting an end to conflicts among warlords and armed groups, were among the challenges being faced. He supported the Secretary-General’s relevant recommendation, including the extension of the ISAF. He supported the establishment of the mission and hoped that the Council would adopt the resolution, so that it could begin its work in a timely fashion. He noted China’s efforts to support the Afghan people.
NGOH NGOH FERDINAND (Cameroon) welcomed the positive developments in Afghanistan, notably the gradual implementation of the Bonn Agreements. The Interim Administration had begun its work and elaborated a road map for the development of Afghanistan. It had also begun to establish institutions provided for in the Agreements. He welcomed the holding of a human rights workshop earlier in the month.
The security situation continued to be a major source of concern, he said. Areas outside Kabul were unstable and precarious. He welcomed the ISAF’s role and supported its extension to other major urban centres in order to reduce the chance of outbreak of hostilities. He endorsed the need to provide support to the formation of an Afghan security force. He called for resolved commitment from donor countries to help with the humanitarian situation. The proposed mission would play a very important role, especially in coordination efforts.
STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) expressed condolences to the Afghan people at the loss of human life caused by the earthquake in the north-eastern part of their country.
He said the struggle against terrorism continued today, and its success would determine the success of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The United Nations had its full role to play in those efforts. His delegation fully supported the approach outlined by the Secretary-General for the structuring of the proposed United Nations mission in Afghanistan and his determination to use the talents of the Afghan people in the work of that mission. He stressed that the ISAF also continued to play a key role in all efforts so far, and expressed support for extending its mandate for another six months when the current one expired.
He said a prudent approach was necessary for the territorial expansion of the ISAF beyond Kabul. Such an expansion must be carried out in conjunction with a national army and police force. He pointed out that there was disturbing information about acts of ethnic intolerance and repression. That situation should be monitored closely.
The pressing need for humanitarian assistance had been made even more urgent following yesterday’s earthquake, he noted. The struggle against narcotics trafficking was vitally important to the success of United Nations efforts. Action to combat that activity must include the participation of the rural population.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) associated himself with the statement that would shortly be made for the European Union. He noted the ISAF efforts to help with assistance efforts following the earthquake. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report. It was very clear that Mr. Brahimi and his team had achieved a very great deal in a short space of time.
The United Kingdom would work to assure that the resolution being prepared was speedily adopted, he said. The establishment of the United Nations mission would be a crucial element of support for the Bonn process. The mission would help ensure that political and reconstruction efforts were coordinated. It should aim to increase human capacity, using a human rights and gender-sensitive approach. He noted the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country. Fast and effective delivery of aid was essential. The United Kingdom was a strong supporter of mine-removal efforts in Afghanistan. Appropriate measures to address that problem must be taken.
He asked the Assistant Secretary-General to provide information on whether or not it would be advisable for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to set up an internally displaced persons unit in Afghanistan. The emergency Loya Jirga must be successful, he stressed. He welcomed the support the United Nations had given to the Afghan Loya Jirga Commission. The mandate of the ISAF should be extended, and he supported its expansion over a wider area. Careful consideration on how that could be done was essential. There was an urgent need to tackle the problem of narcotics, he added, stressing that the poppy crop should be destroyed.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) expressed appreciation for the honesty and clarity of focus in the Secretary-General’s assessment of the challenges facing Afghanistan. No effort had been made to portray the situation other than it was: real promise matched by real opportunities, but also accompanied by formidable and daunting challenges. The international community, the Council and the United Nations as a whole must now assume their full obligations in supporting the Secretary-General in his proposals to help Afghans rebuild the ruined fabric of their country.
Stating that all must cooperate with the Loya Jirga Commission which had so far performed exceptionally well, he expressed concern over the reported attempts to exercise influence on the Commission. He also expressed concern over the continued reports of insecurity hampering the delivery of assistance in several parts of the country, saying he hoped the United Nation would gradually be able to begin deployment of civilian personnel throughout the country to address the still-acute humanitarian needs of the Afghan population.
It was imperative that the integrated mission approach set out by the Secretary-General be given real shape on the ground. All elements of the United Nations system needed to cooperate in every respect with the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi in making the approach work, he said. The appointment, at the regional level, of designated representatives of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General was essential to the coherence and coordination of the United Nations mission. He agreed with Mr. Brahimi that the numbers of international staff be kept to the minimum, as Afghan ownership of the relief and reconstruction process was essential to the long-term stability of the country.
He looked forward to the creation of a human rights commission. Citing reports of human rights abuses, particularly directed at ethnic Pashtuns, he said human rights violations of that kind could only contribute to a further refugee crisis and serve to exacerbate instability in parts of Afghanistan.
The beginning of the new school year in Afghanistan over the past few days was a powerful symbol of how much had changed in just six months, he said, adding that he especially welcomed the return of women and girls to the education system. Though conditions might remain less than ideal for some time, he appreciated the tremendous work that had been done by Afghan and international authorities and donors to make possible the opening of so many schools on time. Ireland, along with others, had made substantial commitments to both relief and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. He added that he also welcomed recent statements confirming the commitment of the Afghan Interim Authority to give the highest priority to drug control.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the dark pages of Afghan history were behind us and the power of the Taliban had finally crumbled. He now looked forward to the new role of the United Nations in the development of the country. He agreed with the recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General, and particularly those on the role to be played by the Organization in Afghanistan. His delegation also supported the proposed mission for that country. He stressed that all assistance for Afghanistan should be designed to bring about a peaceful way of life for Afghans, ensure the recovery of the country, and help its people in the rebirth of their nation.
There must be complete compliance with the Bonn Agreements, he said. He then drew the Council’s attention to a memorandum whose signatories included both Kazakhstan and his country, which would result in a great deal of assistance to Afghanistan. The Russian Federation had also offered direct assistance of $12 million to Afghanistan. In June the transitional Government would be elected. He underscored that representatives of the Taliban and their followers had no place in any future State institutions. He also expressed concern at the presence of large numbers of foreign mercenaries, particularly Chechens, among the terrorists still active in the country.
He said that while the ISAF was playing a key role in maintaining the calm in Kabul, the long term required the establishment of a strictly Afghan army. He welcomed Germany’s readiness to head the training of Afghan police. He also trusted that the United Nations would take the central role in establishing broad international cooperation in Afghanistan and in coordinating all international efforts in the country.
FRANCOIS L. FALL (Guinea) expressed his satisfaction at the successes registered by the Interim Administration in implementing the political process set out in the Bonn Agreements. This demonstrated the desire of the Afghan people to emerge from 23 years of war. He encouraged the Afghan authorities to continue their efforts to achieve national reconciliation, and expressed his gratitude for the role played by the ISAF in promoting security in Kabul, as well as for the countries helping to train and equip an Afghan army and police force.
Acts of banditry, rivalry between different factions, the continued existence of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces were continued threats to peace, he said. Reestablishing security should allow the Afghan authorities to move forward with the reconstruction of their country, with the assistance of the international community. He appealed to donors to rapidly make good on announcements made at the Tokyo Conference. He supported the rapid establishment of the United Nations mission, which would be the best way to consolidate efforts being made to implement the Bonn Agreements.
BIJAYEDUTH GOKOOL (Mauritius) expressed condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan at the loss of life due to the earthquake. He said the international community must be realistic about the achievable objectives in Afghanistan. That nation now had a chance to be a country once more and to be at peace with its neighbours. His delegation supported the proposal for a United Nations mission in Afghanistan that would bring reconstruction and humanitarian assistance under one umbrella. Complacency, procrastination and unnecessary delays in extending the pledged support, however, would be a real impediment to progress.
He said that one of the first priorities for Afghanistan was security assurance. The unstable situation in certain parts of the country remained a source of great concern. To meet the immediate security needs of Afghanistan, his delegation supported the proposal to extend the mandate of the ISAF. It must also be ensured that the establishment of the Loya Jirga would give due consideration to ethnic and regional differences. Narcotic drugs and trafficking must also be urgently addressed, as there were reports that poppy cultivation had resumed at a relatively high level throughout the country. Since terrorism preyed on the drug trade, the international community must address that illicit trade firmly and effectively.
No political process would bring peace and stability to Afghanistan if the humanitarian situation was not addressed properly, he said. Now was the time for the international community to focus all its efforts on finding appropriate solutions to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The partnership between the international community and the Afghans was a leap forward which needed to be further galvanized if Afghanistan was to pursue its reconstruction programme.
JAN PETERSEN (Norway), Security Council President, said remarkable progress had been achieved in Afghanistan during the last few months: the fall of the Taliban regime; the creation of a representative interim leadership through the Bonn Agreements; and the Council’s lifting of sanctions on the country while tightening measures against the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists. Only three short months into the term of the new Interim Authority led by Hamid Karzai, the future for the Afghan people looked more hopeful as they moved away from international isolation and repressive fundamentalism and towards peace and stability.
He said that last weekend, at the start of the Afghan new year, schools had been reopened and now, for the first time in years, girls were allowed to learn and women were allowed to teach. Kabul was peaceful and its people were displaying the dignity that the Taliban had sought to deny them. Throughout the country -- which had been on the brink of humanitarian disaster last autumn -- life was also returning to normal in other cities as well. He said that relief aid was now reaching the most needy communities, and he expressed thanks and gratitude to all those humanitarian workers, men and women, who often served at great personal risk.
He stressed, however, that many challenges remained. Let there be no doubt, he said, that terrorists and the Taliban still posed a threat to the political process and peace initiatives alike. The recent combat operations conducted by coalition forces against Al Qaeda supporters proved that in order to succeed, the Interim Authority needed to extend its influence beyond Kabul to all parts of Afghanistan.
Noting that Norway had thus far paid $6 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Trust Fund, he urged the wider donor community to likewise contribute to ensure Afghanistan’s long-term recovery and reconstruction. The United Nations and its new, integrated mission had a key role to play in the Bonn implementation process, not least with regard to substantial improvements in the overall rights of women and children. Norway supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for a lean, integrated structure for the Afghanistan mission. It looked forward to cooperating with concerned actors at all levels to ensure a coordinated approach.
INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Bonn Agreements of last December constituted the basic road map for Afghanistan’s political future. Two important components were to create and fully deploy the ISAF and to implement the outcome of the Tokyo Conference on reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan. Since the central coordinating role had been assigned to the United Nations, the European Union effort would centre on supporting the integrated United Nations mission to Afghanistan through the coordination of its Special Representative.
The mission’s two main goals were to build a strong United Nations presence and to avoid Afghan dependence so as to build local capacities, he recalled. That called for building on already existing initiatives so as to avoid duplication of work, and for lead sectoral agencies to implement humanitarian and reconstruction activities. A Memorandum of Understanding between the lead agency and the deputy United Nations Special Representative should spell out in more detail the roles and responsibilities of the lead agency concept.
Security was the most pressing issue, he said, and the ISAF commitment should be extended at an early date beyond its current six-month mandate. The Union would help Afghanistan create security institutions, including a national army and police force. Meanwhile, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should be implemented to reduce the risks posed by informal armed groups and to bring their members into society. The selection process for the Emergency Loya Jirga must be free of intimidation, pressure or manipulation. Guiding principles for Afghanistan should include a commitment to political pluralism and friendly relations with neighbours, respect for human rights and eradication of poppy cultivation and drug trafficking.
Reconstruction of Afghanistan was essential for attaining the Bonn objectives, he emphasized. The European Union had co-hosted the 2001 Afghanistan Reconstruction Group Conference in Brussels, whose outcome had stressed that reconstruction efforts were conditional upon Afghan parties contributing to the Bonn process. The Union would provide €600 million, or 30 per cent of the total announced pledges for 2002. In addition, €2.3 billion were pledged for 2002-2006. That covered 23 per cent of needs identified by the joint UNDP-World Bank assessment, or 45 per cent of the total international engagement.
Finally, he stressed that accountability of the Afghan administration and coordination of donor efforts were imperative for successful reconstruction. The Union President and Commission, as Co-Chairs of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Steering Group, would coordinate with other donors, institutional agencies and financial institutions. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Implementation Group could play a coordinating role until a consultative group was established. The Afghanistan Support Group would bridge the gap between humanitarian and early reconstruction needs, the transition being smoothed by a common Chair for both the Reconstruction and Support Groups. In the establishment of both national and local structures, priority would be placed on ensuring human rights, integrating all ethnic groups and ensuring the equal participation of women.
SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said he hoped the United Nations would continue to help the Afghans find home-grown solutions to their problems and bring the country back to the community of nations as a responsible and law-abiding State. Now that the international community had committed itself to healing Afghanistan, hopefully, it would not walk away from it again. Afghanistan must never again be allowed to become a breeding ground for terrorists. The long-term solution of the terrorism problem in Afghanistan lay in the restoration of peace and security and the country's reconstruction.
He said that every economic plan, whether for relief or reconstruction, must generate jobs. The attention of the Afghan people must be diverted from misery to constructive activities. Extensive blueprints had been prepared by the regional organization, the Economic Cooperation Organization, which could help convert that landlocked country into a bridge connecting Central Asia to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. Afghanistan could be the shortest transit route between Central Asia and the rest of the world. In due course, road, rail and gas and oil pipeline projects passing through Afghanistan could bring unprecedented economic well-being to the country. Any attempt, meanwhile, to pitch Afghanistan against any of its neighbours or deepen its ethnic or sectarian divide would only prolong Afghan's agony.
Security was the most pressing issue -- the prerequisite for implementing the Bonn Agreements and crucial to Afghanistan's stable political and economic future, he said. The international community must ensure that old rivalries and hatreds were not given a chance to obstruct the establishment of a stable political dispensation there. The Bonn Agreements called for the establishment of a "United Nations mandated force" for the maintenance of security for Kabul, as well as other areas of the country. While he supported the deployment of the ISAF in Kabul, he felt that its size and scope must now be expanded and extended to all parts of the country, especially its major urban centres.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) said that the next important step for Afghanistan was the convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga. However, all parties should remember that the event would mark only the midpoint in the process leading to the establishment of a legitimately elected government. "Compromise" and "tolerance" should be key words for the Loya Jirga, with all parties working together to establish an effective Transitional Authority capable of carrying Afghanistan through the next phase of the Bonn process.
While the Tokyo Conference had concluded that assistance would depend on all parties contributing positively to the process and goals agreed in Bonn, a certain level of frustration had been detected in Afghanistan with the slow implementation of the pledges and commitments made in Tokyo. The donors and United Nations agencies must rapidly implement assistance in a strategically coherent and coordinated manner, so that the Afghan people could tangibly feel the will of the international community.
Japan had been making steady progress in disbursing the $250 million it had pledged in Tokyo for 2002, he said. The country had funded the UNDP-Recovery and Employment Afghanistan Programme, designed to provide employment for 20,000 people in labour-intensive public works projects in Kabul. It was also the single largest contributor to the "Back to School" campaign. Other recent contributions included approximately $30 million for demining and about $12 million for basic medical equipment, medicine and other health-related items.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said the risk of a return to violence in Afghanistan was inversely related to the authority and legitimacy that the Loya Jirga and the Interim Administration achieved. Political progress was also needed to underpin a unified national military. Afghanistan’s neighbours, including the 6 + 2 Group, could help foster a benign security environment. Political legitimacy did not emerge in a vacuum. It required resources and their intelligent deployment. For its part, his country had pledged $40 million. While international support was welcome, it was important that funds be made available expeditiously, and that programmes be coordinated. He expressed support for the Secretary-General’s assertion that the United Nations mission must have an integrated and unified structure. It would also be important for the political objectives and relief, recovery and reconstruction activities to be mutually supporting.
International assistance should build up the strength and authority of Afghan institutions, not replace them. The ultimate yardstick of the proposed mission’s success would not be what it had done, but what it had helped Afghans to do. That required that Afghans rather than international staff be employed to the extent possible. The skills of the Afghan diaspora needed to be tapped. Refugees also needed to be encouraged to return and reestablish normal patterns of economic activity.
The efforts of the international community, he said, could and would be undermined if illegal sources of funds were made available to those who did not accept the authority of the Afghan State. For that reason, the fight against illicit drugs needed to be given a very high priority. Alternative sources of income needed to be found quickly to avoid a resurgence of criminal activity. No durable peace, reconciliation or development was possible without explicit attention to the rights and special needs of Afghan women and children. Those considerations must be woven into all of the mission’s activities. Women should be fully involved in all decisions about Afghanistan’s future.
He also extended condolences to the people of Afghanistan on the loss of life and damage caused by the recent natural disaster.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said that on 22 December 2001, when the Interim Administration had taken over, the challenges had been many, including the provision of peace and security and humanitarian relief. It had just completed 100 days, and in that time so much had been accomplished to vindicate the faith of the international community. However, no one doubted that the Interim Administration had only just taken the first steps in a long and arduous but rewarding journey. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were down but not out. They had no place in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Ensuring their defeat was a collective imperative from which the international community could not turn away.
The security situation, particularly outside Kabul, remained a source of concern, he said. The Interim Authority lacked the resources to address the challenges. The Council should help persuade the ISAF to extend its mandate and expand its area of operations. The timely nomination of the special independent commission for the convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga boded well for the holding of a representative gathering that reflected the will of the Afghan people. Attempts to subvert the process by the Taliban should be guarded against.
Significant commitments had been undertaken in Tokyo, he noted. The Interim Administration was in dire need of finances on an urgent basis so that it could fulfil its duties. Unflinching support should be extended to it by the international community. He underlined the essential role of women in the rebuilding of Afghanistan and supported an increased role for them in the Interim Administration. He also supported the establishment of the United Nations mission.
When the meeting resumed, PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said he was very concerned by the unstable humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the need to protect the civilian population, including internally displaced persons and refugees. He welcomed the report of the Secretary-General. The Interim Administration was laying an important foundation for peace. Much had been done in its first three months. It was most gratifying to see that the schools were open and that children were attending, including girls.
He stressed the importance of convening the Emergency Loya Jirga. He encouraged the United Nations and the Interim Administration to ensure that women were part of the proceedings. He noted the models of Turkey and Bangladesh in involving women in public life. Dealing with the most recent poppy crop, due to be harvested soon, was essential. The international community and the United Nations must support efforts in that regard.
Canada was contributing to the stability and peace in Afghanistan in a variety of ways, he noted. Canada’s support for the Interim Administration was part of its commitment to the Afghan people. He hoped the proposed structure of the United Nations mission would provide a coordinated approach to the problems being faced. The United Nations agencies must work together in an efficient way. Donor coordination was also important.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the mission would be entrusted with assuming a great responsibility at a critical turning point in Afghan history. Beyond the borders of Afghanistan, its contribution would be critical for Central Asia. It would help create a regenerated Afghanistan in peace with itself and its neighbours -- also one that was free from external political and military interference. It would contribute to building institutions that would prevent threats from its territory to regional and international stability and security. In that context, he supported the basic operating principles and tasks proposed for the mission.
It was only in an enabling environment that the mission could carry out its mandate, he stressed. The Interim Administration must also be supported. Durable peace in Afghanistan could be envisaged only with the support and cooperation of regional actors. He supported mine clearance and removal of unexploded ordnance, and stressed the importance of coordination between the various actors in the region. It was his delegation’s vision that some day Afghanistan would play a constructive role in the comity of nations. In concert with others in the chamber and beyond, Bangladesh would work to transform that vision into a reality.
RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) expressed condolences to the people of Afghanistan following yesterday’s earthquake.
He said the report of the Secretary-General not only gave a profound, objective and dispassionate analysis of the situation in Afghanistan, but also gave clear guidelines for United Nations involvement in that country. The Organization’s role was broad-based and provided for the rebirth of Afghanistan with the participation of its people. It was obvious that the process of harmonizing Afghan society would not be an easy task. His country, which had gone through its own civil conflict in the past, understood what Afghanistan was currently going through, and therefore offered its support to the Afghans. His Government was also interested in seeing the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan normalized as soon as possible.
Tajikistan was making its own contribution to the Afghan peace process, he said. In accordance with the terms of a joint project with the Russian Federation, his country would soon provide electricity to Afghanistan in addition to rebuilding roads to Kabul. Only active assistance and multilateral cooperation would achieve the rebirth of a peaceful, united and prosperous Afghan society. The Loya Jirga would give Afghanistan a unique chance to open up a new page in its history. As stressed by the Secretary-General, the aspirations of the people should be achieved peacefully. The lessons from the inter-Tajik talks could be used at this time as well to assist Afghanistan. His Government attached great importance to the forthcoming activities of the proposed United Nations mission.
MEHMET ÜMIT PAMIR (Turkey) said his country would be taking part in the urgent task of providing aid to the region following the earthquake yesterday in Afghanistan.
He said the convening of the Loya Jirga would constitute the first step towards the establishment of a broad-based and representative body politic in Afghanistan. That was a critical phase, and the Afghans looked to the international community to help them in this important transition. The permanent members of the Security Council, in particular, should impress the people of Afghanistan at this time by showing their commitment to a smooth transition. There was a certain disillusionment today with the way reconstruction work was progressing. Understandably, the Afghan people were impatient. "We need to bring solutions quickly to many infrastructure problems", he said, since that had a bearing on the security situation. He therefore stressed finding ways to increase the pace of reconstruction.
He said Turkey had always wanted to see a modernist administration in Afghanistan that would be in tune with the contemporary requirements of stability, security and self-esteem. That vision and understanding had led his country to contribute effectively to the ISAF. Turkey would also support the United Nations mission in fulfilling its mandate, and believed that it would be worthwhile to integrate United Nations actions within a single mission. Besides his country’s active involvement in the ISAF, it would also continue to contribute to the military training and equipment of the Afghan national army. Turkey was ready to contribute to the establishment of an Afghan police force. Likewise, it would be contributing to the restructuring of State organs, including the training of personnel and reconstruction work.
He added that 20 young Afghan diplomats had already started their training in Ankara, and that the first batch of medical doctors to receive internship training had already arrived in Turkey. The only option open for Afghanistan was success. Hence the commitments of the international community, including the permanent members of the Council, of countries contributing to the ISAF and of Afghanistan’s neighbours to that vision of success would remain essential in the days and months to come. He concluded by stating that the extension of ISAF’s current mandate was an urgent requirement. By the same token, the expansion of that Force required a very careful and multi-faceted analysis of the necessary inputs, which were not yet there.
HADI NEJAD-HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said that despite the remarkable achievements of the Afghan people since the collapse of the Taliban, the situation across the country remained fragile and unpredictable. He was concerned about reports indicating that Taliban and Al Qaeda elements were regrouping. Given that the Afghan political system was still at an early stage, any challenge by Taliban and Al Qaeda could be all the more damaging. At the same time, callous military operations in which innocent Afghans were killed were also damaging. Continuing suspicions and hostilities among Afghan military commanders provided a favourable ground for terrorists.
He said that mistrust and frictions among those commanders might also result in eroding the most valuable asset, namely the support of the Afghan people for the peace process and the Interim Administration. Taking the competing local commanders on board was among the best remedial actions for strengthening the peace process. The responsibility for ensuring security in Afghanistan ultimately rested with the Afghans themselves. The speedy creation of an indigenous Afghan security sector, therefore, should be a top priority. Given the sensitivities of the Afghans and their past experiences, it was in the interest of lasting peace that the foreign presence in Afghanistan should be minimal and as brief as possible.
Opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking in Afghanistan had always been one of the main financial supports for criminal and terrorist forces there, he said. Recent reports of the resumption of poppy cultivation in the southern and eastern regions were of great concern. Drug money could still largely benefit the remnant Taliban and Al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan, and anti-narcotics activities should figure prominently on the international community's agenda for Afghanistan.
Peace in Afghanistan, for centuries, had been based on ethnic and religious harmony. Then coups, occupation and civil war shattered peace. Fostering understanding among various segments of Afghan society was an effective way to restore peace and deprive the remnant of the Taliban and Al Qaeda of a breeding ground. While he greatly appreciated Chairman Karzai's decision to address a gathering in Kabul on the occasion of the martydom of the third Imam of the Shiites, he was very concerned about reports in the north of the harassment of Pashtuns by other ethnic groups. His Government believed that the United Nations should continue its central and crucial role in assisting the Afghans to stabilize and rebuild their country.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) welcomed the progress that had been made -- "with the tireless efforts of the United Nations" -- in bringing Afghanistan back into the community of nations. He hoped that with the continued help of the international community the Afghan people would be enabled to secure a more peaceful and prosperous future.
He said that in response to the crisis in Afghanistan, New Zealand had provided effective emergency assistance which focused on the urgent humanitarian needs of the refugees who reached his country’s shores. New Zealand had made a NZ$1 million contribution to the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Afghanistan, provided NZ$250,000 for New Zealand non-governmental organizations and, at the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, had pledged to remain engaged in the international aid effort to assist reconstruction.
Those contributions, he said, demonstrated New Zealand’s commitment to support the Afghan Interim Authority and the Afghan people in their reconstruction efforts after nearly two decades of war and upheaval. Noting that a critical element of achieving a lasting peace was a successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, he said New Zealand’s experience in the Pacific suggested that the programme should be integrated into the proposed mission and addressed as part of the wider political process. Finding alternative activities for former combatants was crucial, he added.
MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said that despite a destroyed infrastructure and the toll of decades of war, Afghans from all strata of society had taken on themselves the task of reconstructing their country. There had been many positive changes in Afghanistan to date. The new school year, which began on 23 March, had seen a good turnout. The Commission for the convening of the Loya Jirga had made significant progress. The national seminar in Kabul on human rights was also an important step.
She said the problem of ensuring security still remained. Lack of security was causing understandable concern to Afghanistan’s population. Outside Kabul there was still crime, while the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were still active in the countryside. Her country supported extending the ISAF’s mandate to other major Afghan cities. She also underscored that with the Loya Jirga approaching, the threat of danger would also increase.
She was encouraged by the steps taken by the United States, Germany and other participants to establish a battle-ready national army and police force for law and order. International support was needed to ensure proper conditions for a future national Afghan force. The United Nations mission would also have a positive impact on the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Her country, through the World Food Programme (WFP), was delivering grain to Afghanistan as well as preparing peacekeepers to participate in the ISAF.
RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan) thanked speakers who had expressed sympathy for the earthquake that had taken place in his country. The report of the Secretary-General embodied the series of positive developments since the demise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including the restoration of respect for the human rights of women as well as men, the opening of schools and the continued efforts of the Afghan people aimed at reconstructing Afghanistan. The report reflected the optimism and hope of Afghanistan, he stressed.
He noted the tireless and persistent efforts of Mr. Brahimi, as well as the appointment of Deputy Special Representatives. The formation of a national army and police force remained a vital priority of the Interim Administration. An army would serve as a symbol of national unity, and he was grateful for international support in that regard. The Administration was committed to implementing the Bonn Agreements, including the convening, in June, of the Loya Jirga.
It was imperative that the views of the Interim Administration should be sought regarding the expansion of the ISAF, he said. There should be no place for the participation of the Taliban and its supporters in any political meeting of the Afghan people. Basic human rights had been violated and atrocities committed by those parties. They were not entitled to be part of any political mechanism in his country.
DANILO TURK, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, responded to a question on whether the Secretariat foresaw a role for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Internally Displaced Persons Unit in Afghanistan. He said the Unit had already deployed a mission to Afghanistan. Its report and recommendations would be integrated into pillar 2 of the proposed United Nations mission.
Addressing the issue of the integration of activities, he said the central idea was to have a coherent mission structure in which all concepts were integrated with each other. In such a mission, human rights would not be just the responsibility of a single office, but the responsibility of both pillars.
He stressed the importance of security, and welcomed the strong support for the ISAF’s extension beyond June. He hoped the Council would strive to do that. He also welcomed the idea of extending the ISAF’s mandate beyond Kabul, and looked forward to suggestions on how to proceed. He also warned against complacency in disbursing contributions, since prompt assistance would help agencies to achieve their objectives within the prescribed time frames.
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