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Progress “unthinkable a decade ago” being made in Afghanistan, U.N. Security Council told

This news story was published on December 27, 2012.
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A soldier in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier in 2012

NEW YORK – A United Nations spokesperson told the Security Council last week that progress is being made in Afghanistan but the “challenges and tragedies” that remain call for more commitment there.

In last week’s meeting, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document S/2012/907), which provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including humanitarian, development and human rights efforts, since the previous report of 13 September 2012.  It also provides a summary of political and security developments and regional and international events relating to the country.

While Afghanistan had made progress “unthinkable a decade ago”, the challenges and tragedies that remained required both the Government and its international partners to follow through firmly on commitments made in recent international conferences, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council on December 19th.

“Certainty and sustained partnership with Afghanistan is what is required now, ensuring that the Afghan people have the confidence to focus on building a better future,” Ján Kubiš, who is also the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said as he introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report ahead of a debate on the situation.

The perceived legitimacy of the presidential elections set for 5 April 2014 would have profound implications for improved governance, he said, describing preparations needed in that context.  Anti-corruption efforts were also high on the agenda, he added, welcoming the robust report on the Kabul Bank crisis and citing the need for decisive Government action to strengthen the country’s financial sector.

Greater attention to tackling the trade in narcotics, including through the efforts of international donors, was also required, using all frameworks developed, he said.  Effective leadership was needed in many institutional areas, particularly in human rights.  “Human rights gains of the last decade — particularly in the rights of women and girls — must be reinforced and expanded,” he stated, noting gains by women but also the killing of several women in public life.

Citing statistics showing that civilians continued to bear the heaviest burden of the conflict, he said anti-Government elements accounted for 85 per cent of civilian deaths.  He also called for sustained donor funding to implement a plan to clear remaining minefields.  On progress to Afghan leadership in the security sector, he stressed the importance of the Government’s civilian mitigation and tracking cell, and welcomed increased attention to the professionalization of the police.

On reconciliation, he said that the High Peace Council’s work was enjoying renewed momentum following a positive visit to Pakistan, facilitated logistically by UNAMA, which was also ready to facilitate an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue that was due to begin early next year.

With international troop drawdowns and reduction of some stabilization projects, he said, attention was needed on the issue of sustainable livelihoods, and development gains were at risk because of weak and inadequate systems of subnational governance, lack of support from the central level, capacity constraints and insufficient planning on the civilian side.  The United Nations would look to assist as requested within its capacity, while ensuring that the Afghan Government assumed leadership.  Finally, he stressed that the increasing humanitarian needs must not be forgotten.

KUBIŠ also stressed that, although there were still problems and tragedy in the country, there was also progress “unthinkable a decade ago”, resulting in bustling municipalities and children attending schools.  “Certainty and sustained partnership with Afghanistan is what is required now, ensuring that the Afghan people have the confidence to focus on building a better future”.

Addressing the Council next, Afghanistan’s representative said, in the last 11 years, his country and the international community had “struggled together, worked together and joined hands for the noble objective of peace and a better future for the Afghan people”, and the Government was taking full responsibility for nation-building and normalization.  As 2014 approached, the overwhelming majority of Afghans now lived in areas where Government forces had lead security responsibility, and the Afghan national army and police were now operating with greater confidence and capability.  Nevertheless, he warned that, as the transition proceeded, it was imperative that the sustainability of Afghanistan’s security forces remain a priority.

Following those statements, Council members and representatives of other interested countries took the floor, welcoming the international frameworks for support to Afghanistan that had been developed in recent conferences for the transition period and beyond, and supporting UNAMA’s continued role.  At the same time, most expressed deep concern over continued insurgency and its high civilian toll, stressing the need to ensure that drawdown of international forces and other changes did not weaken the fight against the scourge.

Many speakers also pointed to the importance of Government reforms.  While most welcomed reconciliation efforts, some countries cautioned that only appropriate partners should be engaged.  Many speakers — particularly regional countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Turkey — also placed high priority on curbing narcotics trafficking, repatriation of refugees and regional initiatives.





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